Nadine Dorries raps about the Online Safety Bill on TikTok
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Children are risking falling into traps set by “predators” whenever they go online, an expert has warned with research showing a majority of under-15s are unable to identify scam emails. Joint research from cyber-security company Kaspersky and data insight company Censuswide has shown “overconfidence” amongst children on the web is putting them at risk from internet attacks, aimed at grooming or extracting information.
According to the data, 65 per cent of 11-15 year-olds are unable to identify “phishing scam” emails, in which online con artists and “predators” attempt to “access” their social media accounts or steal their personal data.
David Emm, Principal Security Researcher on the Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky told Express.co.uk that online criminal activity targeted at under-18s is “not just about getting access to data, it’s about potentially doing harm to kids.”
Scammers often aim to extract “credentials” for financial gain, Mr Emm said. However, he noted that when it comes to children, he suspects attempts at online deception will more frequently be with a view to “groom”.
“There are predators of all kinds out there”, he warned. “Stranger danger has gone online in that sense… they’re looking to befriend people, to get them to do stuff.
“You talk to kids at school… being sent inappropriate content by people who are not predators… [from] their peer group. If you look at how rife that is and you extend that on to people who really do mean harm to kids… it’s quite a scary thing.”
The study surveyed a total of more than 6,000 children aged 11-15 and 6,000 adults across the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece and the Netherlands.
The research found that 48 percent of children in the UK who think they are knowledgeable about online security have actually been victims of a phishing scam.
80 percent of children surveyed, who had been victims of some form of deception from internet criminals, said they engaged with quizzes on social media and used personal information on various platforms. At the same time, almost as many conceded they used personal information to remember passwords.
On top of this, vulnerable children aren’t getting adequate support from parents and guardians, with more than fifty percent of participants over the age of 18 revealing that they do not assist their children with online safety.
The researchers claim their findings suggest “overconfidence” is putting children “at risk every time they go online”. Mr Emm believes the overconfidence comes from the fact that to many children, online technology feels “second nature”.
“There’s a danger I think that when we see our kids [appearing] so adept at using technology, we tend to think ‘oh yeah they’ve got that tech no worries’. But actually, that’s different from being worldly wise and understanding how people can misuse technology… to put them in harm’s way.”
Mr Emm also believed that lockdown restrictions “broadened the attack surface” of online criminals. He noted that the pandemic saw schools bring in “group meeting apps for an age group who never would have done so before”.
The report calls on governments in the countries surveyed to do more to ensure children are protected when using the internet. “Countries across Europe just aren’t dedicating enough classroom time to online security”, it said.
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“There simply aren’t enough classes highlighting the dangers of different threats or courses on how to stay safe in a virtual world. This means children are relying on their parents or guardians to teach them, but who is teaching the older generation about online safety?”
The security researcher said he is keen to see greater Government intervention to stem the tide of criminal activity aimed at children online, however, admitted that legislators may not be well-informed and as a result lawmakers could be playing catch-up.
“There is always a lag between something becoming a problem and legislation taking care of it”, he said. “The key obviously for legislators… is not that they’re experts necessarily, but what they need is access to people who are.”
A Government spokesperson said: “All children deserve to grow up in a safe environment. We have strict requirements already in place to ensure children and their data are kept safe online in school and we will be updating our filtering and monitoring guidance, working with providers and others to do all we can to keep children safe.
“We have also recently updated our Teaching Online Safety in Schools non-statutory guidance which provides advice for schools on how to teach children to stay safe online.
“Through the Online Safety Bill, technology firms will be required to enforce their age limits and protect children from being exposed to harmful material online.”
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