SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. March. 19, 2020 – With more than 30 million children and counting impacted by school closures, schools are turning to Zoom, Webex and Google Classroom among other platforms to keep students engaged. CyberScout, a global leader in identity theft resolution, data defense and employee benefits services, is urging consumers and parents to be alert and cautious to an increased risk of cyber-attacks targeting our nation’s youth.
“While we acclimate to a new ‘normal’ of primarily digital interaction, all of us will be presented with targeted cyber threats. And our children are no exception,” said Jennifer Leuer, Chief Executive Officer, CyberScout. “Criminals go where the opportunity lies and are already trying to take advantage of this global public health situation. While you’re having conversations around personal hygiene, such as washing your hands, it’s also important to talk with your children about digital hygiene.”
School age children will be spending more time completing schoolwork online, opening the door to a host of new vulnerabilities and risks. And when their homework is done, they will also be spending a lot more time online for entertainment as parents grapple with work from home arrangements and try to keep children busy during social distancing restrictions.
“Criminals take advantage of chaotic situations like the one caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Their goal: steal valuable personal information from adults, children, businesses–anywhere they can get useable information,” said Adam Levin, Founder and Chairman, CyberScout. “Parents should talk to their children about the importance of pausing. Explain how phishing and other malware scams work—and tell kids that they shouldn’t share information with strangers—not even birthdays!”
Here are five tips to help families establish smart “ground rules” for staying safe while learning and playing online:
- THINK BEFORE CLICKING. Online security threats are changing by the hour and are extremely sophisticated. Ask children to approach every email with caution - the message may sound right, but the messenger may not be. Ask children to pause and check with a parent before they open any email, click on links or open any attachments.
- VERIFY DOMAIN NAMES AND EMAIL SENDERS. If a child does have to maintain access to email, talk with them about how to identify proper sources and senders. Check the URL before typing it in a browser or clicking a link. Help them to recognize spelling errors, altered graphics and logos as signs something isn’t right. When you spot a phishing email that is obvious, show it to your child and point out how you knew it was a fake.
- USE BETTER PASSWORDS. Increasingly, people are turning to password managers to keep their accounts safe, since it can be difficult to remember many long and strong passwords. These managers generate random passwords and allow managing the process with a single master password. If a password manager is not being used, make sure everyone in the house is using sufficiently complex passwords that are unique to the key accounts, and never let children use any passwords associated with parents’ online accounts!
- MONITOR THEM. During these unprecedented times, monitoring children’s online behavior should be a daily task. Don’t worry about being a helicopter parent - set restrictions and enable parental controls to limit what kids can access. Look at internet history, app usage and be sure to know what programs and apps school is requiring, ensuring children are downloading the correct versions. Establish rules about app shopping. Require children to run any app purchases by a parent or adult.
- SECURE MOBILE DEVICES. Children may be using their phone, laptop, tablet and even watch to continue with schoolwork or stay entertained over the next several weeks or months. Secure all mobile devices in the household with frequent and routine firmware and software updates. Back up data frequently on hard drives that are not connected 24/7 to the internet.