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Cyber security safety for distance learning

Updated: September 02, 2020 07:23 PM

Some students will be doing distance learning 24/7 and while kids are very tech savvy, a concern with using the computer all day is online safety.

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Hackers are taking advantage of more and more people on the web for work and school so brushing up on cyber security safety tips can help. Going over some of the online safety tips with kids is important as they start the school year at home. 

"I am at home for the whole week until further notice and I just do work at my own pace until I'm done," said Maria Oppelt of Duluth.

Distance learning is something Maria and her brother Thomas have adapted to like many other students who are on the same boat as them. Something they were taught by their schools and by their parents early on is online safety. 

This is important since Lake Superior College cyber security instructor Matt McCullough said he has noticed an uptick in people hacking into email accounts.

"The increase really has been with attempts at email takeovers, somebody trying to guess your username and password and get access to your inbox and then just a little bit of an uptick in phishing emails as well," said McCullough.

McCullough said online safety is something parents should talk about with their kids, starting with making strong passwords.

"You want to have a password that's 15 to 20 characters long and you want to make sure that it's different for every single account. With your email account, you want to make sure it's probably even longer than that just because it's going to make it harder for the attackers to guess your password," said McCullough.

Something helpful is using a password manager like LastPass. Also websites like Have I Been Pwned? which checks if your account has been compromised in a data breach. Google also has a phishing quiz that helps people learn how to identify phishing emails.

"If you can, you want to use multi factor authentication, which just means that when you enter your password, it then generates a text message or some kind of code and then you have to enter that in as well so it's kind of a two step process to log in your email, which makes it that much harder for a hacker to get both of those steps right and get access to your email," said McCullough.

McCullough said parents should set some rules with their kids on what emails are safe to open.

"We try to monitor as much as possible their computers and their emails and phones but we're not there every minute of every day so there's a lot that we have to place trust on them for," said Kim, Thomas and Maria's mom. 

"We have been educated on that sort of stuff, not to open emails from people you don't know, and to notify your teachers and parents about if you don't feel safe on the internet," said Maria.

"We need to make sure that they also know that they can feel safe coming to us if there's something going on, even if it's things like cyber bullying," said Kim.

Keeping up with antivirus, security updates, and using educational and fun internet safety lessons like Interland can be helpful as well.

"I think that they have really been trained to watch out for some indicators and we're glad for that. Just the background they've had coming into online learning. Even though it wasn't a situation we weren't planning for I feel like they were prepared," said Kim.

Kim said as a parent she also feels it's important to also hold kids responsible for ethical use of technology.

"There's a lot of cyber security but we also need to make sure that we are teaching our kids to be respectful during their online classes, make sure that they're not cheating and making sure that they're being ethical and they're holding their friends to a higher standard as well because they're not in front of the teacher all day long but when they are, they need to be respectful and really using technology in the right way," said Kim.

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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