Cyber Security

Online safety is
a team sport.
Let’s pick a side!

The internet is a fun stadium to play in. Sadly it doesn’t have many rules or refs — and there are some nasty players out there. Keeping your family safe is not a simple task. To be an unscammable fam, you need an online safety gameplan. So we selected an All-Star XI of essential safety tricks. These eleven actions will help you tackle crooks, cyberbullies, malware, snoopers and any other red-card offenders you may come across.

And the tactics? Simple: have fun, play fair, take care!

Second striker:
The screen time limit

Our striker is a tough but priceless matchwinner: the ‘screen time limit’. It’s been proven that too much screen time hurts the mental health of children and young adults — it causes depression and anxiety, and can prevent real social engagement and healthy self-esteem. All this makes kids vulnerable to online bullying or the attention of predatory strangers. Get them to agree to a limit of one hour online per day — several good apps automate the limit. Your kids might curse you now —  but they’ll thank you later. It will be the other way round if you let them run amok.

Our supporting forward is the ‘private social media account’. Social media apps can be fun — but it’s not fun to have nosy strangers snooping on your feed, especially if you are posting personal stuff. So it’s best to restrict access to followers you know – friends, family and acquaintances.

The private account

Left wing:
The age- appropriate app

Many social media apps only allow new users who are 13 years or older. But many 13-year-olds are not ready for the social anxiety that can be triggered by likes and comments (or the lack thereof). Many adults are not ready for it either! Have an honest talk with your children about the app’s potential to distract and upset them. Never allow underage kids to open an account by making a false age declaration: it will be bad for them, and could also remove any data safety protections provided by the law in your country

Setting up a Google alert function helps you keep track of your online presence, emailing you when your name or another search term appears online. Google offers a critical alert function that alerts you to suspicious activity on any of your Google apps, and gives you the chance to kick out a hacker. Other platforms and apps offer similar warning services. 
At times these warnings will be false alarms — a new family device is being used to log in, for example. But they’re worth getting.

Right wing:
The Google alert

Central midfielder:
Two-factor authentication

A lot of apps will require two-factor authentications automatically – for example, you will need to provide a password along with a PIN number sent to your phone, particularly when using a new device or completing a financial transaction. In certain apps like Gmail, you can turn on two-factor authentication at login, and it’s always smart to do so.

In the event that you are locked out of your social media account, either by accident or due to being hacked, you can quickly prove your identity if you have activated the trusted contacts function. The app will share security codes with your contacts, they pass the codes to you, and you can then unlock your profile. 

Central midfielder:
The trusted contact

Centre back:
The parental safety control

Many apps help parents to control what content their kids can find online. These controls automatically block pornography and violence, and should be used. They cannot block subtler harmful content, and they cannot replace honest communication with your children about what they’re doing online. Don’t be too dramatic about what lurks out there: it will simply make your kids curious.    

When it comes to your kids and the internet, oversharing isn’t caring. It’s very tempting to post photos or videos of their antics, and lots of loving parents do it — but that doesn’t make it fair. The internet never forgets, and even if you get the nod from your kids, they are not old enough to give informed consent to the publication of their images. Keep them away from prying eyes, and let them grow up in private. Just WhatsApp that sweet pic to their grandparents instead.   

Centre back:
The parental undershare

Left back:
The old account shutdown

If you haven’t used that old social media account in years, it’s probably best to shut it down. Somebody or some bot might try to hack it, and if they succeed, you might not even notice. If you worry about losing all the photos and videos you posted, you can take the account offline (i.e. make it invisible), and store the login details safely, or simply upload the memories into a secure folder in your cloud app or drive.  

You may feel safe — maybe you haven’t been hacked or infected with malware in yonks. That makes it tempting to ditch the expensive antivirus protection or VPN service. But a cyber-attack on your family can happen anytime — and if it does, you will kick yourself for not being properly protected against malware, ransomware and identity theft, especially if you regularly have to conduct online transactions in public WiFi spaces. 

Right back:
The antivirus package

Goal keeper:
The password change

Proper password management is still the last line of defence against most bad stuff on the internet. Change them often, vary them between apps and devices, and keep a secure offline record of them if you need to.  Be wary of saving passwords into a password manager service for convenience — unless your device can be remotely disabled in the event it is stolen, and you know how to do it in a rush.

Cyber Security is a team sport