Do Data Breaches Harm Our Youth?

It’s easy to assume that adults are the only people affected by data breaches. After all, these breaches typically expose credit card information, social security numbers, and other details used for identity theft. Anyone under 18 does not seem like a valuable target.

In reality, however, children are specifically targeted by hackers. A report published by Javelin Strategy & Research showed that over a million children had their identity stolen in 2017. That resulted in $2.6 billion in total losses, with families shouldering $540 million of that cost directly.

So why would hackers go after youths? It’s because their social security is still valuable even if they are underage. Once hackers have the number they can use it to establish lines of credit. And it’s actually easier to use a minor’s social security number since they have little to no established credit history. Essentially, their identity is a blank slate, making it ripe for manipulation and deception.

Sadly, no kid is too young to be a target. The same study showed that 66 percent of the kids with stolen identities are under 8 years old. Hackers have a complete disregard for a child’s age and no compunction about targeting the youngest kids.

To a certain extent it’s their age that makes these kids vulnerable. Kids spend as much time online as adults but are less aware about cybersecurity. As a result, they often fall prey to attacks and schemes that adults would avoid. Kid’s data is easier to compromise simply because of their relative inexperience.

The frequency of cyber security news articles reporting on kids is rising. Parents must take the lead to keep their kids and their kid’s identities safe online. Here are some tips:

  • Scrutinize Privacy Policies. Before allowing kids to install software or download a platform, review the privacy policies. Look specifically at what data is collected and how it’s used.
  • Teach Best Practices. These include using strong passwords, ignoring requests from strangers, and keeping personal information a secret.
  • Create Rules and Boundaries. Limiting how kids use the internet also limits their exposure to online threats. Be willing to dictate or restrict when and how kids engage with the internet.
  • Keep a Close Watch. If possible, monitor how kids use the internet directly. That could mean being in the same room or installing a monitoring program. That way, if kids are using the internet recklessly parents are aware of it.
  • Study the COPPA Rule. The Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that sites get parental consent before collecting data on kids. It’s worth it for all parents to reviews the details and guidelines set out in COPPA.
  • Use Security Software. Any computer user can fall victim to an attack. With antivirus software in place there is less chance of a computer infection compromising a kid’s data.

Parents are responsible for protecting kids in the real world, and the responsibility extends to the online world. There are lots of threats to watch out for, but data thieves should be at the top of the list.

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