Online Safety and Security – Best practices
Today, we have a whole new range of challenges facing our lives through online presence.
Back in my day, we went outside and skinned knees and elbows and our parents would worry about our survival in the playground while we roller skated and rode our bikes – sans helmets, or any other protection. We did make it – somehow.
Today it’s a new digital playground and safety is important for everyone!
Many of my clients have been hit with viruses from email attachments, clicking links in search results, and from installing toolbars or software that appeared to be free but were loaded with viruses and malware.
Emails can ruin an entire company’s week if the attachment clicked on launches a virus attack that encrypts all of the data on the hard drive.
Every day I get at least 5-10 emails that are loaded with viruses in the form of zip file attachments. They state things like, “DELIVERY NOTIFICATION – Fedex” or “Receipt Attached”.
Clicking on the zip file launches the virus and the attack is almost instantaneous. If you are fast enough, you MIGHT be able to shut down the computer before it’s totally destroyed or encrypted.
One of my clients was expecting a bill from one of his suppliers. He clicked what he thought was the attached bill and within a minute, his entire hard drive was encrypted.
The attachments I have seen have come in as mostly .zip files, but I have seen the fake .doc and .docx files that if you click them, automatically launch a background process that goes out to a server and then encrypts or infects your drive.
While .pdf (Adobe Acrobat) are usually safe, if you don’t know who sent it, it might not be safe to click it.
Some of you might want to just go back to an abacus and a Bowmar Brain, but you can’t see Facebook on those. And email from a loved one is hard to read on the Bowmar…
Practicing safe computing and being aware of what you are opening is the best way to maintain your computer’s safety.
Some of these are the same old song and dance – faked emails from real companies that take you to a fake site to enter your information, which is then sold to the highest bidders.
I get quite a few of these with fake links to other sites from people who have been hacked on Yahoo!, AOL, and other sites. The hackers get access to the user’s contact list through the user clicking on a link in an email, and then feed those into a list to further their scam. (I just got one asking me to invest $27m for The Minister of State for UAE. Sure, let me put that on my Starbucks card for your Mr. Al-Hashishi…)
Recently I have seen FAKE Amazon Awards emails and immediately knew it was bogus. The link in the email went to nothing Amazon but to a site that had .php in the ending of the address.
PHP is the web language for processing webpages and is not a .com ending. It will process your input, saving it to a file on the fake site for others to break into your account with. That should be a WARNING FLAG for any suspect email.
Most sites, like wellsfargo.com and amazon.com will have that in the link for your ease of arriving at their site and end in .com, not .php.
The phishing emails don’t have that as the main link, but will try to make it look close enough to fool some of the masses.
The sender might or might not have faked the email to look like it came from the real website. Most of mine show some weird email like “napoleon-johnson”.
The bottom line: if you are NOT sure if it’s real, DON’T CLICK the LINK.
Go directly to the organization that the email claimed to be from (do this BEFORE you click the link – afterwards, it’s too late) and check your accounts there. If it says it’s from Amazon, go to amazon.com. If it says it’s from wellsfargo or BOA, go directly to wellsfargo.com or bankofamerica.com.
Watching Your Kids – Safety FIRST!
Kids are under attack online in social media from bullies, online predators, and even some have been approached by terrorist organizations looking to recruit through these digital avenues.
Terrorists have used Twitter and Facebook, and are branching out to the smaller apps looking to recruit. They will play nice to your kids, like all predators, but have bad intentions that will be apparent, possibly long after it’s too late.
This is a tough call for most parents. Their kids have tablets and phones and many are unsupervised while using these devices. Their friends are all online and peer pressure can make it tough for a child or a young teen to not get into some bad situations using these apps.
Online predators know this. Your kids may not be aware enough to stop someone from taking advantage of information, what your house looks like, where you live, what school they are attending, who is in the family, and lots of other details that I would not want anyone to know.
Other clients have asked me about keeping their kids safe while they surf the net and use the different social media apps on their phones and tablets.
So how do we let our kids know what is safe and appropriate?
What are the best practices for keeping young kids and teens safe?
One of my clients asked me to help her with her daughter’s online presence. She wanted to be on two social media apps, one is an actual broadcasting app.
Both of these apps have private/direct messaging which is NOT appropriate for unsupervised online usage in my opinion and some parent’s opinions as well.
After installing the app on the phone, the parent, the kid and myself setup the account so that her mom would be able to check on the account at any time to verify and ensure the safety of her child. Her mom has the account ID and passwords, and checks her phone and tablets for anything that could be a problem daily.
The young lady also wrote out by hand an agreement to keep herself safe online and we went through different scenarios that she might face. She was getting the idea that she had to ensure her safety and would be willing to block anyone asking for personal information or anything that made her feel uncomfortable. I thank her for helping me with the idea for this safety agreement.
I realized that some parents may not have the knowledge of what can happen with kids and teens and strangers on these apps and social media sites.
I created this PDF for parents and kids to sign and agree to so that everyone in the family maintains and understands the need for online safety.
Click here to download it to your computer and print it out as needed. (This is a SAFE LINK from my DropBox – if you want it emailed to you or faxed, please let me know.)
Online Safety Tips
- Don’t install anything that appears to be free. If it’s too good to be true, then it will cost a fortune in virus cleanups.
- Don’t install toolbars for maps, recipes, free music or ANYTHING since that brings in lots of unwanted malware and can install software that tracks what you type and where you type it, all reporting it back to the scammers who wrote that virus. Yes, they can get your login information and you will be chasing your tail trying to figure out how they got into your bank account.
- Don’t click on links in any suspicious emails.
- Ensure that kids are supervised when using any apps that broadcast LIVE.
- Have your kids read through the Online Safety Agreement and everyone should sign it.
- Review your kids phones and tablets for signs that could lead to trouble for them or detail other issues that they are facing with bullies and predators.