Students like their privacy, until it gets inconvenient

The hack of the EUR website in November showed just how risky it can be to share personal details on the internet. Nonetheless, most students are fairly casual when it comes to their online security, according to a new survey carried out by EM.

Beeld: Students like their privacy, until it gets inconvenient

EUR students think their online privacy is important, but admit they don’t pay that much attention to it. Free and easy-to-use services, such as Gmail and WhatsApp, are still popular, while very little use is made of safer services.

Following the hack of the EUR website in November, EM surveyed 220 students about their online behaviour and how they feel about their privacy at EUR (see infographics below for the findings). In the latest issue of EM magazine, which comes out today, EUR employees Roeland Reijers and Marlon Domingus explain how the university tries to protect the personal data of its students.

Too little

Students might want to protect their privacy on the internet, but they rarely do so in practice. More than a third, 37 percent, honestly admitted they did ‘too little’ when it came to their privacy. A slightly smaller group (33 percent), on the other hand, said they were taking active steps to protect their privacy. Needless to say, this didn’t mean they had stopped using Facebook, Gmail or WhatsApp, even though they are notorious privacy abusers.

For example, only 6 percent of students used Signal, a safer alternative for WhatsApp. Free services are also almost exclusively used for email, even though these services don’t always follow the rules about protecting your privacy. No less than 97 percent use WhatsApp and 79 percent use Facebook. Only 6 percent of students use Signal, a safer alternative for WhatsApp. Free services are also almost exclusively used for email, which don’t always follow the rules about protecting your privacy (97 percent use Gmail or Hotmail).

The findings

Survey statements

EM asked the students whether they agreed with certain statements about privacy on the internet.

 20% I consciously never go on the internet using public WiFi hotspots

Public WiFi hotspots are usually poorly protected. Passwords are often exposed and easy to intercept. There are even fake WiFi hotspots set up just for that purpose: networks that have a reliable-sounding name, such as ‘KPN’, ‘WiFi on the train’ or ‘Ziggo’, but which are really operated by hackers who want to steal personal details.

 79% I hide my online profiles

With the privacy settings of your Facebook account, for example, you can make sure that future employers, stalkers or other intruders don’t get to see your party pics.

 4% I never use free online services

Free online services, such as Google, WhatsApp and Facebook, still manage to make a lot of money. Not from paying users, but from your data. They either sell your data or use it so advertisers can send you targeted adverts. The online service isn’t their product, you are!

 38% I never let sites remember my password

Passwords saved in your browser are generally safe. Except if somebody has direct access to your computer. Then they can get into all your private accounts.

 42% I use different passwords for different accounts

It happened to Yahoo, for example. Every now and again, a major internet service is hacked and millions of user login details are stolen. If your Yahoo password has been stolen, and you also use the same password for ten other services, then the hackers can access all those accounts as well.

93%  My password has more than 6 characters

Hackers use ‘brute-force’ password crackers: computer programs that automatically try every possible password combination for your account. If you have a short password (six characters or less) then they will be in and out in no time.

 11% I use a password manager

A password manager stores all your passwords in an encrypted database. You then have a single ‘master password’, which allows the password manager to automatically fill in the passwords for all your online accounts. Because you only have to remember one password, you can make all the other passwords as complicated as you want (and thus more difficult to crack).

 30% I delete or block cookies

Cookies are small data files, which websites can use to track your activities on the internet. If you delete or block cookies, it makes it more difficult for websites to collect and store this data.

 51% I turn off location tracking on my telephone

A lot of apps on your telephone track your location. Most apps don’t do it all the time, but you never know. And what happens when all this location data is stolen? By turning location tracking off, you never have to worry about that risk.

 22% I make sure I can’t be found on Google

Google has features that make it possible to hide search results that are personally harmful, as long as they think you have a good enough reason. Some people would rather not be found by Google at all, and they actually manage to succeed.

 26% I never put private photos on social media

You can protect your accounts as much as you want, but a data leak can happen at any time. But if you never put private photographs online, then they can never be leaked.

 19% I read the general terms and conditions

It seems as though general terms and conditions are deliberately made so long that nobody would ever bother to read them. However, it is still a good idea to go through them anyway, so you know exactly what they are allowed to do with your data.

The university and privacy

The university stores a great deal of personal information about students. When the EUR website was hacked, it showed the university didn’t always protect this data in the right way. How much confidence do students still have in the university? The EM survey included questions about this subject as well.

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