Tag Archives: danger

Sex (ting) – Who’s Really Doing It? It’s NOT Just Teens!

Sex and the City

Apparently, if we’re not thinking about sex, we’re talking about sex. If we’re not talking about sex, we’re engaged in sex. If we’re not engaged in sex, we’re thinking and talking and planning, on becoming engaged in sex. Whew – no wonder I’m so tired!

According to sexologists, anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists, (and other …ists, I’m sure), a common denominator amongst humans is the degree to which they think of sex.

Given that we all seem to have this supposed preoccupation with sex – is it any wonder then, that the Internet, and its associated connected devices, have become a common outlet for erotic fantasies.

The meshing of sex and tech, has generated a Pandora’s box of problems, and associated issues, that need to be resolved socially, legally, and morally.

One of these problematic issues, is the issue of sex, tech, and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting.

It’s an issue that has been a focus of attention in the news recently (today in fact, on CNN) – at least here in North America.

And, in typical fashion in matters dealing with sexual issues, law enforcement officials, in many areas, have  abandoned common sense and regularly charge teenagers who exchange consensual nude photographs of themselves, with the production, dissemination, and possession of child pornography

So, is this just one more example of “officialdom’s” hysteria, and overreaction on sexually related issues? Or,  is sexting, particularly teen sexting, a real problem that requires the harsh application of punitive measures to eradicate?

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy,  weighed in on this issue in a recent survey; a survey which seems to indicate that teen sexting is a problem. You should be aware that additional independent statistics suggest; 28 per cent of parents are sexting fans.

Survey statistics:

15 Percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude or seminude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they only knew online.

48 Percent of teenagers say they have received such messages.

71 Percent of teen girls and 67% of teen boys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent or posted this content to a boyfriend or girlfriend.

21 Percent of teenage girls and 39% of teen boys say they have sent such content to someone they wanted to date or hook up with.

44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say it is common for sexually suggestive text messages to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.

36 Percent of teen girls and 39 % of teen boys say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.

51 Percent of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images; only 18 % of teen boys cited pressure from female counterparts as a reason.

66 Percent of teen girls and 60% of teen boys say they did so to be “fun or flirtatious”; their most common reason for sending sexy content.

52 Percent of teenage girls used sexting as a “sexy present” for their boyfriend.

44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say they sent sexually suggestive messages or images in response to such content they received.

40 Percent of teenage girls said they sent sexually suggestive messages or images as “a joke.”

34 Percent of teen girls say they sent or posted sexually suggestive content to “feel sexy.”

12 Percent of teen girls felt “pressured” to send sexually suggestive messages or images.

Apart from the legal issues, which can have grave lifetimes consequences, teenagers engaging in what they may consider harmless fun, run the risk of having to deal with the outcome of present day “harmless fun” in the future, which could impact their lives in ways not yet considered.

Think Before You Post, an online resource from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, designed specifically for teenagers, should really be a required component of everyone’s online education – not only teenagers.

The following tips are included on this online resource for teenagers to think about.

Use webcams or post photos online only with your parents’ and guardians’ knowledge and supervision.

Ask yourself if you would be embarrassed if your friends or family saw the pictures or video you post online. If the answer is yes, then you need to stop.

Be aware of what is in the camera’s field of vision and remember to turn the camera off when it is not in use. Checkout our recent article on web cam safety – “Big Brother” isn’t the only one watching you. “Uncle Nasty” is out there prowling the Internet too!

Be careful about posting identity-revealing or sexually provocative photos. Don’t post photos of others — even your friends — without permission from your friends’ parents or guardians. Remember – once such images are posted you give up control of them and you can never get them back.

Recommended parental resources:

Text Ed – The LG Text Ed program will tackle pressing issues such as tween and teen sexting, managing children’s phone usage, the importance of self-esteem in a wireless world, recognizing potentially harmful and hurtful mobile phone behavior, and other concerns facing parents and their children.

Cyber Summer Safety Challenge for Kids & Teens – The Cyber Summer Safety Challenge was developed to get parents, teens and kids to start a dialogue about Internet safety, social networking, online threats and what they can do to protect themselves and their computers.

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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7 Comments

Filed under Bill's Rants, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Online Safety, Parenting Help, Personal Perspective, Privacy, Sexting, Teenager Internet Safety Tips, Windows Tips and Tools

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.

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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

Sexting is NOT Sexy

The iPhone App Store likes to say, that they have “Apps for Everything”. So, while doing some research on iPhone apps a few days ago, I wasn’t at all surprised to see a so called “safe sexting app” called, appropriately enough – “Safe Sexting”.

The application allows users to cover their “naughty bits” using selectable boxes – Small Box, Large Box, Head Box, and as one pundit put it a “teasing semi-transparent Red Silk”.

image

Now, I’m no moralist, since I do subscribe to the French philosophy – Chacun son goû (each to his or her own taste) . But come on here – the use of this application is an invitation to an accident. And there will be accidents.

