Category Archives: Internet Safety for Children

A Parents’ Facebook Safety Primer

imageThe more things change, the more they remain the same – or so we’ve been told. When I was a teenager, I was pretty typical for the times – I knew everything! On top of that – I was convinced that I was invincible! Pretty standard fare when one is a teenager, I think.

Since those days, back in the “dark ages”, the World has changed dramatically – except perhaps, for teenagers’ views of the World. They still know everything; they’re still invincible.

In my day, this overwhelming self confidence in what I knew, and the faith I had in my invincibility, was essentially harmless – other than the inevitable parental conflict it caused, of course.

But today’s young people face a tougher, harsher “World”, the World of the Internet, in which the “I know everything” frame of mind, can lead to consequence which were unknown to those of my generation.

This “I know everything” perspective, is a major stumbling block which impacts a teenager’s ability to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy, and safety. Particularly the Internet phenomenon – Facebook.

The reality is – staying safe in today’s techno centric world demands knowledge, and acquiring that knowledge requires that a major effort be made to obtain it. Little, if any, of this knowledge, is acquired through osmosis.

If you’re a parent, you should know that because your teenager may be more comfortable with technology than you, does not makes your teenager tech savvy. Knowing how to text message, or load a game onto an Xbox, does not make anyone “tech savvy”. It really is a situation where the “I know everything” mindset, can lead to negative consequences.

We know from survey after survey, that teenagers have misplaced confidence in their ability to stay safe online. While the majority of teenagers say they are confident they can remain safe online, survey results continue to show a wide chasm exists between the perception, and the reality.

So, how can you, as a parent, help your teenager acquire the knowledge needed to enhance overall personal security in todays “wild west” Internet environment?

A great place to start is – not only read, but share with your teenager,  a 32 page PDF guidebook for parents’ – A Parents’ Guide to Facebook, released today by Connect Safely, an Internet resource “for parents, teens, educators, advocates – everyone engaged in and interested in the impact of the social Web.”

As well, Connect Safely has a ton of social-media safety tips for teens and parents, the latest youth-tech news, and many other resources.

Visit Connect Safely.org, where you can read this handbook online, or better yet, print out the guide for continued reference.

From the site:

Welcome to our guidebook for parents! It’s designed to help you understand what Facebook is and how to use it safely. With it, you will be better informed and able to communicate with young Facebook users in your life more effectively.

That’s important because 1) if something goes wrong, we want our children to come to us and 2) as the Internet becomes increasingly social and mobile, a parent’s guidance and support are ever more key to young people’s well-being in social media and technology. The guidebook is published in partnership with the iKeepSafe Coalition.

About the Internet Keep Safe Coalition:

The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe.org) is an international coalition of more than 100 leaders worldwide with a shared vision of seeing generations of the world’s children grow up safely using technology and the Internet.

Coalition members include policy leaders, industry, public health, child advocacy, law enforcement, and education experts, working together to bring all communities into full digital citizenship.

Internationally, iKeepSafe has outreach programs in Australia, China, Dubai, Nigeria, the UK and US. IKeepSafe is a member of Egypt’s Cyberpeace Initiative with First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, the EastWest Institute’s Cybersecurity initiatives, and the International Telecommunication Union’s Child Online Protection Initiative.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under FaceBook, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Parenting Help, Social Networks, Teenager Internet Safety Tips, Windows Tips and Tools

Tips For Using Instant Messenger Applications Safely

imageIn a recent Symantec survey, which questioned computer users on the most likely routes cybercriminals use to drop malware on unsuspecting users, one resultant statistic made me sit up a little straighter. Just 3.9% of survey participants believed that Instant Messenger applications had a role in malware distribution.

Given the frequency with which instant messaging is used to distribute malware (recent statistics indicate almost 50% of worms use this method to spread), I was more than a little surprised at this unrealistic response.

We’ve talked about IM security a number of times here, but this recent statistics indicates, a quick refresher might be in order.

