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Keeping the castle safe: Home network protection and your kids
By Carol Cuppy
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Criminals no longer need to break down the front door and walk into your house to have access to your bank accounts, medical records, even your family photos. They merely need to gain access to your technology. If your castle is not properly defended, these enemies can break in and conquer your kingdom in the blink of an eye.

The Castle

Our homes are the beautiful fortresses where we return at the end of the day to rest, recharge and spend time with that which matters most to us: our families. Like a mighty castle, our home is the centre of our bustling world. The royal family resides inside its sturdy walls and the wealth of the kingdom is stored safely within its vaults. A castle has various layers of defense to keep the treasures inside safe from enemies who might want to steal, kill or destroy. As parents, we must secure our homes just like a castle by building defences that will keep our families safe.

Criminals no longer need to break down the front door and walk into your house to have access to your bank accounts, medical records or even your family photos. They merely need to gain access to your technology, which is a feat that can be done from the other side of the globe. If your castle is not properly defended, these enemies can break in and conquer your kingdom in the blink of an eye.

A castle’s defences are a great analogy for how we should set up our home network protection systems.

The Bad Guys

First off, let’s take a look at the enemy who is marching up to your gates. The bad guys – also known as bad actors – are constantly on the lookout for new and clever ways to hack into your home’s technology. Here are four common (and often successful) tactics that they might employ to gain access to your network:

Phishing: These are emails that create a sense of urgency to click on a photo or link. When the link is clicked, a malicious file is downloaded onto your computer. Phishing scams can be very cleverly composed to appear as if it is from a company or sender you know, so be very careful about what you choose to open!

Malware: This is a malicious code created with the intent to steal or destroy sensitive information on your computer.

Viruses: Malicious files that spread through your entire network like the common cold.

Ransomware: This may occur after a successful phish, malware or virus has been released onto your network. Ransomware forces the owner to pay a ransom in order to gain access to their computer again. Keep in mind, paying the ransom is not a guarantee that you’ll have access to your files restored.

The bad actors have no remorse about hacking into your home’s network. If they are successful, the results could be disastrous. Worse yet, it puts your family in harm’s way. How then, as parents, can we protect our homes and kids from these malicious attacks?

Raise Your Shields

The first thing you must do to secure your castle is make the investment in a home network protection device. This is separate from – and in addition to – your Internet Service Provider’s router. There are many options available, so do your research for what fits best with your current season of life.

Next, install the home network protection system. Turning the device’s firewall “on” will effectively raise the shields against incoming attacks. Every different operating system – whether it be Windows or Mac based – needs some sort of protection. Be sure to take the time to configure exactly which websites and applications you want blocked. There are a variety of features that are specifically designed to protect your children, which I will explore in the next section.

Third, take inventory of all the devices on your network. This will help you to understand what should be there, and what shouldn’t. You can set your home network protection system to alert you and require your approval before any new device joins your network. Be absolutely sure you trust the device and user before you allow it onto your network, otherwise you open yourself to potential attacks.

Once you have completed these first three steps, it’s time to patch any holes you have in your defences. Ensure that each of your devices has the most current version of the operating system installed, and that any patches for them are up to date. You can set your patches to run automatically – while you’re sleeping, even – to ensure they are the most current in defense technology.

Take Control

Now that your castle’s defences are in place and your home’s network has been fortified, it’s time for you to take control by monitoring any potential threats. This is especially important where your kids are involved. Have conversations with your children about online safety. Here are a few ways that you can use your home network protection system to protect your kids:

Time Limits: You can set time limits for any of the devices that your kids use to ensure that they are not getting too much screen time. You can also limit time spent on games or other websites.

Allowed Applications: You have control over which applications your children are allowed to use, and which ones you want to have blocked.

Web Filtering: You also have control over which website categories can be blocked. For instance, you might want to block websites with adult content, social media, file sharing, etc.

Explicit Images: Your home network protection system can alert you when your child has viewed or downloaded an image that could be deemed explicit. As parents, our first instinct is to panic when we receive an alert like this. Stay calm. It is possible for false positives to occur. However, if your child has viewed an explicit photo, this opens the opportunity for you to talk with your child about the content and how it is harmful to them. Above all, be diligent in reviewing every alert that you receive in order to best keep your child protected.

Cyberbullying: Your network protection system can scan all content on your child’s social media, instant messages and VoIP apps so that you don’t have to read through them all on your own. It will alert you when it finds anything that could be considered threatening.

Building the Walls

Now that you understand the importance of keeping the castle safe, you may be wondering which materials are the best to build up your defences. While there are many different products available, here is a list of excellent products to get you started:

  • Bitdefender and Norton Core Router are all-in-one home protection solutions. These include network protection, identification of new devices, antivirus and malware protection, and parental controls. Firewalla is also an all-in-one home protection system, but has no parental controls. These, however, do not include patching, so you will need to be sure to purchase a patching system.

  • PatchMyPC and MacUpdater are automatic patching tools for third party software products.

  • Circle only provides parental controls such as web filtering and time limits. An all-in-one solution such as the products mentioned above is still necessary.

Happily Ever After

In this day and age, attacks on our home can come from a wide variety of places, including through our home networks. We guard our treasures – most importantly, our families – in the castle we call home. As parents, it is absolutely critical that we defend our castles as diligently as possible. If we take the time and make the effort to install a home protection system, the risk of a successful attack to our home and family becomes significantly less. We have been given the tools to effectively protect our kingdom, and it is only wise to employ these defensive strategies to keep our families safe.

© 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at focusonthefamily.com.

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