A Family Aware: How To Be Cyber-Secure At Home

In week three of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, it’s time to focus on cyber awareness in your home. From playing games online to sending your family an email, many daily activities require Internet access. Learn how to protect your devices, keep your kids safe online, and protect your own information.

Online Security At Home

The National Cyber Security Alliance’s latest article highlights how often we use the Internet. Households are moving away from the single, family-shared computer and are adopting multiple laptops, smartphones, wearables, and new gadgets. An increase in Internet-accessing devices means an increase in time spent online.

Follow these tips for at-home security:

  1. Start with your device.

    Keep all of your devices’ software up-to-date. From your laptop’s web browser to your smartphone’s operating system, stay current with all updates. Automatic updating ensures that your software is current.

    Install both antivirus and antispyware software on your computers, and always keep your firewall on. Before you open any emails or messages that may seem suspicious, check with the sender if you can, to see if the message is legitimate. If you cannot contact the sender, use your judgement; if you aren’t sure it’s safe, then don’t open it.

  2. Protect your connection.

    Dial-up is a distant memory—we now have to secure our home’s wireless network. While using a wireless router simplifies connecting to the Internet throughout your entire home, you have to secure your connection in order to block cyber invaders. To make sure your wireless router provides you with a secure connection, protect the access points. Routers come with a default ID, set by the manufacturer. Change this Wi-Fi network name to something that you recognize, but outsiders do not. For example, avoid incorporating your name or address into the network’s name. When you first install your router, you will have to decide your desired level of security. Go for the WPA2 option, or the WPA. These are more secure than the WEP option, as explained by the ID Theft Resource Center.

  3. Stay smart outside.

    When you access Wi-Fi networks outside of your home, make sure you trust the network, because cybercriminals can often access open public networks. Limit your use of public Wi-Fi, and instead wait to use secure connections, especially when you’re dealing with sensitive information.

Control Your Social Profiles

Social media is at the forefront of interpersonal Internet connections. The rise of social media brings a need for security and privacy awareness. Be aware of where you put your information, and learn the options that exist to protect social profiles.

  1. Tighten privacy settings

    Many sites do not automatically set the highest privacy settings. As soon as you make a new account, head to the privacy settings and adjust them to settings that makes sense for you.

  2. Know your connections.

    Don’t connect with users you do not recognize; only let people you know see your information. If you aren’t comfortable sharing all of your information with someone you are connected with, there are selective privacy settings on most social media sites where you can control what your friends see.

  3. Be post-wise.

    We don’t hand out our personal information to strangers, but sometimes online profiles may seem like a safer place than the “outside” world. Be careful what you post; when you put information online, it stays there. Don’t publicize personal information. For example, don’t post about your family’s upcoming trip out of town, your address, or even your phone number. Once you post it, you can’t fully control where that information ends up.

  4. Use your online reputation to your advantage.

    StaySafeOnline points to research that details how recruiters are often impressed by strong social profiles. For example, posting and promoting a LinkedIn article can help you professionally. When you put the right information online, and make sure that you use the right privacy settings, your online identity can help to demonstrate your self-presentation skills.

Kids And Online Safety

The Internet serves as a platform for learning, providing communication for your family, and a place to play. With these benefits comes a need for your child’s online safety. We’ve compiled advice to help you and your family enjoy all the benefits of being online.

  1. Control everyone’s devices.

    Make a list of all Internet-accessing devices in your home. When you are physically aware of your home’s collection of devices, you are in control. This control then sets a foundation to keep you constantly aware of securing your devices. To prevent outsiders from accessing information on your child’s device, make sure all devices are protected by a passcode, confidential PIN, or fingerprint access. Setting up a passcode for each device encourages your kids to protect their information.

  2. Ask at school.

    Check in with how your child’s school stores and protects information. This information may include school directory information, or any tests or surveys that the school collects. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act details the federal laws for how schools handle your family’s information.

  3. Keep up the conversation.

    As your kids get older, they will use the Internet in different ways—it is important to make space for open conversations about online activity. The more you talk about online security, the more aware your family is.

Make a Plan

The National Cyber Security Alliance suggests that you designate one family member to be the head “home security officer.” This person will be in charge of bringing all the digital components of your home together and making sure that you’re all using top security measures. If your family doesn’t regularly sit around the dinner table discussing cyber security, no need to worry. Making small changes is still an effective way to make your household more secure. This month is about raising awareness and taking the first steps to being cyber-secure.

More Resources

For more information on how to keep your family safe online, check out these sites:

Microsoft YouthSpark’s tips for families to stay safe online includes information on security at home, school, and work. This collection has tips for kids of all ages: from those just beginning to explore the Internet, to long-time users.

The RSA Conference is an annual conference to discuss security. This year’s speakers had a lot to say about raising cyber security awareness in your household:

Hear Dr. Sharon Cooper speak about child development in relation to technology. Dr. Sharon Cooper is a Developmental and Forensic Pediatrician. She states: “when children interact with technology more so than with people, they develop speech and language problems.” Listen to her discuss a child’s relationship with technology.

Alicia Kozakiewicz speaks about what sparked her devotion to raising awareness for cyber security. Alicia, Founder and President of The Alicia Project, has personal experience with the impacts of a lack of cyber security. She sends out her message: “you have to educate your child and educate yourself.” She also helps you find the balance between control and privacy with your kids.

Lance Spitzner talks to parents about his experiences raising his own children. He is the Training Director at SANS Securing the Human, and first tuned into cyber security with his children when his five-year-old son came home from the grandparents’ house with new online accounts. He discusses how cyber security extends beyond the home. Spitzner calls us to realize that: “not just technology can help solve the problem—but education…is key.” He encourages you to ask your children about their technology use: “play the clueless parent.”

Cyber Security Expert Chenxi Wang sets up steps to:

  1. Educate your children about the awareness of threats.
  2. Talk to their friends and open up the cyber security conversation.
  3. Make sure that there is a cyber security program at your child’s school.

She reassures you that “you don’t have to be a digital expert to guide your kids safely in cyberspace.”

For more on at-home cyber security, follow us on Twitter at #CyberAware.