The reality is, from a security perspective Instant Messaging applications can present considerable security risks. Security breakdowns can occur when these programs are used to share files, folders, or in some cases, entire drives. Instant messaging, unfortunately, is a primary channel used by cyber-criminals to distribute malware and scams.

Just a few days ago, for example, a Trend Micro analyst discovered an IM variant of the “Solve the IQ test”. Had he followed the instructions, he could have let himself in for a series of monthly charges of $9.99–$19.99 a month, automatically added to his cell phone bill.

Programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and a basket full of other IM applications, are extremely popular with users who want real-time contact with each other and (no surprise here), this makes them the perfect vehicle for cyber criminals.

Hackers use two methods of delivering malicious code through IM: delivery of virus, Trojan, or spy ware within an infected file, and the use of “socially engineered” text with a web address that entices the recipient to click on a URL which connects to a website that downloads malicious code. Viruses, worms, and Trojans then typically propagate, by sending themselves rapidly through the infected user’s buddy list.

image

The following is a series of sensible tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.

As with any other application you use on the Internet, having the knowledge that allows you to use it safely, and being aware of current threats, will make for a more positive experience when using these wildly popular applications.

Don’t click on links, or download files from unknown sources. You need to be alert to the dangers in clicking on links, or downloading files from sources that are not known to you. Even if the files or links apparently come from someone you know, you have to be positive that it really was this person who has sent the message.

Check with your contact to be sure the files, or links are genuine. Remember, if you click on those links, or run those attachments without confirmation, you run the risk of letting malware into your computer.

Use only secure passwords, and be sure to change them regularly. The longer and more varied they are – using a variety of different characters and numbers – the more secure they will be.

Protect personal and confidential information when using IM. Revealing confidential or personal information in these types of conversations, can make you an easy target for Internet predators.

For added protection when using a public computer, ensure that you disable any features that retain login information to prevent other users from gaining access to your instant messaging once you leave.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, however do so only when absolutely necessary. Cyber criminals are always on the lookout for accounts to target.

Instant Messanger changed Above all, if you are a parent, take exceptional care with the access that your children have to these programs.

The risk here goes beyond malware, as sadly, they could come into contact with undesirable individuals. The risk is low of course, but……..

Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on protecting your children on the Internet and download free software, Parental Control Bar,  to help you do just that.

Readers with younger children, please read, KidZui – Free, Safe Internet Browsing for Kids, on this site. This guest writer article, by Silki Garg of the Internet Security Blog, provides a comprehensive review of KidZui.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Child Safety Internet, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

New McAfee Study – Teenagers Confidence In Staying Safe Online Misplaced

image McAfee Inc., a well known provider of antivirus software and intrusion prevention solutions, has just released its most recent research data on the behavior of young people, while using the Internet.

The Youth Online Behavior Study, of 1,357 young people between the ages of 10 and 17 in the United States, conducted in May of this year, reinforces previous McAfee studies which indicated that teenagers have misplaced confidence in their ability to stay safe online.

While ninety-five percent of teenagers say they are confident they can remain safe online, survey results show a wide chasm exists between the perception, and the reality.

One of the more harmful urban myths, continually perpetuated by security providers, including McAfee, despite their own evidence to the contrary is – we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation.

I find the dichotomy to be just slightly less than bizarre. It’s little wonder that most parents believe it. This “truth” however, should not be taken at face value.

Simply because a teenager is more comfortable with technology than a parent, does not makes a teenager tech savvy. Knowing how to text message, or load a game onto an Xbox, does not make one “tech savvy”. It really is a situation where “they don’t know what they don’t know”, can have serious impact.

The following selected statistics from the McAfee study offer substantial proof:

More than one quarter (27%) of teens online had accidently allowed their home computer to become infected with a virus or other malware.

One in four kids (25%) report that they wouldn’t know what to do if they were bullied or harassed online.

