Contributed by George Mack, Content Marketing Manager, Check Point Software.

Today, on February 8th, 2022, the world celebrates Safer Internet Day. Its theme, “Together for a better internet,” serves as a reminder of our responsibility to help make the web a safer place, especially for young people.

If you think your child or teenager is safe on the internet, think again. Young people spend more time on the internet than any other demographic, according to ITU. As a result, children are more vulnerable to cyber threats such as cyber bullying, grooming, and data protection lapses.

To help keep families safe from online threats, we compiled seven tips that will help teens and children engage in safer online practices.

  1. Keep your personal information private. If a stranger approached you and asked for your home address or other sensitive information, would you give up that information? Of course not. You wouldn’t divulge personal information to someone you don’t know in real life, so don’t hand it out to thousands of people online. By making your personal information public on the internet, you open yourself up to the risk of identity theft, account hacks, and more. Social media sites, such as Facebook, have privacy settings available that you need to implement.
  2. Create strong passwords and update them regularly. Weak passwords are vulnerable to brute force attacks from hackers. Use a combination of numbers, symbols, and upper and lower case letters. Never use the same password for all of your accounts. Update your passwords regularly.
  1. Be careful who you trust online. Anyone can easily be impersonated on the Internet. If you receive a message from what appears to be a famous person or an influencer, don’t be so quick to trust it. It could be a hacker who set up a fake online identity and wants to gain access to your personal information. The FTC has reported that scammers often impersonate celebrities and the police on social media, so be aware.
  1. Regularly update your software. If your device’s operating system has the latest security updates and patches installed, then that’s an additional layer of security you have that’s preventing cyber threats from ever reaching you. Don’t neglect this simple step.
  1. Beware of public Wi-Fi networks. While you’re waiting for your flight at the airport, it’s okay to connect to the open network, but be extra vigilant. These networks aren’t always secure, and an attacker can spy on your activities. Act as if someone is reading every single thing you send online — because that’s exactly what could be happening.
  1. Learn how to identify and avoid online phishing. It’s estimated that over 90% of all attempted cyber attacks result from phishing, so this threat is one that definitely deserves your attention. First, if you receive a message that urges you to log in to a website, beware of any links. It could direct you to a fake login page whose goal is to steal your information. Instead, visit the website directly if you believe the request could be legitimate. Second, don’t click on or download any suspicious attachments as they could contain malware. Third, phishing messages commonly contain spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, so if something sounds wrong, it’s probably a scam. Finally, as a general rule, if the request in a message seems odd, demands urgency, or contains an unusual ask that makes you feel uncomfortable, then those are all red flags for a potential phishing scam.
  2. Install PC and mobile security software. Adding antivirus protection beyond what’s included in your device’s operating system is always a good idea.  Windows Defender was found to lack some features that commercial anti-virus solutions use. The solution we recommend is ZoneAlarm.

The threat landscape in 2021 was rife with threat actors and cyber attacks, but there are many lessons we can take away. As we begin 2022, let’s work together to make the internet a safer place for our children to learn, create, and grow.

For more information about Safer Internet Day, please watch the video below: