What are You Doing to Train Students Against Cyber Crime

This fall marks the beginning of the third school year in a post-pandemic world, and it’s no secret that K-12 systems across the country are facing some pretty serious challenges as we find ourselves still in the midst of one of the most transformative global events in living memory. Remote learning and unprecedented online connectivity in classrooms have helped keep the current generation of students from completely missing years of their education, and though in person learning is back, educators are still relying heavily on technology to manage growing class sizes and supplement traditional styles of teaching. Teachers have an incredibly tough job, and we support anything to make their lives easier. However, as remote learning, classroom connectivity, and school owned devices that go home with students all seem to be here to stay, an important question arises: What is being done to protect students against the increased risk of cyber crime that comes with the widespread adoption of technology in K-12 education? The answer: It depends on the school. 

The responses to the threat of cyber crime in America’s schools are as diverse as the institutions themselves. At the time of this writing, there are almost no top down provisions being made to ensure that every student in the nation is protected from digital threats. By scanning the Department of Education’s website you’ll find a few sparse guidelines for reducing the risk of online attacks, but none of these guidelines provide any real world advice on how to implement the suggestions. This lack of direction when it comes to digital safety means that every state, community, and even individual school has to essentially fend for itself. A few, mostly private and charter institutions, have the funding to purchase impressive software systems that can provide a good defense against attacks, as well as hire IT staff to maintain both the software and hardware used for digital learning. Unfortunately though, most school systems in our country don’t have the independent resources to create and apply their own unique cybersecurity plan. Teachers, administrators, and IT specialists tend to be stretched to the breaking point as a matter of course, and there’s rarely money for things like basic building repairs, much less an extensive cybersecurity overhaul.

To us the solution to this problem is clear. If the money to invest in comprehensive defenses against cyber threats isn’t coming from the federal or state level then we need to be teaching students to defend themselves by instilling foundational cybersecurity skills and tech literacy from a young age as a regular part of school curriculums. Don’t get us wrong, there’s a ton of value in security software that can monitor network activity and block certain types of content, but this approach is all defense and no offense in addition to the steep cost. To truly keep students safe from cyber attacks, and make effective use of the precious few resources public schools in particular receive, we need to empower students with the tools they need to protect themselves from cyber threats in school and beyond. 

Cybersecurity is an important part of personal safety in modern life, but to most people its best practices are much less intuitive than physical safety. At its core, cybersecurity is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced just like any other. A software system like SurfWisely is designed to do exactly that. SurfWisely engages students with the content by stressing the importance of cybersecurity, showing the freedom tech literacy provides, and using fun and familiar sports themes. The platform is a ready-made curriculum exploring a wide range of relevant topics that’s easy for teachers to pick up and run with.  

SurfWisely’s goal isn’t just safety in the present moment. One of the main benefits of teaching students tech literacy is that it introduces the idea that they too could have a job in IT some day. IT professionals make cybersecurity possible for large scale institutions like schools, and in only a few years we could see students who were given access to programs like SurfWisely graduating from high school with a solid foundation in cybersecurity and entering a pipeline to important, high paying jobs in IT. A new generation of tech savvy professionals who deeply understand how to defend themselves and the organizations they lead against the constant threat of digital attacks would help cut off the flow of easy money that cyber criminals are currently taking advantage of at a rate the world has never seen before. Today’s students are tomorrow’s innovators and thought leaders, and despite the threats that come with modernization, the future is bright for these kids. If we do our part as parents and educators, we can help ensure that our children leave high school fully prepared. It’s clear that the federal government isn’t going to take real steps to achieve this goal anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do the work ourselves in our own communities to empower the next generation by giving them the tools they need.  


