Cybersecurity: also within the family

Ciberseguridad: también en la familia

To many, the term “cybersecurity” may sound like a word related to the organizational field. Although it is true that it is a very important factor to take into account to ensure the security of the information that we handle in our workplace, it is not the only moment in which we must keep it in mind.

In our day to day, at home, it must also be one of our maxims. Our organization’s information systems aren’t the only thing cybercriminals are after — our data is also highly valuable, even if we think it isn’t.

Our accounts in different services, our credit card or our personal information are just some of the examples. In some cases, they might even want to infect our devices with malware or trick us into making a payment.

Currently, most people use computers, mobile phones, tablets, or any other device with an internet connection in their daily lives. This makes the degree of exposure to threats even greater, increasing the risk of being victims of a cyber incident and, although it is important that we ourselves are aware of these dangers and what we must do to avoid them, it is also important that we help the people around us.

Cybersecurity and family

As mentioned, access to the Internet is something present in the lives of many people and, although we can all be victims of cybercrime, there are two groups in particular that are even more vulnerable.

Children, from an increasingly early age, handle different devices even in the academic field. The same goes for older adults, who have been forced to learn how to use technology to avoid being left behind in an increasingly connected world.

In most cases, these groups are not aware of the dangers that all this implies. That is why it is necessary to carry out an education in cybersecurity also within the family environment. In this way, we can ensure that our loved ones also maintain an adequate level of alertness.

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The danger of e-mail and other messaging services

One of the most used techniques by cybercriminals is phishing, which consists of fraudulent e-mails that seek action on our part. They will try to trick us into making a money transfer or clicking a malicious link or attachment. These files seek to infect our devices, while the links usually have the purpose of taking us to a page where they will collect all the data we enter.

There are more variants, such as vishing (fraud through phone calls) or smishing (through text messages). In any case, although the modus operandi may differ, the objective is always the same: to get us to act as we are told. To do this, they can use different types of messages and impersonate all kinds of entities (banks, parcel companies or even members of our family).

If the people around us are not properly aware of this, something that essentially happens to those who do not fully understand the risks of new technologies, it is easier for them to end up falling victim to this type of scam.

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The danger of social networks

The use of social networks such as Instagram, Twitter or TikTok is booming. These platforms are gaining new users every day, but along with their popularity, the dangers they harbor are also increasing. Some of them are:

    • Impersonation or theft of accounts of influential people. It is not uncommon to see cybercriminals posing as all kinds of people with thousands of followers in order to reach a larger audience. In some cases, their accounts have even been stolen, thus making it much more difficult for them to be identified as cybercriminals. Thus, by impersonating their identity, they try to carry out various types of scams, such as encouraging their followers to invest in supposed cryptocurrencies or to participate in raffles whose objective is to collect personal information.

    • Theft of other users’ accounts. This newly explained procedure does not always require large accounts to be effective. In fact, it can also happen with users whose reach is much smaller. The reason is very simple: few people will suspect that the account of one of our friends, with no further media relevance, could have been hacked.

    • Extended contact scams. One of the advantages that social networks offer us is the possibility of meeting people through the network that, otherwise, we would never have met. However, in these cases, it is difficult to know who is on the other end of the conversation. Cybercriminals also take advantage of this, building a trusting relationship with their victims and eventually asking them for money after they have been in contact for some time. In general, the pretext is similar: after some supposed unfortunate situation, the offender (who has been pretending to be a new friend or even our new partner) says they need money to get out of it, promising to return it as soon as they can. Sometimes they will stop after the first payment, and other times, they will try to make the most of that bond they have with the victim to get more transfers. In any case, it goes without saying that the money will never be returned.

    • Shortened links. One of the characteristics of social networks is the brevity of what is discussed in the publications. Some of them, like Twitter, even have a character limit. That is why it is not uncommon to find links to external sites that have been shortened with some type of tool. The problem with these links is that it is not possible to know where they will actually redirect us at first glance. Sometimes they will be legitimate, but other times they will contain malware that will be downloaded to our device the moment we try to access it, or they will take us to fraudulent websites. If we want to open a shortened link, we can consult online pages such as to find out where they will redirect us.

  • Cyber ​​bullying. When we open an account on any social network, we are given the possibility of remaining anonymous: it is not necessary for us to give our data to other users, so they will not be able to know who we are if we do not tell them. This makes it easier for some people not to take into account what they say and to decide to verbally attack other users who do not agree with their ideas, coming to make extreme, continuous and incisive comments. Special mention requires cyberbullying in minors. Unfortunately, bullying is still a reality in many schools and institutes. Therefore, even if they do not take refuge in anonymity, allowing minors to use social networks without restrictions or supervision can exacerbate these bullying situations, since the bullying continues even after school.

  • Grooming. Following the line of use of social networks by minors, we cannot leave out the cases of the so-called grooming. As previously mentioned, through the Internet it is possible to meet a wide variety of people, and nothing guarantees that all of them are trustworthy. There are adults who seek to establish a relationship of trust with children and teenagers to obtain, after a while, some type of sexual material. In some cases, they may even request to meet in person in order to maintain intimate relationships. They can achieve this in various ways, although a very common practice is to impersonate another person their own age to avoid arousing suspicion.
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Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash

Insecure websites

On the internet we can find thousands of web pages at our service. However, it is important to keep in mind that not all of them are going to be legitimate or at least safe. There are malicious websites that seek to intercept our data or infect us with some type of malware. That is why it is important to check what type of pages we are browsing and if they could carry any danger, especially when we are going to enter personal data or perform any download.

What to do?

The range of threats that we face when using devices connected to the Internet is, without a doubt, bigger than we could imagine. Every day we can come across various types of scams, so it is important to keep our guard up to avoid being victims of cybercrime.

As mentioned, the role of awareness within the family is essential to protect our loved ones. Some of the points to be discussed could be:

      • Beware of social engineering. Emphasizing the large number of fraudulent calls and messages is one of the most important aspects when talking about cybersecurity. Scams like those of the fake Microsoft technician, the SMS of supposed packages that should reach us or the impersonation of banks or loved ones are not strange at all. Something that should always be taken into account is that, at the slightest doubt or suspicion that we could be dealing with an attempt to deceive, it is best to verify its legitimacy through other means (searching the internet to see if it is a scam, calling ourselves the supposed person who has contacted us, etc.).

      • Configuration of social network profiles. In addition to talking about the dangers of using these kinds of services, there are other steps you can take to help keep you safe online. Social networks allow us to configure our profiles based on our preferences, so that the published content can only be seen by the people we choose. In addition, in the case of minors, it is always convenient to carry out some type of parental control and, above all, encourage the creation of a safe space where they can turn in case of doubts or if they find themselves involved in a problem.

      • Connection to public Wi-Fi networks. It is very common for many to connect to this type of network when they are away from home so as not to consume mobile data. However, using them without any precaution can lead to an incident, especially when handling sensitive data.

      • Device lock. Although at home we tend to lower our guard regarding this type of practice due to the trust we have with the members of the family unit, it is always good to start internalizing certain habits so that they come out automatically when we leave our safe zone.

      Establishing a good cybersecurity culture also in our personal lives, with our loved ones, is in our power. If we want to stay safe and avoid falling victim to cybercriminals, it is essential that we always maintain a high alertness level, and also that we help those around us to do the same