Cyber pet peeve: my child’s account was hacked
What should you do when your child accidentally opens the virtual doors to hackers?
Ask parents about their worst nightmares, and they’ll likely run you through a series of disastrous situations. Your child may get sick or end up in hospital; they can disappear. One thing that is unlikely to be too high on parents’ minds – but perhaps should – is if they end up being the victim of a hack.
It is the world’s biggest and worst kept secret that young children are technically allowed on major social media and technology platforms. There are those who either share accounts with their parents or have their own seemingly carefully monitored profiles.
Giving children access to devices is a standard parenting practice today, with the shame of worrying about whether you’re doing the right thing disappearing as it becomes normalized. But that’s only until massive credit card bills suddenly get high.
Children on the Internet and lurking cybercriminals
There are many other risks that can affect your next credit card bill: from giving kids an account on a smartphone, service or app. Adults—with their decades of real-life experience—struggle to avoid phishing scams. Children – whose brains are not yet adapted to the external dangers out there – may well click on a malicious link and enter their password on a website that may look normal to them.
Children’s grammar and spelling skills are often still developing, so the telltale signs that can give away a phishing site may not register with them until it’s too late. They are also potentially more likely to use a less secure password, making it all too easy to brute force.
It’s all a disaster for parents, who may find that what they thought was an innocent, controlled way to give their child some freedom online suddenly turns into a multi-layered disaster.
Internet: a monster in every corner?
The internet is an exciting place for children to explore – and it’s certainly not worth stressing over every aspect. But parents need to be aware of what to look for if their child is to develop an interest in exploring the virtual world.
What may seem like a non-essential setup can become a way for hackers to exploit into your own accounts. Consider whether you have recovery emails and associated details associated with the child’s account. Have you ever bought an in-game item to keep them quiet? There is a risk that your credit card details could be accessed by hackers – or at least used to purchase in-game items that can then be resold and cashed out for real money without a trace.
Likewise, it’s possible that you have personal information or photos taken inside your home that could give away passwords or home security system details. Children are likely to be less likely to practice good computer hygiene practices, and so could have stored passwords for important accounts in plain text for hackers to access.
Children can also involuntarily share account information and other important details with strangers online. Try to stay aware of who your children are friends with online and monitor the communities they engage in – but do so in a way that gives them freedom and space.
If any of your children’s accounts are linked to yours or share the same password, threat actors can easily triangulate who you are and easily breach your accounts. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you set up strict security controls on your children’s accounts. In addition, you can try to silo them away from your own profiles where possible. Just in case the worst happens, you need to make sure you’re safe, even if your child’s account is compromised.
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