The problem of cybercrime is not new. However, the increasing number of internet users, the amount of time spent online as well as the anxiety caused by the lockdown have provided more opportunities for cybercriminals.
The current covid situation is well known, as well as the pandemic and imposed lockdown. Most people are confined to their homes and spend more time online because of which people nowadays rely on the Internet so much to access any services which could typically be obtained offline.
People with criminal intentions can easily benefit from such situations where people spend more time online. The internet has led to a proliferation of e-crimes as a consequence of these seismic changes in our daily lives and use of the internet.
According to an international human rights and law advocacy group, school closures and lockdowns during COVID-19 have made children even more vulnerable to sexual abuse online due to smartphones and high-speed data availability.
When this occurs, the International Justice Mission (IJM) advises parents to keep an eye out for sexual predators and cyber stalkers who may lure their children to commit crimes online and using social media.
There is no doubt cybercriminals are using new tactics, but their attacks are getting progressively more sophisticated. It is possible for scripts to remain undetected in a system for months, learning how the system works, how and when backups are disposed of, and planning attacks.
A rise in work-from-home arrangements has resulted in an increase in cyberattacks. There have been reports that companies that went from maybe 10% of their workforce to 90% to 100% working from home were unprepared for the increased workload brought on by the pandemic. Several tools and data were made available so they could get started working remotely.
Internet dangers and threats to children:
The pandemic has increased children’s exposure to potential risks since they spend so much time online. The following threats and dangers exist for children online:
Sharing too much information about themselves online
Keeping an anonymous online identity is easy, and kids may not understand the effects of their digital footprint. Social media users sometimes post personal information in their profile which should not be made public. These can be anything from awkward personal photos to family vacation plans or their home address. In some cases, they regret posting content.
In addition to receiving intimidating or humiliating emails or texts, you can also have your identity stolen online or have your email account hacked. This is also one of the reasons teens suffer from anxiety disorder.
According to a national survey by the National Institute of Mental Health, one in three teenagers between 13 to 18 has experienced anxiety or other forms of anxiety disorder.
They may not realize it’s their real friend that they’re talking to. Sending sexually suggestive messages or material online to entice children into meeting in real life is one form of cyberexploitation. Child predators may lure children into engaging in inappropriate activities or take photos or videos for an offender that are then used to threaten or blackmail the child.
Emails that use links or attachments to trick recipients into interacting with them. Kids can sometimes be concerned when they perceive the email as coming from someone close to them. Similarly, you can use “smishing” via messaging applications or text messages.
In-app purchases and hidden advertising costs:
Whether games, apps, or websites contain hidden commercialism, children might not notice. While playing mobile games, children can use their parents’ credit cards to purchase virtual goods. Plaintiffs in class action lawsuits refer to these games as “bait apps.”
As per the Survey, 29 % of kids have used their parents’ credit or debit cards without permission.
Exposing yourself to views that are considered radical or extreme, whether sexist, racist, or religious.
Harmful or inappropriate content for a specific age group
A free game offering explicit advertisements could be one way, or a cartoon starring children in an adult setting, or even a forum discussing topics unsuitable for children.
Malware downloaded by accident:
As a result of the infiltration, malware performs harmful activities on the victim’s computer without their knowledge or consent. Cybercriminals often trick people into downloading malware. As well as phishing, there are many tricks that target children, including tricking them to download malware disguised as games. Installing cybersecurity software and other security protections on your child’s computer can help protect it from malware.
5 ways you can help keep your children safe online:
- Communicate openly with them so that they are protected
Parenting requires keeping an open dialogue about your children’s communication styles. Please keep in mind that aggressive, discriminatory, or inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. If your children encounter any of these situations, they should tell a trusted adult or you. Your child may be experiencing cyberbullying if they appear upset or secretive about their online activities. Discuss with your child how, when, and where devices may be used.
- Use technology to protect them
The device’s software and antivirus programs should be up to date, and privacy settings should be enabled. If not in use, webcams should be covered. Parents can help younger children maintain a positive online experience by providing tools such as parental controls, which include safe search.
Online educational resources that are free should be used with caution. You shouldn’t need to enter your child’s full name or photo to access these resources. Ensure privacy settings are set to minimum to prevent your child’s identity from being collected. Teach your child the importance of protecting personal information.
- Promote Healthy Relationships
Compare healthy and unhealthy relationships with your children. It is important to remind them that healthy relationships involve respect, dignity, honesty, and kindness and they are under no obligation to share sexually explicit images or videos because their friends or their trusted companions have asked them to.
Don’t let your children undergo inappropriate requests without first teaching them consent. It’s also important to make sure they understand other people’s boundaries and respect their autonomy. Virtual worlds and physical worlds are equally important.
- Spend time with them online
Provide your child with the opportunity to engage with you, friends, and family online safely and positively. You can demonstrate kindness and empathy in your “virtual interactions” as a way to connect with others.
Provide your child with information that can reduce anxiety about COVID-19 and point out misinformation. The World Health Organization and UNICEF provide reputable online resources that you can use with your child to learn about the virus.
Your child needs to know what type of online entertainment is appropriate to their age.
- Promote healthy internet habits
During video calls and on the internet, monitor and promote good behavior. Keep your children off of video calls and make sure they respect their classmates and wear respectful clothing.
Cyberbullying and inappropriate online content should be reported using the school’s policies and phone numbers.
Spending time online increases the risk of children being exposed to advertisements that promote unhealthy foods, gender stereotypical opinions, or inappropriate material. Engage them in an active discussion about what they see on the Internet and what they are doing incorrectly.
- Recognize possible signs of abuse and reach out for help
Despite your belief that your child “knows better,” online exploitation and abuse can occur even if they are at school. Continued conversations and check-ins are essential, especially as your child grows and technology advances.
Take precautions to avoid being exploited or abused online. The use of electronic devices may change, there may be attempts to hide online activity, behavior changes, and in-app purchases with virtual currency may be accepted.
Make sure your children can contact the Kids Help Line on your refrigerator if they want to talk to someone.
Don’t let your child end up in an exploitative situation without seeking support from community agencies. It’s not your responsibility to handle this yourself.
Be sure to inform the police about suspected child enticement and exploitation online. Victims can abuse more than one child at the same time.
- Let them have fun and express themselves
During this crisis, having your children spend time with you can provide them with an opportunity to share their views and support those in need.
Use digital tools such as video games that require physical movement to encourage your child to get up and move, such as online kids’ exercise videos.
Try to balance online and offline activities, which includes spending time outdoors if you can.