What kind of a company would develop an application that supposedly takes the sting out of an activity that is generally regarded as unsafe, illegal, and could have lifelong consequences – like a criminal conviction for possessing/distributing child pornography?

If Apple has an ounce of common sense, they will pull this application just as they did with the infamous “Baby Shaker” application. It should be noted however, that it took considerable pressure from child protection groups before Apple relented, and put the boots to this app.

Sexting is an issue that continues to be addressed regularly in the news, and it seems like an appropriate time to repost an earlier article:

Sexting – A Real Problem or An Overreaction?

Sex and the City According to sexologists, anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists, a common denominator amongst humans is the degree to which they think of sex.

Apparently, if we’re not thinking about sex, we’re talking about sex. If we’re not talking about sex, we’re engaged in sex. If we’re not engaged in sex, we’re thinking and talking and planning on becoming engaged in sex. Whew – no wonder I’m so tired all the time!

Given that we all seem to have this supposed preoccupation with sex – is it any wonder then that the Internet, and its associated connected devices, have become a common outlet for erotic fantasies.

Sex and tech, it seems, have come together, and that has generated a Pandora’s box of problems and issues that need to be resolved socially, legally, and morally.

One of these  problematic issues, is the issue of sex, tech, and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting.

imageIf you are the parent of a teenager, it would be difficult not to be aware of sexting – the practice of sending suggestive photos and videos via text message.

It’s an issue that has been a focus of attention in the news recently – at least here in North America.

So is teen sexting a real problem, or is it an example of adult hysteria and overreaction?

Consider the following points:

The sad reality is, contrary to the myth that we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation – 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.

Recent survey results released by the The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy seem to indicate that teen sexting is a problem, and not just an overreaction.

Survey statistics:

15 Percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude or seminude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they only knew online.

48 Percent of teenagers say they have received such messages.

71 Percent of teen girls and 67% of teen guys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent or posted this content to a boyfriend or girlfriend.

21 Percent of teenage girls and 39% of teen boys say they have sent such content to someone they wanted to date or hook up with.

44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say it is common for sexually suggestive text messages to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.

36 Percent of teen girls and 39 % of teen boys say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.

51 Percent of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images; only 18 % of teen boys cited pressure from female counterparts as a reason.

66 Percent of teen girls and 60% of teen boys say they did so to be “fun or flirtatious”; their most common reason for sending sexy content.

52 Percent of teenage girls used sexting as a “sexy present” for their boyfriend.

44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say they sent sexually suggestive messages or images in response to such content they received.

40 Percent of teenage girls said they sent sexually suggestive messages or images as “a joke.”

34 Percent of teen girls say they sent or posted sexually suggestive content to “feel sexy.”

12 Percent of teen girls felt “pressured” to send sexually suggestive messages or images.

So what’s a concerned parent to do? As a good starting point you should consider pointing your child to Think Before You Post, an online resource from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The following tips are included on this online resource for your teenager to think about.

Caution:

Use webcams or post photos online only with your parents’ and guardians’ knowledge and supervision.

Ask yourself if you would be embarrassed if your friends or family saw the pictures or video you post online. If the answer is yes, then you need to stop.

Be aware of what is in the camera’s field of vision and remember to turn the camera off when it is not in use.

Be careful about posting identity-revealing or sexually provocative photos. Don’t post photos of others — even your friends — without permission from your friends’ parents or guardians. Remember – once such images are posted you give up control of them and you can never get them back.

What to report:

Anyone you don’t know who asks you for personal information, photos or videos.

Unsolicited obscene material from people or companies you don’t know.

Misleading URLs on the Internet that point you to sites containing harmful materials rather than what you were looking for.

Anyone who wants to send you photos or videos containing obscene content of individuals 18 and younger. (The possession, manufacturing, or distributing of child pornography is illegal.)

Online enticement for offline sexual activities. (No one should be making sexual invitations to you online – and it’s an especially serious crime for adults to do it.)

If any of the above happens to you or a friend, tell an adult you trust and report it to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline.

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 Cell Phone Apps, Child Safety Internet, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Parenting Help, Personal Perspective, social networking, Software, Teenager Internet Safety Tips, Windows Tips and Tools

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

Where Does Your Child Go On The Internet?

You’re a parent, and you actively participate in your child’s life, right? But how much do you know about where your child (you can substitute – teenager – if appropriate), goes on the Internet?

For example – do you know?

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.

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

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.

One of the more harmful myths, which most adults believe is, we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation. Knowing how to text message, or loading a game onto an Xbox, does not make one “tech savvy”.

The fact is, 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. It’s also true, of course that most adults fall into this same category.

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.

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.

According to the FBI in the United States, 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.

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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.

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 are concerned about your child’s cell phone usage (most cell phones today are really Internet connected devices), please read “Parental Monitoring and Cellular Phones” by my tech wizard friend TechPaul.

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

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