The internet risks, cybersecurity and cybersmartness world

What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in *Wuhan*, China, in December 2019.

*Covid-19 and its implications for children online* 

Today, April 18, is Day 19 of the *stay-at-home* order declared by the Federal government in parts of the country which is aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19. The implication of this is that people are expected and will increasingly stay at home, practice physical or social distancing. Markets, schools, workplaces (except those rendering essential services) have been shut down in the past 19 days. Parents, children now stay at home. It’s boring staying indoors day in, day out. To kill boredom, many people (children inclusive) rely on their devices, gadgets to stay connected with friends on social media and to be abreast of events, information. I can attest that many people spend a great deal on data these days as a result of the lockdown.

The COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown implies more and more school children embracing online learning technologies, platforms. While online learning, remote working or teleworking are innovative and have their advantages, not all adults and children have the requisite knowledge, skills and resources to navigate the internet and keep themselves safe.

Few days ago, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) pointed out that *online predators put millions of children at risk during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown*.
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UNICEF reckons that more than *1.5 billion children and young people have been affected by school closures worldwide. Many are online now taking classes and socializing. Under the shadow of COVID-19, the lives of millions of children have temporarily shrunk to just their homes and their screens”. 

Spending more time on virtual platforms can leave children vulnerable to online sexual exploitation as predators capitalize on the COVID-19 pandemic*.

There were complaints recently in some countries when scores of very young children were bombarded with X-rated pornography after their school’s *Zoom* learning session was hijacked by hackers. The school’s principal quickly realized what was happening, and swiftly shut down the application. This trend is called *zoombombing* or *weaponization of zoom*, a video conference platform. It follows that Zoom had/have security vulnerabilities and Zoom raiders as they are called, often employ shocking imagery, racial epithets, profanity and in some cases, pornography to derail video conferences.

Please note that apart from Zoom, other video-conferencing Applications with capabilities for online learning, meetings, webinars and trainings include: Microsoft Teams, Skype, GoToMeeting, Join.me, Cisco Webex, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts Meet, RingCentral, Zoho Meeting, Cyberlink U Meeting, Lifesize and FreeConference.
Most of the aforesaid platforms have free versions that can be downloaded via playstore.

Sequel to the COVID19 lockdown, my colleagues and I have been using them for Microsoft Teams for meetings, brainstorming sessions. It's seamless.

*Online risks for children during covid-19 lockdown*

The internet can be an unchartered territory and a dangerous environment for everyone. Children and teens are particularly vulnerable to online hazards – security vulnerabilities, cyber predators, cyber-crimes et al. which can have severe, costly, even tragic, consequences. 

For instance, children may inadvertently expose their families to some of these cyber threats by accidentally downloading a malware or ransomware that could give cyber criminals access to their parents' bank account and other sensitive information. 
Some of the online risks that children could encounter as they are increasingly glued to the internet due to the COVID-19 lockdown include:

*Cyberbullying* - A 2018 survey of children’s online behavior found that approximately *60% of children who use social media have witnessed some form of bullying*, and that, for various reasons, most children ignored the behavior altogether. According to enough.org, as of February 2018, nearly half (47%) of all young people had been the victims of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying, how it works
Tell-tale signs of a child being cyberbullied or targeted by an online predator include:
1. Appears nervous when receiving a text or an email Seems uneasy about going to school or pretends to be ill.
2. Unwillingness to share information about his/her online activity
3. Unexplained anger or depression, especially after going online.
4. Abruptly shutting off or walking away from the computer, mobile device mid-use.
5. Withdrawing from friends and family in real life. 
Trouble sleeping at night.

6. Unexplained weight loss/gain and suicidal thoughts/attempts.
7. Spending long hours online, especially at night. 
8. Phone calls from people you don't know. 
9. Receiving unsolicited gifts 
10. When the child suddenly turns off the computer when you walk into the room. 
11. Withdrawal from family life and reluctance to discuss online activities.

