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Safer Internet Day

February 9 is Safer Internet Day. It’s to promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.

Research by the IT security product firm Kaspersky Lab to mark the day suggests that one in ten (12 per cent) of 16 to 19 year olds in the UK know someone who has engaged in a cyber-activity that could be deemed illegal. The poll found a third (35 per cent) would be impressed if a friend hacked a bank’s website and replaced the homepage with a cartoon, and a deeply worrying one in ten would be impressed if a friend hacked the air traffic control systems of a local airport.

Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, Consumer and Business Psychologist at University College London, says: “Rebellion, curiosity and an urge to demonstrate their independence are natural characteristics of the 16 to 19 age-group. As the first truly digital native generation, rebelling has simply become another aspect of their lives that can go digital. Cyber-crimes have become glamorised in society and represent an attack on the ‘system’ and allow individuals to express their teenage angst, in which they struggle to identify their place within society, and to achieve the kind of social validation and attention that many teenagers seek.”

David Emm, pictured, principal security researcher, Kaspersky Lab, says: “It’s frighteningly easy for teenagers to find their way into the dark corners of the internet today. Specialist browsers required to gain access are freely available online and discussion groups used by cybercriminals are often open to outsiders. Young people exploring, experimenting or taking their first steps towards making some easy money online can all too easily end up here in search of tools and advice. Once in, they are vulnerable to exploitation for more complex schemes, perhaps being drawn into a fraudulent activity by playing the role of a money mule, or being asked to create a malicious program. It’s far harder to get out than it is to get in.”

Kaspersky Lab urges parents to create an environment for their children where discussions are open and where both parties can agree on what constitutes safe and ethical behaviour online, and to understand the consequences of negative behaviour.

What NCA says

Many children will have an active interest in coding, spend a lot of time online and have independent learning materials. These are all signs of a healthy and positive interest in computing, says the National Crime Agency. The UK needs as many people interested in coding as possible. Coding and programming are extremely valuable skills and if your child has an interest you should actively encourage them to do so – but in a lawful way. Sadly a small minority of children will be drawn into using these skills for activities which are criminal. More at the NCA website.


David Mount, director, security solutions consulting EMEA, Micro Focus, said: “Safer Internet Day is a great initiative, encouraging everyone to consider how best to use digital technology safely and responsibly. While it’s great to see this drive to raise awareness around data security and protection, the fact is that far too much emphasis is placed on users to uphold security. Everyone knows that people are the weakest link in the security chain, yet the vast majority of solutions still rely on users making good security decisions.

“Many consumers bring their bad online habits to work and, as a result, what may be a small vulnerability at home becomes a data security nightmare for the IT department. Most employees don’t really care about security and, as cybercriminals grow more sophisticated and targeted through techniques like social engineering and spear phishing, even the small percentage that do care are bound to get it wrong sometimes. Most employees understandably just look for ways to get the job done efficiently and this can often mean finding workarounds or disregarding IT department rules, often endangering corporate data security.

“User awareness is key but it is not enough. When a business views users as the last line of defence, it has already failed to protect corporate data efficiently. At an employee level, we need to take the responsibility for fundamental security decisions away from users and place it firmly on the solutions in place. Business should make decisions which encourage innovation while guaranteeing low risk. While it is difficult to get users to make smarter security decisions, smarter technology will always make better choices and therefore have a positive impact on an organisation’s security stance.”

Matt Peachey, Vice President and General Manager, EMEA, Pindrop, said: “Initiatives like Safer Internet Day do a great job in educating young people about how to use and share across their social channels responsibly. But we are all guilty of sharing too much about ourselves online – be it our date of birth or our mother’s maiden name. Fraudsters can use this data to create profiles that spoof businesses into thinking they are genuine customers. Techniques like social engineering are a popular route for fraud theft and those responsible are using this form of attack where they know businesses have their lowest defence in security –the phone.

“Phone security has traditionally been overlooked as organisations have focused on their cyber defences. If you think about how online security has matured in the last decade, this line of defence has grown stronger as attacks have become more sophisticated. Phone security however has lacked the innovation, education and sophistication needed to protect customers. Without the right authentication and fraud detection in place, organisations will get duped. This is why it is most important to make phone as well as internet safety a priority, for all ages and businesses.”

And Nick Shaw, vice president, Norton said: “Many parents see their children as the ‘weak link’ in the family’s online security. The internet can be a valuable resource for children’s development, and parents play a critical role in educating their children about safe internet behaviors. They should have an open dialogue about online experiences encountered and establish house rules on Internet usage.”


Parents should teach young children to use strong and unique passwords across all their accounts and never to share passwords, even with their friends.
Parents should create a set of House Rules for their children for online communication, downloading, websites they access, and cyber harassment. A decrease in negative online experiences is closely linked to households where there is an open dialogue with children about online safety.
Discuss the risks of posting and sharing private information, videos, and photographs, especially on social media websites with children – everything posted online is a digital footprint for children and can be challenging to completely erase. Parents need to ensure kids are not posting content that will compromise their security or will regret when they got older.
Children are likely to imitate their parents’ behaviour, so they should be taught how to safely surf online and lead by example to provide them with a positive role model.
Kids need to be encouraged to think before they click – whether they’re looking at online video sites, receiving an unknown link in an email or even browsing the web and seeing banners or pop-ups, remind your child not to click links which may take them to dangerous or inappropriate sites. Clicking unknown links is a common way people get viruses or reveal private and valuable information to criminals.
A robust and trusted security software solution should be used in all household devices – from tablets to smartphones, laptops and desktops.

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