October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and with many school systems opting for online learning and offices continuing to allow work from home, it is a great time to review online safety tips to ensure you and your child are informed. After reviewing the National Cyber Security Alliance’s website, I comprised a list of tips below that I feel are helpful for staying safe online.
Online Safety Tips for You and Your Child
Update your device frequently.
Keeping software up to date on each device you own is a great way to protect yourself against potential attacks. Cybercriminals thrive on the weaknesses of older or outdated versions of software. If your child is the primary user of a device, let him or her know what a software update request looks like so they are prepared to perform the updates themselves or ask for your help if they cannot do it alone.
Protect your personally identifiable information.
Personally Identifiable Information, or PII, is defined as any data that can be used to identify an individual. Your name, email address, social security number, and physical address are all examples of PII. It is best to limit where you enter this data when possible to lower the chances that it could be obtained by cybercriminals. Be sure your child knows this as well, and be sure that they know they do not need to share information just because it is requested of them. In some instances, organizations that request information like your or your child’s social security number might not actually need it. Always ask or research how your information might be used and stored, and find out if there is an alternative to sharing your PII.
Beware of phishing.
Phishing is a type of fraud which cybercriminals use to obtain personal information. Over the years, cybercriminals have advanced and phishing attempts are harder to detect. Since most of us are checking emails on our phones, it’s much more difficult to see if an email you have received is actually coming from a legitimate address until after you have opened it. Remember not to click on links within suspicious emails as they could allow hackers to access your personal accounts. When in doubt, you can always call the company directly using a verified customer service phone number from their website.
While your child may not have access to email, they might still be vulnerable to phishing attacks in other ways. Social media sites like Facebook and YouTube can contain links from posts or ads that might pop up while your children are using devices. Be sure they know not to click on suspicious links or that they know to ask you for help if they have problems or issues identifying what might be suspicious.
Avoid public Wi-Fi.
We are all constantly on-the-go, and though it’s tempting to use public Wi-Fi, it’s best not to do so. Although a Wi-Fi name might sound legitimate, anyone can name a Wi-Fi they own and it could be the person in the next booth that is actually trying to access information on your device. Talk to your child about network join requests and be sure they know to check with you before they join them. You could also disable this feature on your devices if you are concerned they might accidentally join them without realizing it.
Ensure security when shopping online.
With online shopping being the preferred choice for consumers these days, it is important to remember that this is another way your information might be vulnerable. Make sure that the website you are purchasing from is secure. Look for “HTTPS” at the beginning of the website address or for other icons like a lock which indicates a secure, encrypted website on some devices. Try to limit the amount of personally identifiable information you enter into each website or shopping app. Though it can be convenient to save your information for future purchases, each website that has your information stored allows for more vulnerability. When possible, use services like PayPal, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay for a more secure checkout process.
I hope you have found these online safety tips useful for you and your family. Be sure to reference the National Cyber Security Alliance’s website often as they have a wealth of information and a blog as well with the latest cybersecurity news and information.