Other online risk teens, children could encounter are:

*Posting Private Information* - 
There are awkward moments when children mistakenly post personally identifiable information (PII) – residential addresses, pictures, family vacation plans, the school they attend etc. online or on social media. 
*Cyber Predators (pedophiles)* - These days sexual predators, pedophiles increasingly stalk children on the internet/social media, taking advantage of their innocence, lack of adult supervision and abusing their trust. This can culminate in children being lured into dangerous personal encounters.
*Social Media Posts That Come Back to Haunt a Teen, Child Later in Life* 
As they say, the internet does not forget. Unlike the saying that what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas, it is a different scenario with our transactions online. Things that happen online, stay online, possibly forever. Anything an individual or child puts online have a way of sticking around. 

A party picture, Snapchat message or social media post could cause problems ten years down the road when you interview for a new job or run for a political office. A classic example is the current Canadian PM whose childhood ‘Arabian Nights’ themed party makeup almost cost him reelection. 
Similarly, according to a 2018 Career Builder survey, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process. 43 percent use it to check on current employees.

*Falling for social engineering, Scams* - Social engineering in the context of cyber security, is the use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes.
Children or teens may fall victim to online scams that offer things they value, such as free access to online games or special features. Cyber criminals can use websites popular with children to identify potential victims, and then promise prizes in return for what they want—like parents' credit card information.

Not just children or teens, adults as well can make the mistake of accidentally Downloading Malware or ransomware - A malware is a computer software that is installed without the knowledge of permission of the victim and performs harmful actions on the computer.
Similarly, a *ransomware* is a malicious software designed to block access to a computer or mobile device until money (ransom) is paid. Cyber criminals often trick people into downloading malware or ransomware that has the capability to steal personal information from a computer or hijacking it and subsequently demanding a ransom. Just recently, cybercriminals deployed a COVID-19 ransomware with a view to tricking unsuspecting members to click on the link to receive up-to-date information about the pandemic.
*Phishing is another online risk that is currently trending - it refers to criminal activity that attempts to fraudulently obtain sensitive information from someone. There are several ways a fraudster can try to obtain sensitive information such as your date of birth, driver's license, credit/debit card information, or bank account information, often luring you with a sense of urgency. 

Sometimes a fraudster will first send you a courteous email (more like a bait) to lure you into a conversation and then follow up with a phishing email. It is also possible for the fraudster to send just one phishing email that will direct you to a website requesting you to enter your personal information such as User ID and Password.

Similar to Phishing, is also Pharming which refers to a type of scam where a fraudster installs malicious code on a personal device or server. This code then redirects any clicks you make on a website to another fraudulent Website without your consent or knowledge. 

Be especially careful when entering financial information on a website. Look for the ‘s’ in https and the key or lock symbol at the bottom of the browser. If the website looks different than when you last visited, be suspicious and don’t click unless you are certain the site is secure. 
*Vishing* - Fraudsters also use the phone (SMS) to solicit your personal information. This telephone version of phishing is sometimes called vishing. Vishing relies on *social engineering* techniques to trick you into providing personal or sensitive information. 

*Smishing* uses cell phone text, usually *bulk SMS messages* to lure a victim. Often the text will contain an URL or phone number. Just like phishing, the smishing message usually asks for your immediate attention. Desist from responding to smishing messages.

*How To Recognize Phishing/Vishing emails/messages*

1. Do you know the sender of the email?  If yes, continue to be cautious before clicking a link. If no, do not click any links. Mind you that cybercriminal can clone a website. 
2. Have you checked the link especially now that websites can be clones and links can be shortened using url shorteners? Hover your Mouse over the link and check the URL. Does it look legitimate or does it look like it will take you to a different website? For instance, if they want to clone the website/email address of the World Health Organization, they can make it look like www.who.com or info@who.com.

MeanwhileMeanwhile the WHO’s authentic email address could be: info@who.org. basically, the difference is in the suffix (.com rather than .org). Only the savvy or discerning would know.
3. Does the email or SMS contain grammatical errors? If so, it is a red flag. Be suspicious!
4. If the email comes with attachment(s), do not click on the attachment. Contact the sender to verify its contents.
5. Does the email request personal information?  If yes, it is another red flag, do not reply.
6. If you have a relationship with the company/person, are they addressing you by name?
7. If you receive an email or phone call from a purported organization (say XYZ) requesting you call them and you suspect it might be a fraudulent request, look up the organization’s customer service number and call that number rather than the number provided in the solicitation email or phone call.

