Category Archives: cybersafety

Protect Yourself Against Phishing Scams With These Security Tips

Phishing is one of the oldest cyberthreats in the book, and yet still one of the most effective. As people across the globe find themselves taking to the internet more than ever before, criminals see this as an opportunity to release phishing attacks on unsuspecting users. In fact, Security Boulevard found a 600% rise in phishing campaigns in the last month. So, as users leverage the World Wide Web to stay connected with friends and loved ones, it’s imperative that they remain wary of scammers looking to exploit our need to virtually communicate. With that, let’s take a look at why phishing is so effective even in 2020 and explore what actions users can take to stay protected. 

What is Phishing?

Phishing attacks occur when scammers attempt to trick users out of money or personal information, usually by email, phone, or text. With so many avenues for criminals to hook victims, phishing is one of the most prevalent threats we see today. As part of their phishing schemes, scammers often use something called social engineering to manipulate users into trusting them for fraudulent purposes, often by pretending to be a legitimate person or business. Through these phishing attacks, criminals can spread malware and other malicious content.  

The Evolution of Phishing

As new technology and circumstances arise, scammers find new ways to evolve the age-old technique of phishing. What originated as email and instant messages attempting to steal users’ credentials has since taken on new forms like SMiShing or adapted its content to hook the victim with a shocking subject line. 

Why has this technique continued to plague users since its inception? Hackernoon argues that it’s because phishing doesn’t require in-depth networking knowledge or even basic programming skills. It simply relies on human error and the lack of online security awareness, manipulating human psychology just as much as technological tools.  

Phishing Capitalizes on Emotion

Let’s face it – we’re all human. Our inherent psychology makes us quick to act on emotion. However, this is much of the reason why phishing has forged on as a favorite among hackers. Unfortunately, criminals tend to capitalize on bad or shocking news to grasp the victim’s attention, leading them to click on malicious links or give up personal data all too eagerly. Take today’s environment, for example. As businesses are faced with budget cuts and organizational restructuring, many users might be uncertain about their job security – an opportunity that scammers are eager to exploit. In fact, some organizations have recently observed phishing emails with subject lines reading “HR Termination List.” Through these malicious attempts, fraudsters use fear tactics to tempt recipients into clicking on links in emails or downloading dangerous content.  

With millions of users suddenly out of work, a lot of people have found themselves desperately looking for new job opportunities or seeking financial help. However, users should not let their guard down while job hunting, as this could prevent them from noticing the tell-tale signs of phishing. According to The Motley Fool, some phishing emails and text messages claim to offer work-from-home job opportunities, information about health insurance or Medicare, or loans or other forms of financial reliefIn fact, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported that many Americans have received texts from the “FCC Financial Care Center” offering $30,000 in relief for those who have recently been laid off or furloughed. While this might appear to be a saving grace, it’s a stealthy demise to trick users into giving up their credentials.  

Act Now to Stay Protected

So, whether you’re working from homeparticipating in distance learning to complete college courses, or video chatting with loved ones, there will always be fraudsters looking to exploit your online activity. However, there are proactive measures you can take to help ensure your security. First and foremost is using comprehensive security softwareIf you’ve never been targeted by a phishing scam, it might be difficult to envision the benefit of installing a security solution. You might even be convinced that if you haven’t been targeted yet, then you won’t be in the future. However, there’s no off-season when it comes to security. As fraudsters continue to evolve their techniques, employing the help of security software will act as an added safety net in the event that a phishing email appears in your inbox.  

Aside from using comprehensive security software, here are some other tips to help protect your online security.  

Go directly to the source

Be skeptical of emails or text messages claiming to be from organizations with peculiar asks or with information that seems too good to be true. Instead of clicking on a link within the email or text, it’s best to go straight to the organization’s website or contact customer service. 

Be cautious of emails asking you to act

If you receive an email or text asking you to take a certain action or download software, don’t click on anything within the message. Instead, go straight to the organization’s website. This will prevent you from downloading malicious content from phishing links. 

Hover over links to see and verify the URL

If someone sends you a message with a link, hover over the link without actually clicking on it. This will allow you to see a link preview. If the URL looks suspicious, don’t interact with it and delete the message altogether. 

Stay Updated

To stay updated on all things McAfee and on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook. 

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Is Your Child Being Cyberbullied? What Parents Need to Know

cyberbullying

In this season of social distancing, teens need their friends more than ever. Daily digital connection — through texting, video chat, social networks, and gaming — is critical to keeping friend groups strong. But could increased time online these days lead to an increase in cyberbullying?

While there isn’t data to answer that question definitively, it wouldn’t be surprising for parents to notice some signs of conflict surface as the months continue to creep by. And, with re-open dates for schools in limbo, it’s more important than ever to keep the family safety conversation humming.

For clarity: Allowing more screen time doesn’t mean more cyberbullying or conflict is certain to occur. However, experience has taught us that more screen time does increase the potential for digital conflict.

Social and Emotional Fallout

This unprecedented health event hasn’t been easy on anyone, but kids especially are likely to be holding onto some big emotions about it. A recent Common Sense Media study confirms that social media has been key to helping kids get through this crisis, but one in four kids surveyed feels “more lonely than usual.”

The school year with its milestones — proms, graduations, dates, parties — ended abruptly. It’s logical to assume these losses have sparked feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, and anxiety. And because online is where most kids connect with peers, these emotions can easily play out there in the form of aggressive behavior, conflict, or persistent drama.

Digital Awareness

cyberbullying

So how do you know if your child is being cyberbullied or dealing with conflict online? It isn’t always easy simply because so many kids won’t admit to being bullied. Often they believe telling an adult will make the harassment worse. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed about a regretful situation or the fact that they’re being targeted in the first place. For that reason, one of the best ways to help your child is to be aware of the time they spend online, the people they connect with, and how those digital circles impact their wellbeing.

What to Look For

The many forms of cyberbullying continue to evolve alongside the digital culture. Here are just a few ways kids bully one another.

 

  • Saying hurtful or intimidating things to someone on social media, a text, or email.
  • Making negative comments about a person’s sexuality, race, religion, handicaps, or physical features.
  • Camouflaging hurtful or threatening comments with words like “jk” (just joking).
  • Asking online friends to vote for or against another person, with Instagram polls or captions such as “Is this person hot or not?” or “Would you go out with this person?”
  • Posting or sharing with others the private photos, memes, emails, texts, or secrets without the permission of another person.
  • Intentionally posting unflattering or embarrassing photos of another person.
  • Spreading rumors or false information about another person online.
  • Making any threat to another person no matter how harmless you think it may be.

Signs of Cyberbullying

If your child is getting bullied online, there are some potential signs.

  • Anxious or upset after reading a text, frequently gets sick or nauseous, declines invitations from friends, or bows out of fun family outings.
  • Trouble sleeping or being withdrawn or moody.
  • Being protective of his or her phone, deleting or deactivating social networks
  • Sudden loss of a steady friend group or sudden complaining about once-loved friends.
  • Loss of interest in favorite sports or hobbies or a decline in grades.
  • References to suicide, loneliness, and hopelessness (when severe bullying is taking place).

Know Where They Go

Another way to understand your child’s emotional connection to his or her digital communities is to learn about their favorite platforms and monitor them. Pay specific attention to the tone of his or her social threads. And, if you see concerning comments or posts, ask your child how you can help. If your child is using risky apps such as WhatsApp or Kik, that allows people to use the app anonymously, discuss your concerns with your child. Some social networks are more conducive to cyberbullying than others.

Monitor Gaming Communities

Gaming time can skyrocket during the summer, and when games get competitive, cyberbullying can happen. Spend time with your child while he or she is gaming. Listen to the tone of the conversations and be aware of your child’s demeanor. For your child’s physical and emotional health, make every effort to set gaming limits as summer approaches.

Parenting Moves to Avoid

Bullying experts will tell you that what you don’t do if your child is getting bullied is often as important as what you do. Here’s some insight:

1) Never advise a child to ignore the bullying. 2) Never blame a child for being bullied even if he or she did something to aggravate the bullying. No one deserves to be bullied. 3) As angry as you feel that someone is bullying your child, do not encourage your child to fight back physically. 4) Don’t overreact; escalate accordingly. If you can identify the bully, consider talking with the child’s parents. 5) Don’t lead the charge. Give your child veto power over your involvement. If they say they don’t want you to get involved (unless you suspect physical danger or suicide), respect that. 6) If the bullying continues to escalate, report it, seek help from school counselors or the police if necessary. 7) Even if you are fearful, don’t take your child’s digital devices away. He or she didn’t do anything wrong.

Online Resources

A number of organizations are leading the charge against cyberbullying and have fantastic resources for families. Here are just a few: Cyberbullying Research CenterStopBullying.govStompOutBullying.orgKindCampaign.comItGetsBetter.orgNational Bullying Prevention Center. If you’d like your organization added to this list, please leave a comment.

We hope you and your family are staying healthy these days and finding some time to talk about online safety. If you need a refresher, read Part I and Part II of our Online Safety Basics series. And, if you’re looking for a fun school lesson for the day, you can always quiz your kids on any of McAfee’s Family Safety content!

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What Does Your Password Say About Your Preferences?

Passwords say a lot about us. They speak to what we prioritize, what we hold dear. So when I recently saw my wife’s password included the kids birthdays and not mine, her priorities were pretty clearI sure know where I stand! 

Whether it’s children’s birth dates or dog names, passwords reveal who we are and what we value, as we all incorporate the relevant aspects of our lives into our passwords to make them easier to remember. While convenient, this habit could actually cause some security mishaps.  

As we honor the first Thursday in May, better known as World Password Day, let’s take a step back to examine some of these common password habits as well as discuss some tips users can follow to secure their online accounts from any potential hackers. 

Common Password Habits

As human beings, we like to keep things simple — which isn’t always a bad thing. However, it’s not ideal when it comes to password security. According to Tech Times, a recent worldwide survey conducted by the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre on the most common passwords revealed that 23.2 million people still have passwords mentioning the classic ‘123456’ and that ‘123456789’ is used by 7.7 million people worldwide.  

Aside from common character sequences, many people (including my wife) also use significant dates or names of their loved ones as passwords. According to another recent study conducted by The Harris Poll in partnership with Google, nearly 60% of people studied said their birthday has been integrated into at least one password, 33% use a pet’s name, and 22% use their own name. Other common habits also include reusing the same password across multiple accounts, writing them down on a piece of paper, keeping them in a file on their computer, or keeping them in a file on Dropbox or a similar platform.  

These shortcuts are understandable, as it can be challenging to recall so many complex passwords. In fact, a previous McAfee survey stated that 26% of individuals would be willing to give up pampering (manicures, pedicures, massages, etc.) if they never had to remember a password again. Additionally, 34% of respondents are most concerned with the ease of remembering their passwords. 

Potential Security Risks

While convenient, these techniques are not exactly foolproof and can lead to some security concerns. That’s because personalized and simple passwords can put our data a bit more at risk – since hackers can usually find information like birthdays, anniversaries, and pet names online. For instance, that harmless Facebook quiz you were thinking of taking to pass the time can actually reveal your personal information to scammers, allowing them to access your online accounts.  

It’s important users are aware of this risk, but especially as we all navigate working from homeAs McAfee’s Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and Fellow, would attest, “Password security is essential, especially with the new normal many organizations and people are facing. Staying aware and educated about proper password hygiene is essential for us to keep our data secure as we are connected more than ever these days.” That starts with forming good password habits. Sorry “baxterthedog1234!” 

