The pandemic has many children spending more time online than they may have ever before.
Of course, that also brings it with a series of safety concerns and challenges. Many young children are not fully aware of the cybercriminals that lurk around the World Wide Web. Although you may think you recognize these bad actors and their attempts to separate you from your money or personal information, these attempts may not be so obvious to your children.
“It’s important to keep your kids safe, both on and off the Internet,” says Tony Anscombe, Chief Security Evangelist with ESET Canada. “While kids would prefer to pretend that criminals are limited to make-believe, adults know that both unscrupulous cybercriminals can be all too real; especially in the digital realm.”
Over the years, ESET, an industry-leading IT security company, has compiled a list of some of the ways cybercriminals have targeted children, and most importantly, what parents can do to help protect their kids.
The following 5 tips for parents will ensure your kids stay cyber secure:
Avoid downloads from unofficial sources – Children of all ages love staying on top of the latest technology trends, and they may take it upon themselves to deck out their smartphones with ringtones, themes, and apps. As kids probably won’t be willing to dive into their allowance to purchase the apps outright, it’s possible they might be downloaded from questionable developers. In order to keep your children’s devices protected, it is important to use a reputable security solution, even on their mobile devices. In addition, make sure to have a discussion with your kids about proper cybersecurity habits such as sticking to official sources, including the Apple and Google app stores, when downloading media.
- Talk to your kids about the threats lurking online – We tell our kids not to talk to strangers at the park, and the same goes for online interactions. Online, bad actors often wear costumes, sometimes donning the disguise of a friendly stranger, other times hiding behind the mask of a peer. It is important to talk to your kids about these dangerous characters that creep online, and although attitudes to parental controls differ, implement software to monitor your kid’s Internet activities and what they put on social media. However, that should be done with your kids while teaching them the importance of privacy.
- Be wary of emails from unknown senders – Scammers often try to trick targets with specially themed phishing campaigns. While adults may be able to distinguish faux emails from the real deal, kids are more trusting. By clicking the email link, they either infest the device with malware or are redirected to a phishing website where they’ll be asked to sign in with their social media credentials to begin the claims process. Just like that, their identities and payment information have been purloined by cybercriminals — actually stealing candy from a child. To avoid this, sit down with your children and teach them the signs that they’re dealing with a scam. This includes spelling mistakes, evoking a sense of urgency or requesting too much personal information. Using two-factor authentication can also add an extra layer of security.
- Avoid free streaming sites– Free streaming sites may be the obvious choice in the search for the latest release, but they also actually act as bait used by cybercriminals to disseminate campaigns that go beyond the traditional scams spread by email. Some of the malicious ads even use scare tactics to convince people that their devices have been compromised. Kids, who may get scared of getting in trouble, are more likely to click on these, which actually downloads the malware to the device for real. To avoid this, implement a safety net of trusted ad-blocking extensions to your browser in addition to teaching your kids to avoid visiting dubious websites that use similar tactics.
- Filter age-inappropriate content – An exploration trip through the Internet isn’t always an entirely safe affair, and without at least some form of oversight, your kids might see age-inappropriate stuff or get themselves into a world of trouble. Parental controls give kids ample freedom to browse the Internet and use their devices as they please, but allow parents to put healthy boundaries in place and monitor their activities. This includes setting up filters for potentially malicious and age-inappropriate content and limiting search engines to secure and safe results. It’s also prudent to have a discussion with your kids about the parental controls so they aren’t caught off-guard by it.
To sum it up, the best way to go about protecting your kids is by taking a hands-on approach to educating them about the various risks and threats they can encounter on the Internet.
“Spotting scams like these don’t take a lot of work, but your kids may not recognize the sign of an online threat as easily,” says Anscombe. “The first step is to have a frank and open conversation about it, make them feel safe and understand that they can trust you and come to you with any problem.”
To learn more about more dangers faced by children online, more security tips, and how technology can help, please visit Safer Kids Online.
For more than 30 years, ESET® has been developing industry-leading IT security software and services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, and consumers worldwide from increasingly sophisticated digital threats. From endpoint and mobile security to endpoint detection and response, as well as encryption and multifactor authentication, ESET’s high-performing, easy-to-use solutions unobtrusively protect and monitor 24/7, updating defenses in real time to keep users safe and businesses running without interruption. Evolving threats require an evolving IT security company that enables the safe use of technology. This is backed by ESET’s R&D centers worldwide, working in support of our shared future. For more information, visit www.eset.com or follow them on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.