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Online age verification check concern

As the UK’s online age verification checks scheduled to come into force this summer, a cyber security firm is advising UK internet users that the new rules could increase the risk of identity theft and other cyber crimes.

F-Secure Principal Consultant Tom Gaffney says: “Preventing kids from accessing certain types of online content, such as pornography, is in everyone’s interest. But people who share personal details with third-party age verification platforms need to know that attackers actively target this type of data, and will likely find these databases very enticing. Plus, criminals will almost certainly try to trick users into disclosing personal information by creating fake websites that look like legitimate verification pages, which is another risk users need to be made aware of.”

Under the new laws, British internet users will be required to verify their age, to access adult content websites. This could mean sharing personal information such as passport, driving license, phone number or credit card details with third-party age verification platforms, or purchasing a “porn pass” at a local shop. As the cyber firm says, cyber crime has become more common in the UK than traditional robbery or theft; and attacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated, while the public often takes a complacent approach to digital security.

And while he supports the intent to protect children, F-Secure’s Fennel Aurora, a security advisor with the company, says the checks could backfire by enticing minors into taking other risks. He says: “The checks may drive those who wish to avoid the age verification system into engaging in more risky online behaviours. This could include accessing smaller, unregistered sites, or using free, untrustworthy tools that can harm unsuspecting users attempting to work around the checks. If these behaviours increase, we could end up exposing internet users of all ages to illegal content, as well as malware and other cyber crimes.”

According to Aurora, educating families and kids about online security, privacy, and how to behave online is as important as regulating websites. He adds: “While we understand the desire to limit children’s exposure to potentially harmful content, it’s not a long-term plan for keeping kids safe. Regulation is an aid and not a replacement for the parent’s role.”


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