Secure Your Online Accounts

In the post-pandemic world, my family, including my young kids, spends 6+ hours online daily. In the last month, m6-year-old created 10+ online accounts to do her schoolwork and play. In this new reality, we all have the chance to build better password habits for ourselves and teach them to our kidsThat doesn’t mean we have to remember 27 completely unique and complex passwords but can instead just adopt a few easy best practices to help keep our credentials safe. Check out the following tips to help secure your online accounts from criminals.  

Use a passphrase

According to ZDNetthe FBI recently found that using a passphrase made up of multiple words in a long string of at least 15 characters is not only more difficult for hackers to crack, but also easier for users to remember. Instead of making a basic password, create a longer passphrase from the lyrics to your favorite song or the ingredients used to make your favorite dish.  

Ensure your passwords are unique

Your password or passphrase should be as unique as the information it’s protecting! If a hacker does manage to guess your password for one of your online accounts, it’s likely that they will check for repeat credentials across multiple sites. By using different passwords or passphrases for your online accounts, you can remain calm and collected knowing that the majority of your data is secure if one of your accounts becomes vulnerable 

Use a password manager

Take your security to the next level with a password manager or a comprehensive security solutionlike McAfee Total Protection, that comes with one. A password manager can help you create strong passwords, remove the hassle of remembering numerous passwords, and log you on to websites automatically. Who says staying secure has to be complicated? 

Use multi-factor authentication

Two or multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security, as it requires multiple forms of verification like texting or emailing a secure code to verify your identity. Most popular online sites like GmailDropbox, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. offer multi-factor authentication and it takes just few minutes to set it up. This reduces the risk of successful impersonation by criminals. Mind you, authentication methods are also evolving due to advanced technology like biometrics. Perhaps the day will be renamed to World No Password Day in the future. 

Stay Updated

To stay updated on all things McAfee and on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook. 

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World Password Day 2020

Are Your Password Habits Keeping You Safe Online?

Learning how to navigate our entire lives online has definitely been a steep learning curve for many of us over the last few weeks. Whether it’s working from home, helping our kids learn from home, conducting ‘wine time’ from home or even doing our Zumba classes from home – it’s essential now more than ever that we are doing this safely. And one of the most powerful yet simple ways we can ‘sure-up’ our online safety is by being smart with our passwords.

World Password Day – Take A Minute To Check Your Approach

Today is World Password Day – the perfect opportunity to ensure we are doing all we can to manage our online logins. It’s quite unsettling to think that one of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to get their hands on the sensitive information we store in our online accounts is through our passwords.

Passwords act like a key to our digital identity. Not only do they allow us to bank, shop, work, learn, date and socialise online but they also protect us as well. Strong, complex passwords ensure all the information we store online (aka our digital assets) are protected which is essential for our privacy and financial and personal security.

So, let’s use this annual event to make sure we are doing all we can to lock down our precious online data by managing our passwords properly.

Same Password For Every Account? – Rookie Error

If I had to count up all my online accounts on my fingers and toes, I would quickly run out of body parts! With so many logins to remember, many of us end of using the same password for every account. And while that might seem so practical it, in fact, makes us very vulnerable. Just think about this scenario: if you become the victim of an online scam and the password to one of your online accounts is stolen, then a cybercriminal can then use this same password to access all your online accounts.

So, before you know it, a cybercriminal can access your emails, bank accounts, online shopping accounts – that may have stored credit cards, private photo and video files.

What You Can Do TODAY to Ensure your Password Habits are Keeping you Safe

Yes, we are all human which means we are going to take shortcuts. I get it! I love shortcuts – I’m a fan of using pasta sauce from the jar! But if there’s one area where shortcuts should NOT be used it’s with passwords. So, here are my top suggestions on how you can stop your private online data falling into the wrong hands and block cybercriminals at the very first point of entry.

  1. Commit to NOT Using Common Passwords

If your password is ‘123456’ then you need to change it now. The UK’s National Cyber Safety Centre showed in a survey last year that this is the most commonly used password. In fact, in the eight years since I’ve been doing this job, this password has annually topped surveys.

Passwords are the gateway to our digital lives. To avoid giving the wrong people access to your accounts, make sure you create strong and unique passwords. This means including numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters and symbols. The more complex your password, the more difficult it is to crack. Why not create a nonsensical phrase or sentence? And always avoid using simple personal details within your password altogether. Your date of birth, middle name or pet names are things cybercriminals can trace through your social media accounts.

  1. Same Password For Every Account? Think Again

The idea of having one password across all online accounts is alluring because let’s admit it…we’ve all been locked out of an account after failing to remember the password! While having one password to remember for all accounts seems to make life easier, it increases the risk of your vital online data being compromised at once across different accounts. So, ensure that your logins are unique for every account to avoid having all your accounts becoming vulnerable in case you are hacked.

  1. ALWAYS Select Multi-Factor Authentication

Wherever possible, embrace multifactor authentication (MFA) for online accounts. MFA is a security system that requires more than one way of identification before gaining access to an account. Most commonly, it involves a security code sent to your smartphone, security questions or even a fingerprint, on top of the password. An extra layer of defence to stop sham access to vital online data? Yes please!

  1. Give Your Passwords a Health Check

What better way to check the health of your passwords than to see whether they’ve been compromised in a data breach. The website www.haveibeenpwned.com.au is an effective way to check whether a cybercriminal has discovered your passwords. If yes, give your passwords an overhaul and change them wherever they are used to safeguard your data.

  1. Employ A Password Manager

If you are currently feeling a tad overwhelmed at the thought of creating and managing unique passwords for your multiple online accounts, do not stress – I have a solution – a password manager. This marvellous software program will create random and complex passwords for each of your accounts and store them securely which means you don’t need to! All you need to do is remember the master password!! When choosing a password manager, ensure it uses multi-factor authentication to identify you eg facial recognition, fingerprint and a password.

If you have a spare 30 minutes today then please take the time to give your password habits an overhaul. I know we are all so flat out juggling work and kids at the moment but a careless approach to password security is no different to a careless approach to home security. So, get your passwords working for you so you can continue living your life online – especially Friday night ‘virtual drinks’!!

 

 

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Keeping Virtual Play Dates, Hang Outs, and Video Chats Safe for Everyone

virtual play date

Every day we discover (or stumble over) new ways of coping and connecting during this unique chapter in family life. Still, as every age group under your roof finds their favorite virtual play date and hangout apps, parents may need to add a few safety rails to make sure the fun stays fun.

IRL community resurfaces

virtual play date

While this health crisis is devastating in so many ways, it’s also put a spotlight on the many heartwarming ways to connect in real life (IRL). We’re placing teddy bears in our windows for solidarity, creating scavenger hunts for neighborhood kids, serenading shut-ins, publically supporting first responders, celebrating birthdays and graduations with drive-by parades, and so, so much more.

The ongoing infusion of true, human connection has softened the uncertainty. Still, kids of every age need to maintain an emotional connection with peers. Here are a few things to think about as kids of every age connect with friends online.

Pre-K and Elementary Virtual Play Dates

Since health experts have put restrictions on familiar fun for little ones such as playgrounds, sports leagues, sleepovers, playdates, and even visits with grandparents, parents are relaxing screen time rules and looking for ways to have virtual playdates. Free video tools such as FaceTime and Zoom are proving lifesavers for group art, play, and learning, as are safe websites for young ones and phone apps. (If you run out things to do, here’s a great list of fun to tap and great learning sites for every age group).

Keep Them Safe

  • Share online experiences with young children at all times. Sit with them to teach, monitor, and explain the context of new digital environments. Also, keep computers and phones in a common area.
  • Try to keep screen time brief. Even young kids can become too screen-reliant.
  • Maximize privacy settings on all devices and turn on and safe mode or search on websites and apps.
  • Introduce concepts such as cyberbullying and strangers in age-appropriate language.
  • Start family security efforts early. Consider the benefits of filtering software, safe browsing, and encrypting your family’s digital activity with a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Middle and High Schooler Virtual Hang Outs

While screen time has spiked, digital connection while homebound is also essential for tweens and teens for both learning and peer relationships. Kids finding their new virtual hangouts on social networks, group chats, and video games. They are also playing virtual board games using sites such as Pogo, Let’s Play Uno, and Zoom. Netflix Party has become a fun way to watch Netflix with groups of friends.

Keep Them Safe

  • At this age many kids (own or will soon own) a smartphone. With increased time online, you may want to review the basics, such as privacy and location settings. This includes gaming devices.
  • With increased internet use and most schools closed for the year, using parental control software and gaming security software can help parents reduce online risks for children of all ages.
  • Be aware of and talk about trending, risky digital behaviors, and challenges that can surface on apps such as TikTok, and WhatsApp.
  • Review and approve games and apps before they are downloaded and consider monitoring your children’s devices as well as social profiles and posts.
  • This age group is quick to jump on public wifi, which puts your family’s data at risk. Exploring using a family VPN is critical for this age group.
  • Discuss the danger of connecting with strangers online. Also, discuss the risks of oversharing personal information and photos, even in seemingly private chats and texts. Don’t let boredom lead to bad choices.
  • Discuss cyberbullying and how to block and report accounts that express hateful, racist, or threatening behavior.
  • Coach your kids on using strong passwords and how to verify legitimate websites and identity online scams.

There’s nothing normal for families about this time, but there is something special. Grab it. Keep talking and laughing, especially on the hard days. Have a daily “heart check-in” with your teen if he or she seems to be isolating. Give one another space for topsy turvy moods. And, don’t forget parents, before this is all over, be sure to nail that TikTok dance with your kids and share it with the world!

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Internet Safety for Kids: A Refresher for Homebound Families

internet safety for kids

Editor’s Note: This is part II of our internet safety for kids series. Part I focuses on younger children and can be read here.

Parents have always been concerned about keeping their kids safe online — especially their tweens and teens. That conversation is even more critical with parents and kids now working and learning at home. But as the days turn into weeks, the line between safe and risky digital behavior may get a little blurry. Maybe we can help by refreshing some basics.

Why is internet safety for kids important?

There’s no way around it. Young and old, over time, we’ve tethered nearly every aspect of our lives to the digital realm. If we want to work, bank, shop, pay bills, or connect with family and friends, we have to plugin. A wired life makes internet safety not just important, but mission-critical for parents.

Kids go online for school, to be entertained, and to connect with friends; only they don’t have the emotional maturity or critical thinking skills to process everything they will encounter on the other side of their screens.

That’s where proactive digital parenting comes in.

If our parenting goal is to raise wise, responsible, caring adults, equipped for real life, that goal must also include helping them safeguard their emotional and physical health from online risk. There’s no such thing as a digital platform or product that is 100% safe. So, our best strategy is to learn and pass on skills that mitigate that risk.

What are the dangers of the internet?

Any danger that exists offline is potentially multiplied when we log online due to the vast access the web affords each one of us. In a few clicks, we can unlock a world of possibilities. The flip side? There’s an ever-present battalion of crooks and bullies out to exploit that access. Online we will encounter the best and the worst of humankind. The daily threats to children include bullying, inappropriate content, predators, and the loss of privacy. Add to that list, digital viruses and malware, phishing scams, sharing regrettable content, and gaming addiction.

How can homebound kids avoid digital risk?