More teens also admit to giving their cell phone numbers to someone online whom they don’t know in the offline world (12% this year, compared to 8% in 2008).

One quarter (25%) of girls—including 43% of girls ages 16 to 17—admit to chatting online with people they do not know.

Girls are also more likely than boys to get harassed online, share their passwords with friends, give a description of what they look like to strangers, and share photos of themselves.

Boys are more likely to download programs without their parents’ knowledge.

69 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds have included their physical locations on the social networking status updates

16 per cent of the teenagers involved in the McAfee study, indicated they had developed social networking profiles and Email addresses, which they had hidden from their parents.

I found the most surprising and troubling statistic to be; 31 percent of those surveyed stated that they’d change their behaviors if their parents monitored their online behaviors.

You can read the full report, in PDF format, here.

It’s reasonable to state, based on accumulated evidence, that the majority of teenagers, are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy and safety.

So, if you’re a parent, the following are just some of the questions you should consider:

  1. What social networking sites does your child subscribes to?
  2. Who are their online friends and acquaintances?
  3. What does your child post online and where is it posted?

Most importantly, you and your teenagers need to agree, that the following guidelines will be adhered to. That they will –

Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line.

Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or an on-line service to people they do not personally know.

Never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.

Never download applications from an unknown source.

Never respond to messages or social site postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.

An additional problematic issues is, the issue of sex, tech and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting. For information on this current issue, please read “Sexting – A Real Problem or an Overreaction?” on this site.

Additional resources:

Microsoft Online Safety

WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free and effective Internet control tools.

The FBI Kids’ Page – designed for children and their parents to learn more about the FBI through age-appropriate games, tips, stories and interactives.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under cybercrime, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Microsoft, Parenting Help

The Internet is NOT Childs Play – Internet Tips for Parents

imageIn the last year,  McAfee Inc., the well known provider of antivirus software and intrusion prevention solutions, released research which indicated that most American mothers rate their teenagers’ online safety, their exposure to drugs and drunk driving, as essentially equal anxiety producing agents.

So, were these mothers concerns justified?

You bet! While it’s true that the Internet can provide a rich educational and cultural experience for children, and teenagers, it is virtually impossible for them not to be exposed to,  “the underbelly of the internet”.

One of the more harmful urban myths, which most adults believe is, we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation. This “truth” however, should not be taken at face value.

Simply because a teenager is more comfortable with technology than a parent, does not makes a teenager tech savvy. Knowing how to text message, or load a game onto an Xbox, does not make one “tech savvy”. It really is a situation where “they don’t know what they don’t know”, can have serious impact.

I fully understand where this idea of the tech savvy generation comes from – just listen to the mainstream media. The media constantly pontificates on how technically literate today’s young people are. The dichotomy is, these are the same young people whose literacy skills are insufficient to deal with their own education, never mind the complexities the techno world presents.

If you think this is an overstated argument, then consider this: According to a study of more than 19,000 college graduates, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, only 31 percent can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. Without doubt, the world of Internet security is the most complex world I have ever inhabited.

Staying safe in today’s techno centric world demands knowledge, and acquiring that knowledge requires that a major effort be made to obtain it. Lacking in appropriate literacy skills makes the job of accumulating that knowledge a difficult undertaking.

It’s no wonder then, that the majority of children, and teenagers, are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy and safety.

Let me ask you this question – would you drop off your child, or teenager, in a neighborhood where more than half of the buildings were adult stores, and which was potentially full of predators?

In my view, if you allow your child, or younger teenager, to interact with the Internet unsupervised, or without having communicated to your child information concerning potential on-line dangers, this is what you may well be doing.

How much do you know about where your child goes on the Internet?

What social networking sites does your child subscribes to?

Who are their online friends and acquaintances?

What does your child post online and where is it posted?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are not alone. Recent statistics make it clear that fully 80% of parents don’t know.

It’s easy to see why this knowledge gap exists; since reports indicate 8 of out of 10 parents give their children unrestricted access to the Internet, without implementing parental control settings.

