Despite our hard work to keep our technology devices safe from malware, many of us underestimate a threat living right under our noses. Worse still, these threat vectors don’t even know they are potential harbingers of doom, so neither of you will see it coming until it’s too late. Yes, I’m talking about family & friends, and especially your children (if you have them). Unfortunately for everyone, malicious developers continue to hone their skills at conning our trusted friends and loved ones into compromising themselves, which will oftentimes result in everyone around them being put at significant security risk, just by nature of the trust we extend to this close circle. The most recent example of this is the discovery of 6 popular apps on the Google Play store that hide their malicious intent (to zombify your smartphone) behind the most innocuous and tempting lure, especially for kids: add-on eye candy for the popular mobile game Minecraft: Pocket Edition.
What’s a professional surrounded by loved ones to do?
Being safe doesn’t mean having to cut off everyone around you, but it may require you to pay attention to what they are doing with systems that you use or share with family and friends, such as home office computers, mobile devices, Wi-Fi networks, NetFlix passwords, etc. I’ve seen numerous parents hand their phones over to their younger children as entertainment devices, often acquiescing to insistent demands to install this app or that app without much attention being paid to what is actually being installed. I’ve even seen this dynamic played out on home office computers and not just to appease little ones. Wi-Fi passwords are simplified and widely shared for convenience, with never a thought that you are handing the keys to your network kingdom to a device you know little to nothing about. It may seem a bit Scrooge-ish or even paranoid to some of your family, but if you are serious about security consider the following:
- If you work from home and use Wi-Fi, but you want to provide internet for your kids or guests, consider setting up a “Guest” Wi-Fi network just for them. Most modern day home firewalls and access points can do this easily. Even the cheap routers provided by ISPs can do this.
- If you have sensitive data on your phone or tablet (and who doesn’t at this point), don’t let others install apps on your device, and definitely don’t let your kids play with it without close supervision.
- If you have access to sensitive data on your home office computer, keep it strictly business and specifically for you. Set up a separate device for guests, family and especially children.
- Don’t share passwords for household internet services like NetFlix unless they are unique. If you use that same password elsewhere, especially on important accounts, you are asking for a breach.
- Always treat emails or messages containing links and enthusiastic urging to “check this out” from friends and family with suspicion. Call and ask if they sent the message, and if they did, ask where they got the link from, followed by a friendly, “Oh by the way, your antivirus is up to date, right?”
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