Episode 14: The Top 5 Cybersecurity Tips for the Family

The Top 5 Cybersecurity Tips for the Family

In this edition of Cybersecurity Where You Are, CIS Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Sean Atkinson counts down the top five ways families can be cyber smart. CIS Content Marketing Manager, Danielle Koonce, stops by to talk about what she does as a parent to keep her child safe from cyber-attackers.



5: Update Hardware and Software

Some of us may delay updates and children may completely ignore the notifications. Alerts for updating a device’s software and hardware should be taken seriously. They could include new features and privacy control updates to prevent cyber-attacks and keep your device running smoothly. If available, add automation to these devices to allow the system to perform these updates on their own to save time.

As a parent with younger children just starting out on a mobile phone or other new device, it is important to audit the device to ensure the operating system and the downloaded applications are updated regularly.

4: Passwords and Passphrases

While passwords may seem like a nuisance, they are the first line of defense to securing personal information. Sean explains that the standard “12 character-one uppercase-one lowercase-one number” passwords can be made more secure by using a passphrase. A passphrase is a grouping of random words that when strung together create a very strong password that is more difficult to hack.

Sean also stresses the need to have different passwords for different accounts. A hacker knows most people will set the same password as it is more convenient. When they obtain a password on one account, they will try it on all other accounts to gain further access.

Danielle adds that strong passwords are a great way to monitor screen time, see what your child is accessing, and prevent them from accessing personal or financial data. By having all of them behind a password they will have to ask a parent prior to using the device.

3: Families: An Easy Target for Spam and Malware

With schools going more remote and families utilizing applications to communicate with each other, spam and malware are growing concerns. Some of the ways families are targeted are:

  • An email from “a relative” that a child recognizes and more likely to engage with
  • An “important document” from school with a link to open
  • An online game or phone app that offers a “great upgrade” or unlimited lives/prizes
  • A text message from a “friend” with a link to view a funny video

These not only could break your device’s operating system, but could allow software to be downloaded onto the device without one knowing that can steal personal data. It is one of the most concerning issues for families. Children are usually presented with these prompts and have to make a judgement call as to how to handle the requests. It is important to have children show parents or teachers what they received and ask if this is something to open or interact with. The more they learn what to look out for, the less likely they will be tricked by them.

2: Update Privacy Settings

The Children’s Online Privacy Act (COPA) offers privacy regulations to protect children under 13 years of age. While this regulation prevents companies from collecting personal information from children, it is not a failsafe. It is the user’s responsibility to protect their online presence. Ways that you and your children can be more protected are:

  • Teach your child about how to protect their online identity and what to share with the world
  • Set all the privacy controls on devices and review them regularly
  • Review downloaded apps to know which ones access your data like location, contacts, and photos
  • Enable content restrictions for what can be downloaded
  • Know what apps your child is using and how they work.

Most popular apps, especially for social media, have privacy settings. It is still important to know how these apps work and not just rely on these accounts to protect you or your child. There may be direct messaging features, only-fans pages for “secret posts,” or even secondary accounts created by your child that could offer opportunities for an attack.

1: Talk to Kids About Being Cyber Smart

Open communication is the best way to keep everyone in the family safe from a cyber-attack. There is extreme pressure on children to present full transparency online. This breeds impulsive posts, quick action to download popular apps, ignoring privacy in exchange for popularity, etc. In allowing open communication about the effects of poor cybersecurity practices, it not only prevents attacks in the home but protects our children long after they leave the nest.

While the next generation may know more about technology, we as parents and a community can know more about how to protect them.