Digital Safety Guide
How to Protect Yourself and Children Online
The internet has become an integral part of modern human life. It directs us, teaches us, entertains us, comforts us, communicates with us. Basically, it’s everything humanity has ever thought up put into binary code and made accessible to use through digital devices. Whilst some will say our reliance on it is ‘ruining humanity’, I’d argue that it’s improving it. The total sum of human knowledge is simply a Google search away, and more and more people have access to things that they wouldn’t otherwise! The Age of The Digital Social is amongst us, too. We communicate via social media apps now – Facebook keeps us in touch with our family and friends, Twitter gives us the latest news, Instagram lets us see people’s pets. Shopping is online now, too. So is banking. Everything is online. And with everything being online, crime has taken to being on there too. Cybercrime is a huge deal, with costs being predicted to hit $6 trillion by 2021 according to CSO. That’s why staying safe online has become such an imperative issue: it has the potential to rob you and ruin your life if you’re not careful. That’s why I’ve written up this digital safety guide.
Scams are by far the easiest to fall for and the easiest to perpetrate on the internet. They have evolved from letters and newspaper ads to emails and pop ups, and those less tech savvy of us are vulnerable to them. They usually offer an emotional ploy – you’ve won the lottery or only you can help this person out of dire straits – making it surprisingly simple to fall for. The best way to stay safe from online scams is to be able to recognise them before you give up any information that they want. Also, take care with what personal information you do share online and make sure your antivirus software is up to date! Here is a list of the most common online scams. ”‘
Phishing Scam – Normally an email or a social media message trying to get your login or payment details by pretending to be the company, social media account, or bank (PayPal, Apple, Facebook). The link they provide leads to a fake login page controlled by them, which is where they gain your details, or will put malware on your devices. The quickest way to post a phishing email is to click on the sender in the email and check their email address. Usually it’s a name and some random numbers, which is not what companies have as official work emails.
Nigerian Scam – Easily the most recognisable scam, being the oldest (it predates the internet, in fact). The Nigerian Scam is usually an emotional email, text or social media message asking you for helping in retrieving a large sum of money from a bank by paying for some legal fees. In return, you will be heavily compensated. ”
Lottery Scam – You will receive an email saying something along the lines of ‘Subscriber Your name was selected to win a promotional prize. You have won the sum of $ 100,000 USD. TO claim send us all of your personal information including your bank details. From, A Very Real Person.’ This is the Lottery scam and is easy to fall for since we all want to win money without doing anything to win it! Fortunately, they’re easy to spot and flag as spam, so don’t worry about it. ‘
SMS Scam – The same as phishing, only through SMS. You’ll receive a text claiming to be from your bank saying you need to update your info ASAP through the link in the message. Don’t click it! It will lead you to a malware site that will steal your data.
Romance/Catfishing Scam – This one is so popular there’s even a TV show about it. Someone will create a fake profile on a dating website – OKCupid, Tinder, sometimes Facebook – and start an online relationship with someone with the intention of asking for money from them. Due to the intense emotions fostered by the scammer, their victim will comply and give them money. There are ways to identify catfishers and stop yourself from falling for the romance scams!
Most times they steal selfies from models so Google image search their profile pictures.
If they keep on making excuses to meet up with you in real life, then they are likely a scammer.
If they suddenly ask for money under suspicious circumstances, like they money for their passport ASAP or a plane ticket to see dying family.
Fake Shopping Sites Scam – Online shopping is a huge industry, so it’s surprisingly easy to fake websites to operate. They usually offer amazing clothes at suspiciously low prices, with low shipping costs to boot. However, these sites will either direct you to malware filled sites, and give you data to hackers. Look out for these red flags when shopping online to prevent yourself from falling victim to the scam.
Domain names with ‘sale’ ‘discounts’ or ‘deals’ in them.
Poor english and grammar.
Little to no contact details.
No history/new site.
Identity Theft and Identity Fraud
Identity theft is one of the post prolific cyber crimes, with 15.4 million people falling victim to it in the past year: a terrifying $16 billion was stolen over all by virtual thieves. Just what is identity theft, then’ What makes it different from identity fraud and how can we protect ourselves from it’ Wikipedia defines it as “the deliberate use of someone else’s identity, usually as a method to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits in the other person’s name, and perhaps to the other person’s disadvantage or loss.” The most common uses of identity theft are to improve credit ratings or apply for a loan. Identity theft is so easy to become a victim of as thieves only need a few personal details from you in order to pass verification fields. Think of those newsletters websites usually ask you to sign up for. They ask you for your first and last name, your age, your email, and sometimes your address; details that digital thieves need to commit identity theft. Identity fraud, then, is actually going a few step further and using someone’s identity to construct a fictional persona to defraud people. Think a spy breaking into a hotel by stealing someone’s keycard and pretending to be roomservice, only it’s a criminal and the keycard is your details and the hotel room is a bank they scam out of a loan they have no intention of paying back. Not fun. This all being said, what steps can we take to prevent identity fraud and theft’ These won’t eliminate identity theft and fraud, but they will better protect you from it.
Stop sharing personal information on social media – or, at least, cut it down.
Keep your smart devices safe and protected.
Only use safe PCs to do online banking or shopping.
Check your credit score regularly.
