Technology enables parents to find part-time work and life balance

Whether it is online retail, in-home data entry, or remote class instruction, technology has changed the game for parents who want to work outside of a traditional office setting, and be their own boss. It is now very possible to launch your own business venture out of your home and build your brand while the kids are napping or off at school.

In this article on BayState Parent, we examine how this trend has grown over the last decade, and why it has been life changing for many parents who otherwise would be limited in their opportunities to earn some extra income for the household. In this article, we see examples of several “mom-trepeneurs;” one runs an an online skincare products site, one works as a part-time writer and editor, and our last example is a pair of mom friends with a flair for decor who met and developed a design business through email and social media. Now it’s a thriving home interior and design store!

Tips for creating a family digital contract

When introducing electronics into a child’s life, appropriate device use doesn’t just happen. Kids need coaching and rules to understand how to use smartphones, tablets and computers in a healthy manner that works for you and your kids.

That’s where a digital contract comes in to help. It is an agreement between you and your child/children on what is considered appropriate electronic use in your home. Details will vary by family, but could include, for example, amount of time on the computer, iPad or iPhones, allowable Websites and apps, allowable locations for using devices.

Please read this guidance for creating a digital contract for your family in this story on BayState Parent.

Is social media making kids sad?

Anxiety among kids is on the upswing – and is now the leading mental health issue among children in America. Why? In this article on BayState Parent, some medical and neurological experts note that social media use is stressing kids out and giving them an unrealistic view of the world. Near-constant device use is causing mental health issues for many, and making it more difficult to escape the very factors that give them anxiety.

Do you think social media is contributing to negative feelings among kids? How much access do your children have to social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat? Leave me a comment and let’s chat!


Video game helps kids learn calming strategies

Got a kid who melts down easy and needs a little support with learning how to regulate emotions and react to stressful or difficult situations? A video game developed by a team of experts at Boston Children’s Hospital aims to help children learn emotional regulation through play.

Mightier, by Neuromotion Labs, is a gaming platform that allows kids to have fun and learn how to calm down with the use of a tablet, an app and a heart rate monitor.

Find out more about how it works in this month’s story on BayState 

Today’s biggest social media scams

Social media adds much to our lives: friend connections, socializing, funny memes, political arguments (OK, maybe not ALL of it is positive). But putting yourself out their on a social network also brings risk into your life. Criminals know how much we love to log on and be social, and these sites are common targets for cons. Falling for these schemes sets you up for a malware infection on your device, or even a financial loss if someone manages to fool you into sending them money.

Be on guard for the darker activity making the rounds on social media. Check out these social media scams currently making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other popular sites.

Facebook adds messenger app for Tweens, kids


Facebook has launched an app that allows kids under 13 to message with other users their parents approve. Facebook still requires members to be 13 and older. The new app, called Messenger Kids, allows users under the age of 13 to send texts, videos and photos; they can draw on the pictures they send and add stickers.

More information in the following articles:

Facebook ‘Messenger Kids’ lets under-13s chat with whom parents approve

What can I do to protect myself after Equifax?

I’m getting many questions from fellow CyberSavvy Parents out there who want to know the best recourse for protecting yourself and your credit after the massive breach announced earlier this month by Equifax.

A quick explainer if you’re not familiar with the breach I am referring to:

Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency, reported earlier this month that cybercriminals had gained access to the personal information of approximately 143 million consumers. The information included social security numbers, addresses and other personal information that can be used to create credit accounts in your name and can also be sold for profit on the black market.

The answer to “what now?” is not that easy.  Some experts, like Terry Cutler, a security advisor who gets into suggestions in the video below, advise that you consider freezing your credit.  Freezing your credit is just what it sounds like: it puts a freeze on any new lines of credit that can be opened with your social security number.  You implement the freeze and you initiate the “unfreezing” of your credit as well with a personal identification number or other type of locking key/code that you establish when you initiate the freeze.

My issue with advising millions to freeze their credit is that this is not an easy on/off process and can be a headache, as explained in this article.  Is it an option? Yes. But don’t think it is a “quick fix” to your personal, sensitive information hanging out there for criminals to use.