Back to School is Ransomware Season

 The rise of remote learning and the near ubiquitous use of online devices in the classroom has planted education squarely in the digital sphere. As a result the learning process has become more adaptive and resilient to global forces such as the Covid-19 pandemic as well as more accessible for students of all abilities than ever before. However, one of the drawbacks to an increasingly digitized educational landscape is a heightened risk of cyber attacks, particularly those that use ransomware to extort money from an organization or individuals. Schools can be especially enticing prey for this kind of crime due to the multitude of devices connected to a single system going in and out of the facility each day. The Department of Education’s guidelines for managing cyber crime risks are woefully obsolete, with no updates in over a decade. This means that the school systems lacking the means to create their own risk management plans are routinely left vulnerable. Both of these factors are part of why learning institutions of all levels are some of the most common targets of cyber crime. 

According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, incidents of ransomware doubled over the course of 2021, with this kind of attack being a part of 10% of all data breaches they observed across all sectors. In order to protect against this kind of crime it’s important to understand what ransomware actually is, so here are a few fundamental facts:

  •  Ransomware is a type of malware that’s surreptitiously installed on a device or network of device, and then encrypts the data contained on that device, thus locking the owner out.
  • Some of the ways it can be installed are by clicking a link in an email, downloading an unfamiliar file, or directly to an unsecured device via usb. 
  • The victim is told to pay a sum of money or “ransom” in exchange for the key code that will unlock the device. Paying the ransom is no guarantee that the data will be secure. A victim’s personal information can still be sold on the dark web. 
  • It is often used in conjunction with other forms of cyber crime such as phishing and identity theft.
  • Ransomware is becoming easier to employ due to the rise of RaaS or “Ransomware as as Service”, a trend where hackers will design a new ransomware program that they then sell to other cyber criminals.

While many schools and school systems have turned to cyber security systems that monitor the use of all connected devices while also blocking certain types of content, it is an unfortunate reality that no system is perfect. Threats inevitably slip through the cracks without a security approach that includes both offense and defense. The best way to create a proactive offense against ransomware attacks is to educate the students themselves about how to spot and deflect cyber attacks. 

One of Surf Wisely’s educational modules focuses entirely on ransomware because it is such a common threat to today’s students. Creating a strong foundation in personal cyber security practices in a way that engages students is the best way to ensure that they retain the information they need to keep themselves safe in the digital world. As kids return to school across the country they’re given access to laptops, tablets, smartphones, and educational apps that all communicate back to the schools central network. This access to internet ready devices is what makes remote learning possible, but it also creates millions of potential points of entry for cyber criminals to exploit. That’s why it is so important to include cyber security as a core part of any modern school curriculum from a young age.  

Protecting students of all ages, as well of the institutions they attend, from extortion and identity theft due to ransomware attacks is a key component to defending against cyber crime in general. Ransomware is becoming less difficult for criminals to employ as the skill to write the software has become unnecessary. The easiest targets are unsuspecting internet users, especially those who use devices connected to a large institution’s network. With a little bit of effort from us as parents and educators, we can teach students about the risks of digital life, and help ensure that the next generation doesn’t fall victim to the opportunistic criminals who would exploit them for profit.


Is Your School’s Software Really Secure?

With everything happening in the world today, many of us feel like we’re living in uncertain times. This is especially true for kids and students, who face threats we never even dreamed of when we were their age. Not least is the threat of cybercrime both at school and at home, which is why it is so important that we give educators and caretakers the tools they need to defend students against any number of digital attacks. From foundational internet safety and literacy to best practices when it comes to devising security, there are countless tools and systems on the market geared toward helping minimize the risk of cybercrime for today’s youth, but not all of these have been created equally. What are the most important factors to consider when choosing exactly how to go about teaching students to take control of their digital lives, and what approach will result in the most solid defense?

One route that has been popular among schools and other institutions where children frequently use online devices is the utilization of monitoring and filtering software. This can be an important tool in the fight against cybercrime, and many of these products offer an impressive suite of features. Some of the popular features of this kind of software often include things like content monitoring, alerts sent to parents and teachers, filters that block certain content categories, and time limits on device usage. The passive nature of this kind of software makes it easy to implement on a large scale, and it can begin to fade into the background as part of the day-to-day digital landscape for students where such programs are in place. 