Use an ad-blocker.
Use an up to date anti-virus software.
Only open trusted links in emails. ‘
There are so many gags in the media about hacking someone’s password. We’re shown that it’s easy and only takes an hour at most. Actually, the media are right about this one. The Telegraph revealed that the five most common passwords were:
All of these are simple to guess, leaving you vulnerable to hacking when it could have been avoided by simply taking password security seriously. When making a password, they should be a random collection of letters and numbers, upper and lowercase. You should also never write your password down, and if you do don’t leave it near your desktop or on a table. Make a new password for everything too.
Social Media Safety
Everything is on Socials now. It’s how we keep up to date with news, family and friends, and how we update the world on our personal life. We don’t think anything insidious when we check in at a caf’ and tag friends in posts that they’re interested in. Unless you’ve already set it, your privacy settings mean that everyone can see your activity – yes, everyone, not just people on your friendslist. This makes it so much more easier for cybercriminals to target you. Staying safe on social media is increasingly important in this age of Digital Social. Here’s what you do need to do to stay safe!
Social media sites have good privacy settings. Make sure yours are set to friends and family only! Twitter in particular lets you approve followers on private accounts.
Google your name. Make sure no one is using your details to commit identity fraud or to catfish others. Keep up to date on your online presence, and check yourself at least once a month!
Watch what you post online! Something as simple as tweeting as what your weekend plans are leaves you vulnerable to attack. If criminals know you’re out of the house, then they’ll certainly be there when you’re not.
This one deserves its own bullet point: do not post anything inappropriate on your social medias. A drunken picture or a comment could cost you a job if your potential employer decides to research you online before hiring.
Child Safety Online
Every parent wants their child to be safe, and trying to do so online may seem very daunting, especially if you’re not tech savvy. Good news though! You don’t have to be a tech expert to keep your child, or any kid, safe online! You just need some facts, open communication with your child, and good software! Firstly, explain to your kids the dangers that can be found online.
Tell them The Online Predator Myth, is, in fact, not a myth and should be taken very seriously. Teach them the steps to identifying a fake profile so that they may avoid potential predators. Warn them off accepting friend requests from people they don’t know.
Teach them facts about cyberbullying, like how more than 1.7 million children have reported being cyberbullied in a year alone, and this doesn’t include those who don’t report the abuse. That it negatively affects children’s mental health, causing issues like body image trouble, anxiety and depression. Talk to your children about trolling and commenting hateful things on someone’s profile.
Educate children about what is and isn’t appropriate to post on social media. Personal info is out, along with photos and having their profile set to public. Warn them off random chat rooms, as that is where predators usually go to meet victims.
Let them know about online scams, how to identify one and not fall for them.
Secondly, talk to about parental controls and why you’re using them. Some children and teens may see them as a punishment (they stop access to the ‘fun stuff’ and limit their ‘online freedom’!) but having an open, honest conversation with them about online safety and what exactly the parental controls limit and do, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when they agree with you. Simply explain that they stop access to unsuitable websites, will filter the content that they see, and will monitor their activity for safety reasons.
The very first computer virus was The Creeper Virus, coded by Bob Thoman in 1971. Since then, computer viruses have evolved from floppy discs to a few lines of code hidden on a temporary internet file. What exactly is a computer virus’ It’s code that is designed to copy itself, infecting your computer programs and files, stopping your computer from functioning properly. As of 2016, 40% of US households have been affected by a computer virus. These are the most common ways to get infected by a computer virus.
Downloading files from the internet, such as music and movies.
Clicking on links to untrusted websites.
Opening spam emails.
Installing untrustworthy programs.
While it’s nigh impossible to protect yourself from every type of virus, it’s easy to protect yourself from 99.9% of them. Simply get yourself a good antivirus software program, and keep it up to date so it can defend you against any new type of malware. Also make sure to regularly delete any temporary internet files to keep your computer in the best condition!
What Is Legal and Illegal Online
Knowing what is and isn’t legal online is may seem like a no-brainer to some of you, but it’s actually very important to know just exactly what you can and can’t do online if you want to remain safe (and out of jail).
Streaming films and TV shows. Websites that you pay a subscription for, like Hulu and Netflix, are alright. But there are many sites that let you stream unlicensed content for free, which is illegal. Watch out where you watch your shows and movies, as some of these sites will have malware links and download files.
Downloading music. With streaming services becoming more popular and easy to access – Spotify, Tidal Music, Apple Music – it is bizarre that people will still go to lengths to illegally download copyrighted music. While downloading the odd file isn’t going to get you thrown into jail, having a substantial amount of illegally obtained copyrighted material will.
Hacking. Unauthorised access to a computer is illegal and is punishable with jail time and heavy fining. Even impersonating someone on Facebook can be seen as identity fraud and defamation of character!
Minors sharing explicit images of themselves. It is illegal to share any explicit image of a child under the age of 18. Anyone caught doing so will be charged with distributing child pornography. Have a talk with you child about this for their own safety.
Cyberbullying. While there isn’t a specific law against cyberbullying, it can be seen as a criminal offense under the Protection of Harassment Act.
Follow this guide and you’ll be sure to not fall victim to any cybercrime! Feel free to read more about online safety at KidGuard.com.