With so many Garden State students attending school remotely or using a computer to attend class and do homework because of the pandemic, state Homeland Security officials have issued a series of cyber guidelines for schools, students and their parents.

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Jared Maples, the director of the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said good cyber hygiene means “things like changing passwords, making sure your passwords are up to date, making sure you are aware who has your passwords."

"Only the user and their parents, in a student’s case, should have access to passwords. That’s not something you should share with your friends,” he said.

He also recommends keeping anti-viral and malware software up to date.

Something else to worry about: computers with cameras. Maples said to make sure it's turned off when not in use. He said covering or disconnecting a webcam and microphone when class is not in session will prevent malware from taking control of a camera and using it to conduct surveillance.

The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness also recommends setting up parental controls on a student’s device, which will give parents the ability to better control privacy and usage, as well as content filtering and location.

He noted the guidelines have been developed based on multiple breaches “of privacy, of fraud, of hacking, of ransomware. I can keep going down the list of all these areas we’ve had problems in, including video-chats, for example.”

Homeland Security also recommends that students protect schoolwork and information from malware, hardware failure, damage, loss or theft by making multiple copies of notes and storing them offline.

More information about anti-viral and malware software is at cyber.nj.gov.

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