Another type of product often used in schools as the main line of defense against cybercrime is using software integrated as part of a larger learning platform. Since the focus is not entirely on cyber security, these kinds of systems can go a step beyond simple monitoring and filtering software when it comes to blending into the scenery. Teachers might build an entire online learning space for their students that just so happens to have built-in cyber security features running behind the scenes.

Regardless of particular monitoring and/or filtering products’ scope, functionality, or ability to be integrated into existing systems, they are all limited by the simple fact that no program is perfect. Every system has its flaws, and, unfortunately, no one is better at finding the cracks in the armor than cyber criminals. The classic “teach a man to fish” metaphor holds true in this case. Equipping schools with robust software is an important part of a holistic cyber security plan, but it will never be a full solution to all digital threats because, by their nature, a software program can only react to what has already happened. The fact that they often blend into the background can be a double-edged sword as well. Although it can be beneficial from a monitoring standpoint for a product to function relatively unnoticed by students, this can also create a sense of complacency. Students get used to having the safety net of a filtering system that automatically blocks certain content. Instead of learning to protect themselves in dicey situations, they can be drawn into a false sense of security and left to fend for themselves with no real cyber security skills to draw upon in a context outside of school. 

To truly address the issue of online vulnerability it is important that we empower students with the skills and knowledge to keep themselves safe in the digital world. Surf Wisely is one of the few platforms on the market that actually takes a proactive approach to teach cyber security best practices. Instead of waiting for threats and warning signs to appear, Surf Wisely uses a gamified curriculum based on familiar sports language and imagery to engage students and put them in the driver’s seat when it comes to their own safety online. This prepares them for the reality of life outside the safety of the classroom and sets them up for success for years to come.

Digital interactions are becoming an increasingly important part of daily adult life, both professionally and personally, with many people forming thriving careers entirely online. The only way to safely navigate the vast array of digital spaces we come across is to do so with a certain level of confidence, self-reliance, and caution. These are all traits that Surf Wisely can help foster in students with the goal of helping them grow into responsible, well-protected online citizens. Yes, passive software that runs in the background is an important part of an institution’s cyber safety strategy, but in order to fully protect students as individuals from the first time they log onto a social media platform or activate their first smartphone, we have to give them the tools to protect themselves through intentional education in a way that feels fun and engaging!


More Effective Learning Through Play

Today we live in a world that is increasingly online. Education, work, and community are all spheres that we participate in digitally, and this is not just true for adults. In 2015 a Pearson study found that sixty-six percent of middle school students in the U.S. have their own smartphone. The current generation of kids has never known a world without the vast possibilities and countless pitfalls of an internet connected society.  Because of this, it’s important that childhood education includes the fundamentals of cyber security.  

Just about any kid you meet understands the importance of fundamental physical security measures like locking your car or avoiding people who intend to do you harm, and similarly, they can also easily be taught the value of security online. The problem, however, is how do we make the foundational skills themselves stick consistently for every student in a given classroom?  

It has been proven time and again that children (and adults) learn concepts and build habits much more readily when they are presented as a game.  Our brains are evolutionarily wired to seek out novel experiences that will provide growth and pleasure. The elevated mood caused by playing a game we enjoy carries with it an increase in executive function. Concentration, decision making, and memory creation are all improved when we acquire knowledge in the context of an enjoyable experience, because it creates a deeper kind of learning than passively absorbing information. This deeper learning known as “generative learning” has been heavily studied and is associated with active participation in the acquisition of new knowledge.  In short, a game the student enjoys creates many more points of connection for an individual than teaching methods such as lectures or reading assignments.  Conversely, boredom is a clear impediment to learning. Going through the motions of teaching new skills in a classroom without some aspect of fun or relatability to the students is a quick way to ensure that those students put in the bare minimum, and it’s not their fault.  That’s just the way humans work!  

This is the key to Surf Wisely’s unique approach to teaching cyber security skills to kids.  Our product helps students build good habits around protecting themselves online by conveying them in a fun, interactive package that doesn’t just feel like homework. We use familiar sports themes to create easy to understand analogies, and competitive play to teach important concepts.  