*How To Avoid Falling Prey To COVID-19 Scams, Ransomware*
1. Avoid clicking on random links.
2. Avoid all these awoof data links, I am not aware of any Telecoms operator sharing free data at the moment.
3. The Federal government is not sharing money yet, when they start (if they do), you will know.
4. Stop forwarding messages without proper verification, you don't work in a clearing and forwarding company.
5. Beware of FOC (Free of charge). Your bank is not sharing free money. There is no free money, even in Freetown, nothing is free. 
6. Don’t divulge sensitive personal information regarding your banking or card details. There are fraudulent emails, SMS making the round, where customers have been asked to provide their card details or BVN for disbursement of COVID-19 palliative funds ranging between N30,000 and N70,000 into their bank account upon validation of their bank details online. 
Glintsight advert

*Generally recommended actions to mitigate online risks for children during the covid-19 lockdown*

1. Given that it is what a parent knows that s/he would teach his/her ward, parents will do well to be up to speed with information technology and be social media savvy. We live in the information technology age; it is not out of place to see children who are more tech savvy than their parents or teachers.  

2. Parents should frequently have heart-to-heart conversation with their wards about online safety, computer use, inherent dangers and long-term effects of inappropriate conduct, including posting pictures online. 

3. A good rule of thumb is to not allow internet use when a child is home alone without proper supervision. Though not perfect, installing a search engine filtering software/tool or parental controls, would help. 

4. Keep your computer in an open area. If your computer is in a home office, make a rule that doors are always left open when online. 
5. Do not allow internet use after you’ve gone to bed at night no matter how good your computer security software is or how confident you are in kids search engines. 

6. Consider installing parental control software to give you completed control over how kids access the internet. 

7. Do not allow file sharing programs to be installed on your computer. Only use safe and secure music download programs from trusted sources on the internet. 

8. Be wary of allowing under aged children to use social media - Many social networks require users to be at least 13 years of age, but some allow children to sign up with their parent’s permission. If your ward has social media accounts, check their privacy settings. The default settings may expose more information than you’d like. Change settings to the highest level of privacy. Teach your kids not to accept friend requests from people they — and you — don’t know. Some friend requests come from bots that will spam friends lists. 

9. Install antivirus software, make sure they are up to date and only download Apps from credible sources such as Playstore.

*Cyber safety Tips for teens, children*

1. Don’t post your date of birth, offensive comments, passwords, address, personal phone number, inappropriate pictures, the name of your school or any information about your family online or on social media platforms. Talk to your parents first about pictures you want to post online, whether they be of yourself or your friends and family members.
2. Don’t talk to strangers on the Internet. 
3. Never to agree to meet someone that you have met online. If you do not know the person in ‘real life’, tell your parents about anyone this is asking to meet you.
4. Don’t fill in a profile that asks for your name and address 
Don’t visit a chat room without an adult’s / parent’s permission. 
5. Don’t stay online if you see something you think your parents won’t like. 
6. Do not download or install anything on your computer/device without your parents’ permission. 
7. If you have any questions about something you read, ask your parent or guardian 
If you are talking to someone online and they make you uncomfortable, remember you don’t have to talk back to them.
8. Do not respond to messages you receive that are mean or speaking meanly about others. Tell your parents about these messages.

9. Always be kind of others online. Do not do anything that may hurt others including joining in conversations discussing other people’s problems.

10. Be careful about discussing details about your own personal problems with your friends online. It is better to speak to them in person. Tell your parents or teacher if you are struggling with something. 

Agree to computer rules set up by your parents, teachers or guardians. With freedom and trust comes the expectation that you will act responsibly.

*COVID-19 and the menace of fake news, disinformation*

We are currently dealing with three things at the same time: a pandemic (COVID-19), an *infodemic* and a hunger virus (HUVID-20) at the same time. We can define a pandemic in this context, as a disease prevalent over a whole country or the world. On the other hand, an infodemic means 'excessive amount of information concerning a problem such that the solution is made more difficult'. 

