As the number of data breaches and threats from online child predators continues to rise amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck urged New Jerseyans to make cybersecurity a priority in their daily lives.
As part of October’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Bruck released figures from the New Jersey Cybersecurity Communications and Integration Cell showing that data breaches in 2021 are on track to surpass those seen during the height of the pandemic, when a prolonged statewide lockdown gave cybercriminals a unique window of opportunity to prey on those using the internet for work, school, and socializing.
According to the New Jersey State Police’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, reports of child luring, sextortion, and other types of child exploitation increased by nearly 50 percent in 2020, when mandatory school closings required students as young as kindergarten to log onto the internet for remote learning.
So far this year, the task force has received 6,062 reports of online threats to children – just short of the 6,130 received in 2020 – with still two months to go.
“Technology is constantly evolving and so are the ways criminals try to take advantage of it,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.
Lyndsay V. Ruotolo, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, says it is crucial to make parents aware of the dangers their children face online.
Rules for children to follow
The following rules for children are suggested by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and endorsed by the New Jersey State Police:
● I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents’ work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school without my parents’ permission.
● I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
● I will never agree to get together with someone that I “meet” online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my mother or father along.
● I will never send a person my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents.
● I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If I do, I will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the online service.
● I will talk with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online, and appropriate areas for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.