Digital crime is on the rise—a type of crime in which your credit, financial security and good name are at risk. Identity theft is now considered to be one of the fastest-growing crimes in America, made worse by the fact that criminals do not discriminate—cybercriminals are now targeting children. As cybercriminals begin focusing their efforts on 6 to 16 year-olds, Internet security awareness training firm KnowBe4 (www.knowbe4.com) advises parents to take the threat seriously and to quickly enact safety measures to limit risk for their children.
KnowBe4 CEO, Stu Sjouwerman, says hackers could obtain a child’s personal information in a variety of ways, but the most common method is by using personal information shared online via social media sites. Because most children have some kind of online presence, they present an easy target for identity thieves and predators—and becoming a victim of identity theft is common.
Social Media Gone Wrong
Children often underestimate the potential danger of sharing seemingly unimportant information online. Sjouwerman insists that personal information should always be kept private, or at least tightly controlled, lest children run the risk of compromising their identity or become the victim of an online predator:
Studies show that many social media users include common personal information on their profiles that thieves crave, such as full name, address, parents’ names (in particular your mother’s maiden name), telephone numbers, place of birth, hobbies, club memberships, etc.
Scammers also often send phony emails (known as “phishing”) that appear to be from the social media provider, asking for additional personal information—the information is then used to assume your identity. (1)
Best Social Media Practices for pre-teens and Teens:
Sjouwerman suggests implementing the following safety measures to combat the risk of identity theft:
1. Don’t be so eager to share everything about you or your family online. By doing so, you give cybercriminals the ammo needed to assume your identity. Set your privacy settings to only allow personal information to be shared with family or close friends.
2. Know your friends. Befriending strangers makes it easy for them to access personal information and assume your identity, unbeknownst to you.
3. Don’t store financial information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary. If you must, use a strong password with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Always remember to log off when you’re finished—if your laptop is stolen, it presents another hurdle for the thief.
4. Update your browser. Be sure your browser is updated to the most recent version, which has all known bugs fixed.
5. Do not download files or open hyperlinks sent by strangers. This could potentially expose your system to a malware program, trojan or virus.
6. Do not open emails from unknown sources. Cybercriminals often use this route to carry out “phishing attacks,” or the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, credit card details and sometimes money, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity.
In addition to the above tactics, Sjouwerman insists that Internet security training (http://www.knowbe4.com/) is beneficial in teaching children how to protect their own information online. Kids are vulnerable because they’re often unsuspecting, and they need to be educated in cybercriminal techniques. Knowledge is power, especially for those who are growing up in a digital age.
“The ease with which criminals can access personal information is astounding, and parents would do well to invest in some protection for their children,” said Sjouwerman. “Children often think they’re safe online, but they’re constantly being exposed to threats over the Internet.”
To help combat children becoming the victim of an online criminal, KnowBe4 now offers a family-friendly Home Internet Security Course (http://home.knowbe4.com/) especially designed for non-tech-savvy consumers. Knowbe4 has primarily been in the business-to-business security awareness training (http://www.knowbe4.com/products/kevin-mitnick-security-awareness-training/) market, but observed that American families were also becoming targets in cyberattacks. To better provide at-home security to individuals, Knowbe4 developed the Kevin Mitnick Home Internet Security Course (http://home.knowbe4.com/). Once the world’s most wanted hacker, Mitnick now applies his expertise to help organizations and individuals defend against security breaches.
Sjouwerman says that many cyber-theft cases go unreported due to embarrassment or lack of ability for cases to be properly investigated by police. Moreover, he believes that without proper security training, the volume of teen identity theft cases will increase.
“Not only has [security training] been proven in business, but the proper safety measures translate over to personal security, as well,” said Sjouwerman. “Security training gives families, and especially children, the tools needed to become proactive in their protection.”
For more information on how KnowBe4 can protect against cybercrime, visit http://www.knowbe4.com/products/kevin-mitnick-security-awareness-training/.
About Stu Sjouwerman and KnowBe4
Stu Sjouwerman (http://www.knowbe4.com/about-us/) is the founder and CEO of KnowBe4, LLC, which provides web-based Internet Security Awareness Training (ISAT) to small and medium-sized enterprises. A data security expert with more than 30 years in the IT industry, Sjouwerman was the co‑founder of Inc. 500 company Sunbelt Software, an award-winning anti-malware software company that he and his partner sold to GFI Software in 2010. Realizing that the human element of security was being seriously neglected, Sjouwerman decided to help entrepreneurs tackle cybercrime tactics through advanced security awareness training. He and his team in KNowBe4 work with companies in many different industries, including highly-regulated fields such as healthcare, finance and insurance. Sjouwerman is the author of four books, with his latest being Cyberheist: The Biggest Financial Threat Facing American Businesses Since the Meltdown of 2008. Visit www.knowbe4.com or www.knowbe4.com/cyberheist-the-book/.