With hackers making headlines on a daily basis, one harsh reality has been confirmed: cyberattacks are not only on the rise, but they are more sophisticated and damaging than ever before. There is an increasing need to address these heightened risks, and this is particularly true for the Internet’s most active users: teens.
Teens are more exposed to cyberattacks than any other age demographic
As smartphone and mobile device usage continues to grow, more and more teens are active online. According to the Pew Research Center, children ages 8 to 18 are online an average of seven hours per day, with 80 percent of those kids active on social media. And the National Cyber Security Alliance reported that 94 percent of teens go online to conduct research, both at home and at school. This high level of activity has made teens the targets of hackers, and they run the risk of exposing their devices to malware and viruses through emails and infected websites.
Steps to prevent cyberattacks
Protection of personal devices and data is only one part of cybersecurity, education is the other line of defense. The most important steps to take in protecting against cyberattacks are safe Internet use, web privacy, data protection and information management, secure online research techniques and network security. However, there are other steps parents and teachers can take to educate teens and protect their information online:
1. Maintain hardware and software: As teens have higher usage rates than any other age demographic, their computers, gaming systems, smartphones and tablets are more likely to become infected with viruses and malware. Therefore, it is necessary that web browsers, operating systems, security software and any other software – including everything from games and apps to external devices – are up to date with the latest versions and security patches.
2. Keep an eye on mobile apps: Teen users should make sure that any apps they download onto their mobile devices have the latest security installations and fixes. It’s also important to know that when they have not used an app in a long time, and it has not been updated, the app can expose their devices to viruses and malware.
3. Use better passwords and stricter authentication for accounts: Account log-ins are the gateway to almost every other email address, app or service a teen user may have. But what happens if that user’s log-in information is stolen by a cyber hacker? Information like usernames and passwords can access every important aspect of a teenager’s life, including bank account information, emails, smartphones, apps and other programs. This is why teens need multi-factor authentication steps that go beyond a simple username and password. These authentications can include a code texted to the user, or an email sent directly to an app or email account.
4. Be mindful of the information shared on social networks. Social networks and online communities are a major part of most teens’ lives today. But while they enable teens to form relationships, they also involve a lot of information sharing. According to a Media Smarts report, this is where education is necessary because private information can be stolen and used in identity theft. Revealing information like full names, phone numbers, home addresses, Social Security Numbers and other private data can expose teens to significant risk of fraud or theft.
This applies to sharing pictures and real-time locations as well. Many teens post information on social networks that cannot be deleted later.
5. Do not download illegal content. Along with the ethical concerns of downloading illegal content on the Internet, there is also great risk of viruses and malware that can infiltrate a device.
6. Make sure all online purchases are from sites with verified cybersecurity measures.In addition to going online to complete schoolwork and socialize, teens use the Internet to shop. This sounds harmless enough until it is considered that teens may supply bank, credit or debit card information, and possibly Social Security Numbers, in the process of making a purchase. There is no real way to determine vendor credibility up front, unless it is verified on sites like eBay, Amazon and Etsy. This also potentially exposes them to auction fraud and overspending.
For teens, knowing how to safely navigate the Internet is as valuable a skill as driving a car. With so much information at their fingertips, it’s important to know – and mitigate – the risks.
Have questions about cyber security? Contact Clark Schaefer Hackett CIO Kevin Armour.