Today's Thought: “A medicine cat has no time for doubt. Put your energy into today and stop worrying about the past.” -Erin Hunter, Rising Storm

Understanding Cybersecurity: Keeping Your Family Safe

Damian Vines

These days, parents and their children are using the internet more than ever via remote work and e-learning. The chance to avoid a long commute and save money is great, but all of this time spent online also creates its fair share of risk, namely in the form of cybercrime. Hackers are working overtime to take advantage of folks who lack the required knowledge of cybersecurity as they spend more time online.

As this trend of remote work and learning is destined to continue, parents must take the time to speak to their families about hackers and what everyone in the household can do to stay protected. Let’s talk about some tips to do just that.

Explaining The Dangers

With the risk of cybercrime becoming a more significant possibility, it is time to have a family meeting so everyone understands what is at stake. First, mention the definition of cybersecurity, which is the protection of all digital devices to limit the potential for theft or viruses by hackers. 

Everyone in the family should be aware that just about any piece of information that is stolen by hackers can be used to inflict harm on the family. If the kids share credit card numbers on a website that is not secured, hackers could use that information to take out fraudulent loans that could bankrupt the family. Even seemingly harmless information like birth dates and email addresses can be sold on the black market. Needless to say, caution is always necessary.

These days, kids are using more apps than ever to share news and pictures of their lives, but if they share inappropriate or private information, they should know that once it is online, it can remain online forever. Any application, from Snapchat to Facebook, can be hacked, and the information that is openly shared can be used to inflict harm now or in the future. Parents will need to instruct their kids on what is safe or unsafe to share, and if they disobey, the device may have to be confiscated. Once an agreement is made with the child, parents must stick to it.

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Common Scams

Everyone in the family also needs to be educated on the likelihood of potential internet scams put in place by hackers. In our remote world, kids and parents can work and learn from anywhere, so protection and smart internet practices are needed now more than ever.

For instance, many kids may either take classes or do their homework at the local library, coffee shop, or restaurant and sign onto the public Wi-Fi at that establishment. However, they should know about common scams like the man-in-the-middle attack, which is when a hacker sets up a fake network that looks real, but if your kids connect, they are connecting to the hacker, and from there, the criminal can implant a virus or steal your data. Advise your kids on the importance of asking management or an authority figure for the proper network.

Kids should also be aware of the dangers of phishing scams. These are fake emails sent by hackers that look to be legitimate, but they contain a link or attachment that, when clicked or opened, can unleash dangerous malware onto the system. Phishing emails can be very deceiving and can even appear to be sent from a teacher or employer. Everyone should know that they should not open a suspicious email unless they were informed ahead of time that it was coming.

Enforcing General Protection

Even if your family is well-versed on how to be careful when going online, it is important to take the proper security precautions just in case a virus or malware does slip through the cracks. At a minimum, that means installing antivirus software on all devices and running scans every week to catch any viruses and delete them before they cause harm. You might also consider installing a virtual private network (VPN) so hackers cannot find your location in the first place.

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Parents should assist younger children with creating the passwords needed to access their commonly used programs. When passwords are created, they should be difficult to guess with a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. Never use your street, pet name, or other general information because hackers can guess this information with a simple search of your social media profiles.

Finally, parents should not be afraid to use parental controls and tracking software to monitor what their kids do online, especially if they don’t have a lot of experience on the internet. That means watching their internet searches and what they do on their social media apps. If you notice any dangerous behavior, sit down and have a chat so your children can stay out of danger in the future.

While we do live in an exciting time, there is no denying the potential dangers that can occur when we throw cybersecurity to the wind. Take the time to speak to your family about safe internet use, so they can learn and you can work safely.

Damian Vines

Damian draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors regularly. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @indianalee3. CPImageCredit:Wunderstock

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