Protecting Your Family Online

These ten tips will help improve the internet safety for your children, and I suggest putting them into action as soon as possible.

Today’s internet world has become a vast ocean of information and entertainment for adults and for children. But with high speed connectivity and a wealth of information at their finger-tips, comes a higher risk of danger to their safety, because of the volatility of the online world and cunningness of the “bad guys” that is becoming harder to control.

1.     Talk to your children

From an early age talk to them about not talking to strangers online, just like in the real world. Explain to them that while their computer and mobile phone are a lot of fun, there are a lot of bad people in the world who want to hurt and steal.

Train them how to behave online, how to be polite and respect other people. As they get older show them how to maintain their devices, with software updates, security patches, and proper maintenance to prolong its life and speed.

Have a “rule” where there are no consequences (like yelling and being grounded), for when they report something. Maybe they saw something they shouldn’t have, or clicked on a link and now the computer has weird pop-ups happening, or it just doesn’t work anymore; either way your children should be comfortable coming to you to share what happened and maybe fix the problem together.

2.     Use an Internet Security Suite.

With multiple thousands of new Malware being created and put onto the internet each day, it is important that every computerised device in your family has a good suite of internet security: laptops, desktops, tablets and phones.

There are many reputable products on the market, and I’d suggest paying for the best, rather than going for the free version. There’s Norton and McAfee, but take a look at Emsisoft Internet Security or Kaspersky Internet Security.

Many of the software security companies, like Kaspersky, also have protection for your mobile phone.

3.     Teach them to avoid clicking on links

Clicking on links in emails and on websites is what keeps computer technicians in business: it is something that both adults and children are all fond of doing because it’s easy and quick. Unfortunately these days, the “bad guys” know it’s what everyone does, and so they will hijack the link and either direct you to a completely bogus site for advertising or scamming purposes, or instantly download onto your computer some form of Malware.

Show your children that it’s better safety to type in the website address, than just click through. Also when you receive a scam email with a link within it, show them how to hover the mouse over the link, then look at the URL address at the bottom of the screen (in Windows 10), and see if it’s actually going to the bank or post office etc.

4.     Keep your home WiFi secure

With the move from the old insecure WEP to WPA and WPA2 encryption on home WiFi, it has become harder for bad guys to hack into the home’s computer network – harder, not impossible.

Do these three things to make your home network more secure:

(a) Change the default user and password that comes with the router, so that it’s harder to gain access to it

(b) Choose a WiFi sign in password that is secure, and

(c) Within the router change the SSID (service set identifier) from the name of the router you use, to a generalised name that you and your children will recognise, e.g. “The Swamp” or “Our Place”. Also don’t use your family name.   

5.     Use good passwords

 Did you know that the most common passwords used around the world are “123456” or “password”? Using simple passwords like that make it easy for bad guys to hack into your children’s computer devices.

Show them how to set up good passwords that they can remember: no words from the dictionary; use upper case and lower case letters; use numbers and symbols.

Think of a phrase, maybe a song, and change some of the characters within it e.g. June School Holidays becomes 7un3Sch0)1H0!iday$

6.     Family Safety Filters

If you are concerned that your children may deliberately or just accidentally go to unsavoury websites, it is possible to implement some of the family safety filters that are available.

(a)  Use the Family Safety Settings on Windows

(b)  Use the Parental Controls on Mac OS

(c)  Use Open DNS (www.opendns.org) which gives you strong filters on which websites children can access

(d)  Other free and commercially available family safety software

7.     Safety first in public hotspots

Free WiFi in public places like McDonalds or your local coffee shop make it easy for children and teens to connect their devices to the internet and so save on data usage and have faster downloads.

Unfortunately it is very easy for bad guys to also sit in the coffee shop and capture your children’s data going through the unencrypted WiFi, and to also set up a rogue access point for them to connect to, and so gain access to their device and any information on it.

For your children’s security in public hotspots install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) onto their device and train them to use it when away from home.

A good VPN provider is NordVPN which is fast, easy to set up, does not log anything and has over 15 servers just in Australia.

8.     Log out

Teach your children from an early age about the importance of logging out of the computer they have finished using, even if it’s at home. If they’re just off to the kitchen for a snack then “lock” the computer so that no one else can get access to it.

9.     Phishing

Teach your children about how bad guys will attempt to “phish” them. Phishing is typically done through email, ads, or by websites that look similar to sites you already use, in an attempt to obtain a person’s personal information, passwords, account numbers etc.

For example, your child may supposedly receive a notification from Facebook requesting them to click a link and confirm their personal information. The bad guys use the trust children have in Facebook and other social media, to lure them to a “look a-like” Facebook page in order to harvest their personal information.

10.Personal Information

Teach your children about the dangers of sharing too much personal information online. Yes, setting up important accounts such as internet banking requires 100% disclosure of who you are, but there is a danger with social media and other websites like YouTube or Google, of a greater risk of identity theft.

Teach your children on sites like Facebook, not to reveal their exact home address and not to put in their exact birthday date.  It’s easy for bad guys to harvest information off social media sites – where a child lives, friends’ names, parents car registration number, birthdays, school etc.

Also in setting up the Facebook account, go through the privacy settings to make sure that only your child’s FB friends can see the content of what they post.