Mother’s Day is a holiday honoring mothers around the world. This special day traditionally falls on the second Sunday of every May. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, as it allows children to present springtime flowers in full bloom as a gift to their mothers.
We at The State of Security love and respect our mothers, which is why we spend all year helping them to stay safe online. This ongoing gift shouldn’t apply to just a few amazing women, however. All mothers deserve to enjoy online safety.
Acknowledging that right, here are seven tips that can help your mothers stay safe online on Mother’s Day and every day thereafter.
Get Some Basic Protection!
Just like for all other users, basic security measures go a long way towards keeping our mothers safe online. These fundamental safeguards include implementing software updates as soon as they become available and not using Bluetooth unless it’s necessary. Even so, Maribeth Pusieski feels mothers’ basic online protection starts with reliable anti-virus software:
“Are you getting mom a new laptop for being the best? Consider also including a subscription to your favorite malware protection, such as Malwarebytes. Helping her keep bugs out of her new system will be something she thanks you for – almost as much as when you cleaned your room when you were a kid!”
Pusieski also urges us to talk with our mothers about encrypting sensitive data, regularly creating backups of photos and important documents, and deleting something that’s installed if they don’t use it.
Connect to Wi-Fi You Trust
Lori MacVittie, principal technical evangelist at F5 Networks, would like to remind mothers everywhere that “stranger danger” doesn’t just apply to unfamiliar people we meet in real life:
“Today, we’d like to remind you about a modern version of your warning: stranger Wi-Fi danger. You see, free Wi-Fi is everywhere, just like people. But strange technology isn’t any safer than strange people, and that free Wi-Fi you’re about to connect to just might be dangerous to you or your phone. Bad actors are everywhere, and one of them might just be offering up free Wi-Fi to collect your personal, private information. Your username and password, your texts, that picture of you on the beach enjoying your vacay. Please don’t connect to strange Wi-Fi networks. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, (I think you said that, too.) and that includes WiFi.”
That doesn’t always mean a bad actor is using free or public Wi-Fi to eavesdrop on our mothers’ web activity. But that doesn’t mean our moms should be any less careful.
As MacVittie goes on to note:
“Make no mistake that someone is listening to what you’re doing in exchange for that free service. So be careful out there, and beware of stranger Wi-Fi danger. Whatever it was can wait until you’re safely connected to a known, trusted Wi-Fi network.”
Secure Your Home Network
Exercising caution around free Wi-Fi will help our mothers stay safe online. But they also need to make sure they secure their home wireless networks. Pusieski agrees with this assessment:
“Remember when you were home alone after school or while Mom shopped? Her rule was ‘keep the doors locked’? Great advice to take with her home Wi-Fi as well! So many home networks do not have passwords and will let any Tom, Joan, or Harry access the web regardless of whether they are in the house! Make sure you lock the network up and keep intruders out!”
For starters, our moms need to verify what make and model router they’re using for their networks. They should then change the administrator password, disable WPS, and learn how to update the device’s firmware. For information on how to implement these safety measures for them, click here.
Phishy Phone Calls
Most of our mothers have encountered a tech support scam by now. As a result, they know not to download suspicious software or provide payment card credentials to an unexpected inbound caller. But suspicious phone calls come in many different forms.
Glenda Snodgrass, president and lead consultant at The Net Effect, provides one such example:
“Recently, my mother got a different kind of call – a woman claiming to be with my mother’s insurance company, offering her a discount on her insurance premiums if she would accept a wearable ‘smart’ device and record at least 7,000 steps each day. My mother was very interested (She loves to save money!) until the woman on the phone asked for Mom’s birth date to sign her up. Mom was suspicious at that point and hung up.”
To avoid falling for phishing calls in all forms, we need to talk to our moms about what new threats are out in the wild. We also need to share with them warning signs for which they should look out, including odd requests for personal and financial information.
Scams don’t just target our moms on the phone, either. Perhaps they agree to send a small monthly payment to a fake lottery company with the false promise that they’ll collect a huge payout when they reach a certain age. In other cases, they might fall for those fake late-night holy water scams that promise to relieve their financial troubles.
Given these threats, Keirsten Brager feels it’s imperative that we do everything in our power to keep our mothers safe from fraudsters:
“Do not assume that she knows better! While there is no 100% guarantee of prevention, you can bring these scenarios up in conversations about the latest cyber scams targeting women. A general conversation about cyber fraud would make it less awkward and perhaps make her less defensive if she is being duped by one of these scams. Since a lot of parents are on the internet, a gentle conversational reminder about cyber safety should be on the menu this Mother’s Day. Internet love, lotteries, and unholy water should not cost a thing. If they do, scam alert!”
Protect Your Passwords
It might be cute for our mothers to use that nickname they used to call you when you were younger for their password. But cute is not the same thing as secure. Bev Robb elaborates on this point:
“It’s a given, if you keep using weak passwords, hackers will eventually use their tools to steal your personal data, identity, or bank account. Forget about using passwords with all numbers (123456), all lowercase letters (mamama), your birthday, your pet’s name or your child’s nickname. It’s better to sprinkle your passwords with a combination of numbers, uppercase/lowercase letters, and symbols. The longer and more complex your password is, the more difficult you will make it for hackers to crack your password.”
Our moms should take their password security one step further by making sure they use unique passwords for each of their web accounts. Doing so will protect them against password reuse attacks in the event one of the services they use suffers a data breach. To store all these passwords securely, they should consider using a password manager.
Secure Social Networking
Not everyone is a “friend” on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. There are bad actors who would love to steal access to our moms’ accounts and information. Acknowledging those threats, our mothers need to take care to securely navigate the world of social networking by setting up secure password recovery questions, using two-factor authentication, and exercising caution around what pictures the post:
Lane Thames couldn’t agree more with this last bit of advice:
“Cyber stalkers, identity thieves, and even the traditional cat burglar can extract much information from even the most harmless of photos. Simple mistakes can lead to huge information disclosures. One time, I saw a Facebook user post a picture of an item sitting on her desk. Unfortunately for her, one of her blank personal checks was lying right behind the item, with plenty of her banking details in plain sight. Simple mistakes such as this can quickly lead to identity theft.”
We can also further protect our moms by following them on social media. Doing so won’t protect them against attackers. But it’ll ensure we’re watching just in case someone takes over their accounts and begins posting suspicious content.
Any Additional Advice?
Did we miss a crucial tip that can help moms everywhere stay safe online? If we did, please let us know in the comments. Your mother will thank you later!