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Staying safe and secure online: Protecting yourself and your kids

A cybersecurity expert from Google reveals the best way to protect our online accounts from hackers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Feb. 8 is Safer Internet Day, a time to take stock of our online lives. While technology has had a lot of positive impacts, it also opens the door to cybercriminals looking to take advantage.

Two-factor authentication can keep you safe

“Data is currency and so the more you put out there, the more you become a target, “ Kaylin Trychon, a cyber security expert at Google, said.

“Unfortunately, there's a lot of opportunity for scamming and trying to get access to accounts that people have," Trychon said.

Trychon said working from home has made the opportunity for cybercrime worse because of the number of newly created accounts.

Trychon said we need to be using what’s called two-factor authentication.

“That is your best asset in defense against these cybercriminals," Trychon said, "and taking the five seconds to set it up, is really, really important.”

She explained two–factor authentication adds a very important second step when logging in to an online account.  

The first step is entering a username and password correctly. The second step is the two-factor authentication process to make sure the person logging into your account is in fact you.

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The two-factor process will provide you with a unique key to enter in the form of a six-digit code. The code may either be texted to your cell phone upon the start of your login process or is stored inside a separate authenticator security app on your phone. Since the codes expire every 60 seconds, the idea is to prevent unauthorized logins to your account even if your username and password are compromised. 

"Oftentimes, the cybercriminals have the first step of verification - they have your password - but if they don't have your cell phone - and they don't have that secondary code - they can't type it in, and then they can't get access to your account," Trychon explained.

There isn’t an extra fee to enable two-factor authentication. For most accounts and services, you can activate the option under the “security” or “privacy” portion of the “settings” menu of each account or app. 

Cyber Exploitation

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation said it has seen an increase in the exploitation of children specifically through various social media sites.

To help keep children safe, the NCSBI says it's important to know the dos and don'ts of internet interactions.

“Parents engaging their children — knowing who they are talking to on these various social media applications .Who they’re friends with, what they’re discussing," Nathan Anderson, Assistant Special Agent in Charge at NCSBI, said.

ConnectSafely.org is a website for parents and students to use to learn how to safely navigate the internet and recognize online scams, news misinformation, and cyber crimes like bullying and sexual exploitation.

If you notice any wrongdoings on a website, ConnectSafely encourages you to report them.

“Vet the sites that you go to," ConnectSafetyly.org CEO Larry Magid said. "Make sure they’re legitimate before you give them any information.”

Cyber crimes against children can be reported here.

Contact Carolyn Bruck at cbruck@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Contact Briana Harper at bharper@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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