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Protecting Your Cyber-Identity

 

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At no other period in history have people been more reliant on technology than at the present time. From online banking to email correspondence, for many of us, our main source of personal and business communication is the Internet. It’s extremely important to focus on our digital footprint—to evaluate our digital behaviors, understand online security, and become responsible, digital citizens.

 

Many malicious acts come directly to our inbox. According to Google, as of April 2014, the number of Gmail users has climbed to  500 million. Imagine the totals when you combine all the other email service providers. This is an extremely large captive audience for people trying to sell, steal, or harm others. Email schemes include viruses and worms, phishing scams, and SPAM. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) offers these tips to protect your account from email scams:

  • Filter spam
  • Don’t trust unsolicited email. 
  • Treat email attachments with caution.
  • Don’t click links in email messages. 
  • Install antivirus software and keep it up-to-date. 
  • Install a personal firewall and keep it up-to-date. 
  • Configure your email client for security.

A global cybersecurity awareness campaign, “Stop. Think. Connect.” was launched in 2010 by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). The NCSA is a non-profit, public-private partnership between a coalition of governments, industries, and nonprofit organizations that focus on the health of our online community. According to their website, “STOP. THINK. CONNECT. is about taking a moment to stop and think about the places we visit online, the information that we share, and the communities in which we participate before and while we are connected to the Internet.” The campaign encourages members of our cybersociety to:

  • Keep a clean machine.
  • Protect your personal information.
  • Connect with care.
  • Be wise.
  • Be a good online citizen.

The most important sector of our cyber-community is to protect our children. Today’s generation is growing up in an almost completely digital world, where there are unlimited possibilities. According to the FBI, “Unfortunately, the same advances in computer and telecommunication technology that allow our children to reach out to new sources of knowledge and cultural experiences are also leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and harm by computer-sex offenders.” According to their website, the following are signs that your child might be at risk of online misconduct:

  • Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night.
  • You find pornography on your child’s computer.
  • Your child receives phone calls from men or women you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.
  • Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.
  • Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
  • Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
  • Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.

If you suspect a child in your life is communicating with someone they shouldn’t, or if you feel they are being scammed in any way, consider talking with them about your suspicion. The key is to have this conversation before you suspect something. Make sure they know what appropriate online behavior is and what is not. Finally, teach them how to be a responsible digital citizen by being one yourself.





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