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Mar 5th

2013

Study Reveals Teens, Parents Take Online Risks

A study of online habits indicates substantial numbers of parents and their teens engage in highly risky behavior on the internet, putting themselves in danger of virus or malware infection and other threats. GFI Software based in Cary, North Carolina, commissioned the study of home Internet use by parents and their teenage children because the population represents a particularly interesting "risk pool" due to the theory that "tech savvy" teens may prove to be a harder human target for social engineering attacks than their elders.

However, study results released this month suggest otherwise.

"In general, there would seem to be room for significant improvement in Internet safety education among parents and teens, as well as in school systems," a report on the study states. "Given the potential ramifications of improper Internet use today, it would seem to merit at least the same degree of educational vigilance as other lifestyle risk categories like sex, drugs and alcohol."

Web Dangers

The nationwide study comprised interviews with 535 pairs of parents and their teens living in households with Internet access between March 22 and April 5. Additional findings include:

  • Although a majority of teens and their parents are confident they won't be infected by viruses, nearly two-thirds of the parents surveyed say their home computer has been infected. Oftentimes, infections happened more than once and resulted in a "somewhat" or "very" serious problem.
  • While most parents indicate they have antivirus software in place (89%), only about one quarter (28%) of these say they update their virus definition files on a daily basis. Worse yet, 24% say they don't know if they update their virus definition files at all. Without frequently updating virus definition files, users are susceptible to new malware attacks.

Safeguarding Yourself

Study results also suggest both parents and their children may not understand that risky behavior on the Internet can have repercussions that extend beyond the teens themselves. For example, visiting malicious Web sites can infect the family computer with malware that enables criminals to steal the personal identification information of both teens and their parents, which can result in financial loss and other problems. It can even lead to larger issues if the teen is borrowing the parent's work computer to surf the Internet – a practice that this study found is relatively common.

Specialized software applications can help combat various threats. LifeLock, for example, is an identity theft protection system that alerts you whenever it detects your personal information being used. If the application is fraudulent, the remediation team will work to help protect your name.

"I recommend LifeLock to anybody and everybody," wrote Perry S. in a review of the product after he became a subscriber. "Whether you have credit cards or not, your name is always at risk of being impersonated, and that is not a good thing."

Other programs in this vain include ID Vault, BetterGuard and McAfee Internet Security.

ID Vault prevents you from inadvertently signing in to fraudulent sites and helps prevent you from being victimized by phishing, pharming, keystroke logging or other cybercrimes. It helps secure your online transactions, locking out hackers and identity thieves, while stopping you from accidentally giving away your personal information.

McAfee Internet Security products use award-winning technology, are easy to install and come with unlimited email and chat assistance. It helps keep your family and your PCs safe from viruses, spyware, hackers, online scammers, identity thieves and other cybercriminals.

Finally, BetterGuard is a similar program that helps secure your computer against hijack attempts, spyware and Trojans, hiding your PC activity, passwords and personal information. It also safeguards your passwords in one secure location, and stops pop-ups from interrupting browsing.

Originally published on June 23, 2011