Back to school is not about what kids take with them – it’s often about what they bring home. Over the years, all parents quickly learn that schools are like petri-dishes and that their kids bring back all manner of viruses and bugs.
But today, there’s another risk element. Our kids can also bring back cyber risks. Now that our work offices are also our home offices, this presents a whole new level of risk. We not only have to teach our kids to be safe for their own sake, we have to make sure that our corporate systems are protected.
With that in mind, we asked Robert Falzon, Head of Engineering for Check Point Canada, to draw up a list of tips that we could share with you to keep you and your kids cyber safe.
The first set of tips are for Social Media and are important all year round:
- Be aware of cyber risks, this comes first and foremost. Parents must talk to children about the dangers of sharing things on social media. For example, it’s important not to post images with family items or identifiable location details in the background.
- Phishing happens on social media, too. Educate children not to click on links sent to them via Messenger or the chat components of other social media sites.
- Backup your devices regularly; you don’t want to lose an assignment or your notes! This is the modern version of ‘the dog ate my homework’.
- Turn off location sharing. Many commonly used social media apps have location sharing that literally shows everyone where you are on a map at any given moment. An easy way to protect kids from danger is by turning that off.
- Delete the apps on your child’s personal devices. Unfortunately, even using something like a VPN to hide your IP address only protects your privacy of data in transit. If you want to ensure your children’s data is not being stored by apps like Facebook, you will need to delete them. It’s recommended to store social learning apps on a separate, school-only device to mitigate this risk.
There are also some “back to school” tips. First, for students:
- Cover your webcam. Turn off or block cameras and microphones when class is not in session. Also, be sure that no personal information is in the camera view.
- Only click on links from trusted sources. When in the remote school collaboration platform, only click on links that are shared by the host or co-hosts, when directed to do so
- Login directly. Always be sure to log in directly to your schools’ remote school portals; do not rely on email links. Be aware of lookalike domains in public tools.
- Use strong passwords. Hackers often attempt to crack passwords, especially short and simple ones, and adding complexity into your password prevents that.
- Never share confidential information. Students should not be asked to share confidential information via online tools. They should keep all personal information off cloud storage platforms.
There are also tips for Parents
- Talk to your kids about phishing. Teach your children to never click on links in email messages before they first check with you.
- Call out cyberbullying. Explain to your children that hurtful comments or pranks delivered online are not OK. Tell them that they should immediately come to you if they experience, or see someone else experience cyberbullying.
- Explain that devices should never go unattended. Your kids will need to understand that leaving a device accessible to unwanted hands can be detrimental. Hackers can login to your devices, assuming your child’s identity online.
- Set parental controls. Set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing.
- Increase awareness. Cybersecurity literacy is an important skill set, even for the youngest schoolchildren. Invest the time, money and resources to ensure your child is aware of cyber security threats and precautions.
And there are even tips for schools:
- Get anti-virus software. Making sure your students’ laptops and other devices are protected by antivirus software prevents them from accidentally downloading malware. Turn on automatic updates for that anti-virus software.
- Establish a strong online perimeter. Schools should establish strong boundary firewalls and internet gateways to protect school networks from cyber-attacks, unauthorized access, and malicious content.
- Check third party providers thoroughly. Schools should ensure they thoroughly vet all third party platform providers they use.
- Monitor the system, constantly. Schools must monitor all of their systems continuously and analyze them for unusual activity that could indicate an attack.
- Invest in online cyber security education. Ensure that members of staff understand the risks. Conduct regular sessions for students so they are aware of the latest cyber security threats.
Thanks to Robert Falzon from Check Point Canada. Let us know if you have other tips to share.