How to Prevent Social Engineering

By Savvy Cyber Kids July 9, 2020

Humans are inherently social; we are built to engage with one another.  Our kids are drawn to the connections they find on social media — often one of the easiest and fastest ways to communicate and interact.  But there are risks built into an online world, and it’s essential to understand how to engage on social media in a safe way.

We need to instill in kids (and adults) a basic understanding of how to stay safer on social media and online in general. Just as they are taught not to take candy from strangers, the “candy” of today’s online world is a false connection. These strangers, or Social Engineers, are real and dangerous, so it’s important to emphasize trusting your intuition when meeting someone new in person or online. To ask the right questions when someone they don’t know initiates contact online. Let’s take a look at a few:

Is this message legitimate?

Let’s say someone sent your child a message on Instagram or TikTok asking if they want to be a brand ambassador with a link to sign up. It sounds exciting, but perhaps that is on purpose. The first question you should teach your kids to ask is, “Why am I getting this message?”. This is important to help determine if the communication is legitimate or is (more likely) just a way to start a conversation with your child. As a parent, you might also ask why would this brand want a child or teenager to represent them?

In this case, the link is likely an access point for phishing, which is a way to hack into accounts to access private information by impersonating or imitating something legitimate. Asking children for personal and family information could enhance a social engineer’s chance to scam the family.

Do I know this person?

It’s important when receiving any communication, be it a friend request or a personal message, to have your child verify that they know this person. If they don’t – the answer is easy! Don’t answer the message. If they do know them, or they know someone else who knows them, then this leads to the next question.

Is this something this person would say?

For instance, if your child’s best friend (or relative) is contacting them on social media and asking about personal information, that’s a possible red flag. Why would they ask that question of someone they already know? One way to determine whether someone you know is the one reaching out is to contact them via another medium – for example, if they sent a Facebook message asking a strange question, you or your child should text or call them to verify that they were the one asking.

Remember, it is possible that an account has been hacked, and even legitimate-looking messages are false.

Use these three tests to start teaching your kids about staying safer online and protect them from social engineering. Kids should know to let a parent or guardian know when they initially receive contact from someone or something they don’t recognize.  It makes sense to want to connect to others, and social media has made it so much more accessible to know and talk to people you might never meet otherwise. However, a stranger preys on that. By encouraging your kids to be smart, safer, and practice some skepticism, they can learn to avoid situations that put their (and your) information at risk!

Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.

Savvy Cyber Kids

Ben Halpert is the Founder of Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner. Since 2007, Savvy Cyber Kids has provided resources for families and teachers to empower and educate children in a world surrounded by technology. They teach today’s youth — from preschool to high school age — how to remain safe and be empowered to make appropriate decisions in the online world. Check out their free resources: savvycyberkids.org

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Filed Under: Security

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