The Ultimate Guide To Your First College Laptop

Young man sitting on floor holding laptop in front of him.Your laptop will be your new BFF in college. This is where you’ll store your notes, record important lectures, outline your study schedule and write up your term papers. But, with such a wide variety of laptops on the market, the choice can be overwhelming and confusing.

Check out our comprehensive guide for laptop-shopping before deciding which one is right for you.

1. Choose your platform
You have three primary choices when it comes to choosing an Operating System (OS) for your laptop.

  • Microsoft’s Windows
    Widows offers a flexible OS that is featured in notebooks that cost as little as $150 and in upgraded models that retail for as much as several thousands of dollars. Windows digital assistant, Cortana, is a powerful tool that can help you navigate your computer and search the web for relevant information, and its stylus is super-versatile, too.
  • Apple’s Mac OS High Sierra
    Similar to Windows, Apple’s OS offers what many users consider to be a simpler interface. Mac users have digital assistant Siri, and can use Apple Pay to manage their finances. If you’ve got an Apple Watch, you’ll be able to unlock your laptop with a flick of your wrist.
  • Google’s Chrome OS
    You’ll findGoogle’s Chrome OS on cheaper Chromebooks, like the Samsung Chromebook 3. Chromebooks are extremely portable, but with the Chrome browser serving as the laptop’s primary app, it’s essentially a tablet with slightly more functionality.

2. Choose your specs
Make sure your computer is equipped with the tools you need:

  • RAM
    Look for a laptop with a minimum of 4GB, or even 8GB if you can swing it financially.
  • CPU
    The brains of your computer will determine its processing power. You’ll find a broad range of CPUs in laptops and notebooks. Your best bet for a budget laptop that still performs well is to get one using an Intel Core i5 CPU or its equivalents, like the AMD Ryzen Mobile. More powerful CPUs can really hike up the price, and those that are cheaper usually aren’t worth the money you’ll save.
  • Display
    If you can afford it, choose a laptop with a minimum of 1920×1080 pixels, or full HD. Most cheaper laptops only offer 1366×768, but it’s usually worthwhile to pay extra for a sharper image and a larger capacity for content on the screen.
  • Touch screen
    Touch screens are standard in all two-in-one models, but if you’re purchasing an ordinary laptop, a touch screen will decrease your battery life without offering many benefits.

3. Choose a price range
These days, you can pick up a laptop for as little as $150-but those are usually web-centric Chromebooks that offer very little storage and have weak processors that won’t meet your needs as a college student.

Here’s what you can expect to find in various price ranges:

  • $350 to $600
    You can find a very decent laptop for less than $600, complete with 8GB of RAM and an Intel Core i5 CPU. At this price range though, you’ll likely be missing out on the longer battery life and HD display.
  • $600-$900
    Once you break the $600 mark, you’ll have your choice of upgrades, such as metal finishes and sharper, higher-pixel displays.
  • $900+
    If you’re ready to pay anything near the $1,000 mark for a laptop, expect to see lightweight computers that deliver a faster, more powerful processor and a super-sharp display.

4. Choose a battery life
Here’s where you need to determine exactly how you will be using your laptop. If it’s mainly going to serve as a desktop computer that’s carried around only occasionally, you can afford to choose a cheaper computer with a short-life battery. But, if you’re like most college students who wind up lugging their laptops around everywhere like a third arm, aim for a battery life that offers a minimum of 7 hours of untethered power.

Your laptop might be the most important tool you use in school. Spend some time choosing the one that’s right for you so it serves you well throughout your years in college.

Your Turn:
Did you recently purchase a laptop for college? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Learn More:
laptopmag.com
techradar.com
pcmag.com

What’s Up With WhatsApp?

WhatsApp Logo on green backgroundA cybersecurity breach in Facebook’s WhatsApp app last month left users vulnerable to spyware attacks via voice calls. An undetermined number of the 1.5 billion users of the popular messaging app may have had malicious spyware installed on their devices.

Let’s take a closer look at the security breach and the steps you can take to protect yourself, both now and in the future.

What happened?
Security breaches are old news in the app world, but a breach of extremely high magnitude and reach is something new and fairly frightening. The fact that the breach hit WhatsApp is especially alarming. WhatsApp utilizes strong encryption for both voice and text messaging and is used as a communication platform for government and security officials around the world.

Here’s how it went down:
A government-grade intelligence collection tool was employed to target WhatsApp users via voice calls. The spyware has been endowed with the ability to seize control of the affected smartphones and to access any private information stored on the device.

The spyware utilized in the attack was allegedly created by the NSO Group, an Israeli cyber surveillance company that has developed this advanced technology for the express purpose of allowing government agencies to infiltrate terrorist groups and to fight crime. Unfortunately, when the spyware fell into the wrong hands, it helped scammers pull off one of the greatest cybersecurity breaches of all time.

The Financial Times reported that the WhatsApp breach was made possible because of a loophole in the app’s code that allowed hackers to transmit spyware onto smartphones by calling targets through the app. The malicious code could be injected into the device whether the user picked up the call or ignored it.

According to WhatsApp, the cyber breach was first discovered in early May and had been used to target an undisclosed number of WhatsApp users. The Facebook-owned messaging company claimed it briefed human rights organizations about the breach and also asked U.S. law enforcement agencies to assist it in conducting an investigation. When WhatsApp had more definite information, it notified the public about the breach.

Who was affected?
It doesn’t matter what kind of phone you have; the security vulnerability affects both iPhone and Android devices. The good news is that not every version of WhatsApp was affected. To check whether the version you have on your phone was part of those impacted by the breach, check out Facebook’s official advisory confirming the vulnerability, which outlines which versions were affected.

The messaging giant has not confirmed a specific number of targeted victims. Rather, it has only shared that a “select number of users were targeted through this vulnerability by an advanced cyber actor.”

What do I need to do now?
Since the vulnerability that caused the breach lies in the makeup of the app and not in an unsafe or negligent practice in the hands of a user, there is no way you could have prevented your device from being affected. However, now that the facts are on the table, you can take the recommended steps to keep your device safe from this vulnerability.

Since the breach was discovered, WhatsApp engineers have been working hard to close the app’s security vulnerability. The company has started installing a fix to servers and to private customers. It has also created an updated, safer version of the app that it has urged all users to employ on their devices as soon as possible.

Here’s a quick guide for updating your WhatsApp.

  • For iPhone users: Open the App Store, choose updates, select WhatsApp and then click Update.
  • For Android users: Open the Play Store, click the three lines in the upper left-hand corner, choose My Apps & Games, select WhatsApp and then hit Update.

If you haven’t yet updated your device, do it now. It only takes a few seconds of your time to make sure your WhatsApp is operating at its safest level.

You never know when those scammers are going to hit next. Practice safe measures by always using the latest version of any application or operating system, keeping yourself in the know about recent security breaches and never sharing sensitive information online.

Stay safe!

Your Turn:
How do you keep yourself safe from security breaches? Share your tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/gauteng/consumerwatch-what-you-should-know-about-whatsapp-breach-23607175

https://www.people.com/human-interest/whatsapp-security-breach-update-app/amp/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2019/05/14/whatsapps-cybersecurity-breach-phones-hit-with-israeli-spyware-over-voice-calls/amp/