With so many schools having started the 2020 school year online, it is vital that children understand how to be safe and responsible digital users. Whether children, teenagers, and even college students are returning to their classrooms or taking classes remotely (or even a combination of both), you need to take all the necessary steps to help protect their smartphones, tablets, and laptops as the school year starts.
These steps are even more important now because an increasing number of students will be spending much of their learning time online. So, there is no better time to review online practices, safety rules, and useful tips!
Update Your Antivirus Software
The first step in making sure all smart devices are protected is to secure them with proper antivirus software. This software helps prevent your children from accidentally loading spyware or malware on their computers.
Be especially cautious with persons working on a home and shared computer. Any kind of device that is not protected by the latest antivirus software is a magnet for malware, which can then easily spread across all connected devices.
...And turn its automatic updates
Malware is always mutating - meaning that code is added or removed, either to give them extra functionalities (e.g. ransomware) or simply to avoid the security systems (which already recognize a "signature" of the previous code"). Turning ON automatic anti-virus updates ensures your AV is looking at all the latest signatures and, consequently, detecting recent Malware.
Actually, Turn On Automatic Updates for All Apps and Programs
Make sure to enable automatic updating of all apps and programs running on smart devices.
Malware usually exploits known (and unknown) vulnerabilities in existing software and mobile apps. By ensuring you have the latest (and, in theory, secured ("patched") against the previous, known vulnerabilities) you're making it harder for the malware to exploit the software it was designed to attack.
Talk About Phishing
The main problem for the school community is the email. Used frequently by everyone, it is also the gateway for all kinds of threats, not just malware. Actually, the number one threat would probably be phishing - scammers and attackers deceiving the recipients into doing certain thins. For example, an email, supposedly from the school, asking for private information on bank accounts, or an email, supposedly from a friend, asking for private pictures. Also typical, phishers send emails that contain links to sign up for gaming or shopping websites (the most common bait for kids). Those who click on such links are taken to bogus websites where they have to provide personal information to access the site. Hackers then use this info to access the online banking or credit card portals of phishing victims. Another example is tricking victims into opening attachments that then spread malware on devices.
What this means? Parents and teachers are advised to talk with their children about these phishing attacks, especially now since they will be spending more time online this school year. Explain to your kids that they should never click on links in emails before they first check with you. Also, warn them not to engage in long online conversations with people who they've only met online.
These are just some of the major tips for the digital safety. Among others are: use a different school vs. personal email, cover all webcams when not in use, make use of strong passwords, monitor children for cyberbullying, have filtering software, etc.
At organization level, Schools must be equipped with proper security gateways able to manage the communication (email, videoconference, websites) between the community. For Example, a robust email security system will add an extra layer of safety against email threats.