Dont’ Miss an Opportunity to Talk about Security

CloudOne of the best ways to reach teens is to share with them a real world example. When talking to my kids I use a lot of stories from the news. For example when talking about digital reputation, I showed them “My Embarrassing Photo went Viral.” This weekend, we talked about the celebrity hacking scandal and what kids can do to keep their devices and accounts secure.

Last week, explicit photographs of 100 female celebrities were leaked online. These photographs came from a group of hackers who collected and traded nude pictures online. How they attained these pictures was by breaking into the celebrity’s Apple iCloud account. Reportedly, these hackers were able to access these personal accounts repeatedly and download pictures.

How did the hackers break in? According to Apple, “celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet.” In this case, hackers gained as much data as possible from public social media accounts and used it to find emails, guess passwords and security questions.

Most of these celebrities were probably unaware their pictures were even stored on iCloud. iCloud is a backup system which automatically saves digital photos, calendars etc. When someone takes a picture with their mobile phone it is automatically uploaded and stored in their iCloud account. Even if they deleted it off their phone, it could still be in iCloud. The benefit to an automatic backup is if someone loses their phone, they would not lose everything.

You can turn off these automatic backups. Without the automatic backup, if they lose their phone and haven’t downloaded their pictures, they could lose all their digital photos. I know many teens who have lost their phone or accidentally broken it. Given the likelihood of something happening to their phone, a better alternative may be to increase security.

Parents should share with their kids how to  improve security on their end by:

  • Setting a Strong Password – An easy password is like closing the door without locking it. Teens and kids should always use strong passwords for their accounts and devices. Never use common passwords like “password” or “1234”. Choose passwords that are hard to guess with both letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Choosing unique passwords – Once you have that strong password do not use it for every account. If someone happens to guess or sees your password they will now have access to all your accounts. Every account should have a unique password
  • Turning on 2 factor identification – Once this feature is turned on, a person trying to access an account has to enter a password plus a code before they can login to an iCloud or Google Account. This unique code is sent to a trusted device chosen in advance by the user. Some popular apps, such as facebook, twitter and tumblr  also offer 2 factor security.
  • Watching the oversharing – Keep answers to security questions off social media or don’t use real answers to your security questions. Let’s say your favorite singer is Taylor Swift, the answer to the security question “who is your favorite singer” could be Kanye West.

Finally, it is not bad idea to remind kids there is no such thing as a private digital photo. Even with apps like Snapchat, a photo doesn’t truly disappear. Nothing is 100% private in the digital world.

For more information:

Ask Kids Privacy: Question about Privacy on Kik

kik logo

Kik is a messenger service app that is popular with teens and Ask KidsPrivacy has received questions from readers about monitoring, unwanted messages and accessing kik. This week, I received a question about kik and privacy. Kik does not have private and public accounts but teens can protect their privacy by managing their contacts and not sharing their username. Below are some helpful tips on privacy and kik. If you have other questions, kik has an excellent Parent Guide and Help Center.


Q: How do you put your kik on private so that only people you want can see it ?

A: Kik does not have private and public accounts like Instagram or Twitter. On kik, anyone who knows your username can send you a message and see your profile. In order to keep your profile private, kik recommends users protect their privacy by:

  • Choosing a username that’s hard to guess. Do not use the same username for all your social network accounts. Your kik username should be different from your instagram, twitter or  tumblr accounts. Kik also recommends choosing a name that incorporates letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Keeping your username name private by not sharing it publicly. Do not post #kikme messages on public networks such as twitter or instagram. Once you share your username, anyone who sees it can send you a message. Only share your username with friends and family and ask them not to share your username.
  • Using the Block and New People features to manage messages. You should turn on “Ignore New People” under Notifications. This will send all new contacts to a separate list that can be deleted. You can also block a contact which will hide all messages from this person.  For more information on these features, check out How can I keep my Kik account private? from the Kik Help Center.

Remember, kik has no logout button. If someone has access to your phone, they can go in to your kik account. You should always set a password on your phone. You can also force a logout by resetting kik but resetting will not only log you out it will wipe your conversation history deleting all your messages. For more helpful tips, check out a platformforgood’s safety tips for kik.

Ask Kids Privacy Answers Questions about Kik

kik logoCurrently, my most popular post is What parents need to know about kik. Kik is a messenger service app that is popular with teens. Given its popularity, it is no surprise that many of the ask KidsPrivacy questions I receive are about kik. Here are my answers to several recent questions about viewing kik messages and receiving messages from unknown users. Need more information? Check out kik’s Tips for Parents.


Q: My girlfriend had someone hack into my phone and retrieve my phone log. Will she be able to do the same thing if I’m using the kik app??

A: Kik does not have log out button. So, if she access to your phone’s apps, she can open the Kik app and see the undeleted messages. Kik displays the last 1000 messages for each undeleted conversation.

The bigger question is why is your girlfriend hacking into your phone? In an honest and healthy relationship, partners should not be spying on one another. MTV AThinLine has some excellent advice for teens on how to deal with this situation. I included the relevant answer below and urge you to check out their section on Digital Abuse – Spying .

mtv spying

Q: How are strangers able to message my daughter on Kik?

A: Anyone can send someone a message on kik as long as they have know the kik username. Some teens post their usernames on public social networks with the hashtag #kikme. So, if their username is easy to guess or they posted it publicly on Instagram or Twitter, they may receive a request from someone they don’t know.

Now, some of these strangers may not be real people. Symantec recently reported about adult web cam sites targeting kik users. When users share their kik usernames publicly on social networks, spammers can collect them and send these users a direct message. The profile pictures for these unsolicited messages are often inappropriate and the messages themselves provocative.

Kik is working to eliminate these porn bots. For now, when a user receives a photo from a random kik user, kik blurs the profile picture and the sent image or message. Kik also keeps messages from new people separate and users can turn off “notify for new people” option in Settings under Notifications.

kik ignore chatWhen they receive a message from a someone not in their contact list, teens can choose to ignore or chat. Teens should click ignore. From there, they can choose to delete, block or report these users as spam. If the message violates kik’s policy, they can also report the user by sending a message to kik.

To limit chats to just friends and family, teens should not post kik usernames publicly and if they do receive an unwanted message they should take advantage of kik’s reporting and blocking options.