CYBER SECURITY - 7 Tips for Keeping your family safe

Part 1 of Many
by C.M. - Certified Ethical Hacker

Most of us have heard the all too common catch-phrase of the day: Cybersecurity. What is it? What does it mean? Do I need it? Do I have it? Where or how do I get it? Over the next few articles we plan on helping you to better understand how securing your home network can keep your family, especially your kids, safe.

We've all seen on TV the cliché scenes of a nefarious hacker tapping away at his or her keyboard in a dark basement with techno music blasting in the background. While these scenes are accurate for a portion of the hacker underworld not all hackers sit in dark basements and some absolutely hate techno music. They come from all walks of life. Young, old, middle-aged, male, female - hacking knows no gender or ethnic boundaries and a few of the greatest exploits were conducted by talented individuals not yet out of grade school. Some of these people are Black Hats. They hack only to cause problems for others or to make money in illegal ways too numerous to list. While others are considered White Hats. These are people who hack things to make the world safer and more secure by finding and repairing flaws in electronics and various computer systems and networks before the bad guys can exploit them.

These hackable electronics can be cell phones, tablets, PC's, game consoles such as X-Box and Playstation, internet routers for your home, as well as 'smart' appliances like your refrigerator or networked controllers for HVAC and home security systems. Hackers are now able to hack into and control automotive and aircraft systems. Basically, if it's electric/electronic and is controlled by any sort of processor then it can be hacked. Large corporations employ sometimes massive teams of experts to combat these attacks. But, for the average mom or dad the responsibility falls on you to protect your kids, finances, and personal data from credit card thieves, identity theft experts, and worse of all, child traffickers that employ extremely high tech means to find their targets.

Before we get into the types of software and hardware components you can buy to help secure your home network we first need to cover the basics. These are simple things you can do and also things you can teach your kids to do to stay secure when home or when out traveling in the public domain. Keep in mind you can only REDUCE the risk to your digital footprint. You can never completely eliminate the possibility someone will hack your devices but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take every precaution you know about.

7 Simple Steps You Can Take to Reduce Cyber Risk and Exposure

1. If you're not home or on a trusted network (a place you know is secure from outsiders) then you should at the very least put your phone or tablet on 'Airplane Mode', turn off your WiFi connection on your phone, and when not being used, deactivate your Bluetooth connections. Your phone is constantly sending out tiny signals, or beacons, to locate available networks. Unfortunately this also lets other networks know your phone is out there looking for a network to connect to. The bad guys can easily set up a fake or cloned WiFi signal that will let your phone connect to it and then they can very easily steal your personal data, stored credit card numbers, account names and passwords, pictures, and contact information stored on your phone. One night while bowling with friends I happened to notice a young woman, maybe 20 years old, with a laptop sitting at a table eating pizza. I had to take a glance and sure enough she was scanning the bowling alley with special software that can capture the unique ID's of cell phones.

2. Purchase, download, and install Personal Firewall and Anti-Virus software. We will cover what we feel are the most reliable and effective downloads in our next article. Without a security scanning tool on your devices you will usually have no idea that malicious software has been installed on your phone or device. REMEMBER - you need to install Firewall and Anti-Virus software on EVERY SINGLE DEVICE YOU OWN. Click here to jump to our Top 5 most recommended Anti-Virus and Personal Firewall software sets.

3. We can't stress this one enough - Don't download any file or attachment, photo, game, meme, or click ANY link without verifying it is legitimate and safe to download. This includes links to YouTube videos if you haven't verified or scanned the attachment. The fastest and easiest way for a hacker to gain control of your device is simply to send you a link that looks totally harmless that loads code onto your computer or phone that allows them FULL CONTROL of your device. They can even mirror your keypad to steal passwords and can also activate your microphone and camera! If that doesn't scare you then you haven't been paying attention! It may be something your child opened and thought was funny and sent it to you not knowing they just forwarded a virus to everyone in their contacts. Hackers can also install geo-locating tags onto your phone that allows them to follow your every movement. When you think of the implications of this when children are involved it becomes even more scary for a parent. Do you really want someone to be able to access your kids phone cam?

4. Securing your home network! Securing your home internet router from outsiders is imperative. We can't stress this one enough. The router is the box that your internet service provider has given you or the one you bought at your local store that provides your wired and wireless connections. By now almost everyone knows what a router is. Most just don't realize it is the first and most important item that needs to be secured in the home. Start out by changing the administrative password for the router. Hackers always start their attempts by guessing the easiest passwords first. Lots of people never change the password that was set by the factory which leaves thousands upon thousands of routers with the exact same password. Click here for our recommended list of the best routers for your home or small office!

5. Black lists and White lists! When you access the admin features of your router there will be a section for Black list and White list. Black listing allows you to specify what devices you will want blocked from accessing your home network while the White list allows you to store and save the unique MAC address for devices you will allow to use your WiFi signal. Keep in mind you are responsible for who does what on your home network. Black and White listing devices is one of the fastest and easiest ways to allow or disallow connections to your internet service. The huge number of currently used and available routers makes it very difficult to specify the exact steps to take for each router so please consult the documentation for your device. We will have another article in the future on how to secure the most common home routers and how to utilize features such as the White and Black lists.

6. Purchase a secondary external Firewall for your home network. A firewall is not a special wall built into the side of your house. A firewall is a software or hardware based device which allows you very exacting control of what comes into and out of your network. It can be set to block malicious code, viruses, trojans, inappropriate websites, and can restrict the types of searches your children can conduct from their devices. Click here to jump to our recommended list of external Firewalls!

7. This one is the scariest of them all and the most overlooked. Social media, video chat websites, and games that allow live video chat while gaming. These 3 topics will require much more in depth discussion. But, in short, some of the creepiest and nastiest people prey on children in game and chat rooms. It's my opinion that children have zero business being on a chat site of any kind but that is left to you, the parent or guardian of your kids. Just be warned that people are able to locate your children simply by engaging them in conversation on chat sites and at times with some of the more popular online games. They will pose as children to get your kids to discuss where they go to school, what you do for a living, when their parents are home or at work, if anyone is with them after school, if they ride the bus or with friends, etc. It is a very trivial task for a skilled person to use geo-locating programs to pinpoint your home just by the information your child may inadvertently provide to the 50 year old man posing as an 11 year old girl. KEEP YOUR KIDS OFF OF CHAT SITES! Utilize your home firewall and parental controls on their devices to block access to risky or dangerous sites.

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