Right now, false information, misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories are obviously spreading faster than the COVID-19 itself. This explains why the World Health Organization (WHO) warns against the consequences of a deadly *infodemic*. For instance, a certain pastor postulated how 5g causes coronavirus and he also tried to link the technology to the anti-Christ. This is a hogwash to say the least.  
*Beware of Fake News/Misinformation: How to avoid misinformation about the coronavirus*

Only consume information from reliable resources – the World Health Organization (WHO), National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other reliable agencies, platforms.

Favor print news over video or television. In many cases, print reporters have more opportunity to fact check the news and provide links to referenced items.
If a claim is made regarding the virus, go directly to the published research. 
Be wary of claims about cures and the origin of the virus. 

Be a detective before sharing information with others on social media. Do a quick Google search at least, and spend some time making sure what you’re reading is accurate. 

If a story sounds fake, don’t click on it or engage with it. If you click on it, it’ll lead search algorithms to promote it even more.

Current global and national statistics on COVID-19 and the need for us to stay SAFE, practise social distancing


I urge all of us to stay SAFE, and remain security conscious in view of the spike in crime.

We pray for a COVID-19 vaccine sooner than later. We pray for divine healing on those who tested positive.

Thank you for your time.

Don Okereke

Question and answers

Sure, there are tell-tale signs or symptoms that indicate the presence of malware on a device.

The presence of malware sometimes is obvious, even though you might not know how it got on your device.
Many people have no idea that malware has been installed until their computers or devices start acting abnormally.

Symptoms of malware may appear obvious or discrete.

Typical symptoms include:
You might notice changes to the behavior of your computer or device, such as strange ads or pop-up windows — even when you’re not surfing the web. 
You may also notice unwanted changes to your browsers’ behavior and changes to its homepage, a slower overall experience on your computer, and a sudden lack of storage space.

The security of your computer or mobile device ought to begin with strong, reliable antivirus and anti-malware software. 
It is recommended that you make this a priority on your home computer and any other devices you may have.

Hence Installing security software is one of the best things you can to do to avoid malware infections.

Be sure to run periodic diagnostic scans with your antivirus or anti-malware software. 
You can set it up so the program runs scans automatically during regular intervals. Configure your settings to run a malware detection scan at least once a week, preferably at night when the computer is less likely to be in use to avoid interruptions.
You can also use a VPN, a firewall, either on the modem or each computer, and be sure to protect each of your online accounts with a unique, complex password.

Stay proactive with your cyber security and be vigilant while using the internet. These are some of the best ways to help ensure malware protection across your devices.

Effects of cyberbullying

If my account is hacked, what's my "first aid" approach upon discovering. What should I first check out for across board.
Don: Beware of coronavirus themed scams. It's the new format in town. Shine your eyes 👀

It depends exactly on what has been hacked. 

Is it your email account? 
Generally speaking, regaining control of a hacked email account can be tougher. You'll have to contact the email provider and prove that you're the true account holder. 

Of course, if the hacker changes your password, you can't use your regular email to contact the provider. It's important to have more than one email address, and make each the alternate contact address for the other.

Thank you for exposing great danger our children can be as a result of internet risk who are most vulnerable.  Please sir, I learnt there is google safe search settings and parental control for kids for browsers like chrome and also youtube. My question is what kind of approach can NGOs use to mobilise parents esp those busy ones to get to emulate the know about this safe search parental guides like may be from their PTA meetings in their children schools or preparing educative notes to teachers and pupils to be presented to the children parents at home.

How to Know If Your Mobile Device Has Been Hacked:

Unfamiliar Apps: When unfamiliar apps pop up on your phone or bizarre messages are sent to numbers in your address book, you may have fallen victim to a hack. 
Once hackers take control of your device, things will start to look out of order. Hackers often crack devices to load their malicious files, or to cipher personal data for their advantage, so don’t just shrug it off when you see changes that you don’t remember making.

By creating awareness in schools, churches, online, amongst others.
It should be an ongoing process and not a one-off. 

Partner with schools and deliver awareness sessions to them.
Design handbills, radio jingles, Facebook ads etc

Ensure your Apps are updated. 
Quickly scan your device with a good anti virus software and it should be able to detect an intrusion. 

Contact your bank if you suspect that the intruder or hacker gained access to your online banking account.

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