On The Guardian Podcast With Ryn Melberg: What Parents Can Do To Protect Children From Hackers

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The VTech hack exposed 6.4 million children to the danger of identity theft and worse. Here are several steps parents can take to start protecting their child's private information.

The largest hack to ever impact children was perpetrated against VTech in late November, 2015.

While the majority of children do not have bank accounts or credit cards, thieves will use their stolen identities to create phony accounts and loan applications.

In the wake of the VTech hack that exposed the private information of 6.4 million children, Ryn“The Guardian” Melberg describes the steps needed to keep children and their data safe from theft. The Guardian Podcast can be heard on iTunes, Soundcloud, or at her web site, http://www.rynmelberg.com.

Strangers In Friends’ Clothing
The most unnerving piece of information Melberg shared on her podcast was the way predators could use seemingly innocuous information to make a child think they knew the perpetrator. “We teach children that strangers are dangerous, and that they should not talk to them,” Melberg said. “But what happens when the ‘stranger’ knows the child’s name, address, birthday and even the names of their pets? The child will conclude that he must know this person because children have not developed the powers of discernment that an adult has.”

Even putting full names with the city of residence will make a child vulnerable to a predator or even a disgruntled parent in a divorce or custody settlement. “The online world makes it very easy to find someone,” Melberg warned. “This is especially true if your child has an unusual first name,” she stated. “My name ‘Ryn’ is rare enough that finding all the ‘Ryn’s’ in my hometown would be pretty easy, and the same is true for your child.” The practice of careful on line engagement extends to chat rooms associated with games, as children are known to share personal information in those as well. It is particularly noteworthy as the children’s’ chat information was part of the VTech theft.

Hackers will also use stolen personal information to set up false banks accounts, apply for credit cards, and student loans. "A child's credit history can be ruined before they finish middle school," Melberg said.

Steps For Protecting Children On Line
Here are the steps Melberg articulated on her podcast.
1.    Never use a child’s full name on line.
2.    Never publish a child’s birthday on line.
3.    Never publish a child’s street address or even the city or state where they reside.
4.    Do not disclose the name of the school where your child attends.
5.    Never disclose a location where the child will be, particularly if parents are not there too. This could be a camp, school trip, etc.
6.    Actively monitor on line chats in real time with your child and explain to him/her why this matters.
7.    Use fictitious information when answering security questions and remember it.
8.    Use a fake on line or screen name when working or playing in cyber space.

To contact Ryn Melberg, go to her web site at: http://www.rynmelberg.com.

NOTE: Ryn Melberg is available for comments and interviews. Contact haroldnicoll(at)gmail(dot)com or call 979 292 8026 to make arrangements.

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Harold Nicoll