Additional study statistics:

Providing personal information to online strangers – 52 per cent of teens in the study reported having done so.

Providing a photograph, or a physical description, to online strangers – 34 per cent of teenage girls in the study, reported having done so.

Clearing the browser cache so that their Internet history cannot be tracked – 32 per cent of the teenagers in the study, reported having done so.

I found the most surprising and troubling statistic to be; 16 per cent of the teenagers involved in the McAfee study, indicated they had developed social networking profiles and Email addresses, which they had hidden from their parents.

So what’s a concerned parent to do?

fbi_logo 2

You can bring yourself and your teenager up to speed on online safety, by taking the “McAfee/Comcast Cyber Summer Safety Challenge”. You might be surprised at what you can learn.

Then, follow the advice offered by the FBI in the United States, which lists some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent, can take to reduce your teenagers possible victimization on the Internet.

According to the FBI, the following are some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent, can take to reduce your child’s possible victimization on the Internet.

Communicate, and talk to your child about potential on-line dangers.

Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.

Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.

Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.

Since computer-sex offenders are a very real danger on the Internet, the FBI suggests that you instruct your children to:

Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line.

Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or an on-line service to people they do not personally know.

Never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.

Never download pictures from an unknown source; there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.

Never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.

Parental Control Bar 2

An important aspect of ensuring that your child is safe while using the Internet, (recommended by child safety experts/organizations), is the installation of parental control software.

Parental controls will provide you with the advantage of being able to:

Block access to materials (text and pictures) identified as inappropriate for kids.

Permit access only to materials specifically approved as safe for kids.

Specify what types of materials are appropriate for your child.

Monitor your child’s activity on the Internet by storing names of sites and/or snapshots of material seen by your child on the computer for you to view later.

Set different restrictions for each family member.

Limit results of an Internet search to content appropriate for kids

Enforce time limits set by parents.

If your operating system does not offer parental control features, and you would like to implement this, then check out my review, on this site, of a free application offered by WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free and effective Internet control tools – “Free Internet Child Protection – Parental Control Bar”.

An additional problematic issues is, the issue of sex, tech and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting. For information on this current issue, please read “Sexting – A Real Problem or an Overreaction?” on this site.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

23 Comments

Filed under Child Safety Internet, cybercrime, Free Surveillance Applications, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Parenting Help, Sexting, social networking, Windows Tips and Tools

Yahoo Instant Messenger Under Attack Again or Still?

A new variant of an old Yahoo Instant Messenger Worm spreading fast.

imageIn business, when something works, why bother to reinvent the wheel. A little nip here; a little tuck there and hey – you’re still in business! No surprise then, when we see that cybercriminals subscribe to this business philosophy.

Programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, etc, are wildly popular with users who want real-time computer contact with each other, and so, they form a perfect attack vector for malware distribution.

Symantec, along with a number of other security providers, are warning users of Yahoo Instant Messenger specifically, they are being targeted by a new variant of an old IM Worm, identified by Symantec as W32.Yimfoca.

image

image

image

(Graphics courtesy of Symantec)

If you are a Yahoo Instant Messenger user, you need to be particularly cautious, at the moment, in saving what appears to be a JPG or GIF file, but in fact could easily be this malicious executable.

This threat drops a worm which will lead to the attacker taking control of the victim’s computer. Additionally, the Worm is programmed to attack those in the victim’s contact list.

Given the frequency with which instant messaging is used to distribute malware (recent statistics indicate almost 50% of worms use this method to spread), the following is a series of sensible tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.

As with any other application you use on the Internet, having the knowledge that allows you to use it safely, and being aware of current threats, will make for a more positive experience when using these wildly popular applications.

image

Sensible tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.

You need to be alert to the dangers in clicking on links or downloading files from sources that are not known to you. Even if the files or links apparently come from someone you know, you have to be positive that it really was this person who has sent the message.

