Tips To Prevent Cyber Predators And Hackers From Targeting Your Children This Christmas. Ryn Melberg is a client of mine and someone I like and respect a great deal. So I wanted to share her tips here for readers of my blog. While this is not really a public relations or marketing communications issue, it is timely advice for everyone who expects a visit from Santa tomorrow evening.
America’s children can have their identities stolen and worse this Christmas unless their parents take steps to prevent cyber criminals from stealing information about them. Corporate governance, I.T. and Agile Project Management expert Ryn Melberg has advice for parents and others who will give their children electronic toys and games that link to the Internet this Christmas. This is in light of the hack and theft of 6.4 million records of children from Hong Kong-based toy maker, VTech. According to a published report in The Wall Street Journal, the information stolen included the names and birthdates of those children along with photos and chat messages.
“Parents should protect their children’s’ identity on line just like their own,” Melberg said. “While it may not be obvious, their private information is vulnerable to online hackers, if not more so than adults.”
Here are the steps Ms. Melberg suggests:
1. Never use a child’s full name online.
2. Never publish a child’s birthday online.
3. Never publish a child’s street address or even the city or state where they reside.
4. Do not disclose the name of the school where your child attends.
5. Never disclose a location where the child will be, particularly if parents are not there, too. This could be a camp, school trip, etc.
6. Actively monitor online chats in real time with your child and explain to him/her why this matters.
7. Use fictitious information when answering security questions and remember it.
8. Use a fake online or screen name when working or playing in cyber space.
Online Protection From Predators
Putting full names with the city of residence will make a child vulnerable to a predator or even a disgruntled parent in a divorce or custody settlement. “The online world makes it very easy to find someone,” Melberg warned. “This is especially true if your child has an unusual first name,” she stated. “My name ‘Ryn’ is rare enough that finding all the ‘Ryns’ in my hometown would be pretty easy, and the same is true for your child.” The practice of careful online engagement extends to chat rooms associated with games, as children are known to share personal information in those, as well.
Guard Your Child’s Future
Melberg strongly urges parents to be extremely careful about what they post online about their children because it could affect their financial future and even put them in physical danger. While the majority of children do not have bank accounts or credit cards, thieves will use their stolen identities to create phony accounts and loan applications. “I have a client who found they had a delinquent student loan that was made 7 years prior to their turning 18,” Melberg said. “The bank admitted it was unlikely they would have given a college loan to an 11 year old, but that did not spare them the hassle and grief of setting their own credit right so they could get a legitimate student loan.”
Ryn is the host of a weekly podcast entitled, “The Guardian”. Ryn discusses Agile, Scrum, Scaled Agile and issues of corporate governance. It is the only podcast of its kind in the world. To contact Ryn Melberg, go to her web site at: www.rynmelberg.com.