Proposed age verification checks have risks for UK internet users

London, UK – May 21, 2019: With the United Kingdom’s controversial online age verification checks scheduled to come into force this summer, experts from cyber security provider F-Secure are advising UK internet users that the new rules could increase the risk of identity theft and other cyber crimes.

“Preventing kids from accessing certain types of online content, such as pornography, is in everyone’s interest. But people who share personal details with third-party age verification platforms need to know that attackers actively target this type of data, and will likely find these databases very enticing,” says F-Secure Principal Consultant Tom Gaffney. “Plus, criminals will almost certainly try to trick users into disclosing personal information by creating fake websites that look like legitimate verification pages, which is another risk users need to be made aware of.”

Under the new laws, British internet users will be required to verify their age in order to access adult content websites. This could mean sharing personal information such as passport, driving license, phone number or credit card details with third-party age verification platforms, or purchasing a “porn pass” at a local shop.*

The new requirements come at a time when cyber crime has become more common in the UK than traditional robbery or theft.** Attacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated, while the general public often takes a complacent approach to digital security.

And while he supports the intent to protect children, F-Secure’s Fennel Aurora, a security advisor with the company, says the checks could backfire by enticing minors into taking other risks.

“The checks may drive those who wish to avoid the age verification system into engaging in more risky online behaviours. This could include accessing smaller, unregistered sites, or using free, untrustworthy tools that can harm unsuspecting users attempting to work around the checks. If these behaviours increase, we could end up exposing internet users of all ages to illegal content, as well as malware and other cyber crimes,” warns Aurora.

According to Aurora, educating families and kids about online security, privacy, and how to behave online is as important as regulating websites.

“While we understand the desire to limit children’s exposure to potentially harmful content, it’s not a long-term plan for keeping kids safe. Regulation is an aid and not a replacement for the parent’s role. Technology like F-Secure TOTAL helps parents by actively safeguarding their children online. Just as importantly, TOTAL helps parents have meaningful conversations with their children about the internet, allowing parents to set healthy boundaries for kids while supporting their growth towards independence,” says Aurora.

More information on F-Secure TOTAL is available on F-Secure’s website.



About F-Secure

Nobody has better visibility into real-life cyber attacks than F-Secure. We’re closing the gap between detection and response, utilizing the unmatched threat intelligence of hundreds of our industry’s best technical consultants, millions of devices running our award-winning software, and ceaseless innovations in artificial intelligence. Top banks, airlines, and enterprises trust our commitment to beating the world’s most potent threats. Together with our network of the top channel partners and over 200 service providers, we’re on a mission to make sure everyone has the enterprise-grade cyber security we all need.

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