Check with your contact to be sure the files or links are genuine. Remember, if you click on those links or run those attachments without confirmation, you run the risk of letting malware into your computer.

Use only secure passwords and be sure to change them regularly. The longer and more varied they are – using a variety of different characters and numbers – the more secure they will be.

Revealing confidential or personal information in these types of conversations can make you an easy target for Internet predators. For added protection when using a public computer, ensure that you disable any features that retain login information to prevent other users from gaining access to your instant messaging once you leave.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, however, do so only when absolutely necessary. Cyber criminals are always on the lookout for accounts to target.

Above all, if you are a parent, take exceptional care with the access that your children have to these programs. The risk here goes beyond malware, as sadly, they could come into contact with undesirable, or even dangerous individuals.

Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on protecting your children on the Internet and download free software to help you do this.

image

Click here: “Keep Your Kids Safe With Free Parental Control Bar”.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

12 Comments

Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Internet Safety, Internet Safety for Children, Malware Advisories, Software, Symantec, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

Tips: Your Teenager and the Internet

This week is National Protect Your Identity Week, October 17-24, and in conjunction with this important reminder that identity theft, which affects both adults and young people, is a serious and a growing problem, the following is a revision of an article I wrote earlier this year.

When I write this type of article I sometimes feel as if I’m like the boy who ‘”cried wolf”, but I can assure you – I’m much more like the Dutch boy, in the story, who stuck his finger in the dike.

image

You’re a parent, and you actively participate in your teenager’s life, right? But how much do you know about where your teenager goes on the Internet?

Amongst 0ther considerations, do you think about –

What social networking sites your child subscribes to?

Who their online friends and acquaintances are?

What your child posts online and where it’s posted?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are not alone. Recent statistics make it clear that fully 80% of parents don’t know. Ouch! It’s easy to see why this knowledge gap exists; since reports indicate 8 of out of 10 parents give their children unrestricted access to the Internet, without implementing parental control settings.

Contrast this reality with research completed by McAfee Inc., a well known and respected provider of antivirus software and intrusion prevention solutions, that indicated most American mothers rate their teenagers’ online safety, their exposure to drugs and drunk driving, as essentially equal anxiety producing agents.

A more recent McAfee/Harris interactive poll suggests that more than half of teens have talked to a stranger online. Given that it’s becoming more difficult to protect children and teenagers from the dangers on the Internet since there are so many dangers, and these dangers are constantly evolving, this is a chilling statistic.

Additional McAfee research statistics:

Providing personal information to online strangers – 52 per cent of teens in the study reported having done so.

Providing a photograph, or a physical description, to online strangers – 34 per cent of teenage girls in the study, reported having done so.

Clearing the browser cache so that their Internet history cannot be tracked – 32 per cent of the teenagers in the study reported having done so.

One of the most surprising and troubling statistics to be found in this study indicated that 16 per cent of the teenagers involved stated they had developed social networking profiles, and Email addresses, which they had hidden from their parents.

The “tech savvy” generation myth:

One of the more harmful myths, which most adults believe is, we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation. This “truth” however, should not be taken at face value.

Simply because a teenager is more comfortable with technology than a parent, does not makes a teenager tech savvy. Knowing how to text message, or load a game onto an Xbox, does not make one “tech savvy”. It really is a situation where “they don’t know what they don’t know”, can have serious impact.

I fully understand where this idea of the tech savvy generation comes from – just listen to the mainstream media. The media constantly pontificates on how technically literate today’s young people are. The dichotomy is, these are the same young people whose literacy skills are insufficient to deal with their own education, never mind the complexities the techno world presents.

From WikipediaMany students read “below grade level”. For example, many high-school graduates read at the 8th-grade level, and college graduates at the 10th-grade level.

Nearly all of today’s blockbuster writers write at the 7th-grade level, including John Grisham, Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and Dan Brown. Experts today recommend writing legal and health information at the 7th-grade level. Laws often require writing medical and safety information at the 5th-grade level.