Cyber security fundamentals have a clear place in any modern educational curriculum.  Today’s students deserve to know how to keep themselves safe in a world that demands an increasingly high level of online activity for both personal and professional success.  These are skills that will serve them now, and into adulthood.  We see this gap in the education of the youth, and our internet safety program is specifically designed to address it effectively.  If you’re ready to say goodbye to boredom in the classroom, and embrace the positive effects of engaged learning through our gamified app, contact our team to learn more or to start a free trial.


Cyber Security and STEM Education Go Hand in Hand

If you’ve been in the education industry long at all, you know how much kids love STEM. The subject brings a number of benefits, including critical thinking, technical skills, and more. Its entire field is on the rise — according to Forbes, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census predicts a 13 percent increase in science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs in the United States between 2017 and 2027. And it’s not just being taught for jobs — the topic might just be our nation’s next line of defense against cyberattacks, too.

The main place where STEM and cybersecurity cross paths is technology. When we dive into what cybersecurity actually is, it involves coding, programming, and more — all of which require some serious scientific thinking to plan and implement.

STEM also affects cybersecurity in real life as our students grow. By teaching these two subjects together, experts say you can help to develop a skilled cyber workforce, enhance national security, and advance technology and the economy.

Three Tips to Include STEM Skills in Your Cybersecurity Lessons

With a little planning and creativity, combining STEM and cybersecurity lessons can be pretty simple.

1). Cover the Basics

Cybersecurity lessons may include a lot of familiarization with phishing tactics, strong password making, and the like, but the people committing the crimes are also deep into the tech space. Help kids learn about malware and how it works — this isn’t just a STEM skill, it’s a way to help them prevent those pesky viruses from attacking their devices down the line. Who knows — the lesson you teach might spark an interest in a high-level cybersecurity job or STEM degree in the future.

2). Don’t Shy Away From Studying Hackers

The science piece of STEM includes tons of data. In cyber and information security, it can boost students’ overall understanding to look into what the hackers are doing. Knowing the prevalence and common practices of the guys on the other side can help students prevent the crimes from occurring in their lives, too.

· Who is being hacked?

· When are they being hacked?

· How often are they being hacked?

· What is the average age group of individuals being hacked? 

· What social media platform is most susceptible to hackers?

Knowing all about cybersecurity threats, hackers, and their victims is likely to spark many more tech-related conversations in the classroom.

3). Give Cybersecurity Curriculum a Go

If you’re ready to teach both STEM skills and cybersecurity to your high school students at the same time, a carefully curated software can help. SurfWisely is an engaging, gamified program that uses the competitive edge of sports to entice students in cybersecurity education. Our skill set is designed to make a difference in the real world — preventing phishing, malware, and so much more.

If our cybersecurity + stem program sounds like it might be a good fit for your school, feel free to contact us at any time. We’d love to support your learners as they dive into these important topics.


Don’t Let Your Students Fall Victim to Identity Theft

SurfWisely Synopsis:

Why does this matter to me?

For Parents: Identity theft is real and scary, and unfortunately, your children are not immune. How can you protect them in this area? A little bit of training in proper cybersecurity practices can go a long way.

For PTAs: Keeping students safe on school computers takes a significant amount of training and supervision. One of the dangers you need to protect them from is child identity theft. Teaching kids what this is can make a large impact, and we have a program that can do just that in a fun and engaging fashion.

For Principals: You have enough worries on your plate — student ID theft shouldn’t be one. By implementing a high-quality cybersecurity curriculum, you can ensure kids understand what this danger is as well as how to prevent it from happening to themselves. Our easy to use and engaging platform makes the princess simple, too.

More About Student Identity Theft Prevention

Cybersecurity isn’t just a topic for kids to learn about for future purposes. Online dangers can affect them in their youth, too. Particularly identity thieves, who have recently proven to be a significant issue for students today.

Some common types of identity theft include medical identity theft, tax identity theft, credit theft, and more. Unfortunately, kids can fall victim to every kind.

