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Cyber risks targeting the next gen

Online activity exploded in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted work, home and education. In many ways, technology not only kept people connected, it enabled life to continue. But not without risk.

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While many organisations mandate online security education for their employees and provide guidance to support their people to work securely, school students and children may not be made aware of the threats they face online. This is especially true when studying from home and using new digital learning tools. In many cases, parents may also be out of their depth.

"The pandemic has required teachers, parents and students to rapidly adjust to new modes of learning”

According to one survey, only 46 per cent of Australian parents feel confident about dealing with the online risks their children face and 95 per cent want more information about online safety.

Data from UNESCO show over 1.5 billion pupils or 87 per cent of the world’s student population across 165 countries had been affected by school closures caused by COVID-19 by the end of March 2020. In Australia, schools from kinder to year 12 experienced interruptions in every state and territory. By early May, only 3 per cent of children in Victorian government schools were in physical attendance.

The pandemic has required teachers, parents and students to rapidly adjust to new modes of learning, including new forms of school-led remote learning. This shift brought considerable challenges for all involved.

Online safety is a key challenge students face as they are required to spend more time on digital learning channels, using a wide range of video conferencing and online collaboration tools to maintain connectivity to teachers and classmates.

Online exposure

Schools invest heavily to ensure students are protected by robust cybersecurity infrastructure while studying on premises. However, when students use personal devices to study, search and play at home, they are not protected by the robust network firewalls or other institutional security measures that school environments would provide.

Students may be exposed as easy targets for cybercriminals hunting for sensitive personal or organisational information.

This generation also faces pervasive cyberbullying threats and while many schools have built cyberbullying strategies into their curriculums and online safety policies, increased online activity opens the door to inappropriate and dangerous online behaviour.

According to a survey by the eSafety Commissioner, one in five Australian young people reported being socially excluded, threatened or abused online, and just 55 per cent sought help from their parents.

Starting at home

Organisations have an important role to play in achieving a safer online world by educating their staff and customers about online safety.  Making cyber security an ongoing discussion in the workplace and encouraging the conversations to continue at home with families and friends is an important step.

While many learning insitutions have been proactive in upgrading their security measures and promoting online safety awareness among students, parents and teachers, we all have a responsibility to help.

The first step is starting the conversation. Having an active voice in the global conversation is a worthy organisational priority. But conversation alone is not enough. Being a good role model to our children, families and friends is influential in changing behaviour. Everything we do online should be underpinned by the same principles of respect and safety that we apply and expect in our lives offline.

Events like Safer Internet Day act as a catalyst for action, provoking conversations and providing tools and resources to make the internet a safer place for everyone. It is important we approach online safety at home with the same care and concern as we do at work, keeping it front of mind and actively sharing with our families, friends and community. In fact, the theme this year asks the community to do exactly that: “start the chat”.

There are also projects like the Schools Cyber Security Challenges, which are designed to provide teachers with resources to support them in educating about cyber security concepts. Importantly, cyber security offers unique career paths, so the program also helps to demonstrate the variety of career opportunities available.

Online family safety

ANZ’s Protect Your Virtual Valuables concept encourages people to protect their virtual valuables in the same way they do physical valuables by making a “PACT” - four simple steps towards better cyber security. For Safer Internet Day, PACT has been expanded to help families start the chat.

  • Pause before sharing sensitive information, including in online profiles. Consider what can put you in danger or impact your reputation and don’t forget to turn on privacy settings on devices, apps and social accounts.
  • Activate two layers of authentication and use different passwords for each account.
  • Call out suspicious messages, don’t click links, give out personal information or send money in response to an unexpected request.  And be an upstander - if you see abuse online, report it.
  • Turn on automatic updates and tame the tech by exploring how to set access and parental controls on home wifi networks, gaming consoles, mobile devices and smart TVs.

Erica Hardinge is Head of Security Influence and Outreach at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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