Cyber pet peeve: my kid’s account got hacked

What should you do when your child accidentally opens the virtual doors to hackers?

Ask parents about their worst nightmares, and they’ll likely run you through a number of catastrophic situations. Their child might fall ill or end up in hospital; they might go missing. One thing that’s unlikely to factor too high in the minds of parents – but perhaps should – is if they end up falling victim to a hack.

It’s the world’s biggest and worst-kept secret that small children are technically allowed onto big social media and tech platforms. They’re the ones who either share accounts with their parents or have their own ostensibly carefully monitored profiles.

Giving children access to devices is a standard parenting practice nowadays, with the shame of worrying about whether you’re doing the right thing disappearing as it becomes normalized. But that’s only until massive credit card bills suddenly get racked up.

Children on the internet and lurking cybercriminals

There are plenty of other risks that could affect your next credit card bill: from giving children an account on a smartphone, service, or app. Adults – with their decades of real-life experience – struggle to avoid phishing scams. Children – whose brains are not yet attuned to the outside dangers out there – may well click on a malicious link, inserting their password into a site that might look normal to them.

Children’s grammar and spelling skills are often still developing, and so the tell-tale signs that would give away a phishing site may not register with them until it’s too late. They’re also potentially more likely to use a less secure password, making it far too easy to brute force.

It all spells disaster for parents, who may find that suddenly what they thought was an innocent, controlled way to allow their child some freedom online becomes a multi-layered catastrophe.

The internet: a monster in every corner?

The internet is an exciting place for kids to explore – and it’s certainly not worth stressing over its every aspect. But parents must be aware of what to be on the lookout for shall their kid develop an interest in exploring the virtual world.

What may seem like a non-significant setup may become a way for hackers to leverage their way into your own accounts. Think about whether you have recovery emails and associated details linked to your child’s account. Have you ever bought an in-game item to keep them quiet? There’s a risk that your credit card details could be accessed by hackers – or at least used to buy in-game items that could then be sold on and cashed out for real money without a trace.

Likewise, it’s possible that you may have personal details or photos taken inside your home that could give away passwords or home safety system details. Children are probably less likely to practice good data hygiene practices, and so could have stored passwords for important accounts in plain text for hackers to access.

Children might also involuntarily share their account information and other important details with strangers online. Try to stay aware of who your kids are friends with online, and monitor the communities they engage with – although, do it in a manner that allows them freedom and space.

If any of your children’s accounts are linked to yours or share the same password, threat actors may be easily able to triangulate who you are and breach your accounts with ease. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that you’re setting up stringent safety checks on your children’s accounts. Additionally, try and silo them where possible away from your own profiles. Just in case the worst happens, you need to ensure that you’re kept safe, even if your child’s account gets compromised.

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