How To Help Protect The Weakest Link



Andrew Newman is the founder & CTO of Reason Labs, a cybersecurity company providing enterprise-grade protection for users around the world.

When we refer to the weakest links in our home cybersecurity network, we could be referring to any endpoint: our mic, camera, phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, etc. But there’s another important vector within our homes that we often neglect.

Just when you think you’ve secured everything with your next-generation antivirus protection, DNS solution, VPN or any other safety feature, what happens when your kid comes along and tells you, “Hey, dad. Someone hacked into my gaming account”? Or, “Hey, mom. I think I downloaded a virus with the new game I just torrented on our family PC.” Now what?

Kids, tweens and teens are often the most unsecured consumers, yet they are some of the most highly connected—and sometimes the most advanced—vectors, especially as they are now using new technology like cryptocurrency and starting to explore the metaverse. The targeting of kids is expected to come even more into the mainstream as cybercriminals continue to try and make use of consumer vulnerabilities.

Here’s how those in the technology industry and parents alike can help protect them:

Kids Love To Game

According to the Entertainment Software Association, more than 90% of American kids play video games—this is an extraordinary amount of young users, offering hackers plenty of opportunities to attack. These attacks come in all shapes and sizes, such as account takeovers or cracked games laced with malware programmed to steal sensitive information off of a device.

Let’s dig into one of the most popular methods of malware distribution, as discovered by RAV researchers: cracked games. Kids tend to pirate games online—in Australia, piracy has nearly doubled among 12-to-17-year-olds in recent years. Often, these illegal or pirated games will include malware such as coin miners or info stealers designed to hijack a device and exploit it for data, power or money.

Gaming accounts are compromised all the time: Hackers steal login information, reset passwords and resell accounts. While a PC gaming account may not seem like such a possible point of compromise, it can be. It’s vital that leading game developers, companies and individuals consider the dangers of online piracy and actively campaign against it. It’s time to take some responsibility in this fight and actively provide education surrounding this issue.

Poor Digital Hygiene

In the event that a child does infect the device they are using—often it won’t just be them that gets affected. In homes where the family shares one device—for example, a shared family PC—the cybersecurity of the whole family could be compromised. The child’s actions are then affecting the parent—their online activities become the gateway to a security breach, making them the weakest link in your cybersecurity.

The younger generations are notoriously laissez-faire in their attitudes to digital hygiene. In the age of instant gratification, following popular trends and channel- and game-flicking, it’s easy to forget, ignore or shrug off privacy concerns. Young internet users may also simply be unaware of what dangers are out there. We must take the time to educate our kids and walk them through what to do and what not to do with regard to private data.

Kids’ fearlessness could result in downloading from untrusted sources, which can compromise everything in your network. They also lack adult-level sensibilities on how to store data securely, such as financial information or sensitive passwords. Because of this, tech leaders need to do a better job of providing cybereducation to kids and safety nets for consumer products. While “trial and error” is a good motto in life, it’s not something that should be practiced within the realms of cybersecurity.

Prevalence Of Android Malware

The rise in the use of mobile devices has presented more opportunities than ever before for the world to be connected. This goes for people from every generation, including the youngest. More than one-third of American parents with a child under 12 reported that their kid began interacting with a smartphone before the age of five.

Never mind gaming teenagers. Simply by giving your toddlers an Android-powered tablet or your phone to play with, it’s so easy for them to swipe, click or press the wrong button and cause harm. There’s been a number of malicious apps disguised as games on the Google Play Store in recent years, which target kids. The Tekya threat, for example, was identified in 2020.

How To Protect Kids Online

Now is the time for change. Here is what can be done:

• For tech leaders, it’s vital that we take the time to educate the public, especially kids, on common threats, such as phishing and spamming—how to avoid them and what to do if they think they might have been attacked.

• It’s also critical that tech leaders begin to design cyber products specifically with children in mind, making them easy to use and readily accessible, including safeguards.

• For parents, the best option here is to allow specific security software to “do the work for you.” There are solutions you can use to stay one step ahead, like a parental control app (such as FamilyKeeper, Google Family Link and Norton Family), a VPN, an advanced NGAV solution or a password manager.

And of course, there’s always the chance that the biggest damage will be when a user drops their device and smashes the screen, or a toddler drops a tablet in the bath—so being vigilant (and having a smash-free case) is a good idea all-around.


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