Some of the best tips to help students prevent identity theft for students and adults alike include:

  • Keep social security cards at home, preferably in parent possession. Teach students to not give out their social security numbers to illegitimate sources.
  • Avoid sharing sensitive information such as phone numbers, addresses, debit or credit card numbers, bank accounts, and birthdays, especially when people or online forms ask for it. 
  • Review social media posts that can aid in the information-gathering process for identity theft.
  • Use smartphone security features, including fingerprint or face identification as often as possible.
  • Utilize firewall and virus protection on personal and school computers.
  • Changing passwords after data breaches at financial institutions or other accounts that have personal information stored within them.
  • Teach students to not send personal or financial information via email, as phishing scams can often be difficult to spot.
  • Signing up for identity protection services when it is deemed necessary (past breeches, etc).
  • Make a recovery plan in case identity theft occurs, including reaching out to local police and law enforcement and contacting credit bureaus. 

One of the strongest identity theft protection measures for students is freezing credit reports. A credit freeze ensures no one can open new credit cards or loans with a student’s social security card — which are processes they aren’t likely to do in high school anyway. It can keep them safe from sneaky financial actions that can cause so much harm to their future endeavors.

This action won’t lower the future score, either. It simply keeps students safe before their credit scores start to take off.If you’re looking for support in training your students to prevent them from becoming victims of identity theft and other cybersecurity threats, our online internet safety program can help. Our gamified app is both fun and informational, helping kids learn about identity theft, cyberbullying, malware, and so much more. We’d be happy to fill you in on the details anytime — just contact our team and tell them when you’re ready to chat.


Five Skills Students Need to Protect Themselves Online

SurfWisely Synopsis

Why does this matter to me?

Parents — Keeping kids safe online can feel like a full-time job. It can be difficult to know where to start, which is why we’ve put together a list to help you out. Teach your kids about scam emails and pop-ups, keeping their personal information private, using strong passwords, understanding internet permanence, and the fact that they can come to you anytime questions arise. For more detailed internet safety tips and tricks, dive into the post below.

Principals and School Administrators — Online safety brings a whole new realm to keeping kids protected on school grounds. How can you possibly overcome such a significant feat? Starting small can help, so we’ve put together a list of the first skills to teach in the post below. Our gamified, easy-to-use software can help you solve the problem, too.

Tech Teachers — You know all about cybersecurity and internet safety, but do you have time to include every piece of these important topics in your educational technology lesson plans? If not, SurfWisely may be the perfect solution. Jump down to the bottom of this post or reach out to our team today to learn more.

Simple Internet Safety Skills to Teach Your Students

Whether it’s distance learning, apps, or social media interaction, our kids are spending time in the digital world more than ever before. And unfortunately, with this increase in internet usage comes heightened safety concerns

We know it’s our job to keep our kids safe, even when the task seems larger than we can accomplish on our own. So let’s dive into a few simple skills that are easy to teach, but still leave a lasting impact on cyber safety understanding:

  1. Spotting Malware Ads and Emails — One of the easiest ways to get in trouble (or run into technology problems) on the internet is by accidentally allowing malware to enter your device. Malware can include pop-up advertisements on websites — typically with unlikely claims (you’ve won a million dollars, for example). It can also come in messages that ask you to click on a link or insert phishing information. Encourage students to never open a message from a sender they do not know, and share that the links in these conversations may not be safe. Have students come to you if an advertisement doesn’t seem right, as you’ll be able to help them spot the differences between safe ads and malware popups.
  2. Keeping Personal Information Private — Most students already know that they shouldn’t share information online due to identity theft. To instill the practice further, you may need to look into more age-appropriate concerns. Bring up the consequences of sharing full names, addresses, phone numbers, and schools attended on unfamiliar sites or to people they do not know face-to-face online. This article on college admission halts due to social media activity is a great place to start.
  3. Password Protection — Some students may not think a solid password is important, while others may think the simplest versions are the best ones to choose. Encourage long passwords without personal information such as names, family members, pets, or birth dates. Teach students about the importance of using a mixture of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Remind them to use different passwords for different sites. Maybe even have a fun activity once or twice a year where everyone changes passwords to encourage optimal usage time frames as well!
  4. Understanding Internet Permanence — “Everything you post on the internet stays there forever.” They’ve probably heard this before, but do they understand? Bring up examples of silly jokes from high school ruining job opportunities years down the line, and other similar challenges that come with digital footprints. Kids learn best from real-life lessons, and internet safety education is no different.
  5. Asking Questions — Remind kids that internet dangers aren’t something to be embarrassed about. Encourage sharing of questions and concerns — maybe even bring up some mishaps you’ve experienced personally to show kids that getting help from a trusted adult is no big deal. This can be helpful in preventing the dangers shared above as well as other worries such as cyberbullying and inappropriate content.