More importantly: monitor your credit report vigilantly.  This was important before Equifax became headline news, and is now even more so.  If you have minor-aged children (and I assume if you’re reading this site you likely do), then check on their social security numbers too, frequently, to ensure there is no credit taken out in their names.  How do you do this? Unfortunately you need to take your inquiry back to the source of our headache: the credit reporting bureaus.  In addition Equifax, credit bureaus TransUnion and Experian need to be contacted to get a complete picture of what you have out there for credit lines.  All three bureaus also need to be contacted if you choose to freeze your credit.

I don’t promote specific products on this site, but there is the option of enrolling in a credit monitoring service for your entire family.  Google search for some options and do your homework before signing on to any service. And, no, I don’t recommend the service Equifax offered for “free” after they announced their breach. That was a public relations disaster of epic proportions and another topic for another day.

For today, my advice is what is often is: stay aware, be vigilant.  Keep on top of your credit accounts, bank accounts, loans, anything you have out there.  And look out for new lines you didn’t open. That includes your kids’ credit too.

These are tough times and the bad guys seem often to remain one step ahead of us when it comes to trying to take our good name, credit and money for their own nefarious purposes.  But be your own cyber warrior and be tough and aware.  Your best defense is always knowledge.



Checklist for back-to-school device security

Here in the Cyber Savvy household, we are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the first day of school. Only a few weeks away, the Cyber Savvy kids are looking forward to meeting their new teachers, reuniting with old friends and, of course, loading up on all that back-to-school gear we buy each year.

As students get older, school supplies often mean devices; laptops, tablets and other technology.  The team at Malwarebytes have put together this checklist of tips to help you keep your crew safe as they return to school this season.

  • Watch out for too-good-to-be-true software and device sales. Is that Facebook ad really promising a brand-new Mac laptop for $200 if you just click here and fill out your personal info? Think hard before you jump on a back-to-school online ad that seems fiendishly cheap. It could be adware, it could be a scam, or it could lead you to a malicious page that will later infect your own computer.
  • Ensure that they have security software and tools installed on their new device. Antivirus with anti-phishing features, firewalls, script blockers, ad blockers, password managers, anti-theft apps, anti-malware and ransomware—you name it. Cyberattacks can come from all sides these days, so it pays to have at least one of each of these software programs and/or extensions installed on their computer, phone, or tablet. And if you think your child’s Mac is bulletproof from these attacks, think again.
  • Stress the importance of physical security, too. Physically securing devices is just as important as securing the data inside of them. We’re not just talking about using a padded bag for laptops, or shock-absorbent cases and shatterproof screen covers for phones and tablets. We’re talking about locking cables and USB port blockers, actual things that thwart theft and unauthorized access, respectively, while they’re in school.
  • Instill in them the habit of locking computers when they have to move away from them for a while. Locking screens is another way to prevent others from, say, flipping your child’s screen upside down, snooping around, and looking at files they shouldn’t be looking at. Beware the “hacked” social media posts that reveal false, embarrassing information about their users!
  • Disable the autorun functionality of their OS. As you may know, malware can be stored in and transported via USB sticks. If your child’s computer automatically runs what’s inside it once slotted into the machine’s port, then this is a real problem. Thankfully, there are a number of ways one can disable autorun. For Windows users, Microsoft has dedicated a page just for that.
  • Introduce them to multi-factor authentication (MFA). The most common and widely used MFA is two-factor authentication (2FA). In order for them to know and understand what it is, you might show them how it works using your own phone and computer. That way, if they are asked to sign up for online programs that store their data at school, they can raise their hand and ask if the program has MFA. By educating your child on this security procedure, he or she can educate the school in turn.
  • Discourage rooting/jailbreaking. If your child is old enough to figure out how to root or jailbreak a device, chances are they’ll probably be tempted to do this. Jailbreaking opens devices to custom modifications and the unrestricted download and use of apps from third-party sources. These can be quite handy if your child wants one that cannot be found in the official app store. However, jailbreaking and rooting increases the success rate of a hacking attempt, as these overwrite the device’s inherent security settings, making devices more vulnerable and susceptible to threats.
  • Update game console firmware. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Isn’t your little gamer glad that back-to-school gadgets are not limited to calculators, headphones, and keyboards? Gaming consoles are becoming more like computers as they evolve. Although it’s rare for them to catch malware (at least for the time being), there are still ways hackers can circumvent their security to perform other malicious acts, such as gaining access to gaming accounts. So for now, update the gaming console’s firmware—and do this on a regular basis—before handing it to your child.

