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How to be Safe Online?

A few simple measures go a long way in bolstering your online security

While the world wide web has opened a lot of opportunities and possibilities for everyone, but it is also a Pandora’s box with a lot of evil things such as viruses, pedophiles, hackers, cyberbullies and criminals. Kids and teenagers are especially attracted to social networking websites and may fall prey to such rogue and harmful elements.  It therefore becomes essential to secure yourself and your family from such online dangers. Securing yourselves is not as difficult as it may seem. Here are a few tips.

What parents need to tell their kids

  • Parents need to keep tabs on their kids’ online behavior, by that we do not mean you need to snoop around all the time. Here are some things that parents need to talk to their kids about.
  • Never accept friend invitations from unknown people on social networks, instant messengers, forums, virtual worlds, etc.
  • Never visit random chat websites/rooms just out of curiosity. Remember the saying, ‘Curiosity killed the cat’.
  • You should never post your real home address, phone number, etc. and avoid posting your pictures or personal details such as date of birth on a public profile or you may become easy target for spammers.
  • Allow only trusted people such as your friends and family members to have access to your profile, photos, videos, etc on social networking websites by making appropriate privacy settings.
  • When you set your password for e-mail, social networking or gaming accounts, make sure you use a combination of alphabets (with both cases), numbers and other characters. Most have a tendency to set passwords based on their own names, their pets, birthday, etc. Make sure that you do not share your password with anyone.
  • Quite often you may receive emails with subjects like “funniest video ever”, but this is often spam. In case you get such an email, confirm that it is from a trusted source before opening it.
  • Remember how you sometimes clicked on something only to be startled by an unexpected graphic picture the next moment? Such an incident may also happen to your kids. Encourage your kids to talk to you in case they click such a link by mistake and to take precautions the next time.

What kids need to keep in mind while online

  • Do not download and install programs on the computer without your parents’ permission. Such programs may contain spyware and malware.
  • Do not to download, install and use file-sharing programs, as such programs are potentially capable of downloading virus-infected files and malware. Also, such programs can download illegal content, so it is better to stay away from them.
  • Notify your parents if and when you suspect that you may have inadvertently downloaded a computer virus or when the computer behaves strangely (such as due to virus infection). Early warning can minimize damage that the virus may cause.
  • It is always a good idea to talk to your parents in case you are being harassed or bullied by someone online.

General safety tips for everyone to follow

  • Being cautious can usually help, at least in case of emails. When you find an email in your inbox from someone you are unfamiliar with, or with some fishy subject matter, it is better to delete it before opening it.
  • It has been proven that most spams and scam-emails are usually sent from countries where English is the second or third language. So, whenever you get an email with really bad grammar and spelling mistakes even in the title, it is best that you delete it right away.
  • One of the most common email scam is in the form of an email informing you that you have inherited a large amount of money, thanks to some good Samaritan who died in a plane crash, but had made you the beneficiary before dying. Another email may inform that you have just got lucky as your email was selected as the winner of a million dollars in some lottery. Yet another email may be from someone who informs you that the sender is a relative of some deceased political leader in an African country, who had amassed a fortune before being overthrown by a coup. Therefore you can benefit by helping that person receive his inheritance by claiming the inheritance yourself and then transferring the cash to his account.

    In all of the above cases, you are asked to transfer a “small amount” (when compared to the benefits) to the sender of the email in order to claim your reward. There is only one thing that you need to understand – there is no such thing as free lunch.

  • Sometimes you may receive an email allegedly from your bank, asking you to resubmit your account information including your online banking password, for “maintenance purpose”. No bank asks for your password, so this is someone trying to gain access to your bank account. Even if the link appears like it is from your bank, you must make sure that it is indeed your bank’s online banking website by carefully inspecting the URL as well as the log-on page itself (some scammers use shortened URLs to disguise the URL).
  • Never access your online banking website from anywhere except from your home PC, because what you type may be monitored, including your password and that compromises your security. Also, accessing such a secure website from a public place may not be safe since eavesdroppers may be able to simply observe you typing your password.
  • Avoid buying from any website you are not absolutely sure of being genuine, with your credit card. It may put your credit card details in wrong hands. This is especially true of counterfeit websites selling cheap stuff such as imitation watches for an astoundingly low price.

Remember, it is always useful if parents and kids communicate with each other regarding online security. There is a lot of information that parents and kids can exchange and each can learn from the other. Confidence building measures between parents and kids help ease the approachability of parents from the kids’ point of view and this goes a long way into ensuring that both the parents and kids enjoy a worry-free time on the internet.

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