An Easy-to-Implement Platform to Help

Though the tips above can help, internet safety is a heavy topic with a lot of moving pieces to cover. If you’re looking for a simple way to share internet information with your students, reach out to the team at SurfWisely today. We offer engaging and all-inclusive internet safety software for school use. We teach through gamified, sports-based lessons that are fun for kids, and our program integrates into your school system for easy use on your end, too.

Let’s work together to keep our elementary school, middle school, and high school students safe online — one engaging and effective lesson at a time.


Sharing the Dangers of Social Media to Students Who Have Never Lived Without It

SurfWisely Synopsis

Why does this matter to me?

Parents — If you have teens or preteens, there’s a good chance social media is one of the most-used tools in your home. How can you keep your kids safe while giving them the social outlet that has almost become a requirement in our society? By monitoring slightly and enforcing privacy rules like strong passwords and private profiles, you can make a positive impact in otherwise uncharted space.

Principals and School Administrators — Your students are accessing social media platforms, no matter how many efforts have gone into blocking their use during school hours. How can you ensure they’re safe while doing so? We believe five simple tips can help — verified connections, privacy settings, lack of location sharing, strong passwords, and reporting cyberbullying right away. Teach these tips to your students for protection at school and at home alike.

Tech Teachers — Your students are on computers —with social media access— for the majority of your class, as well as a large chunk of the time they spend at home. How can you keep them safe in the process? We believe five simple steps can help, though you’re likely an expert in this area, too. Our gamified, easy-to-implement software can help you teach these skills if you find yourself not having the time.

The Five Tips We Find Most Effective in Keeping Students Safe on Social Media

It’s true — today’s young people have lived every moment of their lives in the world of social media use. From screentime and selfies to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, SnapChat, and more, social networking sites are simply the norm. This makes it much more difficult to spot the dangers that its use can bring. 

To help you cover these important lessons with your kids, we’ve shared some strong easy-to-implement social media safety tips for students:

  1. Know (and verify) all connections — It’s mostly common knowledge that we shouldn’t be connecting with strangers on the internet. However, it may be important to stress this with students at times — especially that they shouldn’t be chatting with people they don’t know even if they’re the same age or seem to live in neighboring towns. Why? Because fake accounts are created all the time. If something seems fishy, it probably is, and our kids need to be well-aware of the often-dangerous tricks people play online. Their self-esteem, mental health, and physical safety may be at stake.
  2. Keep your settings private — Privacy is something that doesn’t always feel like a big deal to adolescents. Try to bring in some lessons about why it should be. You may even want to provide lessons on what the different social media privacy settings look like. Some students might not be aware that everything they post can be seen by complete strangers if their security isn’t up to par.
  3. Never share your own location — Many of today’s social media sites offer the ability to tag posts with the user’s current location, or even allow a general type of tracking while the app is running in their phone’s background. This leads to obvious safety concerns related to stalking and other dangerous, real-life crimes, and our students need to be aware of the consequences a simple photo tag can bring.
  4. Use a strong password — We mention password strength in our last post about general internet safety skills for students. Unique, difficult-to-break combinations of eight characters or more can help protect students’ accounts from being used maliciously — whether the actions would potentially lead to identity theft, harm their reputations, or have a negative impact on the health and safety of their friends.
  5. Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult right away — Students likely know all about cyberbullying, but it’s helpful to go over its signs and detrimental negative effects, as well as what to do when the action is spotted. Remind your students that it’s always okay to go to an adult for help with cyberbullying, and that their quick actions could save their peers from a great deal of harm.

