Protecting Generation Z from cyber unrest

2017 saw a 140% increase in IoT botnet infections from 2016, and those numbers are expected to increase. To anyone who regularly uses Internet-connected services, says Yossi Atias, GM IoT Security at BullGuard, cybersecurity should be a sincere concern approached with the same level of seriousness as physical safety.

Families all over the world go to great lengths to protect their home and property. It’s high time we protect the digital lives of the next generation – and it’s high time mobile operators and communication service providers step up and provide the first line of cyber defense in the smart connected home.

The plight of Gen Z 

The Gen Z cohort that have no memory of life before the internet. Research shows that children between five and 16 years-old spend around 6.5 hours in front of screens each day – over double the time spent 20 years ago in 1995.

Did you know that 55% of parents name ‘internet safety’ as one of their top five health concerns? Every day parents see new threats arise around their children’s online safety. Cyberbullying, inappropriate content and online predators constantly threaten internet safety, with children and teenagers frequently the targets.

Threats like these not only make the online landscape more dangerous, but they can easily spill into the physical world, as cyberbullies and predators learn about and get involved in their victims’ lives. It’s only natural that parents are interested in better protecting their children, and in need of intelligent and advanced parental controls

Cybercriminals abscond with a staggering US$1.5 trillion (€1.28 trillion) globally in profit every year – equal to Russia’s GDP. These criminals are digital masterminds who continuously improve their malicious craft and implement innovative ways to hold users hostage to their data.

Digital product developers and consumers alike should adopt the latest security measures to keep up with, and ideally stay ahead of, cybercriminals. If we miss a beat along the path to a more secure digital landscape, it will seriously threaten the digital world to which we have grown accustomed.

Threats posed to Gen Z

It seems, from the moment they have the ability to hold an object, children are skilled at using smart connected devices. It’s almost as if they have a sixth sense when it comes to technology. With the cost of cybercrime increasing year after year – growing 27% from 2016 to 2017 – time also grows in value. It’s a matter of staying ahead of the next big thing in digital vulnerability. And, these vulnerabilities come in different forms.

Cyberbullying is a fascinating issue, as anyone at any age could become a victim or be the bully. The internet also allows people to easily mask their identities, making bullying more common and predators more successful. It’s important to monitor what your children view and experience on the internet. Internet security is a must for anyone, especially the next generation.

Our connected devices allow the internet to be constantly present in our daily lives – fitness devices strapped to our wrists, smart thermostats and lightbulbs on our walls and ceilings, and even kitchen appliances like refrigerators that tell us exactly what we have stored there at all times.

Yossi Atias

One of the more nefarious ways hackers can perform an attack is through the home Wi-Fi router. Once a hacker gains control over the router, they can see all the traffic on the router – including all of the connected devices utilising the router’s Wi-Fi – and carry out a wide variety of cyber attacks, which can also lead to physical crimes.

Protecting Gen Z

The primary entry point of many breaches is the company or home Wi-Fi router delivered to us by our service provider of choice. We rely heavily on mobile and fixed communication providers for the connectivity needed to deliver all types of data – from device-to-device, device to internet, device to cloud-based service, and so on.

In order for IoT devices to function fully, they need to be connected. With everything connected to a central gateway, hackers can more easily bypass firewalls and gain access to, not just the device they initially hacked, but every device linked to that main gateway. Everything inside our homes that connects to the internet is a port through which our personal data and identities can be compromised. When security improves at the network level, cyber threats will be significantly reduced to all the devices that are connected to a secured Wi-Fi network.

Consumers need to take their own precautionary measures – advanced and comprehensive network security services, keeping their personal information and Wi-Fi network private, helping children know what to look for as far as signs of cybercriminal behavior and teaching them internet safety — mobile and communication providers are in a powerful position to impact significant positive change and bring us closer to a more cyber-secure world.

The author of this blog is Yossi Atias, GM IoT Security at BullGuard.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow

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