For many, the topic of cyber-crime instantly brings to mind a horde of “Mr. Robot”-like hackers striving for the greater good to take down “The Man.” Unfortunately, the reality of it isn’t as satisfying and large corporations aren’t the sole victims of weak cyber defense. The harsh truth is that all of us—along with our private data—are often the target, and we are constantly at risk for cyber-crimes, regardless of how blissfully unaware we remain of the threat.
Considering the sheer amount of sensitive information we put into the web on a daily basis, the undeniable need for cybersecurity isn’t getting nearly enough attention. Last year, over 7.5 billion households had critical information leaked to hacker forums, and schools were attacked with alarming frequency.
Last year, over 7.5 billion households had critical information leaked to hacker forums, and schools were attacked with alarming frequency.
What’s even more shocking is the percentage of children that have access to technology without the proper safeguards in place, or even a starting place for understanding how to protect themselves online and why it’s crucial. An astounding 98 percent of children aged 8 and under have access to a tablet, mobile device or computer within their household.
Where there’s a critical lack in education, we can almost certainly trace it back to a lack of professionals available to provide that knowledge. When it comes to professionals in the cybersecurity arena, there’s a very serious gap. We’re talking about a need to fill upwards of 3.5 million positions globally within the next two years.
How to be Cyber Smart
The above statistics may seem daunting, and the overall problem of how to promote online security across the globe is not one that’s easily solvable. But there is at least the promise of an all-encompassing solution. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s better education in schools. The promotion of cybersecurity education as part of a core curriculum within the classroom and at home will inevitably spark more interest in cybersecurity and expose students to related professions.
But how do we promote what we can’t readily explain ourselves? What we need to do is recreate the cycle. We the general public have a responsibility to learn how to better secure our devices and act on protecting our virtual identity with the same zeal that we have towards protecting our families and our homes.
Top Cybersecurity Tips for Parents and Teachers
Time and again hackers get their hands on sensitive company or school data because someone somewhere clicked on a suspicious link in an email and ended up the victim of ransomware
Transforming the educational structure as we know it is not a simple undertaking. Introducing a new component into established curriculum means those teaching the curriculum must be well-versed in it to begin with. We can start by ensuring we know the basics and employing them regularly.
The first step to securing a house, is making sure you lock the door behind you on your way in. We need to begin by deadbolting the funnel through which our data is transmitted so that only we have the key. A Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short, is a lot like a deadbolt for your information. It allows you to add a layer of privacy and security when doing whatever it is you’re doing on the web.
Despite the technical term, adding a VPN into your life doesn’t need to be complicated. From streaming services to photo-editing software, we love the ease of anything that comes with a subscription, and luckily VPN services have capitalized on this. Carefully review the best VPN services with an eye on finding one with an accessible price-point along with varying speeds, levels of security, and encryption.
An astounding 32 percent of adults report being online “almost constantly” and 93 percent of all adults report going online on a daily basis, according to Pew Research. The majority of this time is spent using public and potentially unsecured networks. We connect to one of the 50 million and growing public Wi-Fi networks on a regular basis and approximately 25 percent of these hotspots are unsecured. This is especially risky when you’re out and about checking your balance in your bank account, transferring funds, posting your life to social media and inputting passwords into multiple web forms. This is a crucial blind spot for most device-users when a simple solution exists.
Almost half of all emails sent are spam emails just waiting to catch the unsuspecting user. It seems like it shouldn’t have to be said, but time and again hackers get their hands on sensitive company or school data because someone somewhere clicked on a suspicious link in an email and ended up the victim of ransomware. While the home user might laughably disregard these attempts as trivial, attacks from ransomware has led to billions in revenue lost for large corporations on a regular basis.
With 96 percent of adults owning a smartphone, app use constitutes most of our time on our device. An overwhelming 180 billion apps and counting have been downloaded since the Apple App Store launched over ten years ago. While it’s easy to look the other way when your App Store notifications start hitting the double-digits, it’s important to remember that most updates feature security patches.
Online Cybersecurity Training
Given that adults are quick to head to the web anytime there’s a need to learn a new skill or soak up some quick knowledge, online courses are abundant and also an ideal platform to promote accessible cybersecurity education. Cybersecurity professionals are sitting on the unrealized potential of what they have to offer to the global community in the form of everything from generalized to advanced practices in becoming cybersecure-literate.
Not only are we seeing courses from private sources, but we’ve also witnessed the emergence of open courseware programs from renowned universities over the past few years. Universities are beginning to expand their courses around responsible consumption of technology, and we need to see a push to include best cybersecurity practices as part of the offered curriculum to current college students.
In the Classroom
Classrooms are increasingly finding unique ways to integrate technology into the curriculum at all grade levels. Bringing the basics of cybersecurity into the mix wouldn’t require vast amounts of effort but would instead work in tandem along with the digital learning practices that are already present.
Other viable options would include summer and holiday-vacation camps available to educate youth, especially during a time of increased mobile use. Cybersecurity can be introduced through the educational system in innovative ways that will inevitably lead to a rise in STEM-related passion.
The need for enhanced awareness around cybersecurity is no longer an enigma reserved for the sci-fi genre. The threat of hackers is real, and every day that goes by where we remain uneducated about how to protect ourselves is another day that they hone their skills in creating more ways to steal data.
We need to create the demand for cybersecurity education and start arming our children to be the next cyber defenders.