So what can we do to ensure the weeks ahead don’t bring more digital risk into our homes? We start by having consistent, candid conversations with our kids about online safety (even if eye-rolling begins). Truth: Your family’s cybersecurity is as strong as the weakest security link in your family. If one family member is lax about internet safety, your entire family’s security is compromised.

So let’s get started with some internet safety basics to share with your tweens and teens. To read internet safety guidelines for younger children, click here.

11 Internet Safety Basics for Homebound Teens

internet safety for kids

  1. Get candid about content. Your tweens and teens have likely come across inappropriate material online. You can minimize further exposure by discussing expectations and family values around acceptable content — both sharing it and receiving it. Reminder: “Vanishing” Snapchats and deleted content can be easily captured in a screenshot — nothing shared online is private. For extra monitoring muscle, consider adding a parental control software to your family’s internet safety plan.
  2. Keep passwords, software, apps updated. Being homebound gives us all extra time for details. Go through personal and family devices and update all passwords. Keeping device software and apps updated also protects kids from outside risk.
  3. Balance life and tech. Kids can lose their entire day surfing, scrolling, and watching YouTube or TikTok videos. Establish screen limits help kids grow healthy tech habits. Consider scheduling device breaks, no phone zones (dinner table, movie time, bedtime), and installing software that features time limits.
  4. Be a leader online. Yoda was on target — with much power comes much responsibility. Many online dangers can be diminished by consistently teaching kids to be upstanders online. Practicing empathy, respect, tolerance, and compassion makes the digital world safer for everyone.
  5. Address peer pressure. Kids with devices can share unwise, personal photos with friends they trust. When friendships end, however, those photos can be shared or used for bullying or extortion. Discuss digital peer pressure with your child and how to respond.
  6. Look out for scams. Talk frequently about the many forms scams can take, such as phishing, malware, catfishing, fake news, and clickbait.
  7. Don’t friend strangers. Sexual predators create fake social media accounts specifically to befriend kids. In turn, kids share personal info, daily plans, location, and may even agree to meet in person with online friends. Discuss these risky scenarios and other manipulation tactics of predators with your child. Be aware of his or her friend circles, and look for chat apps such as WhatsApp or Kik.
  8. Maximize privacy on social profiles. Help kids maximize privacy settings on social profiles and delete any profile or post information that unintentionally gives away personal data. Consider removing the names of family members, pets, school, hometown, and birthdays. Hackers can piece together this information to crack passwords or create authentic-looking phishing scams.
  9. Consider a family VPN. Virtual Private Networks are becoming the most popular way to conduct business, shop, and safeguard a family’s online activity from outsiders. VPN encryption can protect a child against several virtual threats.
  10. Review gaming safety. If your kids spend a lot of time on games like Fortnite and Call of Duty, they can encounter strangers, bullying, and scams that target gamers. Teen gamers should use a firewall to help block would-be attackers from gaining access to their PC and home networks and as well as a comprehensive security solution to protect devices from malware and other threats.
  11. Monitor devices. Consider spot-checking all devices routinely. Review privacy settings on social networks (kids change them), look for new apps, review browsing history, chats, and texts. Need to go a step farther? Keep your child’s phone for a few hours to check notifications that pop up. You may find activity that wasn’t necessarily visible otherwise.

Taming all the moving parts of internet safety isn’t easy, and balancing your relationship with your child and parental monitoring can get turbulent at times. While kids can experience more drama and anxiety by going online, social networks remain critical channels for affirmation, self-expression, and connection. In the weeks to come, take time to listen, learn, and get to know your child’s digital passions and patterns. Identify safety gaps and reinforce those areas. Good luck, parents, you’ve got this!

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Little Ones Online More? Here Are 10 Basics To Keep Them Safe

protecting kids online

Online safety conversations look dramatically different depending on the age and stage of your child. For very young children, toddlers through elementary school, parents have a golden opportunity to lay the foundations that will shape a child’s digital perspectives and behaviors for a lifetime.

One way to keep younger children safe online is simply to begin. How early, you might ask? From the day they arrive. If you’ve ever seen a four-month-old reach for mommy’s smartphone only to cry when mommy takes it away, it’s clear the baby has observed the culture around him. He knows that the shiny toy that hums is one of mommy’s favorite things. It has the power to capture and hold her attention. It makes her laugh, cry, and influence her routine and emotions.

Protecting kids online

Modeling balanced screen habits is a powerful way to influence behavior as toddlers begin to discover television, apps, interactive toys, and online learning sites. At this stage, intentional steps such as limiting screen time, reviewing content, and talking with your little one in simple concepts about the images and stories encounter will help grow their digital IQs. Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping all screens turned off around babies and toddlers younger than 24 months.

Move With The Curve

As kids move into elementary school, technology is often part of the learning experience. Some children (depending on the household) may even own smartphones. Because the integration of technology begins to increase, this stage requires parents to move with the curve of a child’s online safety needs. Priorities: Securing devices kids take to school, setting filters on web browsers, limiting screen and gaming time, encouraging physical activity and hobbies, and having consistent, age-appropriate conversations about the online world is more important than ever.

10 Online Safety Basics for Younger Children

  1. Keep devices in a common area. By locating all computers, TVs, and devices in a common area, parents can easily monitor a child’s online activity. This simple step also helps kids get used to parental monitoring and responsible digital behavior.
  2. Follow family device rules. Establish family ground rules for technology use and repeat them to your younger children. Every child’s maturity and self-control level is different. If you think your child’s connection with his or her technology begins to tip toward the unhealthy, make adjustments as you go. If you set a 20-minute game time limit, be ready to enforce it consistently. In our experience, inconsistency in enforcing technology rules when kids are young is one of the biggest regrets among parents of teens.
  3. Introduce password security. As we accumulate IoT devices, it’s common for younger children to interact with home assistants, SmartTVs, digital toys, and online games. When password prompts come up on a login screen, explain to your child what you are doing (use your password) and why passwords are necessary. Get into the habit of using 2-factor authentication for passwords and locking your device home screens with a pin code.
  4. Filter content. Younger kids accept content at face value and don’t have the critical thinking skills process information or to be alone online. If you allow younger kids online, consider sitting with them, and explaining the content in front of them. To avoid the chance of your child encountering inappropriate content by mistake, consider adding parental control software to family devices.protecting kids online
  5. Start the privacy conversation. Kids of all ages understand the word “mine.” As your kids interact with the online in the early years, explain why it’s essential to keep their name, picture, family member names, school name, and address private.
  6. Introduce VPN use early. Browsing on a secure network (VPN, Virtual Private Network) from an early age reinforces the concept of privacy online. Explain to your child how the private encryption “tunnel” your content (searches, activity, messages) passes through and how that keeps other people from grabbing your private information. Even a text conversation with Grandma could accidentally give away information.
  7. Explain the concept of scams. When age-appropriate, explain how (and why) some people online try to trick you into clicking a box or a link to learn more about you. Discuss why you shouldn’t click on pop-up ads, hyperlinks, and messages that could contain malware or phishing links. To guard family devices against malicious links, consider free tools like Web Advisor.
  8. Discuss digital stranger danger. When you open a web browser, you open your home to content and people you don’t know. Children of any age can inadvertently run into digital danger zones. Teach young children not to talk to a stranger online or send (or share) photos with others. It’s also a good idea to cover the camera lens on your laptop or tablet, advise children to never stay on a website you would not approve of, and to never download or click a link without asking your permission.
  9. Introduce safe social networking. Online communities are here to stay, so consider starting social network safety talks early. Several kid-friendly browsers, apps, and social networks exist online for younger kids and are perfect for teaching them about privacy settings, how to collaborate and interact with others online.
  10. Start talking. Keep talking. Of all the principles we’ve featured, we’ve saved the best for last. Creating an open, trusting dialogue with your child is your #1 security tool in keeping your child safe online today and into the future.

While schools introduce kids to internet safety basics to protect kids online and do well to refresh concepts along the way, it’s the consistent, intentional work of parents that shape the values and skills a child needs to navigate the online world. By putting some of these foundational principles in place early and committing to consistent follow-through, it’s possible to maintain critical influence as your children move into different phases of their digital lives.

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Honey, We’re Home! Securing Your Devices and Your Family Bond  

family device security

More and more parents and their kids are experiencing what it’s like to work and learn together from home these days. With this increase in device use, it’s more important than ever to verify that all the technology humming under your roof is as secure as possible.

Securing family technology

Run an overall security check. Taking an inventory of all your family’s connected devices and their security should be as important as keeping your doors locked and keeping batteries in your smoke alarms — your family’s safety depends on it. Consider installing a comprehensive security solution across all devices. This will help protect your family against malware, viruses, phishing attacks, and alert you to malicious websites. As part of your security check, be sure to update the software on all devices, including IoT products, TVs, and toys.

Review parental controls. There’s no way around it. Device use will likely skyrocket under your roof for a while. Kids will be online for school, as well as for fun. You may have turned on some filtering on some devices and some social networks, but it may be time to bring on an extra set of eyes and ears with comprehensive filtering software. With increased tech use, parental controls will help monitor your child’s digital activity. Too, with a new work-at-home lifestyle, the software (with time limits) can also make scheduling family breaks together much more manageable.

Secure your home router. Your router is akin to your family’s front door, and now is a great time to change the locks (your passwords) on this critical entryway into your home. If you are reluctant to change your passwords or think its a hassle, consider the simplicity of a password manager. Using a password manager will make changing passwords easy to change and easy to keep track of, which can boost overall security. If you are working from home, make sure your home network aligns with your company’s security expectations. For specifics on business security, read this post on working securely from home.

Introduce a VPN (Virtual Private Network). If you’ve toyed with the idea of a VPN but just haven’t made a move, now is a great time. While you may not venture into public spaces much at the present moment, a VPN will add a significant layer of security on your devices if you take a break and go to a public park or if your kids need to go online while at a friend’s. Explain VPN benefits to your kids and how to log on. It’s easy, it’s smart, and it’s secure.

Securing your family bond

Create a schedule that works for everyone. Your home network is likely working on overdrive by now. With the extra online schooling, devices, and video calls taking place, your bandwidth may start to lag. This is because residential internet doesn’t rival business internet. Discuss a schedule for online time and the challenge of accomplishing mutual deadlines each day. Respect and honor one another’s responsibilities. If you’ve never had the chance to talk about the specifics of your job and daily tasks, maybe this is your chance.

Acknowledge the stress of uncertainty. There are feelings — lots of feelings — that accompany change, and everyone’s response to it will vary. Shifting into an abrupt, new routine may feel confusing and confining to a child of any age and cause anxiety and emotions to run high. Talk through these feelings together as often as needed. Acknowledge your child’s losses — connection with teachers, sports, friends, events — and offer empathy and support.

Explore new possibilities — together. No doubt, considerable shifts in a family’s routine can be stressful. Even so, there’s opportunity woven throughout every challenge. With some extra time management, it’s possible to discover some hidden opportunities and adventures along the way. Hiking, canoeing, and exploring the outdoors could become a new love for your family. Watching movie classics together, learning a new skill online, building something, or tackling overdue projects together may open up a new, shared passion. Endless possibilities await.

Balance work, health, and family. Nothing will undermine your efforts to work from home more than a skewed work-life balance or school-life (yes, kids can go overboard too)! A recent study shows that remote workers are more productive than office workers and spend more time at their desks. For balance, consider setting firm office/school hours (for both you and the kids), taking exercise breaks throughout the day, and getting an accountability partner to help you stay on track. And, don’t forget — lots of eyes are watching you always — so modeling work-life-and-technology balance for your kids is teaching them with the same value.

