Today’s parents have double the responsibilities of their parents and grandparents in that they not only have to protect their children and families from the hazards of the real world, but also the world online. For this reason, it is a good idea for parents to monitor their kids’ online activities and computer habits — and their own — on the road.
The first thing Jacob Lehmann, managing director, Friedman CyZen LLC, stresses is the best things in life are not free, especially free airport, restaurant and hotel WiFi.
“Criminals can get access to your system via ‘evil twin’ attacks, or familiar-looking servers that seem to be legitimate but are duplicates of those with access to free WiFi,” Lehmann explains. “This can lead a user to a malicious site that will in turn download malware or a credentials harvester that allows a criminal to have access to private personal information. If you must use public WiFi at an airport to download an airline’s app or a movie, you should check with an airport employee about its WiFi so you can be sure you are not contacting a duplicate server, and then disconnect when you are done. You should also look into VPN (virtual private network) services that block unauthorized access that you can install on computers and tablets, especially if they are connected to work and home.”
In addition to avoiding online transactions that involve money, such as banking or paying bills, Lehman says parents should explain to kids the reasoning for not using public WiFi for personal things beyond downloading necessary apps and movies. A good way to explain it is when a person connects with public WiFi, he is logging on to a broadcast network. Criminals will be able to follow what is known as “broadcast traffic,” which detects personal details that make users more vulnerable. Teens especially can relate to this, given the publicity that misuse of social media received in news media as a tool for bullies, fraud, stalking and other dangers.
“People over-share a lot on social media, which enables cyber criminals to hack into devices or reset strangers’ accounts and block them from getting access while they are being robbed of money or private information,” says Lehmann. “You should encourage your kids to hold off on posting vacation photos until after they have come back from the family vacation. Over-sharing doesn’t just make a family home vulnerable, but also the family at location where they are vacationing.”
Over-sharing in posts makes tourists targets not only for in-person robberies (as a thief can track a target’s whereabouts), but Lehmann cites the example of a family that posts a photo from the nice resort where they are staying or flaunts something that promises to be a big payday for a thief in a crime network.
“If you must check in with your employer, bring a detachable hard drive so you can save your work and sensitive documents and then erase them from the laptop’s or device’s hard drive,” he continues. “Also, try to use a laptop whose hard drive is erased clean before you travel and can be erased when you return. Many people’s offices have IT departments who will loan them a clean computer only with necessary things on there, that will be used, and then wiped clean again on return.”
Other cyber-safety tips:
- Be sure the computers, tablets and phones you travel with have encryption programmed in. While newer computers have encryption installed as a standard feature, if you are using an older piece of equipment, be sure it is installed correctly.
- Avoid creating IDs and passwords with children’s names, pets’ names, maiden names or anything else people can connect with a specific individual on social media.
- Use your smartphone when possible as you can disable and re-enable accounts for work as needed.
- Supervise your kids’ game activity as you would at home. “Keep an eye on them even though they may be playing innocent looking games,” says Lehmann. “My nephews, for example, were playing Angry Birds and clicked on innocent-looking apps and videos out of curiosity that took them to a YouTube site with inappropriate videos.”
Check your emails when you return, and make sure you can recognize the addresses of the emails that came in and went out. If there is something suspicious, share it with your IT department and then destroy suspect emails without opening them.
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