Protecting Children from Cybercrime during COVID-19


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, children around the world are spending nearly 50 percent more time online. Non-leisure activities, such as school, are likely to become increasingly internet dependent as the world adapts to this unique crisis. As children spend more time online, so have many other people, including criminals. There has been an associated uptick in cybercrime worldwide since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Parents should be aware of potential threats and mitigation measures as children’s security on the internet becomes an urgent priority. Below is an overview of potential cybercrime threats facing children and measures that may be used to mitigate them.



Phishing is a social-engineering attack that uses malicious websites or email to obtain sensitive information from a target, often by posing as a trustworthy person or organization. Attackers can then use that information to gain access to the victim’s private accounts (e.g. social media, email, and online banking).

Criminals can exploit vulnerabilities in software and routers to gain access to a device or network. Once they gain access, they can infect devices or networks with malware, ransomware, and spyware, stealing personal information or even rendering the device unusable.

Inappropriate Content
School computers usually have content filters to prevent students from accessing potentially harmful or inappropriate content. As children increasingly transition to using home devices, which are typically not equipped with such filters, they may be more likely to freely access or accidentally come across such content.

Interaction with Strangers
Predators know that children are spending more time online amid the COVID-19 pandemic and have increased their efforts accordingly, targeting children through social media, video games, and even educational platforms. Cybercriminals may exploit children to access sensitive information. Predators who contact children online may “groom” them by establishing trust, with the ultimate goal of online sexual exploitation or meeting in real life.

Unprotected Platforms
Nearly every country in the world implemented countrywide school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing schools to quickly adapt to virtual learning requirements. Schools’ videoconferencing and educational platforms may lack strong security features, making them easy targets for cybercriminals.



General Tips:
  • Change home Wi-Fi from default login and password to a complex, unique login and password.

  • Use a complex, unique password for all online accounts; do not reuse passwords across multiple accounts.

  • Ensure that home Wi-Fi is encrypted with WPA2 or WPA3 security protocol.

  • Install software updates as soon as they are released; these updates often patch security vulnerabilities. Many cybercriminals exploit out-of-date software to gain access to devices and networks.

  • Update or install antivirus software.

  • Only connect devices to safe and secure Wi-Fi networks; cybercriminals can gain access to devices connected to public Wi-Fi.

  • Always use two-factor identification, if possible.

  • Keep webcams covered when not in use.



Educate children about internet safety.

  • Emphasize the dangers of the internet and the importance of staying safe and never giving out personal information online.

  • Teach children to be wary of opening emails from unfamiliar addresses, logging into accounts from links in emails, and opening pop-ups.

  • Teach children the difference between “http” and “https” websites.

  • Help your child avoid misinformation about COVID-19, which can increase anxiety about the ongoing pandemic.

  • Present your child with educational resources on staying safe online (e.g. FBI Safe Online Surfing).

  • Employ parental controls and content filters on all devices, including computers, phones, gaming devices, and smart TVs.

Monitor children’s internet usage.

  • Designate a public part of the house for computer usage so you can easily see what websites your child is accessing.

  • Check your child’s browser history to make sure that they are only accessing appropriate websites.

  • Monitor your child’s activity on social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok).

  • Ensure that your child’s social media profiles are on the strictest privacy settings; emphasize that pictures or videos that they share online will be there forever and that anybody can see them.

  • Ensure that your child is using safe and protected videoconferencing platforms.

               Use only private videoconferencing links; do not post links publicly.
               Require passwords for meetings.
               Do not reuse links for meetings.
               Only allow children to conduct video meetings on school-approved software.
               Only accept meetings from legitimate school addresses. 

  • Do not allow children to share login credentials for online accounts or streaming services, even with friends.

  • Ensure that your child does not use your work device or have access to any of your sensitive information (e.g. work email, online banking, etc.).

This document is written by GardaWorld.

Posted: 9/11/2020 9:00:00 AM