It’s a new frontier parent, but with the right tools and the proper support around you, anything is possible. Stay healthy, stay happy, and stay secure in this new remote, family adventure.

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WhatsApp Security Hacks: Are Your ‘Private’ Messages Really Ever Private?

WhatsApp hacks

WhatsApp one of the largest instant messengers and considered by many a social network of its own. So, in continuing our app safety discussion, we’re diving into some of the top security hacks and questions many WhatsApp app users and parents may have.

But first, what’s a security hack? In short, it’s an attempt to exploit the weaknesses in an app, network, or digital service to gain unauthorized access, usually for some illicit purpose. Here are just some of the concerns WhatsApp users may have and some suggestions on boosting security.

WhatsApp Hack FAQ

Are WhatsApp conversations private?

Yes — but there are exceptions. More than any other app, WhatsApp offers greater privacy thanks to end-to-end encryption that scrambles messages to ensure only you and the person you’re communicating with can read your messages or listen to your calls. Here’s the catch: WhatsApp messages (which include videos and photos) are vulnerable before they are encrypted and after they are decrypted if a hacker has managed to drop spyware on the phone. Spyware attacks on WhatsApp have already occurred. Safe Family Tip: No conversation shared between devices is ever 100% private. To increase your WhatsApp security, keep sensitive conversations and content offline, and keep your app updated. 

Can anyone read my deleted WhatsApp messages?

A WhatsApp user can access his or her own deleted messages via the chat backup function that automatically backs up all of your messages at 2 a.m. every day. WhatsApp users can delete a message by using the Delete for Everyone button within an hour after sending though it’s not foolproof. Here’s the catch: Anyone who receives the message before it’s deleted can take a screenshot of it. So, there’s no way to ensure regrettable content isn’t captured, archived, or shared. There are also third-party apps that will recall deleted messages shared by others. Another possibility is that a hacker can access old chats stored in an app user’s cloud. Safe Family Tip: Think carefully about sharing messages or content you may regret later.

Can WhatsApp messages be deleted permanently?

Even if a WhatsApp user decides to delete a message, it’s no guarantee of privacy since conversations are two-way, and the person on the receiving end may screenshot or save a copy of a chat, video, or photo. On the security side, you may delete a message and see it disappear, but WhatsApp still retains a “forensic trace of the chat” that can be used by hackers for mining data, according to reports. Safe Family Tip: For extra security, turn off backups in WhatsApp’s Settings.

WhatsApp hacksHow can I secure my WhatsApp?

It’s crucial when using WhatsApp (or any other app) to be aware of common scams, including malware, catfishing, job and money scams, spyware, and file jacking. To amplify security, turn on Security Notifications in Settings, which will send an alert if, for some reason, your security code changes. Other ways to boost security: Use two-step verification, never share your 6-digit SMS verification code, disable cloud back up, and set your profile to private. Safe Family Tip: Install comprehensive family security software and secure physical access to your phone or laptop with a facial, fingerprint, or a passcode ID. Don’t open (block, report) messages from strangers or spammers. Never share personal information with people you don’t know. 

How do I delete my WhatsApp account from another phone?

To delete a WhatsApp account go to > Settings > Account > Delete My Account. Deleting your account erases message history, removes you from groups, and deletes your backup data. According to WhatsApp, for users moving from one type of phone to another, such as from an iPhone to an Android, and keeping the same phone number, your account information stays intact, but you won’t be able to migrate messages across platforms. If you’re not keeping your number, you should delete WhatsApp from your old phone, download WhatsApp to your new phone, and verify your new phone number. Upgrading the same phone type will likely include options to migrate messages. Safe Family Tip: Before you give away or exchange an old phone, wipe it clean of all your data.

How do you know your WhatsApp is scanned?

WhatsApp users can easily sync devices by downloading the WhatsApp web app and activating it (Settings > WhatsApp Web/Desktop). Devices sync by scanning a QR code that appears on your laptop screen. You know your device is scanned when you see the green chat screen appear on your desktop. Safe Family Tip: It’s possible for a person with physical access to your desktop to scan your QR code and to gain account access. If you think someone has access to your account log out of all your active web sessions in WhatsApp on your mobile phone.

How long are WhatsApp messages stored?

According to WhatsApp, once a user’s messages are delivered, they are deleted from WhatsApp servers. This includes chats, photos, videos, voice messages, and files. Messages can still be stored on each individual’s device. Safe Family Tip: The moment you send any content online, it’s out of your control. The person or group on the receiving end can still store it on their device or to their cloud service. Never send risky content. 

How secure is WhatsApp?

There’s no doubt, end-to-end encryption makes it much more difficult for hackers to read WhatsApp messages. While WhatsApp is more secure than other messaging apps — but not 100% secure.

Is it true that WhatsApp has been hacked?

Yes. Several times and in various ways. No app, service, or network has proven to be unhackable. Safe Family Tip: Assume that any digital platform is vulnerable. Maximize privacy settings, never share risky content, financial information, or personal data.

Is WhatsApp safe to send pictures?

Encryption ensures that a transmission is secure, but that doesn’t mean WhatsApp content is safe or that human behavior is predictable. People (even trusted friends) can share private content. People can also illegally attempt to gain access to any content you’ve shared. This makes WhatsApp (along with other digital sharing channels) unsafe for exchanging sensitive information or photos. Safe Family Tip: Nothing on the internet is private. Never send or receive pictures that may jeopardize your privacy, reputation, or digital footprint.

WhatsApp isn’t the only popular app with security loopholes hackers exploit. Every app or network connected to the internet is at risk for some type of cyberattack. We hope this post sparks family discussions that help your kids use this and other apps wisely and helps keep your family’s privacy and safety online top of mind.

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Is WhatsApp Safe for Kids? Here’s What Parents Need to Know

WhatsApp Web

We may be talking about the TikTok app in our public circles, but there’s another app — just as widely used — that kids are hoping parents’ won’t ask too many questions about. That’s because they can use the messaging app WhatsApp to talk privately with friends, exchange content and videos, and (hopefully) fly under the parentals’ radar.

What is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a downloadable app that uses your phone’s internet connection (wifi) to send messages, photos, videos, or files. It also allows users to make real-time video calls (much like iOS’ FaceTime). The big perk: WhatsApp can be used by connecting to any wifi so users can avoid using up minutes or texting fees. If you travel internationally, using WhatsApp is a popular way to avoid expensive international calling charges.

Why do kids love WhatsApp?

It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s free. WhatsApp Messenger lets kids send text messages, videos, photos, and audio messages as well as make video calls to friends without message limits or fees. Oh, and so far, it’s ad free, which is a plus.

It’s a stealth chatting app. WhatsApp is a popular way to create group chats (up to 256 people) that parents won’t necessarily think to check. Often kids will meet someone on one app such as Snapchat or Instagram and move to WhatsApp because they feel its less public and less regulated by parents. Like any other app, it can also be hidden behind decoy or vault apps to avoid detection.

WhatsApp web
You can’t miss the bright green WhatsApp icon on your child’s phone or in the desktop application folder. ©WhatsApp

It has cool features. WhatsApp has a broadcast feature that allows a user to send out a message to a group of people that can then only respond to the sender. The Status Feature enables users to send disappearing photos, videos, and GIFs, much like the fun features on Instagram and Snapchat.

WhatsApp hacks keep it fun. Kids love workarounds and cool functionality hacks they can use to enhance their WhatsApp experience. WhatsApp hacks can be found online with a quick Google search. Hacks help users understand how to do fun things such as schedule messages, create fake conversations, retrieve deleted messages, turn off Read receipts, make a Broadcast List, and formatting hacks that will help their account stand out.

There’s a perception of secrecy/security. WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption built-in, which means any texts, photos, or videos exchanged between users are encrypted (scrambled code) and assumed to be secure between the people communicating. WhatsApp has set itself apart from other chat apps in this area. No server stores messages after they are delivered. Not even WhatsApp can read, view, or listen to the chats, which gives users a sense of privacy and security. However, as we are reminded daily, WhatsApp, like every app is vulnerable to hacks, scams, and breaches.

What are the risks?

Inappropriate, secretive content. As with any app, the biggest concern is in the way kids and others use the app. WhatsApp (like any messaging app) allows anyone to create an account. Kids can be exposed to inappropriate content and exchange inappropriate content with others. As with any app, kids will also use acronyms or slang to hide risky behavior.

Strangers. A lot of people use WhatsApp, including those with harmful intentions. Users may assume group chats are closed to strangers since group members need a digital link to join. However, group chat links can be copied by group members and shared with anyone who can then click and join without any vetting.

Cyberbullying. Group texts are a big reason kids use WhatsApp. They can have groups as large as 250 kids. So, if a rumor, mean comment is shared or conflict erupts, situations can get intense very quickly and easily spill beyond the WhatsApp environment.

Privacy. While kids believe WhatsApp safely encrypt conversations, it does not protect them from people taking and sharing screenshots. Private discussions and photos can also be downloaded. Another threat to privacy is the way the app itself collects data of its users, which can be reviewed in its Privacy Policy and User Data section.

Scams and malware. WhatsApp is not immune to the typical scams that target social apps. The Facebook-owned app has had issues with spyware, catfishing, phishing, money requests, and fraudulent job opportunities — all in a quest to get users to hand over their personal information or assets.

Fake news. Because WhatsApp allows a user to chat in a group of up to 250 people, it’s easy for information to go viral quickly, even that information isn’t accurate. More recently, fake news originated on WhatsApp that incited panic around Coronavirus conspiracies and the 2018 mob killing in India.

Family Safety Tips

WhatsApp web
The WhatsApp interface. ©WhatsApp

Download and discuss the app. WhatsApp is easy to download and understand (simple texting interface). Once you know the basics, discuss the pros and cons of WhatsApp with your child. Ask your child to walk you through his or her app to show you how they use it.

Some questions to consider asking might be:

What do you like most about WhatsApp?
What kind of group chats are you a part of?
What kind of media do you mostly receive and send?
Are there any people in your group chats you don’t know?
Are your location and account settings as secure as they can be?
Have you shared personal information or your phone number?
Has any situation made you feel uncomfortable while on the app?

Guide younger users. For younger children or new WhatsApp users (age requirement is 13), consider creating a private WhatsApp group just for your family. Teach your kids to create a safe profile, maximize safety features, block strangers, report bullying, and how to safely share pictures, videos, and communicate. Use this time, teach them the upside of the app and the risks.

Monitor devices, screen time, and behavior. There are a lot of issues to consider and pay attention to when your kids use messaging apps. First, to monitor content, consider security software as well as filtering software. Second, pay attention to screen time and your child’s ability to balance technology use. Third, monitor behavior. Messaging apps connect kids to groupthink, a variety of content, and several emotional danger zones. Technology monitoring includes paying particular attention to your child’s emotional and physical health, friend groups, academic performance, and sleep habits.

Talk about privacy settings. Encourage your child to maximize settings and use the two-step verification option that allows a custom PIN for security against breaches and hacks. Privacy settings will allow users to choose Everyone, My Contacts, and Nobody. Review profile information and omit any personal information (age, phone number, other account links, school name, hometown).

Control location sharing. When location sharing is turned on, the images your child shares on WhatsApp will also show his or her exact location when the photo was taken. Be aware of this and consider keeping location turned off.

