Time to give Mom “the talk” (about cybersecurity)

Jeff Elder 29 Apr 2019

This Mother’s Day, tell Mom the truth… staying safe online isn’t so hard after all!

The internet is full of tips on how to keep your children safe online… but what about your parents? Many  didn’t grow up with the internet, and reports often show that older users are more likely to fall victim to scams such as clicking on unsafe links or downloading malicious attachments.

In honor of Mother’s Day, we had our top security experts at Avast ask their moms what they wanted to know about the connected world. Here are the top questions and  answers. Reviewing them with your parents could help keep them safe online both at home and when they’re on-the-go.

Q: Is it safe to connect to Wi-Fi at my local coffee shop?
A: No. Whenever you log on to open Wi-Fi in public places like coffee shops, airports, malls, etc., you should know that there are bad actors out there who snoop and may try to track what you do. They can do this by capturing your keystrokes (such as when you log in to banking accounts). You should always use a virtual private network (VPN) when you are on open Wi-Fi, whether you are using your phone or computer. A VPN makes you anonymous online, encrypting all your activity so the bad guys can’t track you.

Q: I use Facebook a lot with my children and grandchildren — do I need to look out for anything?
A: You should always be careful on social media. We recommend that you:

  • Limit those who can see your posts to only people you know using your privacy settings.  

  • Do not participate in surveys that ask you to give away personal information like your birth year, your favorite color, where you went to school, etc. Again, cybercriminals can take this information and cross reference it with other data to form a bigger picture of who you are, where you live, and possibly what the answers to your login security questions are.

  • Don’t use apps that access privacy information. Some can even access your Facebook friends’ information. You can learn how to check your apps privacy settings here.  

Q:  I just got a new laptop, what software do I need to protect it?
A: Definitely make sure you have an antivirus product on your laptop.  It will help protect you online by making sure the websites are safe before you visit them.  

Q: Do I need to add security software to my phone too?
A: Yes. If you have an Android phone, we recommend that you get a security product that protects you against threats and viruses (there are free antivirus products out there!).  If you have an iPhone, a VPN goes a long way to ensure you are safe on open Wi-Fi and it helps to protect your privacy when using your phone to bank, shop, etc. while on the go.

Q: It seems like all home appliances these days, like lightbulbs, fridges, TVs, etc. are “smart”.  Do I need to do anything to protect these products?
A: There are lots of new smart devices that can provide convenience in your home, but not all were designed with security in mind. We recommend that you secure your router, the gateway between your household and the vast internet. Change your router password and always update your router software when available. Learn more about router attacks and router security and keep yours protected.

Q:  I get lots of pop-ups on my computer for tech support — why is that?
A: There are many tech support scams out there. They try to contact you via phone calls, pop-ups on your computer, or via online search results that you click on to inform you about a “problem” with your computer that they can help fix. Don’t fall for these scams. In general, a legitimate tech support company will never contact you unless you initiate a request first. Our recommendation: Ignore all offers of tech support that are initiated by a third party. If you have a problem with your computer, call the company directly through their support or “contact us” page.

Q:  If I have a good, secure password, can I use it on all my accounts?
A: You need to use different passwords for your online accounts. The first thing a cybercriminal does when they get a hold of a password is plug it into every account to see how many it unlocks. Get familiar with the best practices for password creation and, better yet, get a password manager. It’s a program that generates random, strong passwords whenever you need them,  remembers them for you, and plugs them in so you don’t have to.

Bonus tip

Because phishing and spoofing are so prevalent these days, beware of unsolicited emails, especially when they include attachments or links.  Whether you think you know the person or not, never download suspicious attachments or click on strange links.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful moms around the world. In return for all you’ve given us, it’s a pleasure to protect your privacy and secure your safety online.

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