Securing Today’s Online Kids: A New Landscape

Posted on by Lance Spitzner

As a security professional, my passion is helping organizations around the world create more secure environments.  As a father of three, that passion extends to kids. For National CyberSecurity Awareness Month (also now known as #CyberAware), I am working with RSA Conference on the CyberSafety: Kids initiative.

On Oct. 28, I will talk about what we, as parents, can do to secure kids as part of the Securing Today's Online Kids webcast. Last week, I gave an overview of what we will cover in that webcast. This week, I dive a little bit deeper into what makes securing kids so challenging.  By understanding these challenges we can better help and secure our kids online.

As parents, we face a unique challenge.  In no other time of parenting have parents had to deal with such radical change. For literally thousands of years, a big part of parenting was passing down experiences and lessons learned. When we learned how to drive at age 16, our parents taught us by relying on the lessons they'd learned in their years of driving. When it comes to technology, we have very few lessons learned to share.

Today, we have no lessons learned in cyber to pass on. We never grew up with social media, smartphones or online gaming. In fact, our children know and understand technology far better than we do.  So one of our biggest challenges is trying to help secure our kids, but without the benefit of experience what they are going through. 

The second challenge is what I consider the access challenge.  Five years ago protecting kids online was relatively simple as all you had to worry about was the family computer in your living room.  By securing that computer and monitoring your kids' activities you could create a relatively trusted and controlled environment.  

Nowadays, kids have online access through numerous devices and from multiple locations beyond the living room. Instead of just that home computer, each child may have their own mobile device. Many schools are even replacing old-fashioned books with Chromebooks and tablets. Kids can now access the Internet almost anywhere they go, from their friend’s xBox, the local movie theater, and Grandma’s house.  We no longer have direct control over the technology our kids use or when they use it. 

Finally, keep in mind we are not just protecting data, we are protecting our kids' lives; emotionally, physically, and their future.  This means that any technology that enables them to communicate with others, especially strangers, can represent a danger.  This is far more challenging then just protecting someone’s Social Security Number or bank account.

Technology is an amazing tool, it enables our kids to grow, learn and build a strong community of friends.  In no way do we want to cripple their ability to leverage this.  However we do want to arm you, as parents, so you can help protect your kids so they can use technology safely and securely.  

I look forward to seeing you at the webcast on Oct. 28.

Lance Spitzner

Director, SANS Institute

security awareness

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