With National Cyber Security Awareness Month in full stride, parents are realizing the vulnerability of their children and the necessity for cyber safety education. Although numerous types of cybercrime are being discussed this month, I’d like to examine two areas that have an increasing incidence rate and lack of parent awareness: child identity theft and the prevalence of online predators.
While malware, phishing and hacking are key buzz words in today’s headlines, identity theft should be top-of-mind, given its swift and detrimental repercussions. Once a child’s identity is stolen, it often takes less than 24 hours for changes to be made and credit cards opened. With such a small window between safety and insurmountable debt, prevention and awareness remain the key tools in protecting a child’s financial future. In order to adequately protect your child, parents should follow these three steps:
- Find out who has access to your child’s information and how the information is stored. Always ask if a Social Security Number (SSN) is absolutely necessary before giving it out. And remember that you, as a parent, also store your child’s SSN, so if your computer is hacked, it may be your child’s identity information that is stolen and used to open credit cards, make purchases and ruin your child’s credit rating. Place a credit alert on your child’s SSN as well as your own.
- Read all school materials sent home with your child, mail that comes to your home in your child’s name and e-mails asking for personal information. Keep an eye out for terms and conditions that mention “personally identifiable information,” and “opt out.” Make sure to find out how your child’s personal information will be used, whether it will be shared, and with whom, before you grant access. Be on the lookout for credit card offers for your children as well – this could indicate that an ID thief has established credit in your child’s name already.
- Don’t carry around your child’s Social Security card (or your own) unless it is absolutely necessary. Carrying this information puts it at a higher risk for being physically stolen. Many criminals will hack into computers for information but by giving them a way to physically steal it, you make their job much easier.
- Be aware of all the numerous ways children can connect to the Internet: With modern technology, young people can connect from virtually anywhere. Phones, tablets, gaming systems and even televisions have become Internet-connected. Take inventory of all the devices your children are using and be sure they know how to use them safely and responsibly. If they don’t, request that an (ISC)²-certified cyber security expert come to your child’s school. Through Safe and Secure Online, these volunteers teach children for free how to protect themselves online. Also, be sure to turn on the parental controls whenever possible.
- Talk to other parents: When and how you decide to let your children use the Internet is a personal parenting decision. Knowing what other parents are thinking and allowing their children to do is important and can be helpful for making decisions about what boundaries you feel comfortable establishing for what your children do online.
Another major threat to kids today comes from online predators. Many of us have seen the television shows around online sexual predators and unfortunately clump all types of “online predators” into that category. Online predators can range from identity thieves to criminals focused on stealing your children’s most personal information. It is crucial that parents clearly understand these differences and follow these two over-arching tips:
Cyber security awareness is fundamental to our children’s education and should be a lifelong, year-round pursuit. National Cyber Security Awareness Month is an exceptional campaign that’s taking nationwide cyber awareness to the next level. For more information on how we can work together to protect our children, please visit www.isc2cares.org to learn more about Safe and Secure Online, the (ISC)2 Foundation program that aims to protect children’s cyber lives through education and awareness.