Avoid strangers and strange links. Once a person outside of your child’s known circle has his or her phone number, they can send any content directly unless (and until) they are blocked. They can catfish, scam, or groom WhatsApp users. Talk with your child about the importance of only chatting with known, trusted people and to block messages from strangers. Messages from strangers could contain explicit content, malware, spam, or phishing scam.

Should your child be on WhatsApp? As long as your child is only connected to trusted people (and has some form of monitoring), this can be a relatively safe social app that echos the features of most other apps. However, every family and every child is different, and whether or not your child is allowed to use the app is a personal decision. If your child is active on the app with your approval, one way to help them navigate the danger zones is to keep the safety conversation on-going and honest. Your guidance is crucial. You’ve got this parent!

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Is Mobile Malware Playing Hide and Steal on Your Device?

Over the years, we’ve all grown accustomed to using our smartphones and mobile apps to support our lifestyles. We as consumers have developed expectations of how devices can enhance our everyday lives- from online banking transactions to handling work correspondence on the go. But as we become more reliant on our smart devices and apps, hackers use this dependency as an opportunity to gain unwarranted access to our personal data. According to McAfee’s latest Mobile Threat Report, hidden apps are the most active mobile threat facing consumers, generating nearly 50% of all malicious activities in 2019. Let’s dive into these mobile threats and how they could potentially impact your life.

Don’t Let These Mobile Threats Commandeer Your Device

LeifAccess

LeifAccess (also known as Shopper) is an Android-based malware distributed through social media, gaming platforms, and fraudulent advertising. Once installed, this stealthy hides its icon and displays fake security notifications, hoping to trick the user into granting the malware accessibility access. LeifAccess/Shopper has also been found to use third-party logins to cheat app ranking systems and wreak more havoc on victims’ devices. The malware uses the accessibility features in Android to quietly create third-party accounts, automatically download apps from Google Play, and post reviews using names and emails configured from the victim’s device.

According to the Mobile Threat Report, hackers are also tricking users into installing adware onto their devices, redirecting them to a variety of fraudulent ads. Because digital ad revenue is simply based on screens displayed and clicks, hackers are quick to exploit this threat so they can collect fraudulent ad revenue at the expense of unsuspecting users. Due to the volume and speed of the redirects, many consumers don’t even realize that their device is infected or that their data is being collected.

HiddenAds

HiddenAds masquerades as genuine apps like Call of Duty, Spotify, and FaceApp to trick users into downloading them. But once the app is installed on the victim’s device, the app icon changes to one that mimics the Settings icon. When the victim clicks on it, the app displays a fake error message that reads “Application is unavailable in your country. Click OK to uninstall.” However, clicking OK completes the malicious app installation process and then hides the fake Settings icon, making it nearly impossible to find and delete the malware.

MalBus

McAfee researchers also discovered a new targeted attack hidden in a legitimate South Korean transit app. Called MalBus, this new attack method exploits the app developer’s hacked Google Play account. Once the hackers accessed the developer’s account, they added an additional library to the apps and uploaded them to Google Play. Now, MalBus spyware can phish for   with a local webpage that mimics the real Google login screen. Additionally, MalBus can drop a malicious trojan on the victim’s device, searching for specific military or political keywords. If these keywords are found, the victim’s matching files are uploaded to a remote server without their knowledge.

How to Stay Protected

As hackers continue to target consumers through the channels they spend the most time on – their mobile devices – it’s important for users to reflect on the current digital landscape to help protect their data, as well as their family and friends. Follow these security tips to defend against stealthy mobile threats:

  • Do your research. While some malicious apps do make it through the app store screening process, the majority of attack downloads appear to be coming from social media, fake ads, and other unofficial app sources. Before downloading an app to your device, do some quick research about the source and developer.
  • Read app reviews with a critical eye. Reviews and rankings are still a good method of determining whether an app is legitimate. However, watch out for reviews that reuse simple or repetitive phrases, as this could be a sign of a fraudulent review.
  • Update, update, update. Developers are actively working to identify and address security issues. Frequently update your operating systems and apps so that they have the latest fixes and security protections.
  • Use a VPN. A virtual private network, or , allows you to send and receive data across a public network, but it encrypts your information so others can’t read it. This can prevent hackers from spying on your internet activity, therefore protecting your privacy.
  • Keep tabs on your accounts. Use ID monitoring tools to be aware of changes or actions that you did not make. These may have been caused by malware and could indicate that your phone or account has been compromised.
  • Defend your devices with security software. Comprehensive security software across all devices continues to be a strong defensive measure to protect your data and privacy from online threats.

To stay updated on all things McAfee and the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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TikTok Challenge, Hoop App, and Other Headlines You May Have Missed

TikTok Challenge

Digital news that affects families seems to be dominating the headlines these days. To keep parents in the know, here are some of the stories you may want to give extra family discussion time to this week.

Skull Breaker Challenge Proving Unfunny 

Apps — video apps especially — can help kids tap into their creativity and give kids a critical way to connect. Where the fun can take a dangerous turn is in the way kids choose to use their technology. In this case, the poor choice is in the Skull Breaker Challenge (also called the Trip Jump Challenge), a prank resulting in some kids being hospitalized.

The prank, designed to get laughs and accumulate TikTok views, includes two kids tricking a third friend into making a dance video together. Three kids line up side by side for a planned group dance that will be videotaped and posted. As everyone jumps as planned, the two kids on either side swipe the legs out from under the middle person causing him or her to fall backward. According to reports, the prank is surfacing mainly on TikTok but also Youtube.

Safe Family Tip: Consider talking to your child about the dangers of online challenges and the risks already reported in the news. 1) Discuss the physical dangers doctors are warning the public about, including neck strain, concussion, skull fracture, long-term complications, or even death. 2) Using current news stories, explain personal responsibility and what can happen legally if your child hurts another person during a prank.

Snapchat’s Hoop App Being Called ‘Tinder for Teens’

Snapchat users (over 2.5 million in fact) are flocking to a new Tinder-like app called Hoop that interfaces with Snapchat. The developer app allows other Hoop users to swipe through other Hoop users and request to connect via their Snapchat profile name.

While the app asks a user’s age, much like other social sites, there’s no way to prove a user’s age. And, users can change their age at any time after creating an account. This type of app format can be tempting for kids who are naturally curious and seeking to meet new friends outside of their familiar social circle. There’s a potential for common issues such as catfishing, predator behavior, and inappropriate content. Kids as young as 12 can form connections with strangers. While their profile may be harmless, they can’t control the type of content that pops up on their screen from other users. Another red flag: Hoop users are rewarded with “diamonds” for sharing their Snapchat name and getting others to join Hoop, so the incentive to daily share and connect with a wide circle outside of one’s known friend group may prove tough for some kids to resist.TikTok Challenge

Safe Family Tip: While it’s challenging to stay on top of the constant array of new apps, it’s not impossible. One way to understand where your child spends his or her time online is with comprehensive monitoring software. Another way of monitoring activity is to physically check your child’s phone once a week for new app icons (see right) and take the time to talk about his or her favorite apps. Consider explaining the dangers of connecting with strangers and the real possibility that a new “cute 16-year-old” may be a predator attempting to win your child’s trust (it happens every day). Review and agree on which apps are considered safe and the expectations you have for your family’s online choices.

Another app to keep on your radar is Wink. Nearly identical to Hoop, Wink interfaces with Snapchat and is being promoted as a “new friend finder.” It has a similar “swipe” feature that connects kids to random Wink users and is currently ranked #15 in the app store.

Should phones be banned from schools?

A conversation gaining a quiet but consistent buzz is the merit of prohibiting phones from schools — a law France has enforced for two years that has parents, educators, and legislators talking. Several recent studies reveal that phone bans can lead to higher test scores, higher test grades and attention spans, and increased cognitive capacity. Some schools in the U.S. have independently taken steps to curb and ban phones in hopes of focusing on distracted students.

Proponents of phones in school say a ban would be impossible to enforce and that technology is needed to help parents stay in touch with kids during the school day, especially for emergencies. Others say phones at school are a critical part of learning and raising self-sufficient, tech-savvy students prepared for a digital workforce.

Safe Family Tip: Begin the discussion with your child about the pros and cons of devices at school. Listen closely to his or her perspective. Discuss potential device-related issues that can be amplified during the school day such as cyberbullying, group chat conflicts, sexting, gaming during class, and using devices to cheat. Review expectations such as using phones only before and after school to connect with parents.

Stay tuned in the weeks to come as we take a closer look at other apps such as TikTok and WhatsApp Messenger that — when used unwisely — can lead to some surprising risks for kids. Until then, keep the digital safety conversation humming in your home. You’ve got this, parents!

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Timeless Principles to Help Your Child Develop Social Superpowers

online relationships

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Each year it’s my tradition to re-read a handful of books that continue to shape my perspective. One of those books is the 1936 self-help classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

I’ll admit, I’ve never liked the book’s overly-schmoozy title, but its content is gold. And 84 years later, it’s still relevant to our ongoing family discussion of how to model leadership and get a more meaningful return on our digital connections.

Slow down, look around

It has become easy, and almost habitual, to move fast, skim content, and make quick judgments. We upload details about ourselves, our opinions, our activities, our agendas, our wins.

Carnegie’s approach (condensed and paraphrased): Slow down and look around. Take a genuine interest in the people around you. Make room for different points of view. Steer clear of drama, criticizing others, and conflict. And never make anyone feel “less than.”

Social superpowers

Carnegie’s principles, applied online, are tools parents can use to help kids develop their social superpowers. The simple act of slowing down and listening instead of clicking is a big step toward more genuine connections.

On the safety side, slowing down can help kids become more aware of and avoid threats such as cyberbullying, scams, catfishing, and online conflict.

Here are a few more Carnegie power tips (condensed and paraphrased) to help build up your family’s social superpowers.

More meaningful connections

Take a genuine interest in others. “If we want to make friends, let’s do things for other people – things that require time, energy, unselfishness, and thoughtfulness.”

Encourage your child to step out of the “selfie” mindset as a first step in forming more genuine friendships online (as opposed to amassing followers). Brainstorm ways to do this. Maybe it’s more face-to-face time with known friends, keeping track of other people’s birthdays, and hand-writing cards and sending them in the mail. Paying attention to the details of a person’s life — their hobbies, family members, values, and goals — is the heartbeat of a real friendship.

Smile, be welcoming.  “Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.’”

Sounds simple but a smile — in this case, the way we welcome others online — can go a long way. The attitude we express through our online interactions communicates can make or break our relationships and reputation.

Encourage your child to review and delete negative or harmful content that lacks a spirit of inclusion and kindness. Our social profiles may be the first impression others — including teachers, colleges, and employers — may have of us.

Another plus: Choosing a digital “smile” when we post (over drama and making fun) sends a powerful message that can ease cyberbullying, build empathy, and be a source of strength for others who may be struggling.

Note: Choosing to smile online as a general principle doesn’t include faking it or only sharing a heavily-edited or overly positive version of your life. Be real. Be honest. Be you.

Affirm others. “. . . a sure way to [people’s] hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you realize their importance and recognize it sincerely.”

Everyone person on the planet has a fundamental need to be noticed and feel valued. With the amount of anxiety, depression, body image issues, and cyberbullying kids face online, what young person couldn’t use a genuine word of encouragement?

Discuss the many ways to affirm others on and offline. Encourage your child to be aware and willing to complement the strengths of others, cheer on accomplishments, and support a cause or passion they’ve expressed.

