October is National Cyber Security Awareness month. I’ve covered many of the basics of Internet security in previous posts; however, in the spirit of Cyber Security month, here is a quick refresher list of my top five Internet security tips:
1) Install anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software, and keep them updated. A recent development is that you can now purchase a single product to provide these essential tools. Check out www.zonealarm.com, www.pandasoftware.com, www.symantec.com, and www.mcafee.com.
2) Turn on the automatic update feature of your operating system and application software.
3) Be very careful about e-mail attachments; don’t click on them unless you’re absolutely positive of the contents and trust the sender.
4) Watch out for clever “phishing” e-mails. It is very easy for the bad guys to fake the FROM address and make an e-mail look like something from your bank or credit card company. Reputable companies will never send you an e-mail asking you to click on a link and give them personal information.
5) Backup your most important files and store them away for safekeeping someplace distant from your home. Why, you ask, do I list this general computing tip on a Cyber Security list? Often, the only solution to recovering from a virus, spyware, or security infection is to reformat your hard drive and re-install the operating system and software. That’s painful enough, but losing all of your personal files because you don’t have a back-up is much worse.
Now for a cyber security subject that I haven’t covered before: protecting your children while they are online. Sure, maybe you adults out there have read and followed the advice from previous technology articles, but we both know that your child, who spends more time online than you do, probably hasn’t read those articles, right? You may have protected the family computer, but you also need to take steps to protect your children from the dangers of the ‘Net. Here are my top five tips for keeping children safe on the Internet:
1) Teach them to never, ever, download and install software without your permission. I can’t tell you how times I have had to help friends recover their computers from child-induced, download-software infections. Also, don’t allow your children to install and use popular Internet file-sharing software like eDonkey or Gnutella.
2) Teach your children to never give out personal information to strangers they meet online in chat rooms or social networking sites like myspace.com, friendster.com and xanga.com. Often, children don’t realize that they put themselves at risk when they post pictures of themselves or provide the names of their schools or hometowns. Predators need very little information to target a child.
3) Monitor their instant messaging “friends” lists and make sure they understand the dangers of messaging online with strangers. You teach them not to talk to strangers on the street; the Internet is no different.
4) If possible, place the computer in an open, well-traveled area of your home so you can keep an eye on your child’s online activities as you go about your daily household activities. If your ISP offers it, turn on the “parental control” feature to block questionable Internet content.
5) Finally, spend some time each week with your children and “surf the net” together. Watch over their shoulder (don’t do it for them) and explain to them the dangers and your “safety rules” for e-mail, instant messaging, and Web browsing.
For much more information on Cyber Security month, tips for guiding your children’s online activity, and advice for staying safe on the Internet, check out http://www.staysafeonline.org.
Until next time, stay safe and have fun computing!