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February 9, 2016updated 04 Sep 2016 10:24pm

Blurred lines, teenage hackers, and BYOD: Why we need an Internet Safety Day

List: There are lots of reasons to focus on getting a safer internet...

By Charlotte Henry

Today, 9th February 2016, is Safer Internet Day. The event has been running since 2011, and is globally co-ordinated by the EU Commission and Safer Internet Centres in various countries, including the UK.

Last year it said it reached 1 in 4 young people in the UK. This year the theme is "play your part for a better internet". Here’s what some industry experts have to say to mark the event:

1. Blurring the lines between online and offline

For the first time children are spending more time online than watching television. Research from Childwise in January 2015 revealed that five to 15 year-olds were spending an average of three hours a day using the internet, compared to 2.1 hours for television. This demonstrates perfectly how fundamental the web is to today’s children.

Ronan Dunne, O2 Chief Executive: "For children, there is no distinction between the realms of online and offline. But our research shows that parents have completely different approaches to keeping their kids safe in the physical world compared to the online world. Safer Internet Day offers an important opportunity for parents to put aside their analogue upbringing and to get help with parenting in the digital age."

2. Moody teenager, or hacker?

The National Crime Agency (NCA) recently found that the average age of a hacker is just 17 years old, while Kaspersky Lab found that 12% of 16 to 19 year olds in the UK knew someone who has engaged in a cyber-activity that could be deemed illegal.

Kaspersky’s research also revealed that 35% of 16 to 19 year olds would be impressed if a friend hacked a bank’s website and replaced the homepage with a cartoon, and one in ten would be impressed if a friend hacked the air traffic control systems of a local airport.

David Emm, principal security researcher, Kaspersky Lab: "It’s frighteningly easy for teenagers to find their way into the dark corners of the internet today. Specialist browsers required to gain access are freely available online and discussion groups used by cybercriminals are often open to outsiders. Young people exploring, experimenting or taking their first steps towards making some easy money online can all too easily end up here in search of tools and advice. Once in, they are vulnerable to exploitation for more complex schemes, perhaps being drawn into a fraudulent activity by playing the role of a money mule, or being asked to create a malicious program. It’s far harder to get out than it is to get in."

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3. Teach children about internet safety

Research from Norton found that one in four parents have had their online safety compromised as a result of their child’s actions, with 38% saying that their child has experienced online crime. No surprise then that 89% worry about their child’s safety online.

Nick Shaw, vice president, Norton "Many parents see their children as the ‘weak link’ in the family’s online security. The internet can be a valuable resource for children’s development, and parents play a critical role in educating their children about safe internet behaviours. They should have an open dialogue about online experiences encountered and establish house rules on Internet usage."

The importance of teaching children online safety is underlined by research from Intel Security, who found that 28% of children admitted to speaking to someone that they did not know online, with 23% of children aged five to 12 years old revealing they had spoken to a stranger online.

Nick Viney, VP Consumer at Intel Security : "Teaching children the best practices for safe online behaviour right from the start will be invaluable to them as they grow up. We all have a responsibility – parents, teachers and technology experts – to ensure children understand how to protect themselves from the potential risks online, and that comes as a result of greater education and by having ongoing conversations with children. Safer Internet Day should act as a reminder to ensure we are all practicing good, and safe, online behaviour.

4. The fight against sophisticated threats

The internet threats we are facing are becoming evermore sophisticated, and evermore prevalent. Malwayrebyte’s telemetry detected 154.5m malicious files and 138.2M potentially unwanted programs (PUP) from UK based machines.

Chris Boyd, Malware Intelligence Analyst, Malwarebytes: "Safer Internet Day is a great opportunity to encourage absolute vigilance when it comes to increasingly sophisticated digital threats. From exploits and phishing to the perils of ransomware, employers and employees alike must educate themselves to help create a safer online experience. If not, businesses must face the costly implications — in terms of both finance and reputation — of a serious data breach."

5. Keep your bad habits out the office

Bring your own device and personal devices in the work place are becoming increasingly prevalent, as is the use shadow IT by employees, such as using Dropbox to collaborate on documents. This means bad habits can easily be brought into the office, putting firms at risk.

David Mount, director, security solutions consulting EMEA, Micro Focus: "Many consumers bring their bad online habits to work and, as a result, what may be a small vulnerability at home becomes a data security nightmare for the IT department. Most employees don’t really care about security and, as cybercriminals grow more sophisticated and targeted through techniques like social engineering and spear phishing, even the small percentage that do care are bound to get it wrong sometimes. Most employees understandably just look for ways to get the job done efficiently and this can often mean finding workarounds or disregarding IT department rules, often endangering corporate data security.

"User awareness is key but it is not enough. When a business views users as the last line of defence, it has already failed to protect corporate data efficiently. At an employee level, we need to take the responsibility for fundamental security decisions away from users and place it firmly on the solutions in place. Business should make decisions which encourage innovation while guaranteeing low risk. While it is difficult to get users to make smarter security decisions, smarter technology will always make better choices and therefore have a positive impact on an organisation’s security stance."

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