With most children owning or having access to a smartphone or tablet, they begin their acquaintance with the digital world at an increasingly early age. It is, therefore, crucial for parents to stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats targeting kids to better protect them from potential harm.
Here are some of the key cybersecurity trends parents should be aware of this year, according to internet-security provider Kaspersky.
1. Artificial intelligence
According to the United Nations, about 80% of young people have claimed they interact with artificial intelligence multiple times a day. With the development of AI, numerous little-known applications have emerged with seemingly harmless features, such as uploading a photo to receive a modified version.
However, when children upload their images to such applications, they never know which databases their photos will ultimately remain in, and whether they might be used further.
Moreover, AI apps, specifically chatbots, can easily provide age-inappropriate content when prompted – for instance, those specifically designed to provide an “adult” experience.
Even though these often require a form of age verification, they remain dangerous as some children might lie about their age.
2. Attacks on young gamers
Some 91% of children between the ages of three and 15 play games on their devices. Unmoderated voice and text chat can be a large part of the gaming experience.
With more and more young people online, criminals can build trust virtually the same way they would in person, and even groom them. For example, cybercriminals might lure them with gifts or promises of friendship.
Once they have the confidence of a young gamer, they then obtain their personal information by asking them to click on a phishing link, which downloads a malicious file onto their device disguised as a game mod.
3. Growth of the fintech industry
As the financial technology industry grows, an increasing number of banks are providing specialised products and services tailored for children, including banking cards designed for kids as young as 12.
This, however, also means young people become susceptible to financially motivated threats and conventional scams, like promises of a free gaming console or other assets upon entering their card details on a phishing site.
Using social-engineering techniques, cybercriminals might exploit children’s trust by posing as peers and requesting the sharing of card details or money transfers to their accounts.
4. Smart-home threats
Despite the rising number of threats to smart-home devices, manufacturers are not rushing to create tech that preemptively prevents exploitation through vulnerabilities. This means children could become tools for cybercriminals.
For instance, if a smart device becomes a fully functional surveillance tool and a child is home alone, criminals could contact them through the device and request for sensitive information such as their name, address, credit card numbers, and/or family routines.
5. Children’s personal online space
As children mature, they develop greater self awareness, encompassing an understanding of their personal space, privacy, and sensitive data, both offline and online. Consequently, when a parent communicates the intent to install digital parenting apps on a device, not all kids will take it calmly.
This is why mums and dads now require the skill to discuss their offspring’s online experience and the importance of such apps for online safety while respecting personal space.
This involves establishing clear boundaries and expectations, and discussing the reasons for using the app with every child.
6. Unsecure apps from other regions
If an app is unavailable in your region, young users often look for alternatives – often a malicious copy. Even if they turned to official app stores like Google Play, they still run the risk of falling prey to cybercriminals.
From 2020 to 2022, internet security experts found more than 190 apps infected with Harly Trojan malware on Google Play, which signed users up for paid services without their knowledge. A conservative estimate of the number of downloads stands at 4.8 million, though the actual figure may be even higher.
With all this said, here are three tips for parents to protect their children’s safety and privacy online:
- Stay informed on the latest threats and actively monitor your children’s online activities to create a safer online environment for them.
- Openly discuss with your children the potential risks they may encounter online and enforce strict guidelines to ensure their safety.
- To prevent children from downloading malicious files during their gaming experience, install a trusted security solution on their devices.