Happy Safer Internet Day

Today is Safer Internet Day. While Learning Tree International is not an official sponsor nor national partner, we support the effort. As part of that support here are some ways you can help foster their 2020 mission of “Together for a better internet”. While Safer Internet Day is focused on younger net users, most readers of this blog have younger family or friends who can benefit from these suggestions. We can also model being a good netizen by doing these ourselves.

  • First and foremost social media safety is critical. For many younger users, this is their primary use of the ‘net. And let’s face it, many adults use these sites a lot, too.

1. First, watch what you share. Sharing images of your vacation or business trip while you are away can let bad actors know that your home may be unattended at least part of the day. Burglars and porch pirates thrive on this information.

2. Second, don’t play the quizzes on popular sites like Facebook. The answers can be used by attackers to help them guess passwords. Questions such as “Do you remember the name of your third-grade teacher?”, “What was your first phone number”, and “What was your first dog’s name?” are all found as password reset questions.

3. Third, check, and if necessary, update your privacy settings. If you don’t know how to find them, your favorite search engine can help point you in the wrong direction. The media companies are frequently changing what can be changed and how to do it, so check these at least a couple of times a year. I choose New Year’s Eve and, since I live in the US, the time around our Independence Day.

4. Finally, don’t insult, bully, or attack others. Your comments may boomerang back to you. My mom frequently said, “never put anything in writing you don’t want the whole world to read.” That was long before social media or even personal computers, but the advice is still important today. Even private messages sometimes get leaked: accidentally or intentionally.

  • Keep your browsers, apps, systems, and other software current. Attackers take advantage of software bugs. By keeping your software current, you significantly reduce the opportunities for compromise. Even the software on home routers has to be updated to protect from attacks.
  • Be sure you use anti-virus software and keep it current. Anti-virus software isn’t perfect, but it is essential. Most such software protects from far more than viruses. For instance, some tools scan downloaded documents to ensure that there is no malware hidden in the files.
  • Don’t chat with or “friend” strangers. While we may connect with people we do not know on business networking sites, connecting with those we don’t know on Facebook and other personal sites may lead to unintentionally exposing personal information to ill-intended individuals.
  • Set a good example. This is true for people of all ages. No matter who you are, you are an example for someone. It is best to be a good one.

The biggest thing parents, teachers, and adult friends can do for younger users is to talk about these points. We cannot expect those younger users to know these safety rules. Safer Internet Day is a great time to start that conversation.

To your safe computing,

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