Since the start of the pandemic, countless aspects of our everyday lives have shifted online. Consequently, it’s more important than ever to be aware of threats that you and your family face in the virtual sphere.
Over the past 12 months, cybercrime has proliferated. UN statistics show a 600% increase in attempted data breaches, rising in time with the number of people working from home and children being schooled remotely.
A recent study also found that the majority of families are aware of the dangers lurking online. Countless concerned parents worry about how to best handle cyberbullying, online stranger danger, privacy, inappropriate content, financial scams, and technical threats.
To help you get a measure of things, here are the four most significant cybersecurity threats to your family – and how to face them.
1 – Identity Theft
To start off, one of the worst threats in the online sphere is identity theft – for all members of your family.
Cybercriminals will collect your personal data and then impersonate you to hide their own identity. This ranges from opening accounts in your name to committing IRS tax fraud.
While the majority of targets are adults, children’s identities are also valuable for cybercriminals. With a name, address, and social security number, malefactors can apply for credit in their name.
This is particularly attractive to identity thieves since most children have perfect credit scores. Often they don’t find out that they have been targeted until they apply for credit cards or student loans themselves.
To protect yourself, your partner, and your kids, create a family policy on sharing information online. You need to make it clear to children that they must not share social security numbers, addresses, or any other personally identifying information without asking you first.
In addition, consider investing in comprehensive digital security services by providers such as Aura. These combine traditional technical aspects like antivirus, Wi-Fi protection, and VPN with identity theft insurance and credit monitoring.
If you suspect that the identity of someone in your family has been compromised and you need advice, you can reach out to nonprofits such as the Identity Theft Center for advice.
2 – Malware
A second major threat to be found online is malware, especially ransomware.
Cybercriminals will attempt to infect your family’s devices through fraudulent or hacked websites, spam mail, or links to dubious downloads. In addition, fraudsters now often send messages from hacked social media and email accounts.
Ransomware especially is becoming both a more common and a more serious threat. Typically, cybercriminals will encrypt your devices and demand you to pay for decryption. In a new tactic, they will also siphon off your personal data in advance, and threaten to sell it to identity thieves or publicly release it.
First, having quality antivirus software is paramount. Make sure that all your family members install it on all their mobile and stationary devices.
In addition, update software and operating systems regularly to benefit from security patches, use parental controls where possible, and enable internet filters.
3 – Personal Attacks
Next, personal attacks are a particular danger to your children, ranging from cyberbullying and grooming to doxxing and slander.
To prevent such attacks or deal with them if they happen, it’s essential to talk openly with your partner and your children. Discuss how important it is to be careful about sharing potentially damaging information even with people they trust, much less with strangers, who might be intent on trolling.
Then, make it clear what you and your family members can do if you face personal attacks online: reporting posts, request search engines to delist damaging results, or even report users’ behavior to the authorities.
4 – Social Engineering
Finally, social engineering is one of the most common ways hackers gain access to your family’s system and data.
In social engineering, cybercriminals exploit human psychology, rather than technical weaknesses. They will pose as colleagues, classmates, or friends to gain access to information, or send messages relating to financials, legal matters, or access to accounts such as Netflix or Amazon.
To protect your family, implement a zero-trust policy for all mail and messages. Talk to your children about common scams, and encourage them to be suspicious and to come to you if they receive vague, doubtful, or even threatening messages.
Most scammers bank on an initial panic response on the side of the recipient – “Your account will be deleted if you don’t enter your data right now!!!” By making your children aware of this strategy, you take this central weapon out of cybercriminals’ hands.