Cybersecurity

Is your household cyber-secure? Here’s how to better protect it

Data protection privacy concept. GDPR. EU. Cyber security network. Business man protecting data personal information on tablet. Padlock icon and internet technology networking connection on digital dark blue background.

When most devices in your household are connected to the internet, it is essential to be vigilant about cybersecurity. Image: WEF/iStockphoto

Shraddha Patil
Director Product Management, Palo Alto Networks
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  • Households are easy targets for threat actors. Prioritize teaching cyber values to your kids, it’s as crucial as teaching about physical security.
  • The elderly are the most vulnerable to scams amongst all age groups – it's critical to educate them on how to secure themselves and their savings.
  • The devices in your household, if not secured, are the easiest gateways to get into, yet securing them is relatively easy.

Malicious cyber actors can leverage your children, elders or your household networks to gain access to your personal and private information. In these times when most devices in your household are connected to the internet, it is essential to be vigilant about cybersecurity.

Have you read?

Educating your children and elders about the importance of safeguarding personal information, passwords, and cybersecurity can significantly reduce the chances of falling victim to cyberattacks. With the world, and attacks changing constantly, protecting your household from cyber threats is paramount.

How to protect your family from cyber actors

According to CISA.gov, one in three homes with computers is infected with malicious software. Just imagine, between you and your neighbours on both sides of your house, one is infected. Protecting your household, however, is not as difficult as it seems, a few simple steps can help secure your household considerably more than it was before.

1. Managing your routing devices

– Upgrade your devices to their latest version.

– Protect your home network by changing your default router username/password to something unique. Use strong passwords; password123 or Charlie123 is never a good option.

– Create a guest network for your guests to use.

– Rotate passwords regularly.

– Schedule weekly router reboots.

2. Laptop/computers/web devices

– Cover cameras when not in use.

– Utilize a non-admin account for day-to-day surfing.

– Regularly update your laptop with latest operating systems and patches.

– Disconnect your devices from internet when not in use.

– Use multi-factor authentication or passkeys wherever possible.

– Schedule weekly reboots.

3. Home assistants

Many devices in your homes now come with home assistants (TV, refrigerator or even microwave). It is important, therefore, to know which of these devices have listening capabilities.

– Do not have sensitive conversations near home assistants.

– Mute their microphones when not in use.

– Disconnect your devices from internet when not in use.

– Read the terms and conditions before blindly accepting them.

Discover

How is the Forum tackling global cybersecurity challenges?

How to protect your senior relatives from cyberattacks

According to the FBI, so-called “elder scams” in 2022 resulted in a loss of $3.1 billion, which is an 84% increase in losses from 2021. When it comes to financial frauds, seniors are being specifically targeted due to their lack of exposure to technology and their predisposition to avoid it.

The most common frauds for seniors are:

1. Technical support/call centre fraud;

2. Investment fraud;

3. Lottery/sweepstakes fraud.

A few simple steps can help avert elder scams, like educating seniors about sending unknown phone calls to voicemail, using a credit freeze or setting stricter privacy settings on social media.

In addition, seniors can utilize legal tools like a living trust, guardianship or power of attorney to a trusted family member or long-known friend to safeguard themselves from scammers.

Warn your seniors about the most common ways scammers ask for money:

1. Wiring money – even if someone sends you a check for a larger amount and asks to return the difference, wiring money is like sending cash. Once sent, it's gone forever.

2. Sending money in gift cards – this is a very common scam where scammers reach out asking to pay outstanding tax dues etc with gift cards. The IRS or any government agency never asks to pay dues in gift cards.

3. Paying with cryptocurrency – this is the most common way of payment when it comes to romance scams, where seniors are scammed off their savings on the pretext of helping them find a life partner.

How to teach the value of cybersecurity to children

Instill good cyber hygiene and privacy consciousness early on in your kids. There are several cybersecurity games that can help you train your children on security. The FBI has games by age that lets you teach concepts based on a child’s age. Older kids are more likely to understand complex cybersecurity concepts whereas you will need to be creative in teaching the same to younger kids.

Cybersecurity knowledge for kids has to go beyond passwords and privacy. One common issue in today's world is instilling in kids the understanding of reliable online information and how to verify the source of information. Teach your children to see if the website link is what they were expecting to visit. There is a difference between www.bankofamerica.com versus www.bankof@merica.co.

This education should not just be limited to websites, but should also include: not clicking on unknown links, checking if they know the email-ID, where the link came from, and, more importantly, knowing what phishing and smishing are. This is where you get email or text messages, and you are required to enter the login credentials to your account. These are usually fake links and give the actors access to your accounts.

For all the TikTok and YouTube-savvy kids, impress on them the importance of privacy. Who can see their information? Who can see their photos and videos online? Knowing those settings so they can limit it to their friends and not leave their accounts open for anyone to follow. Teaching the value of privacy will help prevent cyberbullying by strangers on the internet to some extent.

In conclusion, protecting your household from cyber actors is vital in today's interconnected world. Educate your children and elders about cybersecurity to reduce the risk of cyberattacks.

Implement simple measures like managing devices, using strong passwords, and changing them regularly. Shield your household from cyber threats with good cyber-hygiene and -privacy practices. Empower seniors with knowledge about common scams and legal tools for protection. Instill cyber awareness in children early on, teaching them to verify online information and prioritize privacy.

By fostering a cybersecurity-conscious environment, you ensure your family's safety in the digital realm.

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