In today’s digital age, the age when children are exposed to the internet and technology is declining. However, this digital experience can be fraught with dangers lurking online.
As technology advances, cybercriminals are adapting their tactics and strategies to target and take advantage of young internet users.
Therefore, parents must be aware of the most recent cyber threats that target children to protect them from harm. Here, we will look at some of the most important cybersecurity threats that parents need to be aware of, as well as some tips on how parents can protect their children online.
Children will be using AI tools that are not prepared to offer the level of security and appropriate content for their age.
Whether it’s chatbots, AI wearables, personalized online shopping recommendations, or other everyday uses, AI continues to transform industries around the world. Of course, these global trends don’t ignore the interests and curiosity of children. Whether using AI tools to complete homework or simply chatting with AI-powered chatbots, a UN study found that around 80 percent of young people said they interact with AI several times a day. However, AI applications can also present several risks to young users, such as data privacy issues, cyber threats, and inappropriate content.
In addition, AI apps – especially chatbots – can easily serve up age-appropriate content when asked. This is especially dangerous because teenagers may feel more comfortable sharing sensitive information with a chatbot than they would with their real-world friends. For example, the chatbot offered advice on how to mask the odor of alcohol and marijuana to a user who claimed to be 15 years old. On an even more extreme level, many AI chatbots specialize in providing an “erotic” experience. While some AI chatbots do require some sort of age verification, it is a dangerous trend as some children may choose to lie about their age, and prevention is often inadequate in such cases.
It is estimated that on Facebook Messenger alone, there are over 300,000 chatbots in operation. Not all of these chatbots are safe, and some may pose different risks, such as the ones mentioned above. So, it’s essential to talk to your child about privacy and the risks of oversharing online. It’s also important to have regular conversations about your child’s online experiences. And don’t forget to build a relationship of trust with your child. This way, your child won’t feel afraid to ask their parents for help instead of relying on a chatbot.
The Rise of Cyber Attacks on Young Gamers
Data shows that 91% of children in the UK 3-15 years of age play games on a device of any kind. The world of gaming is wide open to children, which also makes them easy targets for cybercriminals. For example, in 2022 Kaspersky’s security solutions found more than 7m attacks on popular kids’ games, which was a 57% increase from the year before. The top kids’ games by number of targeted users even included games designed for the youngest kids — Poppy Playtime and Toca Life World, aimed at kids 3-8 years old.
As the world of gaming continues to evolve, voice chats, augmented reality (AR) games, and virtual reality (VR) games are just a few of the new ways kids interact. Cybersecurity and social threats are two of the most common issues in kids’ gaming. Parents need to stay on top of their kids’ behavior and stay in constant communication to deal with threats. To identify a threat, parents need to keep an eye out for changes in their kids’ gaming habits. Sudden changes in gaming habits can be a sign that there’s something wrong. To protect your child from downloading harmful files while playing, we recommend installing a reliable security solution on your child’s device.
The number of smart home threat cases, with children being potential targets, will increase
As we live in an interconnected world, more and more devices, including pet feeders, connect to the internet and become “smart.” As these devices become more advanced, they are also more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Earlier this year, Kaspersky’s researchers performed a vulnerability study on one of the most popular models of smart pet feeders. The findings showed several critical security vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to gain unauthorized access to the pet feeder and steal sensitive data, including video footage, which could potentially turn the pet feeder into a spy camera.
While the number of threats is on the rise, manufacturers aren’t rushing to develop cyber-defense devices that will prevent the exploits of vulnerabilities in the first place. In addition, the range of various IoT devices bought in households is on the rise. IoT devices are now the norm for kids, which means that kids can also be used as tools in an attack by cybercriminals. For example, a smart device turns into a full-on surveillance tool, and a kid is home alone. Cybercriminals could reach out to the kid through the device, asking for personal information such as the kid’s name, address, or even their parent’s credit card number or times when the parents are away from home. In such a scenario, not only does the kid get hacked, but financial data is also compromised.
Since we can’t stop kids from using IoT devices, it’s up to us as parents to make sure they’re as secure as possible. That means at the very least adjusting your device’s default security, resetting passwords, and making sure your kids know the basics of cybersecurity.
Children will demand that their personal online space is respected
As kids grow up, they become more aware of their privacy, personal space, and sensitive information, both in their offline and online lives. With the growing accessibility of the Internet, more kids are becoming aware of this. So, when you tell your child you want to install a parenting app on their device, not all kids will be cool with it.
Kids are eager to get apps that are not available in their nation, but they come across fake apps.
If an app is not available in the region, users start searching for alternatives, but these alternatives are often just copycat apps. Even if users use official app stores such as Google Play, they are still at risk of being targeted by cybercriminals. Between 2020 and 2022, Kaspersky’s researchers found more than 190 Harly Trojan-infected apps on Google Play. These apps signed users for paid services without them knowing. Researchers at Kaspersky conservatively estimated the downloads of these apps at 4.8 million. However, the actual number of victims may be much higher.
Many trends that are happening in our society are also happening in our children’s lives, making them easy targets for cybercriminals. Whether it’s the rise and popularity of artificial intelligence (AI), smart homes, or the growth of the gaming and FinTech industries, we’re confident that to protect children from cyber threats in 2024, we need to be proactive as parents.
As we observe the current trends in society, it becomes apparent that they are also impacting children, making them vulnerable to attackers. These trends include the rise of AI and smart homes, the growth of the gaming industry, and the expansion of the FinTech sector. We firmly believe that safeguarding children from cybersecurity threats in 2024 necessitates proactive measures from parents.
- Parents can create a safer online environment for their kids by staying informed about the latest threats and actively monitoring their children’s online activities.
- Parents must maintain open communication with their children about the potential risks they may encounter online. Enforcing strict guidelines is necessary to ensure their safety.