5 Tips for Effective Family Conversations about Cybersecurity
Cybercrime is a growing threat. In 2019, the estimated global cost of online attacks rose to a staggering $2.9 million per minute. And they can come in many forms—social engineering, malware, and phishing, to name a few. Cybercriminals are relentless. Everyone is susceptible: high-profile individuals, high-net-worth families, and business owners.
If you or anyone in your family is a highly regarded business person or is often cited as a philanthropic donor, cybercriminals may already have access to a significant amount of information.
It is important to do whatever you can to protect yourself from these threats. This includes developing a comprehensive family security plan—of which cybersecurity is one component—and talking to your family about potential risks. These steps can be critical for keeping everyone in your family safe online.
Here are five tips to make those conversations more effective:
1. Consider your family’s awareness and vulnerabilities
There are many ways that cybercriminals can infiltrate your personal information. Assessing how knowledgeable your family members are about these threats is a great way to start the conversation.
How aware are younger family members of the possible dangers, such as meeting new people online?
Many younger family members may be “digital natives”—fluent in today’s advanced technology— and the internet and social media are very likely a regular part of their lives. But there may be blind spots. For example, cybercriminals can befriend children using fake identities in order to solicit important information about your family.
Tweens and teens
Do they know what actions to avoid?
Older children between 12 and 18 may already be deeply invested in their digital lives, so limiting use can be an issue. Instead of focusing on restrictions, focus on setting clear guardrails and actions to avoid. For example, family members at this age may see influencers or friends posting their locations online and may want to do the same. If cybercriminals can track the movements of your family members, they may know when it’s best to attack. Explaining such dangers and discussing their implications will be important as you manage your older childrens’ access to social media.
2. Build a strategy that works for your family
Your family’s cybersecurity plan should be tailored to your specific needs, but a number of cybersecurity best practices can be effective in almost any plan.
How important is it to create strong/diverse passwords?
The first, and most important, rule about passwords: Don’t share them! Passwords should be smart and secure. Create passwords that are unique for each set of login credentials, and update them frequently. A password manager can help you keep track of them all. Many online guides can point you to a reputable password management app and even some highly-rated free options. Explaining the importance of secure passwords and setting up a password manager are ideal ways to help keep your children safe from cyberthreats.
Use secure connections
Do your children understand how vulnerable they may be when accessing the internet from an unsecure location?
Whenever possible, use a VPN (virtual private network), which may help anonymize and secure your activity online. This is especially important for any transactions involving money. You should avoid using unsecured public WiFi, and be cognizant of the information you are transferring. Setting these rules early will help your children understand what is safe and what is not. This will be very helpful when your children visit friends’ houses or access WiFi at school.
Keep software up-to-date
Are you running the latest software applications?
Everyone in your family should be running the latest versions of anti-virus and other security software programs. Doing so will help ensure that these programs will be updated when companies fix known vulnerabilities. Also, be certain to remove old and unused apps from any devices you and your family use.
Be smart about email
Can you recognize a phishing email?
Many cybercriminals create emails that look real but are not. Be sure to check the email address, not just the sender’s name. Signs of phishing emails include: the sender using a public email domain, the domain name being misspelled, the message being poorly written, suspicious attachments or links, or even a sense of urgency in the way the message is written.
Establish a family email server so that you are not using free email applications. While free versions of email may seem safe, they are easier for cybercriminals to access than a private server.
Practice good device hygiene
How are your devices being used?
If you have multiple devices—laptops, tablets, smartphones, web TVs, etc.—and other members of your family do, too, then practicing good device hygiene is important. In addition to the items noted above (VPN, passwords, up-to-date software), be sure to conduct personal transactions only on your personal devices and business on business devices. This is especially important if you manage a lot of your financial transactions online. Also, don’t share your devices with others unless absolutely necessary.
Bring in the experts
Who can help?
Consider third-party internet monitoring tools or companies that specialize in family security. When you have all family members gathered to talk, invite an expert to join you.
3. Establish your family’s cybersecurity ground rules—and write them down
How do I make sure everyone knows what to do?
Everyone in your family should know the rules and have them at their disposal. If you plan to share this information with your family via email, be smart. Be sure that the email is password protected. Don’t include any sensitive information. Consider using hard copies of the document, which may also be the easiest way for many family members to reference the rules. Taking these precautions will help you guard against cybercriminals.
Rules should be periodically reviewed and updated to account for new threats and new strategies to combat them.
4. Make time to talk
Do my elderly parents need this information?
Everyone is susceptible to cybercrimes. Younger family members are likely more active digitally, but many older adults have an online presence and cybercriminals know this. Be sure to set aside time to speak with everyone in your family about cybersecurity.
5. Bring in your advisor to help
Will my advisor be a good resource?
Talk to your advisor about your cybersecurity concerns. He or she can lead you to additional solutions, bring in experts, and even help facilitate your family conversations.
This material is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the sale of any financial product or service. This material is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. If professional advice is needed, the services of your professional advisor should be sought.