It’s not just big businesses that are at risk of being hacked or cyber-attacked.
It may seem scary to let your kids go online after you hear that, but don’t throw all the computers away and live off-the-grid just yet. Try implementing these five cybersecurity practices in your home to give your family some peace-of-mind online:
1. Create strong passwords
You’ve probably thought of this every time a website requires you to use at least one uppercase and lowercase letter, plus a number and a symbol. But why do you need to do those things to make your password “secure?”
Hackers can use programs to “crack” or discover your passwords, so by making them more complex, they become harder to crack. However, it’s not just the numbers and symbols that make your passwords secure. You should also be careful of using easily-discovered personal information or references as your passwords. For example, pets’ or family members’ names, significant dates, or interest-based keywords can make a password less secure. Especially if you’re posting pictures of your cat Max on Facebook every day and your go-to password is Max1234. While these passwords can be easy to remember and share within your family, they’re going to put your family’s online devices and accounts at risk.
Instead, try using passphrases or combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols that create an easy-to-remember password. Help your kids create unique words and phrases for their passwords that they’ll remember, but aren’t as easy-to-hack as “Max1234.” If these passwords get hard to remember, try using a password generator or password database program that will generate random passwords for your online accounts and store them securely.
2. Steer clear of sketchy websites
If a link, url, or website title makes you think “this doesn’t seem quite right,” then trust your gut! One of the easiest ways to identify a website’s security is its SSL certification. Most browsers will show this in the top left corner of the address bar. It will be marked with a green lock icon, and might even say “Secure.” If your browser doesn’t show the certification, just look for the https:// at the beginning of the website’s url. Aside from that, sites with excessive ads or popups are also more likely to lead you to something harmful. Teach your kids to look for these things when they are online, too.
3. Be careful where you click
Even if you’re on a secure website, there is still a chance you can end up somewhere unsafe. Be careful about clicking on ads, popups, download buttons, and links. Try to check the hover box when you move your mouse over a link or button and see what url it is going to lead you to. If it looks wrong, don’t click!
Keep this in mind for emails as well. If you receive an unexpected email with links or attachments, look closely before you click on anything. If your kids have email accounts, show them how to watch out for unknown senders, unsafe links, and other signs of email phishing. These fake emails are trying to steal your information, credentials, or download something unsafe onto your computer.
4. Keep your passwords a secret
While it can be tempting to tell someone your password for convenience, passwords are something that should rarely be shared. A shared computer password or Netflix password between your immediate family is okay, but sharing that password outside of the family can become dangerous. Help your kids understand that their passwords are part of their private identity and something to keep secret, even from their friends or teachers. If a password needs to be shared, try changing the password to something for one-time use or change it immediately after the person has finished using it.
5. Lock your computers and your phones
It may seem easier to just remove the passcode on your cell phone or family computer for quick, one-click entry, but this puts your family’s information at risk. Encourage your kids to use passcode features on their cell phones, tablets, and personal computers, and use them on your own devices as well. If you’re using one of these devices in a public place, make sure to lock them before walking away or leaving them unattended (or try not to leave them unattended at all) in order to prevent others from gaining easy access into your accounts.
Cybersecurity may seem like a hassle, but it’s worth it. Hackers and people with malicious intent can take even the smallest bit of information and use it to cause harm. If you spend time thinking and talking about internet security with your family, it can make a big difference in keeping your family’s identities and information safe.