New Age Threats: How to Keep Your Family Cyber-Secure
Cybersecurity Ventures, a leading researcher in the global cyber economy, predicts that the global cost of cybercrimes will grow by 15% year-over-year for the next three years, culminating in over $10 trillion in damages annually by 2025. To contextualize that number, their research points out that $10 trillion is an exponentially larger cost than the annual cost of natural disasters (which was $270 billion in 2021) every year, and more profitable than the entire combined global illegal drug trade.
This exponential rise in cybercrimes is a major risk to governments and economies around the world, but cybercriminals don’t discriminate – any person who uses the internet could fall victim to a cyber crime, and that means that you and your family could be at risk. Thankfully, there are a myriad of strategies families can use to protect their data and avoid cyber risks. In this blog, we will discuss how to approach family members of all ages to discuss cybersecurity and provide strategies you can use to help protect your family from cyber criminals.
Generation by Generation
When planning to discuss cyber safety with your family, a one-size-fits-all approach may not work. Different age groups have different levels of experience with the internet and thus different understandings. Younger people who have grown up in the digital age may have a natural understanding of the internet, but their confidence may also lead to blind spots. In contrast, those belonging to the older generations may struggle to keep up with new technologies and, as a result, can end up being even more susceptible to cyber crimes. Your advice and the level of control you attempt to exert on family members should correspond to their age, level of experience and understanding of cyber threats.
For younger children, it’s up to you to decide what level of engagement they should have with the internet. Children are being introduced to technology younger and younger, but that doesn’t mean they are better equipped to navigate those technologies. At this point it may be too early to try to explain the complexities of navigating the web, so mitigating their ability to access it may be the better solution until they’re a bit older. Now might be a good time to teach them how to spot unusual behavior and let them know that “stranger danger” still applies online. Furthermore, teach them proper online etiquette and let them know that a record is kept of their online behavior. Lastly, be sure to talk to them about the importance of keeping sensitive information private, and encourage them to come to you if they ever feel unsure about something that’s happening online.
Your teens are probably already deeply entrenched in social media and internet usage – at this point you’ll be fighting an uphill battle if you try to introduce restrictions. Instead, sit your teen down and firstly ask if they’re aware of the potential dangers on the internet. If they don’t already know, then explain some of the dangers and let them know you’re a resource they can come to if they have questions. Otherwise, encourage responsible use of the internet, and leave them be.
Your more elderly family members may have the benefit of time on their side, but many in this category also struggle to understand proper cyber safety since they didn’t have the advantage of growing up with the internet. Be sure to take the time to have a conversation with the older folks in your family to ensure they’re aware of the most pertinent risks.
In each of these conversations you’ll want to be able to speak clearly on the risks, so be sure to do your homework in advance. It may be worthwhile to commit to ongoing family discussions surrounding cyber safety since the landscape is constantly changing. Furthermore, be sure to have a game plan for managing your family’s cyber safety. Below, we will outline a number of strategies you can add to your cyber safety game plan to protect your family’s data.
Strategies to Keep Your Family Safe
Each of the following strategies are worth going over with your family members. Even if they don’t personally partake in each strategy, having a basic understanding of how to protect themselves online will be extremely useful. Furthermore, seeing that you are proactive when it comes to cyber safety will set a great example and hopefully inspire them to be mindful of their actions online.
Here are a few key strategies to implement in order to protect your family:
- Keep your sensitive personal information private! Don’t enter sensitive information online unless you’re on a trustworthy site. Be sure to use strong passwords and consider using a password manager. Utilize two-factor authentication whenever the option is available.
- Whenever you get a new router, change its password immediately.
- Configure security and privacy settings on all of your devices – invest in antivirus software for your computers if they don’t have it built in.
- Keep your devices up-to-date and set all software updates to auto-update if possible. Updates frequently address security issues, and you may be left vulnerable to cybersecurity threats if your devices are running outdated software.
- Avoid using public wifi. Public networks rarely have any security, and are therefore easy targets for hackers to gain access to and steal data from.
- Consider getting a VPN (virtual private network) which will encrypt your communications when you’re connected to the internet via wifi. Do your research and choose a trustworthy VPN. Note that some sites may not work with VPNs – if that happens, go to a location where you can use a secure, trusted wifi connection.
- Implement Domain Name System (DNS) filtering. This prevents devices on your network from connecting to known untrustworthy websites and can protect your children from stumbling upon unsafe sites. DNS filtering can also be used to deter kids from accessing unwanted or inappropriate sites, as well as to limit screen time and monitor your kid’s online activities if you choose to do so.
- Be aware of phishing attempts, which are fraudulent emails sent from cybercriminals purporting to be someone else in an attempt to steal your sensitive information. There are resources that will quiz you on phishing threats so that you can brush up your skills and know what to look out for.
Lastly, and most importantly, make sure you’re staying up-to-date on cyber risks and open discussions with your family whenever it’s relevant. Keep the lines of communication open. Your family members may mess up – instead of getting frustrated, encourage them to come to you with questions and concerns and let them know you’re there to help if they’re scared something has gone wrong. Build up trust so that you’re the first person your family comes to when they’re confused, and you’ll set them up to manage their cyber security on their own.
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