By now, you’ve all heard of cybercriminals, data breaches, and the importance of online safety. Cybercrimes are ever evolving and target not just adults, but also children, teens, and seniors. But what steps can you take to help protect yourself, your loved ones, and your home?
October is Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM), and we believe that identification and protection against cyber-threats is the best way to keep your family safer online. To help, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 cybersecurity tips from our friends at NortonLifeLock that can help protect you and those you hold dear.
1: Remember your identity is important
Sometimes kids make themselves vulnerable to identity theft by disclosing personal information online because they believe they have nothing to lose. A child’s identity can have as much value as an adult’s identity, if not more. Scammers can trick kids into disclosing their Social Insurance Number and other details that can be used to commit identity theft. Remind children not to reveal too much information about themselves. Their date of birth, address, and SIN are all examples of personal information, and they shouldn’t share them freely.
2: Choose strong passwords and use a password management system
Passwords are the primary defense against hackers. Yet, many people reuse the same password for multiple accounts and use passwords that are easy to guess, because they’re also easy to remember. Teach your family to create a secure password by selecting a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, and make sure it's at least 12 characters long. Never use common words, phrases, or personal information like a phone number or family members’ names.
Bolster your family’s password protection with a password management program, which can generate and remember unique passwords for all your accounts, across your devices. Best of all, with a password manager, you only need to remember one password.
3: Watch out for phishing
You may be sophisticated enough to know not to click on a link that’s supposedly from your bank or a friend, but does everyone in your household know that? Teach your kids (and your parents!) about phishing scams and warn them not to click on suspicious links in an email or social network message.
4: Keep your internet connection secure
Almost every member of the family might access your internet connection, and each person may have devices also vying for your Wi-Fi's attention. It should come as no surprise that hackers also want to use your home Wi-Fi network. Cybercriminals can hack home routers and gain access to various internet-connected devices like home security systems and smart doorbells. Make sure your home Wi-Fi system has a hard-to-crack password and consider cybersecurity software that identifies “intruders” on your network. Finally, a VPN is one of the best ways to ensure your internet connection is secure.
5: Go private on public Wi-Fi
There are a lot of risks of connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. In addition to keeping your kids and teens attuned to them, it’s important for parents to remind themselves that hackers and cybercriminals consider public Wi-Fi, such as in malls and coffee shops, an easy access point to getting hold of your data. For this reason, always use a VPN when connecting to public Wi-Fi. Don’t have a VPN? Consider if you can hold off on internet browsing until you are home.
6: Keep your social media accounts secure
There’s a good chance someone in your house is on a social network. But social media can also attract cyber snoops and identity thieves. Keep a close eye on your social accounts. If someone messages you who hasn’t done so in a while, be suspicious. Your friend’s account may have been hacked. Parents should remind kids and teens to also never meet in person with someone they meet online and tell an adult if a stranger is messaging them.
7: Be careful what you post
It’s important for children, teens, and family members to know how much information is too much information. In their excitement to share milestones, teens may sometimes post their personal information online. For example, a driver’s license or a travel itinerary shared online could be valuable information for identity thieves or burglars. Personal or inappropriate photos can attract online predators, or could affect future educational or employment opportunities.
8: Shop online only from secure sites
Whether teens are allowed to shop online is up to their parents. Whether teens will listen is another story. Teach yours how to shop safely online by acquainting them with some indicators of a secure website. One of the best indicators is whether a site is running on HTTPS, which means the site has a security certificate that safeguards visitors’ personal information by encrypting their data. You can verify if a site runs on HTTPS by double-checking the beginning of a link in your web browser’s address bar and confirming if there’s a padlock next to it.
9: Be careful what you download
There are more than 1.8 billion websites worldwide, and it's no secret that some of them have malicious intent. A malicious website is a site that attempts to install malware on your device (meaning anything that will disrupt computer operation), gather your personal information, or allow unauthorized access to your device. This usually requires some action on your part, but there are also drive-by downloads, whereby a website will attempt to install software on your computer without asking for permission first. Downloading and running security software can help defend against these threats, but it's also worth knowing how to diagnose if your computer has malware so you can remove malware.
A good way to keep your home more cyber safe? Hold all of the family members accountable for their internet safety practices and support one another when someone faces a precarious online situation. As parents, that means monitoring your kids’ behaviors but also showing an interest in the sites they’re visiting and games they’re playing so that you can educate them on whether they’re safe. Keep things transparent by keeping desktop computers in a common area and discouraging kids from playing with their phones or tablets just in their rooms.
Extra bonus tip: Spend time online together by having an online family game night.
While the internet is filled with risks — and it’s important to be aware of them and the cyber security tools to combat them — it’s worth acknowledging there’s also a lot of good online. Virtual learning opportunities, apps that simplify everyday tasks, social media platforms that keep us in touch with loved ones, embrace it all. Just keep these safety tips in mind while doing so, to ensure the whole family stays safer online.