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What Cybercriminals Are After And How You Can Protect Your Family

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Cybercriminals target people of all ages in order to get private information – including from kids. Here are four of the most common reasons why people are targeted – and some important steps you can take with your kids to make sure your family stays cybersecure.

1. Money

Cybercrime is estimated to cost $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, making financial gain a key reason for cybersecurity attacks. Often, threat actors are searching for credit card or bank account information for themselves or to sell on the dark web. 

For Example:

If your children are playing games on your phone, they may be prompted to provide financial information to buy in-game items. Because they know you’ve allowed them to buy in-game items on your phone in the past, they may feel inclined to go ahead and provide that financial information for a game that’s actually a front for payment information theft.

It’s important to provide clear, direct boundaries with your children in situations like this so your family’s information is secure. 


2. Data Theft

Cybercriminals create plans to infect devices with malware to steal critical information through tactics such as:

  • Viruses
  • Worms
  • Trojans
  • Ransomware
  • Spyware

This data can provide cybercriminals with the critical information they need to lock you out of accounts, obtain and sell your sensitive personal data, and other malicious tactics. 

For Example:

Your child is likely using the internet more than ever before. With distance and virtual learning, they probably send and receive emails from their teachers and peers.

But they might not notice the small details that a cybercriminal has changed in an email address for a message that otherwise appears to be from a trusted source. Instead of MrsDavis, the email profile name for a child’s teacher, a cybercriminal emailed them from the email address, MrsDavls. By quickly opening the email out of habit, and having inherent trust in the sender, the child could accidentally click on a malicious link.

It’s important to speak with your family about these possibilities and teach them how to examine email addresses, hover over links to see the destination address, and other quick tips that can help them avoid cybersecurity issues. 


3. Sensitive Information

In some instances, threat actors use something none of us need more of – stress.

It was reported that email scams related to COVID-19 surged 667% in March 2020 alone – at one of the first peaks of the pandemic. When threat actors used this alarming topic in emails, phone calls (also known as vishing), or text messages (also known as smishing), they frequently scared people into sharing their sensitive information.

By using high-stress situations, cybercriminals can convince people to make quick, irrational, and unsafe choices.

For Example:

One afternoon, your child receives a phone call from a “school administrator” who tells them they need to provide their current address and results from their most recent COVID test.

In reality, this person has nothing to do with your child’s school or COVID test reporting. The only information they were looking for was your address, which they obtained by creating a false sense of power over your child.

Those in authoritative positions – such as teachers and government officials – can be intimidating, especially to younger people. In this instance, the goal was to incite fear. By getting the name of the child’s school from social media profiles and the name of the administrator from the district’s website, the threat actor has enough information to incite fear in their target.

Empower your child to always confirm the identity of the person they’re speaking to by contacting them in a way they have in the past, such as through their school’s portal. By verifying their identity, you’re teaching your child to take an important precautionary step when providing sensitive information. 


4. Identity Theft

In addition to simply stealing data, some threat actors are out to steal entire identities.

They may try to obtain social security numbers or other identifying data in order to steal your identity. Most often, people are out to obtain financial benefits with this information, including opening credit cards.

For Example:

While playing a game online, your child encounters a new “friend.” This person is portraying a friend to your child, but they’re really searching for someone to give out information so they can steal an identity.

By making small connections at first – such as sports, favorite colors, and other hobbies – the threat actor can create a sense of trust. Later in the conversation, the threat actor will have an easier time getting sensitive personal information from your child, as they’ve already established a strong connection.

It’s important to speak to your family about what information, if any, is acceptable for them to give out online. By teaching them about the reality of providing too much information to cybercriminals, you can keep your children safe online.

Let’s work together to protect your family!

This article is shared by our partners at Living Security.