With the very real possibility that the new school year will be attended virtually in many places, parents’ concerns turn to online safety. As more and more kids spend more and more time online and in digital classrooms, the threat of bad actors infiltrating the family computer are at near-record highs.
As the fourth edition of the Phishing and Fraud Report by F5 Labs reported recently, the pandemic has proven to be fertile ground for hackers and cyber criminals. One of the most common online criminal techniques – phishing – was up a whopping 220 percent during the peak of last year’s covid-19 turmoil, compared to the yearly average of incidents between 2015 and 2019.
The report also identified the main strategies of phishing attacks related to the covid-19 pandemic, including soliciting fraudulent donations to fake charities, credential harvesting and malware delivery.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center phishing costs the internet-using public in a massive way. The center reported people lost an eye-opening $57 million to phishing schemes in one 12-month period, via scams ranging from swindling money from victims to stealing passwords, account numbers and Social Security numbers to open accounts under the victim’s name or to commit fraud, such as health insurance fraud.
Phishing scams are effective because criminals go to great lengths to fool their victims into thinking an email or text message is legitimate. According to the FTC, many online messages look almost identical to that of a bank, credit card company or online store. Criminals then use compelling language to entice the target to open an attachment or click on a link that gains them entry into a PC, laptop or phone.
Some of the more effective messages include things along the lines of:
- We have noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts on your account.
- There is a problem with your account or your payment information.
- You must confirm your personal information to retain access.
- You are eligible to register for a government refund.
- Congratulations! Here’s your coupon to redeem your free merchandise.
Criminals are pretty clever when it comes to these messages. They may even use the actual logos of the companies they are posing as and use endearing language in the subject line of an email, like “Hi, honey,” as if coming from a partner or spouse.
Considering how difficult it is for adults to spot these scams, imagine how it looks to a child sitting in the living room doing their homework lessons. We’ve put together some steps for parents to help protect their families and their identity:
- Protect your computer by using security software. Kinetic Secure with Wi-Fi security, virus protection, device management, content filtering and identity theft protection.
- Protect your mobile phone by setting software to update automatically. These updates could give you critical protection against security threats.
- Protect your accounts by using multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication offers extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log in to your account.
- Protect your data by backing it up. Back up your data and make sure those backups aren’t connected to your home network. You can copy your computer files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Back up the data on your phone, too.