European information security agency warns about data-profiling risks to minors

ENISA makes recommendations to mitigate online threats that can affect the lives of children

The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) has issued recommendations to law enforcement agencies, European Union member states, civil society groups, as well as parents and educators on how to mitigate risks faced by children online.

The agency has identified cyberbullying and online grooming, which refers to gaining the confidence of minors with the intent of sexual abuse, as some of the top online risks to underage children and warned that data mining and profiling can facilitate these forms of abuse.

To provide context for its recommendations ENISA created a fictitious scenario centered around a 13-year-old girl named Kristie who has a very active social presence online and maintains a secondary profile where she presents herself as an adult by lying about her age and occupation.

This is increasingly common behavior for tech-savvy children. According to a recent study performed in the U.S., a large number of parents actually help their children evade age restriction controls on social media websites because they believe that such online services can further their educations, enable family communication and enhance their social interactions.

In ENISA's scenario, an attacker uses data mining and profiling techniques to build an online identity for himself that matches Kristie's interests so he can earn her trust. The young girl ends up starting an online relationship with a boy who she believes to be 16, but is actually a 35-year-old sexual predator.

Unfortunately, there are many cases where data profiling is used by online attackers for the selection of victims. Back in September, 32-year-old Luis Mijangos of Santa Ana, California, was sentenced to six years in prison for charges related to sextortion -- extortion involving sexually explicit photos and videos.

According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which investigated the case for two years, Mijangos had over 200 female victims, many of them underage girls, which he targeted through social networking websites. He impersonated their friends and family members to trick them into installing malware on their computers. This allowed him to intercept their private communications and hijack their webcams.

A 23-year-old man from Citrus Heights, California, named George Samuel Bronk pleaded guilty in January to hacking into the email accounts of dozens of women by using information they posted online. He searched the compromised accounts for intimate photos and used them to harass his victims.

ENISA said that its report is intended to complement existent national and international child protection initiatives with non-technical recommendations. The agency's suggestions range from E.U. member states strengthening law enforcement agencies and statistical data collection efforts regarding cases of information misuse, to launching more frequent online campaigns regarding the prevention of cyberabuse, and trying to close the knowledge gap between adults and teenagers when it comes to computer use and online issues.

ENISA recommended that teenagers use specialized security settings online and that applications that handle teenager data be assessed for their impact on privacy. It also wants mechanisms that allow the deactivation of online components to be made available in mobile apps and current age-oriented access controls to be enhanced.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securityonline safetyEuropean Network and Information Security Agency

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?