If you think this is an overstated argument, then consider this: According to a study of more than 19,000 college graduates, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, only 31 percent can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. Without doubt the world of Internet security is the most complex world I have ever inhabited.

Staying safe in today’s techno centric world demands knowledge, and acquiring that knowledge requires that a major effort be made to obtain it. Lacking in appropriate literacy skills makes the job of accumulating that knowledge a difficult undertaking.

It’s no wonder then, that the majority of children, and teenagers, are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy and safety.

What you can do:

You can bring yourself and your teenager up to speed on online safety, by taking the “McAfee/Comcast Cyber Summer Safety Challenge”. You might be surprised at what you can learn.

Then, follow the advice offered by the FBI in the United States, which lists some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent, can take to reduce your teenagers possible victimization on the Internet.

Communicate, and talk to your child about potential on-line dangers.

Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.

Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.

Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.

image

Since computer-sex offenders are a very real danger on the Internet, the FBI suggests that you instruct your teenager to:

Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line.

Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or an on-line service to people they do not personally know.

Never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.

Never download pictures from an unknown source; there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.

Never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.

An additional problematic issues is, the issue of sex, tech and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting. For information on this current issue, please read “Sexting – A Real Problem or an Overreaction?” on this site.

If your operating system does not offer parental control features, and you would like to implement this, then check out my review, on this site, of a free application offered by WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free and effective Internet control tools – “Free Internet Child Protection – Parental Control Bar”.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

1 Comment

Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Sexting, social networking, Windows Tips and Tools

Avoid Worms – Instant Messaging Tips

image I wrote earlier today about a new worm currently circulating on the Internet, which Panda Security identifies as the MSNWorm.GU.

This worm uses MSN Messenger, and other chat applications, to spread. It infects systems silently, and without any visible symptoms.

Infection occurs when the victim clicks on a download link contained in a message received from a contact. Clicking on the link installs the worm on the target system, and the infection begins.

So, is there anything unusual about this worm; is it just a one off occurrence? Not at all – instant messaging, unfortunately, is a primary channel used by cyber-criminals to distribute malware. In fact, recent statistics indicate almost 50% of worms use instant messaging applications to spread.

Regrettably, from a security perspective these applications can present considerable security risks. Security risks increase  substantially when these programs are used to share files, folders, or in some cases even entire drives.

As with any other application you use on the Internet, having the knowledge that allows you to use it safely, and being aware of current threats, will make for a more positive experience when using these wildly popular applications.

image

The following is a series of sensible tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.

You need to be alert to the dangers in clicking on links or downloading files from sources that are not known to you. Even if the files or links apparently come from someone you know, you have to be positive that it really was this person who has sent the message.

Check with your contact to be sure the files or links are genuine. Remember, if you click on those links or run those attachments without confirmation, you run the risk of letting malware into your computer.

Use only secure passwords and be sure to change them regularly. The longer and more varied they are – using a variety of different characters and numbers – the more secure they will be.

Revealing confidential or personal information in these types of conversations can make you an easy target for Internet predators. For added protection when using a public computer, ensure that you disable any features that retain login information to prevent other users from gaining access to your instant messaging once you leave.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, however, do so only when absolutely necessary. Cyber criminals are always on the lookout for accounts to target.

Above all, if you are a parent, take exceptional care with the access that your children have to these programs. The risk here goes beyond malware, as sadly, they could come into contact with undesirable, or even dangerous individuals.

Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on protecting your children on the Internet and download free software to help you do this.

image

Click here: “Parental Control Bar”

On the whole, the best protection against Instant Messaging threats involves having good antivirus and firewall protection to guard your security at all times. Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on free security software and download those you might find useful.

Click here: “Best Free Security Applications”

For information on how Skype has become open to scamming, read the article Skype says I’m infected with malware … by my tech wizard friend Techpaul.

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

5 Comments

Filed under Child Safety Internet, Communication, Don't Get Hacked, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Panda Security, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools, worms