Around 40 per cent of the world’s population has an Internet connection, accounting for over 3 billion users. These users are constantly searching, increasingly connecting and continuously exchanging information with each other. However, this sheer volume of information, when accessed by cybercriminals can lead to devastating situations and far-reaching implications. As we celebrate Safer Internet Day 2015, with the theme of “Let’s create a better internet together”, the time is now to raise awareness among children, youth, parents, and the industry at large, to make the Internet a better and a safer place for each one of us.
Understanding the dark side of the Internet
Have you ever searched for yourself online? Do you know that you leave a digital footprint every time you get online? Do you know that whatever you do online is stored into a digital dossier accessible by others?
In today’s digital age, it is easy to expose personal information online in many ways. Social media can give away sensitive information about you such as your name, address, date of birth and location. As we conduct an increasing portion of our daily lives online, we create a growing and permanent digital footprint with every search, ‘like’ and purchase. Yet, only a few of us give a thought to the consequences of sharing our personal information online or its cumulative effect over time.
Cybercriminals usually attempt to trick users into releasing information such as log in credentials and financial information through social engineering tactics such as phishing and social media scams. In addition to social engineering, there are thousands of variants of malware in the cyber landscape, all aimed at stealing your data. Managing one’s digital identity thus becomes an important activity not only for ourselves but also for our families, especially kids.
According to IAMAI, nearly one-fourth of the school-going kids in India use mobile Internet on a pay-per-site basis. Up to 73 per cent of Indian tweens are on Facebook and other social networking sites as per ASSOCHAM. In the recent past, several high-profile incidents have highlighted how the Internet has exposed many young children and teenagers to various forms of abuse and bullying. In fact, according to Norton Report | Family Edition, 1 in 2 children in India were victims of cybercrime and/or online negative situations. The risks of online activity are similar for adults as well, with 62 percent in India adults being victims of cybercrime and or negative situation online as per Norton Report 2013.
The same report highlights that 50 per cent of online adults have fallen victim to attacks such as malware, viruses, hacking, scams, fraud and theft. This raises the question – are we doing enough to safeguard ourselves and our family’s privacy and safety online?
In such a scenario, it is essential to educate kids as well as first-time Internet users, such as parents or grandparents, about the possibilities of cyber crooks using information for cyber stalking or keeping track of online and offline activities.
Take control of your online activity
Safer Internet Day is an annual reminder of how careful we need to be when we are online. The following tips and best practices can help you plug the loopholes cybercriminals usually take advantage of and remain protected:
Keep a Clean Machine – If you haven’t used a program in months- uninstall it. These can be repositories of personal information that you may have forgotten about. Be sure to stay up to date with software updates as well, as hackers often look for these vulnerabilities in outdated software.
Use Secure Passwords – Passwords are the keys to our digital lives. Cybercriminals employ many tactics to try and crack them. To make this task difficult for them, use strong, complicated passwords.
Two-Factor Authentication – Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), if available, is another way of verifying your identity other than just a username and password. 2FA is comprised of something you know- such as a password, something you have- a mobile phone that a code can be sent to, or something you are- such as a fingerprint.
Practice Open Communication with Children – Be updated with the latest technologies and trends and pass them on to your children while talking to them openly about Internet abuse. Inculcating offline habits for online will also ensure children do not share personal information online.
Secure Your Home Network – Change the default username and password on anything that connects to your network, especially your Internet router. Use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), which will encrypt the data traveling through your network. Turn on all firewalls on both hardware and software programs.
Use Comprehensive Security Software – Just as you wouldn’t go to bed without locking your doors and windows – the same logic applies to your devices. Use a security solution on all devices. In addition to protecting your device against spyware, viruses, malware etc. a good security software program such as Norton Security will also maintain privacy, avoid unsafe websites and suspicious downloads, locate lost or stolen devices, and moreover – deliver enough flexibility to protect your entire family’s digital life.
Use Privacy Settings on Social Media Sites – Most social media sites will give you options to select who you are sharing your information with. Be sure those settings are set for trusted individuals and friends, rather than set to public for the whole world to see.
By Ritesh Chopra, Country Manager – India, Norton by Symantec