It’s nearly that time again: Back-to-School.
Stores and websites are trafficking frenzied parents and students, eagerly filling carts—both physical and proverbial—with No.2 pencils, backpacks, college-ruled notebook paper, and 3-ring binders. And of course, the most coveted of necessities: technology. Tech companies are capitalizing on back-to-school excitement with promotions for tech tools and gadgets galore.
Fall is the season for new tech devices. Most notably, Apple’s release schedule designates September as the most-anticipated month for the newest iPhone model or the biggest discount on last year’s model. College students, especially, are browsing tech trends for the smartphone, laptop, tablet, or desktop device that will help them achieve success this school year.
Whether it’s coming to a grinding halt or a gradual slowdown, there’s no doubt about it: summer is approaching its end. But while the temperatures are decreasing, hackers are increasing their efforts targeting networks and users of all ages. Cyberattacks span payment card fraud, unintended disclosure, hacking, malware, insider leaks, and ransomware—these are only a few of the most common approaches.
Different age groups vary in online behavior and thus, are susceptible to different online scams, threats, and pitfalls. Understanding risk factors is the first step toward protecting yourself.
10 years ago, most primary school children did not own personal electronic devices, especially smartphones or tablets. 20 years ago, most children did not have home internet access. If they did use electronic devices, it was likely a gaming unit (like Wii, Nintendo DS or Gameboy), which was isolated from the internet.
Now, more and more children under the age of 12 have access to technology that puts them at risk, like smartphones and iPads. Elementary schoolers are often using iPads in school, equipped with educational apps to supplement their lessons. Kids are being given cell phones at earlier ages. Kids are high risk because they are young, vulnerable, and greatly unaware of outside threats. Therefore, it’s critical that parents educate their young children in safe internet navigation. It’s a good idea to closely monitor devices and applications used by young children, and utilize parental controls to block areas of the internet that may be dangerous.
Today, preteens and teenagers are skilled at using technology, because they have never known a world without it. However, because they are so comfortable navigating the tech world, they are often blind to lurking threats. Similar practices apply as with younger children: education for safe internet use, implementation of parental controls (though maybe less extreme), consistent backup of devices, and guarding webcams can protect your middle and high schoolers from harm.
But, there’s one more thing: social media.
More than ever, teenagers are using social media to converse with friends and create an identity using channels like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter (to name a few). This new form of communication is powerful, and downright dangerous in the wrong hands. Teach teenagers these 3 basic rules:
College students, especially freshmen, often seek laptops based on course requirements. Depending on major, professor, and travel constraints, college freshen will be in the market for the best device to suit their personal preferences and course criteria. College students rely heavily on their personal technology: it houses all communications, connects them with far-away friends and family, controls bank and credit card accounts, and holds all school assignments (like that 50-page research paper worth 50% of the final grade).
As such, a compromised system or device would devastate a college student’s life: both personal and educational. Moreover, dorms, dining halls, libraries, and public networks present an ideal environment for stealing: it’s crowded and busy, a perfect opportunity for malicious entities. Lock your bikes, lock your devices.
Note: College students are faced with the choice between Mac and PC. Though Macs are known to be less susceptible to viruses, there’s a growing body of malware and ransomware that particularly targets Mac users.
Adults in the professional sphere are at high risk for cyberattacks. If you work the usual 9-to-5, you spend all day connected to a company network, checking emails, and passing around sensitive information. Companies go to great lengths to ensure they are protected—and so are their employees. Many businesses have annual, mandatory security trainings to help make employees aware of new threats, recognize common ones, and navigate risk scenarios. Further, most businesses implement regular, mandatory password changes and have security measure in place to help filter junk (and phishing scams) out of the inbox.
As we move toward a completely interconnected Internet of Things, there is a greater likelihood of data loss: if one device is compromised, all connected devices may also be compromised. For example, if you use Google Home or Amazon Alexa, these systems can control home security, thermostat, and lighting while also being able to access bank accounts and call relatives. Technological conveniences also pose large risks. Protect yourself, your family, and your home by setting up a secure network with double authentication and complex passwords. Implement parental controls for smart devices to ensure that children don’t unintentionally cause damage, especially with voice commands.
Though seniors are perhaps the age demographic least likely to be a victim of a cyberattack or internet scam, data suggests that when they do fall prey, they lose the most. Why? Because they’ve had an entire lifetime to accumulate information and assets and they’ve had the shortest period acclimating to new technologies.
Seniors often have old technology, which is less secure than new technology. Further, of the adults over 65 who do own sophisticated smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop devices, the tech world is evolving at such a rapid rate, it’s difficult to grasp new technologies and applications.
So, what do you do to combat online threats? School yourself in cybersecurity best practices to lessen the likelihood you’ll be a target of hackers or cyber criminals. Remember: effective education mitigates victimization! Consider the following preventative measures to protect yourself, your technology, and your family from harm.