Avoid arguments and criticizing others. “Criticism is dangerous because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his [or her] sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

If we could all master these two Carnegie principles online, the world’s collective mental health might be on a happier, healthier trajectory.

Encourage your child to pay attention to his or her emotions and avoid engaging others if they feel angry, anxious, or tired. Discuss the importance of empathy and forgiveness. Challenge them to allow others to express their ideas without judgment.

Avoiding conflict doesn’t mean you ignore injustice or become a doormat. On the contrary, responding with grace in a tense situation requires strength and self-control — especially when it comes to trolls and bullies.

Carnegie wrote his book during the Great Depression when the practice optimism and simple truths were critical to a person’s hope. So, some perspectives will feel odd or passé. But stick with it. Savor and apply the gems and enjoy the process of deepening your digital connections.

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How You (and Your Teen) Can Stay Safe While Looking for Love Online

Valentine’s Day is such a double-edged sword. If you’re feeling the love and just can’t get enough of your sweetheart – then I wish you a wonderful day. If, on the other hand, you are unattached and feeling a little lonely then chances are you’re thinking about trying your luck on an online dating app.

Every year, traffic to dating apps surges around Valentine’s Day because let’s be honest – who wants to be lonely? But it’s not just adults who frequent dating sites to find their perfect match – teens do too!

Dating Apps – Proceed with Caution!!!

The increasing popularity of these sites means that scammers are spending considerable time and energy targeting people to con. And don’t forget that many teens are on these sites too – even as young as 16! You don’t have to look far to find stories of people who have been tricked into transferring large sums of money to their ‘online lovers’. And in more recent years, romance scammers are now tricking new partners into illegally relaying stolen funds!

Romance Scammers Now Searching for New ‘Online Love’ in Games

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), romance scammers are now also targeting non-dating apps to look for new vulnerable ‘online lovers’. In fact, 38 Aussies lost almost $600,000 through gaming app Words with Friends, an online version of Scrabble. Most of the losses were through direct bank transfers however iTunes, Steam and Google Play gift cards were also commonly used. Games such as Words with Friends are very popular with both tweens and teens, so please share these stores with them.

How to Stay Safe While Searching for Love Online

I have several friends who have found the ‘love of their lives’ online so please remember that not everyone you meet online is a scammer. However, it is essential that you are ALWAYS on guard and cautiously suspicious until such time as your new online love has proven themselves. Here are my top tips for staying safe:

  1. Limit how personal you get 

    Scammers today prey on the human need to feel connected to one and other. The key is to be always careful with the information that you share online. Whether it’s Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, or even Facebook or Instagram, only share what is absolutely necessary. Your personal information can easily be pieced together by a scammer to access your personal information, your bank accounts or even steal your identity. Start with being clever with your profile names on dating sites and apps – never give out your full name.

  2. Do your homework

    If you’ve met someone online, always do your homework before meeting them in person. Why not get Google working for you? A Google search is a great place to start and even using Google Images will help you get a better understanding of a person. And don’t forget to check out their LinkedIn account too. Another option would be to track down mutual friends and ask questions about your new online partner.

  3. Think before you send

    Sharing intimate pictures or videos with the person you’re dating online may be a good idea right now but please take a moment before pressing send to think about how this could come back to haunt you in the future. Remember, once those pictures and videos are online, they are online forever. Even social media apps with disappearing images, such as Snapchat, can be easily circumvented with a screenshot.  It’s not just celebrities who have intimate pictures spread around the Internet!

  4. Make passwords a priority

    Ensure all your online dating and social media accounts, and all your devices, have separate and unique passwords. Ideally, each password should have a combination of lower and upper case letters, numbers and special characters. I love using a nonsensical, crazy sentence!

And please remember to share your online romance vigilance with your budding teen Romeos and Juliets. It is incredibly common for teens to use dating sites to find someone special. Even though it may be a tad awkward and uncomfortable, as parents we need to do all we can to keep our offspring safe – particularly when their hormones are raging!!

Till Next Time!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

 

 

 

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Watch Out For IRS Scams and Avoid Identity Theft

It’s time to get those W-2 and 1099 tax forms ready. On January 27th, the IRS began accepting paper and electronic tax returns ahead of the April 15th due date. But as users prepare to file, scammers prepare to take advantage of innocent taxpayers with malicious tactics, looking to harvest the extensive amounts of personal data found in IRS tax documents. Let’s take a look at common tactics hackers may leverage this tax season.

Impersonation Schemes

A commonly used tactic involves hackers posing as collectors from the IRS, as tax preparers, or government bureaus. This tactic is pretty effective due to Americans’ concerns of misfiling their taxes or accidentally running into trouble with the IRS. Scammers take advantage of this fear, manipulating innocent users into providing sensitive information or money over the phone or by email. And in extreme cases, hackers may be able to infect computers with malware via malicious links or attachments sent through IRS email scams.

Robocalls

Another tactic used to take advantage of taxpayers is the canceled social security number scam. Hackers use robocalls claiming that law enforcement will suspend or cancel the victim’s Social Security number in response to taxes owed. Often, victims are scared into calling the fraudulent numbers back and persuaded into transferring assets to accounts that the scammer controls. Users need to remember that the IRS will only contact taxpayers through snail-mail or in-person, not over the phone.

Emails

Another scam criminals use involves emails impersonating the IRS. Victims receive a phishing email claiming to be from the IRS, reminding them to file their taxes or offering them information about their tax refund via malicious links. If a victim clicks on the link, they will be redirected to a spoofed site that collects the victim’s personal data, facilitating identity theft. What’s more, a victim’s computer can become infected with malware if they click on a link with malicious code, allowing fraudsters to steal more data.

Phony CPAs

Scammers also take advantage of the fact that many users seek out the help of a tax preparer or CPA during this time. These criminals will often pose as professionals, accepting money to complete a user’s taxes but won’t sign the return. This makes it look like the user completed the return themselves. However, these ghost tax preparers often lie on the return to make the user qualify for credits they haven’t earned or apply changes that will get them in trouble with. Since the scammers don’t sign, the victim will then be responsible for any errors. This could lead to the user having to repay money owed, or potentially lead to an audit.

While these types of scams can occur at any time of the year, they are especially prevalent leading up to the April tax filing due date. Consumers need to be on their toes during tax season to protect their personal information and keep their finances secure. To avoid being spoofed by scammers and identity thieves, follow these tips:

  • File before a scammer does it for you. The easiest defense you can take against tax season schemes is to get your hands on your W-2 and file as soon as possible. The more prompt you are to file, the less likely your data will be raked in by a fraudster.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the major bureaus once a year. So, make it a habit to request a copy of your file every few months and check for any suspicious activity.
  • Beware of phishing attempts. Phishing is a common tactic crooks leverage during tax season, so stay vigilant around your inbox. This means if any unfamiliar or remotely suspicious emails come through requesting tax data, double-check their legitimacy. Be wary of strange file attachment names such as “virus-for-you.doc.” Remember: the IRS only contacts people by snail mail, so if you get an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, stay away.
  • Watch out for spoofed websites. Scammers have extremely sophisticated tools that help disguise phony web addresses for DIY tax software, such as stolen company logos and site designs. To avoid falling for this, go directly to the source. Type the address of a website directly into the address bar of your browser instead of following a link from an email or internet search. If you receive any suspicious links in your email, investigating the domain is usually a good way to tell if the source is legitimate or not.
  • Consider an identity theft protection solution. If your data does become compromised, be sure to use an identity theft solution such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, which allows users to take a proactive approach to protect their identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep their identities personal and secured.

To stay updated on all things McAfee and on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Safer Internet Day 2020

What Can You Do To Make The Internet a Better Place

In 2020, you’d be hard-pressed to find an Aussie teen who doesn’t spend a fair whack of their time online. And while many of us parents don’t always love the time our offspring spend glued to screens, most of us have come to accept that the online world is a big part of our kids’ lives.

So, let’s accept that the internet is going to be a feature of our kids’ lives and work out how best we can keep them safe.

Together For A Better Internet

Today is Safer Internet Day  – an international annual event that encourages us all to work together for a better internet. The perfect opportunity to find out what we can do as parents to ensure our kids are as safe as possible online.

Organised by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission, Safer Internet Day is held each February to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology, especially among children and young people. Safer Internet Day is all about inspiring users to make positive changes online, to raise awareness of online safety issues, and participate in events and activities right across the globe.

What Can We Do As Parents?

As role models and life-educators, parents play an enormous role in shaping our kids’ behaviours and opinions – particularly before they get to the teenage years!! So, why not use Safer Internet Day as a prompt to freshen up your cybersafety chats with your brood.

Not sure where to start? Here are my top messages to weave into your chats with your kids

  1. Be Kind Online

Spread love not hate online. A better internet includes building an online culture where people share positive and encouraging posts and comments. It may be as simple as posting a positive message, liking a post that is encouraging or sharing an inspiring article. Image

It may sound obvious but before you post a comment or a tweet, ask yourself whether the message could offend someone or impact them negatively. And remember to NEVER like, favourite, retweet, post or comment negatively online.

  1. Learn How To Disagree Respectfully Online

No matter how much we try, there will always be some people online who get a kick out of being unkind. If you come across this behaviour, I encourage you to call it out and report it but ALWAYS do so in a respectful fashion. Reciprocating with harsh words or name-calling will only further inflame a toxic situation. A logical, factual response that is respectful will always triumph!

  1. Protecting Your Online Reputation (& Others Too)

If you’re planning on hiring someone or even going on a date with someone, the chances are you’re going to ‘Google’ them first. And what you find online and the opinion you form decides whether the person’s digital reputation is acceptable or not.

So, it’s essential to remember that everything you post online is permanent and public; not to post inappropriate comments or pics of yourself or others; ensure all your online profiles are set to private to avoid strangers ‘screen-grabbing’ your private info and photos; don’t respond to inappropriate requests and most importantly, take a breather when things are getting heated online and you may regret your comments and actions.

  1. Passwords!!!!!

Managing passwords is one of the best ways of taking control of your online life and creating a better internet. Ensuring you have a separate password for every online account means that if you are affected by a data breach, your other online accounts are not at risk. Always choose passwords that have letters, numbers and symbols and ensure they are complex and not obvious. I love using a nonsensical sentence! And if all that’s too hard, why not consider a password manager that not only creates complex passwords for each of your online accounts but remembers them too. All you need to do is remember the master password! Awesome!!

So, why not pledge to change up your cybersafety chats with your kids this Safer Internet Day? And remember – they are watching you too! So, ensure you always model online respect, take your online responsibilities seriously and, also manage your passwords carefully. Because every little step is a step towards a positive change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WhatsApp Users: Secure Your Desktop With These Tips

With over 500 million daily active users, WhatsApp is one of the world’s most popular messaging platforms. In an effort to provide even more ways to connect beyond iOS and Android, WhatsApp introduced a desktop version of the app in 2016, which allowed users to stay in touch from their home or work computer. However, a researcher from The Hacker News recently disclosed multiple vulnerabilities in WhatsApp which, if exploited, could allow remote attackers to compromise the security of billions of users.

How safe is WhatsApp?

According to researcher Gal Weizman, the flaws were found in WhatsApp Web, the browser version of the messaging platform. Weizman revealed that WhatsApp Web was vulnerable to an open-redirect flaw, which allows remote hackers to redirect victims to suspicious, arbitrary websites. If a hacker sent an unsuspecting victim a message containing one of these arbitrary links, they could then trigger cross-site scripting attacks. These attacks are often found in web applications and can be used by hackers to bypass access controls by injecting malicious code into trusted websites.