Social media accounts are a large part of our students’ lives, no matter what potential dangers it can bring. That’s why we need to be proactive in teaching its proper uses, as well as the negative impacts on safety and well-being that can come from its pages. 

If you’re looking for support in teaching your students about social media safety and internet security in general, feel free to reach out to our team at SurfWisely. We’d love to help you learn more about our easy-to-implement and effective game-based curriculum and how it can benefit the online lives of kids today.


How to Spot the “Fishiest” Phishing Scams — Cybersecurity for Students

SurfWisely Synopsis

Why does this matter to me?

Parents — Our kids are spending more and more time online, and there are more and more dangers out there that can potentially affect them, too. Phishing scams can lead to loss of personal information, identity theft, password hacks, malware, and more. Luckily, they can be easily avoided by learning their characteristics early on.

Principals and School Administrators — It’s your job to keep kids safe, and your school’s budget wants you to keep devices protected, too. One easy way to improve school safety for kids, computers, and tablets is to implement training on phishing scams. If your kids don’t click on malicious links or advertisements, problems like the loss of personal information, school cybersecurity threats, and malware can be stopped in their tracks.

Tech Teachers — You know all about the dangers of phishing scams, but how can you share this information with students on top of your already-full curriculum. Jump down to the bottom paragraph of this post and reach out to SurfWisely for a cybersecurity program that’s as simple as it is fun.

More About Teaching Students to Spot Phishing Scams

There are plenty of cybersecurity scams on the internet today, but phishing scams are often the most difficult to spot. Why? Because they look like they’re coming from real companies, and they play on our emotions with real-life concerns (credit card hacks, private information vulnerabilities, social networking concerns, etc.). It’s important for our students to be trained to spot them in their tracks, so they don’t end up being used as bait in cybersecurity attacks. 

What Are Phishing Scams?

Phishing scams are emails that come from hackers with security risks inside. They look like they are being sent by real companies at first glance. For example, you could get a message from Netflix that states your password needs updating. It has the company’s logo, but other aspects seem off.

The emails typically include links, and once you reach their site, they ask you to enter personal information like phone numbers, credit cards, passwords, social security numbers, and more. They can also lead to malware and other cyber threats on your device.

If you enter this information, a cyber attack will begin. You could have something as small as a password hacked, or something as large as identity theft.

Aspects of Phishing Scam Emails to Look Out For

Spotting phishing scams can be tricky, as common sense isn’t enough to stop them. By spotting the following characteristics, however, your students will be able to avoid them every time.

  • Mentions of suspicious online activity, update requirements, or other concerns
  • Claims of problems with your account
  • Requests for authentication on a mobile device or confirmation of private information
  • Demands for privacy setting changes
  • Password change requests for social media accounts
  • Offers or deals that seem “too good to be true”

Each of these requests will include a link to click on. Be sure not to follow it, as it won’t go to the site the email is supposedly from. It’ll go to the hacker instead, and they’ll have the chance to keep any sensitive information you provide.

Some signs emails are from cybercriminals and not actual companies include:

  • Logos that are similar, but not exactly the same as the ones you’ve seen before (pixelated, outdated, etc.)
  • Sender addresses other than the actual company’s email
  • Generic openings that do not include your name (“Hi, loyal customer” or “Dear friend”)

If you’re not sure if an email is a phishing scam, it’s a good idea to reach out to the supposed company. That way, they can tell you if the message was legitimate or if it’s something you need to avoid.

Share these tips with your students to build cyber safety knowledge and start their avoidance of phishing emails today. Feel free to let our team at SurfWisely know if you’d like additional support in teaching cybersecurity for kids, too. Our gamified, educational app is the perfect tool to keep kids safe, teaching internet safety topics in a simple, effective, and easy-to-implement way.

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