06 Mar 2018

Cybersecurity Explained to 5-Year-Old and 90-Year-Old

Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s world, with more than 230,000 new malware samples launched every day, according to the latest statistics. In the first half of 2017 , there were more than 319,000 ransomware infections on the net, which represents a 137,5 percent increase compared to 2016 data, where only 4,000 attacks were launched per day.

Security threats are not just faced by large corporations conducting operations online. Anyone who browses the net is a potential victim of cyber-criminals. In fact, many people claim to be fully aware of cyber-threats, but surveys show that self-reported knowledge is a weak predicting factor for higher cybersecurity. For example, a couple of studies completed by a group of researchers from Friedrich-Alexander University (FAU) in 2016 found that 76 percent of subjects reported being aware of the risks of unknown links in emails. However, many of them clicked on them anyway. Ultimately, their overconfidence would have resulted in malware on their computers in real life.

Case Study Image

The percentage of those who clicked on unknown links despite reporting knowledge of potential danger. Image Credit: Friedrich-Alexander University

So, if cybercrime continues to develop at its present pace, it might easily become the greatest threat to every person in theworld. To help you with minimizing the risks, we took a rather unique approach and created this guide on cybersecurity for all your family.

Specifically, we’re going to show you what it takes to explain cybersecurity to children as young as 5 and to grandparents as old as 90.

And it will be a fun challenge.

How to Explain Cybersecurity to a 5-Year-Old

For many adults, this task is rather intimidating since kids don’t understand what a ransomware attack is and how it affects a computer. However, starting a discussion about online safety at an early age is highly recommended because that’s when most of the children begin using the Internet.

The biggest cybersecurity threats to kids at this age include:

  • links to malicious websites,
  • malware,
  • drive-by downloads and
  • viruses.

As you can see the threats are similar to those that affect adults. However, the way in which cybercriminals try to get to children is very different. For example, an adult may be tricked into downloading some sort of software while a kid may be attracted to click on a link to a “fan site” that contains lots of free media containing malware. So, the child may be tempted to get some free music or movies, but they may not realize that they’ll get a virus instead.

How to explain cybersecurity for a child?

The best way is to talk with them. Say that there are people who try to take advantage of others by stealing their private information or money. These people may use different methods to get what they want, so it’s always a good idea to avoid downloading something or visiting a site that appears suspicious.

“Advise the child not to do online activities that they wouldn’t do in real life,” says Alan Green, a cybersecurity expert from AWriter. “For example, accepting a friend request from a complete stranger and starting a conversation may be compared to starting a conversation with a stranger on the street.”

Teach them the following principles of Internet safety:

  • Not using name in a password.
  • Not installing apps without permission.
  • Not sharing passwords with anyone besides family.
  • Only adding people they know on social media.
  • Not uploading pictures of people without them knowing.

Tell them that the feeling of protection in the form of distance between them and a stranger may persuade them to go a step further, but it will be a dangerous path. The stranger can steal some very important data without them knowing, so it’s better not to network with people they don’t know.

Safety Tips

  • Create an email account for your child if necessary and monitor the messages they get.
  • Keep online browsing in common family areas where you can see what the kid is doing.
  • Use kid-friendly search engines (Kiddle, KidRex, and Safe Search Kids).
  • Check privacy settings in the devices used by your kids.
  • If you need to give your kid a cell phone for safety purposes, buy one geared for kids.
  • Set web browser to block pop-ups and disable Java.

How to Explain Cybersecurity to a 90-Year-Old

The share of seniors using the Internet has risen steadily over the last decade. According to the data presented by Pew Research Center, in 2000 only 14 percent of US seniors aged 65 and older browsed the net on a regular basis.

In 2017, however, the percentage of older adults who were Internet users increased to 67 percent, which represented a significant increase.

Senior use of computers study

Percentage of US adults aged 65 and older who used the Internet. Source: Pew Research Center

Older adults learned how to use technology later than younger generations because they didn’t have computers in school, so they were not properly trained on cybersecurity. As a result, many of them have no idea that there are criminals trying to get their personal or financial information.

However, as seniors become more digitally savvy, with that comes a need to explain how to be safe online. Some governments have even created special websites that provide seniors with the information they need.

Your explanation of cybersecurity with a senior should include the following messages:

  • The Internet is not a safe place because any computer can be an easy target for cybercriminals.
  • Unsafe websites that do not have a security certificate should be avoided. Look for HTTPS at the start of the URL.
  • An email from an unknown source should not be opened.
  • An anti-virus software needs to be installed to help prevent threats.

A number of helpful Internet resources designed specifically for seniors can also be used.

A good example is Seniors Online, a web resource created by State Government in Victoria, Australia. It has an entire section dedicated to teaching seniors cybersecurity that provides self-education tips, guide, and other helpful info which you can also use to educate your loved ones.

Also, there are services like Meganga that provide free computer lessons for seniors by using online video. Cybersecurity is also taught there.

Tips for protecting your older relatives online:

  • Protect their computer by installing anti-virus software, disabling Java, and setting their browser to block pop-up windows.
  • Teach them how to create strong passwords for their online accounts.
  • Conduct a few sessions on how to surf the net safely by explaining how to detect if a website has a security certificate.
  • Teach them about the use of email; ask them to never open emails from unknown senders.
  • Teach them how to respond to anti-virus alerts and warnings generated by the software.

Cybersecurity Education Is Relevant to Everyone

Since every one of us uses the Internet on a regular basis, getting some basic education about cyber-threats is a good idea for all people regardless of their age or browsing habits. Here’s a list of cybersecurity tips to better protect yourself and loved ones when online.

  • Create strong passwords. A good, strong password should be long and complex, with lower-case letters, capital letters, symbols, and numbers. Use password managers like Dashlane to create an unbreakable password.
  • Use security software. Your device – computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone – should be equipped with a reliable anti-virus software. Update it regularly.
  • Adjust browser security settings. Most popular browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera have special settings that allow to block potentially harmful resources, such as pop-up windows. Adjust these settings accordingly to increase your safety.
  • Remember to log out. When you’re done using a website or an app, make sure you logged out of them because leaving them open make your data more vulnerable.
  • Think twice before clicking on links in emails. Chances are you’ll receive messages from cyber-criminals that design them to be very convincing. However, often contained within will be links to copycats of well-known websites that ask you to provide various information, including credit card numbers and passwords.
  • Be careful what you download. There are so many resources available out there so sometimes we don’t give a second thought about what we download. Of course, the Internet has tons of legitimate sites with safe content, but the ones that offer harmful content filled with malware are also out there. This applies to email attachments too – be wary of unexpected or oddly named files!

The Takeaway

The bottom line is that we are the ones responsible for our actions online. The vast majority of security breaches occur because of carelessness.

Just about everyone is using the Internet these days, including most of adults and teens, and a growing number of young children and seniors. People regardless of their age can stay safe online if they follow the basic rules of security described in this guide.

Surely, no one can eliminate every possible risk associated with online activities, but by taking reasonable precautions one can greatly reduce the risk.

About the Author

Nancy Spektor has sharpen her pencil at The Daily of the University of Washington. After graduation she decided to combine her business degree with her passion for written communication. Nancy writes about marketing strategies, content management and various other topics that she finds intriguing. If she is not composing on her laptop or notebook, you probably can find her playing with her dog Bok Choy.

Note: This blog article was written by a guest contributor for the purpose of offering a wider variety of content for our readers. The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of GlobalSign

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