University Police remind students of winter break safety procedures

Whether you are heading to grandma's house for her famous apple pie or ringing in the New Year with friends, University Police want students living on and off campus to take a minute to review housing and travel safety procedures before heading off to your favorite winter break destination. Before going home for the holidays, take a few minutes to stop and think if you have followed these safety tips.

Lock up and secure your residence

— All students should take valuables with them or secure them out of sight and have an inventory, including a list of the make, model, serial number and any distinguishing marks of the items that would distinguish them from others.

— Unplug electrical appliances except for the refrigerator to prevent fire hazards and check that all windows and doors are locked.

— Students living on campus should report any damages to doors, windows or locks to the Housing representatives and have the damages fixed before leaving for break.

— Penn State Housing staff will monitor campus residence halls throughout break, but those who live off campus should ask a trusted friend to check on their residence if they know someone who is staying in the area. There is also technology that you can purchase to view your residence remotely if you have special concerns.

Be aware of cybersecurity issues

Log out from all systems and ensure your antivirus and spyware software are up to date on all of your devices. Even mobile devices can create security issues. There are several ways you can protect your mobile devices.

— Label your device with your name and a phone number where you can be reached to make it easy to return to you if it is lost, even if the battery is dead.

— Configure a passcode to gain access to and use the device. This helps prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access to your data.

— Set an idle timeout that will automatically lock the phone when not in use. This also helps prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access to your data.

— Keep all software up to date, including the operating system and installed apps. This helps protect the device from attack and compromise.

— Do not "jailbreak" or "root" your device. "Jailbreaking" and "rooting" removes the manufacturer's protection against malware.

— Obtain your apps only from trusted sources such as the Apple iTunes Store, Google Play, or the Amazon App Store for Android. This helps you avoid malware, which is often distributed via illicit channels.

— Enroll your device in a managed environment. This helps you configure and maintain your security and privacy settings.

— Enroll your device in Find My iPhone or an equivalent service. This will help you locate your device should it be lost or stolen. If your device supports it, ensure that it encrypts its storage with hardware encryption. In conjunction with a management service or "Find My iPhone," this can allow data to be removed quickly in the event that the device is lost or stolen.

Travel safely

— Don’t post information on social media indicating you are going away. This invites people will ill intentions to your office or home. Let somebody trusted know when you will be leaving town and when you are expected to arrive at your final destination. If something were to happen, it won’t be a significant amount of time that you are missing. You should also make sure your cellphone is charged in case you were to have an emergency while traveling.

— Know where you are going and directions before you leave or use a GPS. Your chances of being victimized increases when you are distracted and don’t know where you are.

— When using cards, use credit, not debit, as credit does not require you to enter your pin number, which reduces your risk of someone accessing your accounts. 

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Last Updated December 09, 2014