Find more back-to-school tips from Malwarebytes in their blog post on the topic.

Geek out with your kids

Boston, MA- June 15, 2017, Bos/TechJam (#BTJ2017) will take over Boston’s Government Center hosting an enormous block party of innovation, music, food, and beer from Jack’s Abbey.

But it’s not just an event for business folks, inventors, and entrepreneurs, they want to see students and have arranged lots of activities to entertain everyone in the crowd.

“Students – You are an important part of making Boston an awesome tech community!  Join us at Boston TechJam 2017News where you can connect with other students as well as leading companies in the tech community. Kickoff summer with lawn games, music, summer eats, a slushy bar and so much free stuff you’ll need a bag to carry it all out!”

Home to some of the most prestigious schools in technology and innovation, Boston is bursting with brilliant minds who’ve discovered amazing ways for technology to shape our future.

This is your chance to meet them first hand. The TechJam team will celebrate its 5th Anniversary of holding space–lots of space–for some of the brightest students, creative tech start-ups, venture capitalists, and leading technology companies.

You and your family can join them to fraternize, network, geek out, and have a little fun.

Tickets are still available, and this outdoor summer celebration of technological genius might make for a fun after school field trip for high school students who are interested in STEM subjects. It’s never too early, or too late, to get your kids thinking about a career in information and cybersecurity.

Volunteers are also welcomed at the event, so parents and students can volunteer together to HELP@TECHJAM.

No, I didn’t just call you

“Hi, I just missed a call from this number.” No, you didn’t. You spoofed my number.

The first time it happened, was actually via a text message. Someone wrote, “Who is this?” The non-cybersavvy, coffee deprived and inclined to be helpful mom in me responded with, “Sorry, I’m confused. You just texted me.”

Mystery texter responded, “I just missed a call from this number.”

Kindly, I replied, “Sorry, but I didn’t text you.”

Sometimes I get really annoyed with myself when I make these silly little mistakes that could result in something as minor as future annoyance or as critical as fraud.

Now, I get phone calls multiple times a day from a variety of different people, men and women, claiming to have just missed a call from me.

It’s called spoofing, and in the email world, it’s been around for a while. Many fraudsters have traditionally used spoofing as part of their phishing campaigns. Now, they are spoofing cell phones.

It’s a thing, though according to my tightly knit circle, it’s not happening everywhere to everyone, but I can confirm that it is happening with a variety of different cell phone providers from Sprint to AT&T.

My experience with the customer service provider at Sprint was less than helpful, so I had to go out and do some research on my own, and I’ve yet to gain clarity on whether there are any critical security risks that we cell phone users need to be wary of.

As best as I can tell, there is a risk of giving away our personal information to a fraudster, so share nothing with no one and tell your kids to do the same.

Because, “Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally,” the act is prohibited by the FCC.

There are all sorts of unwanted phone calls, much like junk mail that has gone from the traditional mailbox to our email boxes. It’s another marketing technique, albeit not a good one.

But, unwanted calls are different from spoofing. These are not telemarketers, and there are step beyond adding your number to a national do not call list that you can and should take if you find yourself answering a random return call that you never actually dialed.

The trick is in recognizing the fraudulent caller. When a fraudster is using the spoofing tools, “The caller ID feature is sometimes manipulated by spoofers who masquerade as representatives of banks, creditors, insurance companies, or even the government,” according to the FCC.

Here are some peculiar details to watch for.

  1. There is no caller ID
  2. The number looks surprisingly like yours, except the last 4 digits are different
  3. It’s often the same statement, “I just missed a call from this number.”
  4. It could also be a text message asking, “Who is this?”

Your best bet is to start blocking the numbers, lest you decide to change your phone number all together. It’s an option that is offered, though a huge hassle with no guarantee that the number won’t be spoofed again.

To play it safe, just don’t answer a call unless you recognize the number, and don’t respond to random text messages. If you think your number has been compromised, you can also file a complaint with the FCC or ask your provider about Caller ID apps.

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