As this school year begins, many families, teachers, students, and school officials are trying to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the learning process. Through all the uncertainty with these adjustments, one thing everyone can agree on is how we want to keep our children as safe and healthy as possible. Although precautions are being taken to protect against COVID-19, the pandemic has also had the effect on children’s cyber-security.
Cyber-threats not only focus on businesses and corporations, they can attack at home too. There are many forms that cyber-attacks can take; the most common method is phishing. This type of attack usually takes place when you receive an email from an account that may look legitimate, but it isn’t. The email spoof may ask you to click a link or open a file. If done so, you have granted access to a cyber-attacker who may load malware on your system or trick you into providing personal information.
As many schools offer virtual learning this school year, students may communicate with their teachers and peers via email. The best way to protect yourself and your children from becoming a victim of a cyber-attack is to prepare your home computer systems against attacks, inform your family members of the potential threats, and be aware of what can be considered as “suspicious activity”.
Prepare Your Home Computer Systems
Your home computers should be equipped with a good anti-virus software that will persistently scan the computer and catch unwanted files that may have appeared from a cyber-attack attempt. It’s important that the software should not only be in place but kept up to date as well. By scheduling a check for updates on a nightly basis, you are constantly aware that your computer has the most up-to-date protection available. It’s wise to change your privacy settings and shut off location features to prevent other possible attacks. You may choose to set passwords when organizing sessions on screen-share platforms, Zoom, or other virtual communications, and make sure that any meeting room invitations you receive are legitimate and private.
Share and Be Aware of Cyber Attacks
Be sure to talk to your children about the severity of cyber-threats and what to be on alert for. Prevention is best way to avoid cyber-attacks, and it can be as easy as paying close attention to suspicious emails, pop-ups, unusual changes to a software program, or the computer system is not working properly. If your child uses email, talk with them about ensuring they know their peers and teachers’ email addresses; this way, if something appears in the email inbox as suspicious, they can catch it and alert you right away. Make sure they know never to provide personal information to anyone through the internet, and to never click a link unless they are fully certain it is something meant for them. Routinely ask your children, “How’s your computer running” and “Did you get any emails from your teacher today?” to keep in contact on whether there’s potential cyber-threats happening.
For more information about internet safety for kids, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s full list of information about protecting kids online