Cybercriminals are targeting the education sector: How to protect your family

(BPT) - As children return to school across the country there is a topic not found in textbooks or traditional coursework that parents, guardians and educators should prioritize: smart cybersecurity practices.

Recent McAfee Labs research found cybercriminals are actively targeting the education sector, with publicly disclosed attacks increasing 50% in Q1 2019. As children increasingly use various devices starting at younger ages both at school and home, smart online practices should be learned early on.

While there is a need for more cybersecurity education, students are not learning about the importance of it in school. In fact, a McAfee survey found only about a third (36%) of American students learn how to keep personal information safe through school resources, instead, 42% report that the news is their best resource for cybersecurity education. This issue continues through college with only 19% of American college students ages 18-25 taking extra steps to protect their school and academic records.

Academic information is a rich resource for personal data, which can lead to identity theft and other criminal activity and these stats demonstrate the importance of educating children sooner rather than later when it comes to cybersecurity to keep them informed and protected.

"It is crucial that students, parents and educational institutions of all levels are more thorough and proactive about protecting what matters to them and students’ futures. It is equally important that we educate students about cyber safety. After all, by the time college rolls around nearly half of students are unaware of the likelihood that they will fall victim to cybercrime in their lifetime,” says Gary Davis, McAfee’s chief consumer security evangelist.

Davis shares smart tips for parents and their children to better protect personal data:

Discuss cyber safety: It starts with education, it’s crucial for families to have an ongoing dialog about cyber safety. Talk to your family about ways to identify phishing scams and what to do if your data was involved in a data breach.

Never reuse passwords: Use unique passwords for each one of your accounts, even if it’s for an account that doesn’t hold a lot of personal information. Use a password manager to simplify your password management needs.

Always set privacy and security settings: Anyone with access to the internet can view your social media if it’s public, so protect your identity and privacy by turning your profiles to private in order to have control over who can see information about you. You should also take the time to understand the various security and privacy settings to see which work best for your lifestyle.

Use the cloud with security mindset: If you plan to store your documents in the cloud, be sure to set up an additional layer of access security to keep your data available and secure. One way of doing this is through two-factor authentication.

Always connect with caution: If you must conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection, especially those financial in nature, use a virtual private network (VPN) to help keep your connection secure and details private.

Invest in security software: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so invest in security software like McAfee's Total Protection that scans for malware and untrusted sites to protect your entire family whether on a computer or digital device like a smartphone or tablet.

Plan a conversation today with your family and discuss the best steps for protecting personal data. With a proactive approach, students can keep personal data secure so they can focus on academics, reaching milestones and making memories.

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