WhatsApp Web hack

If the victim clicks on the link in the message, the hacker could remotely gain access to all the files from their Windows or Mac computer, which increases the risk for identity theft. What’s more, the open-redirect flaw could have also been used to manipulate previews of the domain WhatsApp displays when links are sent through their platform. This provides hackers with another avenue to trick users into falling for phishing attacks.

 

How to stay safe

How can users continue to use messaging platforms like WhatsApp without putting themselves at risk of an attack? Follow these security tips for greater peace of mind:

  • Update, update, update. If you’re a WhatsApp Web user, be sure to update to the latest version to install the security patch for this flaw.
  • Think before you click. Be skeptical of ads shared on social media sites and messages sent to you through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. If you receive a suspicious message from an unknown sender, it’s best to avoid interacting with the message.
  • Hover over links to see and verify the URL. If someone you don’t know sends you a link, hover over the link without actually clicking on it. This will allow you to see a link preview. If the URL looks suspicious, don’t interact with it and delete the message altogether.

To stay updated on all things McAfee and on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Election Website Security: Protect Your Vote in 2020

The 2020 U.S. presidential primaries are right around the corner. As people gear up to cast their ballots for party candidates, they may not realize that website security shortcomings could leave the U.S. elections susceptible to digital disinformation campaigns or possibly worse seeking to influence and /or manipulate the democratic process.

McAfee recently conducted a survey of county websites and county election administration websites in the 13 states projected as battleground or “tossup” states in the U.S. presidential elections in November. According to the survey results, the majority of these websites lacked official U.S. government .GOV website validation and HTTPS website security measures to prevent hackers from launching fake websites disguised as legitimate county government sites.

Got .GOV?

You might be wondering what the significance of a .gov website domain is. Well, a .gov website name requires that buyers submit evidence to the U.S. government that they truly are buying these names on behalf of legitimate local, county, or state government entities.

On the other hand, a website using a .COM, .NET, .ORG, or .US can be purchased by anyone with a credit card from any number of legitimate website domain vendors. The lack of a .GOV in a website name means that no controlling government authority has validated that the website is a legitimate government site.

HTTPS: browse the web securely

In the same vein as a .GOV web domain, HTTPS and a lock icon in the address of a website helps establish its validity. When a visitor sees these icons, it means that their browser has made a secure connection with the website, which means the website and the user can be confident of who they are sharing information with.

This means that any personal voter registration information that a user shares with the site cannot be intercepted and stolen by hackers while they are on the site. Additionally, HTTPS and a lock icon tell the user that they cannot be re-routed without their knowledge to a different site.

How this could impact elections

Hackers typically look to carry out their attacks with the least amount of effort and the fewest resources. Instead of hacking into local voting systems and changing vote counts, hackers could conduct a digital disinformation campaign to influence voter behavior during the elections. These attacks would seek to suppress or disrupt the voting process by setting up bogus websites with official sounding domains and related email addresses. From there, hackers could use those bogus email addresses to send mass email blasts intended to feed unsuspecting voter email recipients false information on when, where, and how to vote.

Example disinformation email:

On top of that, social media promotions could be used to lure voters to the fake websites and provide them with the same false information.

By telling voters that they should register to vote in the wrong places, or merely vote at the wrong times, the hackers could misdirect, confuse, and frustrate voters on election day. This could ultimately impact vote counts or at least undermine voter confidence in the electoral process.

Survey results

McAfee’s survey of the external security measures for county election websites included Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Together, these states account for 201 of the 270 electoral votes required to win the U.S. presidential election.

Our research found that Minnesota and Texas ranked the lowest among the surveyed states in terms of .GOV county coverage with 4.6% and 5.1% coverage respectively. Arizona ranked the highest in .GOV county coverage with 66.7%. Yet, this still left a third of the state’s counties uncovered.

Texas ranked the lowest in terms of HTTPS protection with only 22.8% of its county websites protected. Arizona again led in county HTTPS protection with 80.0%, followed by Nevada (75.0%), Iowa (70.7%), Michigan (65.1%), and Wisconsin (63.9%). Again, these “leader” states still lacked HTTPS coverage for approximately a third of their counties.

Tips to help secure your vote

So, what can citizens do to help protect their votes and the electoral system overall leading up to the 2020 election? Check out these tips to securely cast your ballot:

  • Stay informed. Remind yourself to confirm the site you are visiting is a .GOV website and that HTTPS security protection is in place to ensure that the information accurate and is safe.
  • Look out for suspicious emails. Carefully scrutinize all election related emails. An attacker seeking to misinform can use phishing-techniques to accomplish their objective.  McAfee’s general warnings related to phishing emails (e.g. here), where an attacker can create emails that look as if they come from legitimate sources are applicable.
  • Go directly to the source. If in doubt, visit your state’s elections website to receive general election information on voter registration and contact information for your county’s election officials. Contact the local county officials to confirm any election instructions you receive via email, social media, or websites leading up to Election Day.
  • Keep it old school. Trust the official voting literature sent through the traditional mail first, as the U.S. Postal Service is the primary channel state and local governments use to send out voting information.

Stay up to date

To stay on top of McAfee news and the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Security Lessons From 2019’s Biggest Data Breaches

2019 already feels like it’s worlds away, but the data breaches many consumers faced last year are likely to have lasting effects. As we look back on 2019, it’s important to reflect on how our online security has been affected by various threats. With that said, let’s take a look at the biggest breaches of the year and how they’ve affected users everywhere.

Capital One breach

In late July, approximately 100 million Capital One users in the U.S. and 6 million in Canada were affected by a breach exposing about 140,000 Social Security numbers, 1 million Canadian Social Insurance numbers, 80,000 bank account numbers, and more. As one of the 10 largest banks based on U.S. deposits, the financial organization was certainly poised as an ideal target for a hacker to carry out a large-scale attack. The alleged hacker claimed that the data was obtained through a firewall misconfiguration, allowing for command execution with a server that granted access to data in Capital One’s storage space.

Facebook breach

In early September, a security researcher found an online database exposing 419 million user phone numbers linked to Facebook accounts. The exposed server was left without password protection, so anyone with internet access could find the database. The breached records contained a user’s unique Facebook ID and the phone number associated with the account. In some instances, the records also revealed the user’s name, gender, and location by country.

Collection #1 breach

Last January, we met Collection #1, a monster data set that exposed 772,904,991 unique email addresses and over 21 million unique passwords. Security researcher Troy Hunt first discovered this data set on the popular cloud service MEGA, specifically uncovering a folder holding over 12,000 files. Due to the sheer volume of the breach, the data was likely comprised of multiple breaches. When the storage site was taken down, the folder was then transferred to a public hacking site, available for anyone to take for free.

Verifications.io breach

Less than two months after Collection #1, researchers discovered a 150-gigabyte database containing 809 million records exposed by the email validation firm Verifications.io. This company provides a service for email marketing firms to outsource the extensive work involved with validating mass amounts of emails. This service also helps email marketing firms avoid the risk of having their infrastructure blacklisted by spam filters. Therefore, Verifications.io was entrusted with a lot of data, creating an information-heavy database complete with names, email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, gender, date of birth, personal mortgage amounts, interest rates, and more.

Orvibo breach

In mid-June, Orvibo, a smart home platform designed to help users manage their smart appliances, left an Elasticsearch server (a highly scalable search and analytics engine that allows users to store, search, and analyze big volumes of data in real-time) online without password protection. The exposure left at least two billion log entries each containing customer data open to the public. This data included customer email addresses, the IP address of the smart home devices, Orvibo usernames, and hashed passwords, or, unreadable strings of characters that are designed to be impossible to convert back into the original password.

What Users Can Learn From Data Breaches

Data breaches serve as a reminder that users and companies alike should do everything in their power to keep personal information protected. As technology continues to become more advanced, online threats will also evolve to become more sophisticated. So now more than ever, it’s imperative that users prioritize the security of their digital presence, especially in the face of massive data leaks. If you think you might have been affected by a data breach or want to take the necessary precautions to safeguard your information, follow these tips to help you stay secure:

  • Research before you buy.Although you might be eager to get the latest new device, some are made more secure than others. Look for devices that make it easy to disable unnecessary features, update software, or change default passwords. If you already have an older device that lacks these features, consider upgrading.
  • Be vigilant when monitoring your personal and financial data. A good way to determine whether your data has been exposed or compromised is to closely monitor your online accounts. If you see anything fishy, take extra precautions by updating your privacy settings, changing your password, or using two-factor authentication.
  • Use strong, unique passwords. Make sure to use complex passwords for each of your accounts, and never reuse your credentials across different platforms. It’s also a good idea to update your passwords consistently to further protect your data.
  • Enable two-factor authentication. While a strong and unique password is a good first line of defense, enabling app-based two-factor authentication across your accounts will help your cause by providing an added layer of security.
  • Use a comprehensive security solution. Use a solution like McAfee Total Protection to help safeguard your devices and data from known vulnerabilities and emerging threats.

Stay Up to Date

To stay on top of McAfee news and the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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What You Need to Know About the FedEx SMiShing Scam

You receive a text message saying that you have a package out for delivery. While you might feel exhilarated at first, you should think twice before clicking on that link in the text. According to CNN, users across the U.S. are receiving phony text messages claiming to be from FedEx as part of a stealthy SMS phishing (SMiShing) campaign.

How SMiShing Works

This SMiShing campaign uses text messages that show a supposed tracking code and a link to “set delivery preferences.” The link directs the recipient to a scammer-operated website disguised as a fake Amazon listing. The listing asks the user to take a customer satisfaction survey. After answering a couple of questions, the survey asks the user to enter personal information and a credit card number to claim a free gift, which still requires a small shipping and handling fee. But according to HowtoGeek.com, agreeing to pay the small shipping fee also signs the user up for a 14-day trial to the company that sells the scam products. After the trial period, the user will be billed $98.95 every month. What’s more, the text messages use the recipient’s real name, making this threat even stealthier.

How to Stay Protected

So, what can online shoppers do to defend themselves from this SMiShing scam? Check out the following tips to remain secure:

  • Be careful what you click on. Be sure to only click on links in text messages that are from a trusted source. If you don’t recognize the sender, or the SMS content doesn’t seem familiar, stay cautious and avoid interacting with the message.
  • Go directly to the source. FedEx stated that it would never send text messages or emails to customers that ask for money or personal information. When in doubt about a tracking number, go to the main website of the shipping company and search the tracking number yourself.
  • Enable the feature on your mobile device that blocks texts from the Internet. Many spammers send texts from an Internet service in an attempt to hide their identities. Combat this by using this feature to block texts sent from the Internet.
  • Use mobile security software. Make sure your mobile devices are prepared any threat coming their way. To do just that, cover these devices with a mobile security solution, such as McAfee Mobile Security.

To stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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The Top Technology Takeaways From CES 2020

Another Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has come and gone. Every year, this trade show joins practically everyone in the consumer electronics industry to show off the latest and greatest cutting-edge innovations in technology. From bendable tablets to 8k TVs and futuristic cars inspired by the movie “Avatar,” CES 2020 did not disappoint. Here are a few of the key takeaways from this year’s show:

Smart home technology is driven by convenience

As usual, smart home technology made up a solid portion of the new gadgets introduced at CES. Netatmo introduced the Netatmo Smart Door Lock and Keys which use physical NFC (meaning near field communication, a technology that allows devices to communicate with each other) keys as well as digital keys for guests. In the same realm of home security, Danby’s smart mailbox called the Parcel Guard allows couriers to deliver packages directly into the anti-theft box using a code or smartphone app.

