Children a 'weak link in household cyber security'

Kids unwittingly download viruses, click on phishing sites, share passwords: Survey

Children's trusting behaviour online has made their parents vulnerable to hackers. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Children's trusting behaviour online has made their parents vulnerable to hackers, with three in 10 computing devices in Singapore compromised in this way, according to the latest survey findings by security technology firm Norton.

Very often, children download viruses to their family computer, click on a link in a text message or share their password with someone who then abuses it, the survey revealed.

The Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, released yesterday, polled more than 17,000 Internet users above 18 years old across 17 countries, including about 1,000 people in Singapore.

The survey, conducted in August and September last year, included for the first time questions about children's Internet behaviour.

Children here have also been duped into responding to online scams such as phishing messages, thinking that they are legitimate.

Phishing is a fraudulent process used by hackers to trick people to divulge sensitive personal information such as their user identities and passwords.

"Children are becoming increasingly comfortable with devices like smartphones or tablets, and parents must be proactive in educating their children on online safety," said Mr Gavin Lowth, Norton vice-president for consumer and small business in Asia-Pacific and Japan.

"Protecting children online is weighing heavier on parents than ever before as cyber bullying, online predators and privacy are now real world concerns."

The findings come amid rising online crime in Singapore.

Last year, the number of online crime cases involving e-commerce, credit-for-sex and Internet love scams almost doubled to 3,759, from 1,929 cases in 2014, according to police statistics.

In February, Mr David Chew, director of the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force, said Singapore is a target because it had "a wonderful infrastructure for the Internet".

Housewife Sakura Siow, 40, said she is aware of the dangers lurking on the Internet. So she limits access time of her two daughters - aged six and 13 - to half an hour daily.

"I also warned them that I know what websites they visit," she said.

But the Norton survey revealed that most parents here do not frequently act to protect their children's cyber safety.

For instance, more than three in five parents do not frequently supervise their children's Internet access.

They also do not regularly limit access to certain websites or restrict the information children are allowed to post on social media. About one in five parents takes no precautions at all.

Said public relations consultant Oo Gin Lee, 46, who has three daughters: "For those of us who work long hours, we just give guidelines and hope that our kids follow them."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline Children a 'weak link in household cyber security'. Subscribe