Kids - the weakest link in computer security says Kaspersky Lab and B2B International

News by Steve Gold

Children are the weakest link in internet security with one in five parents losing money or information due to their children according to new research

With children - of all ages - returning to school and college across most of the UK this week, Kaspersky Lab has released a timely piece of research that claims these bundles of joy to their parents and guardians are also the weakest link when it comes to computer and Internet security.

According to joint research by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International, 21 percent of users say they have lost either money or important information as a result of their children's online activity.

This number suggests that, in addition to the risk of children encountering cyberthreats, they can also cause inadvertent problems for their parents.
Kaspersky's research says that this percentile is not so surprising when you consider that 44 percent of respondents believe their children know little about computer technology - and 35 percent of kids know nothing of cyberthreats.

Delving into the figures also reveals that 12 percent  of respondents said their children had accidentally deleted important information, while six percent faced unexpected bills from app stores after the youngsters got online.

All in all, says Kaspersky, every fifth polled parent confessed that they had had an experience of losing money or important data because of their children's actions.

Konstantin Ignatev, Web content analysts group manager with the company, said that, despite parents' first concern being to protect them from unwanted content on the Web, the problems that children may cause for their parents should not be forgotten.

"Applying parental controls is not showing distrust to your child; it's a sensible precaution with which you can, among other things, protect your device and the data on it. Interestingly, it also works the other way round: older children might use these types of software products to help their parents who know little about cyberthreats," he explained.

Kevin Gourley, lead volunteer with (ISC)²'s Safe and Secure Online scheme, said that the research shows that parents should be a lot more engaged with their children from a young age when it comes to online security - and they have to help them to be alert to the risks online.

"They need to be aware of their digital footprint and its consequences and that sharing sensitive information online can come back to haunt them and those around them," he said, adding that, generally speaking, his general rule that he teaches on the (ISC)² Safe and Secure Online programme is: If they can imagine a responsible adult standing behind them, and watching what they are doing on the Internet, and they would be happy with being watched by them, then what they are doing is ok.

"Using this mantra from an early age is a good way to help children pick up on what they should and shouldn't do," he explained.

Working from home

Over at Pentura, Steve Smith, the security consultancy's MD, said that, with professionals increasingly working from home and employees offering flexible working it is important that organisations and employees are aware of the implications on both security and data loss prevention.

"Employees working from home need to consider setting up separate work accounts with robust access controls on personally owned devices to ensure that family members, including children, cannot inadvertently put business information at risk. Equally employees need to be setting out clear guidelines on the use of business-issued devices for home use and providing relevant security and data loss prevention for home working," he said.

Andrew Mason, co-founder and technical director of Leeds-based RandomStorm, meanwhile, said that, as an IT security professional and the father of four children, he has worked on both educating them about the benefits and protecting them from the dangers of the online world.

"I take the view that using the Web for research, entertainment and communication is a life skill and that, rather than blocking them, children should be taught how to do this safely. The digital skills they learn now will be required in their daily lives and employment in the future," he explained.

Restricted and tracked

Mason went on to say that his children have multiple MacBooks, iPads and iPhones between them, with all the devices restricted and tracked.

In addition, he says, his children do not have the ability to change these settings themselves, so he feels that this tracking functionality is a very important feature to enable and one that, hopefully, he will never have to use.

"Following the security penetration tests that my business has carried out for numerous organisations and seeing how easy it is to guess the passwords used by their employees, I have educated all of my children about the importance of using strong passwords and to avoid reusing the same passwords for different sites," he said.

"Where possible, I set the services up for them and make sure that the security and privacy settings are correctly configured. We have also taught them the importance of not sharing too much information online. I guess that makes me one of the 39 percent of parents - according to Kaspersky - who regularly remind their children about online safety and who personally control how they use devices," he added.

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