Devices integrated with Alexa technology

CES 2020 also introduced many devices integrated with Alexa technology. Kohler debuted its Moxie showerhead, complete with an Alexa-enabled waterproof Bluetooth speaker. Along with the showerhead, Alexa was also built into a Dux Swedish luxury bed to help improve users’ bedtime routines.

Smart appliances

CES is usually graced with a handful of smart appliances, and this year was no different. Bosch partnered with the recipe and meal-planning app Chefling to showcase its high-tech Home Connect Refrigerator, which uses cameras to track which food items users have stocked and suggests recipes based on that information.

Mind-reading wearables translate thoughts into digital commands

CES featured several products that let users control apps, games, and devices with their minds. Companies have developed devices that can record brain signals from sensors on the scalp or devices implanted within the brain and translate them into digital signals. For example, NextMind has created a headset that measures activity in the visual cortex and translates the user’s decision of where to focus his or her eyes into digital commands. This technology could replace remote controls, as users would be able to change channels, mute, or pause just by focusing on triangles next to each command.

Another company focused on the brain-computer interface is BrainCo. This company debuted their FocusOne headband at CES this year, complete with sensors on the forehead measuring the activity in the frontal cortex. This device is designed to measure focus by detecting the subtle electrical signals that your brain is producing. These headbands are designed to help kids learn how to focus their minds in class. BrainCo also has a prosthetic arm coming to market later this year which detects muscle signals and feeds them through an algorithm that can help it operate better over time. What’s more, this device will cost less than half of an average prosthetic.

Foldable screens are still a work-in-progress

This year’s event was colored with folding screens. However, most of these devices were prototypes without proposed ship dates. A likely reason for the lack of confidence in these devices by their manufacturers is that they are unsure if the screens will be durable enough to sell. Some of these work-in-progress devices include Dell’s Concept Ori, Intel’s Horseshoe Bend, and Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold. Nevertheless, folding devices provide a new opportunity for manufacturers to play around with device forms, such as a phone that turns into a tablet.

Cybersecurity’s role in evolving technology

As consumer technology continues to evolve, the importance of securing these newfangled devices becomes more and more apparent. According to panelists from the CES session Top Security Trends in Smart Cities, by making products “smarter,” we are also making them more susceptible to hacking. For example, The McAfee Advanced Threat Research (ATR) team recently uncovered security flaws in multiple IoT smart home devices. The first is the Chamberlain MyQ Hub, a “universal” garage door automation platform that can be hacked to cause a user’s garage door to open unintentionally. The second is the McLear NFC Ring, a household access control device used to interact with NFC-enabled door locks, which can be cloned to gain access to a user’s home.

Keep cybersecurity a top priority

Although CES 2020 has introduced many new devices aimed at making users’ lives easier, it’s important to keep a secure home as a top priority as gadgets are brought into their lives. As new McAfee research has revealed, the majority of Americans today (63%) believe that they as the consumer are responsible for their security. This could likely be attributed to more Americans becoming aware of online risks, as 48% think it’s likely to happen to them. To feel confident bringing new technology into their homes, users are encouraged to proactively integrate online security into everyday life.

Need for increased cybersecurity protection

As the sun sets on another fabulous CES, it’s clear that technological innovations won’t be slowing down any time soon. With all of these new advancements and greater connectivity comes the need for increased protection when connected to the internet. All in all, CES 2020 showed us that as technology continues to improve and develop, security will play an ever-increasing role in protecting consumers online

Stay up to date

To stay on top of McAfee news and the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

 

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Research Reveals Americans’ Perceptions of Device Security Amidst CES 2020

From the Lifx Switch smart switch to the Charmin RollBot to Kohler Setra Alexa-connected faucets, CES 2020 has introduced new devices aimed at making consumers lives easier. With so much excitement and hype around these new gadgets, however, it can be challenging to make security a top priority. That’s why McAfee is urging users to keep cybersecurity top-of-mind when bringing these new devices into their home so they can protect what matters.

New McAfee research reveals that consumer perceptions of security accountability have shifted in the last couple of years. For example, the majority of Americans today (63%) stated that they as the consumer are responsible for their security while last year only 42% of Americans felt that they are responsible. This shows that users are becoming increasingly aware of how to ensure that they are protecting their privacy and identity. This year-over-year increase could likely be attributed to more Americans becoming aware of online risks, as 48% think it’s likely to happen to them. Additionally, 65% are concerned about the security of connected devices installed in their homes, such as the Chamberlain MyQ Hub garage door opener and the McLear Smart Ring. While these devices are convenient, the McAfee Advanced Threat Research team recently revealed they contained security flaws that could allow a hacker to enter a victim’s home.

It’s important to recognize that security is a proactive effort that should be seamlessly integrated into everyday life. So, how can consumers take charge and feel confident bringing new technology into their homes while staying safe? Check out the following tips to keep in mind as our lives continue to be more connected:

  • The little things count. Hackers don’t have to be geniuses to steal your personal information. Minor habits like changing default passwords and using unique passwords can go a long way to prevent your personal information from being stolen.
  • Do your research. Look up products and their manufacturers before making a purchase. This could save you from buying a device with a known security vulnerability. If you find a manufacturer doesn’t have a history of taking security seriously, then it’s best to avoid it.
  • Use a comprehensive security solution. Use comprehensive security protection, like McAfee Total Protection, which can help protect devices against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats. It also includes McAfee WebAdvisor, which can help identify malicious websites.
  • Update, update, update. When applications on your devices need updating, be sure to do it as soon as possible. Most of these updates include security patches to vulnerabilities.

To stay on top of McAfee’s CES news and the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Survey Methodology

McAfee commissioned 3Gem to conduct a survey of 1,000 adults in the US who regularly use electronic devices, such as phones and laptops.

The post Research Reveals Americans’ Perceptions of Device Security Amidst CES 2020 appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Lessons Learned: A Decade of Digital Parenting

digital parenting

Give yourself a high-five, parents. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or your favorite celebratory drink and sip it slow — real slow. Savor the wins. Let go of the misses. Appreciate the lessons learned. You’ve come a long way in the last decade of raising digital kids, and not all of it has been easy.

As we head into 2020, we’re tossing parenting resolutions (hey, it’s a victory to make it through a week let alone a year!). Instead, we’re looking back over the digital terrain we’ve traveled together and lessons learned. Need a refresher? Here’s a glimpse of how technology has impacted the family over the past decade.

In the last decade

• Smartphone, social, gaming growth. Social media and gaming platforms have exploded to usage and influence levels no one could have imagined. Smartphone ownership has increased and as of 2019: 81% of adults own a smartphone and 72% use social media, 53% of kids own a smartphone by the age of 11, and 84 % of teenagers have phones.

• Video platform growth. Video platforms like YouTube have become the go-to for teens and tweens who spend nearly three hours a day watching videos online.

• Streaming news. Smartphones have made it possible for all of us to carry (and stream) the world in our pockets. In 2018, for the first time, social media sites surpassed print newspapers as a news source for Americans.

• Dating apps dominate. We’re hooking up, dating, and marrying using apps. A Stanford study found that “heterosexual couples are more likely to meet a romantic partner online than through personal contacts and connections.”

• The rise of the Influencer. Internet influencers and celebrities have reached epic levels of fame, wealth, and reach, creating an entire industry of vloggers, gamers, micro and niche-influencers, and others who have become “instafamous.”

• Lexicon changes. Every day, technology is adding terms to our lexicon that didn’t exist a decade ago such as selfie, OMG, streaming, bae, fake news, the cloud, wearables, finsta, influencers, emojis, tracking apps, catfish, digital shaming, screen time, cryptojacking, FOMO, and hashtag, along with hundreds of others.

What we’ve learned (often the hard way)

Most people, if polled, would say technology has improved daily life in incalculable ways. But ask a parent of a child between five and 18 the same question, and the response may not be as enthusiastic. Here are some lessons we’ve learned the hard way.

Connection brings risk. We’ve learned that with unprecedented connection comes equally unprecedented risk. Everyday devices plug our kids directly into the potential for cyberbullying, sexting, inappropriate content, and mental health issues.  Over the past decade, parents, schools, and leaders have worked to address these risks head-on but we have a long way to go in changing the online space into an emotionally safe and healthy place.

Tech addiction isn’t a myth.  To curb the negative impact of increased tech use, we’ve learned ways to balance and limit screen time, unplug, and digitally detox. Most importantly, it’s been confirmed that technology addiction is a medical condition that’s impacting people and families in very painful ways.

The internet remembers. We’ve witnessed the very public consequences of bad digital choices. Kids and adults have wrecked scholarships, reputations, and careers due to careless words or content shared online. Because of these cases, we’re learning — though never fast enough — to think twice about the behaviors and words we share.

We’re equipping vs. protecting. We’ve gone from monitoring our kids aggressively and freaking out over headlines to realizing that we can’t put the internet in a bottle and follow our kids 24/7. We’ve learned that relevant, consistent conversation, adding an extra layer of protection with security software, and taking the time to understand (not just monitor) the ways our kids use new apps, is the best way to equip them for digital life.

The parent-child relationship is #1. When it comes to raising savvy digital kids and keeping them safe, there’s not a monitoring plan in existence that rivals a strong parent-child relationship. If you’ve earned your child’s heart, mind, and respect, you have his or her attention and can equip them daily to make wise choices online.

The dark web is . . . unimaginably dark. The underbelly of the internet — the encrypted, anonymous terrain known as the Dark Web — has moved from covert to mainstream exposure. We’ve learned the hard way the degree of sophistication with which criminals engage in pornography, human trafficking, drug and weapon sales, and stolen data. With more knowledge, the public is taking more precautions especially when it comes to malware, phishing scams, and virus attacks launched through popular public channels.

There’s a lot of good going on. As much negative as we’ve seen and experienced online over the past decade, we’ve also learned that its power can be used equally to amplify the best of humanity. Social media has sparked social movements, helped first responders and brought strangers together in times of tragedy like no other medium in history.

Privacy is (finally) king. Ten years ago, we clicked on every link that came our way and wanted to share every juicy detail about our personal lives. We became publishers and public figures overnight and readily gave away priceless chunks of our privacy. The evolution and onslaught of data breaches, data mining, and malicious scams have educated us to safeguard our data and privacy like gold.

We’ve become content curators. The onslaught of fake news, photo apps, and filter bubbles have left our heads spinning and our allegiances confused. In the process, we’ve learned to be more discerning with the content we consume and share. While we’re not there yet, our collective digital literacy is improving as our understanding of various types of content grows.

Parents have become digital ninjas. The parenting tasks of monitoring, tracking, and keeping up with kids online have gone from daunting to doable for most parents. With the emotional issues now connected to social media, most parents don’t have the option of sitting on the sidelines and have learned to track their kids better than the FBI.

This is us

We’ve learned that for better or worse, this wired life is us. There’s no going back. Where once there may have been doubt a decade ago, today it’s clear we’re connected forever. The internet has become so deep-seated in our culture and homes that unplugging completely for most of us is no longer an option without severe financial (and emotional) consequences. The task ahead for this new decade? To continue working together to diminish the ugly side of technology — the bullying, the cruelty, the crime — and make the internet a safe, fun experience for everyone.

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