Protect You and your Kids on Facebook

Facebook is the premier social network being utilized by individuals on a regular basis. It is not only being utilized by children but adults are getting into the act as well. It is being used to promote relationships, discussing parties, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, and even to play games. Photos are posted, and often there are unintended consequences and risks that could endanger you, and children. These risks include identity theft, hurting college prospects, job prospects and even overspending.

Facebook is a tremendous resource for identity thieves who search pages for data they can use to apply for loans and credit cards. Scammers try to get personal details by sending quizzes or games with keystrokes collecting malware attached. If your child is using your computer, your data is also at risk.

  • Make sure you, children or students do not post their full birth date or address.
  • Set your privacy settings to “friends only” and not “friends of friends” which increases the number of individuals that can view a page
  • Keep your PC’s anti-malware software up to date

About 25% of schools polled by the national Association for College Admission Counseling stated they utilize social networking sites to research applicants. Also, 45% of employers now use sites like Facebook to research candidates and find content that can dismiss a prospect.
Make sure you let students and your children know what will make a bad impression such as photos, postings related to sex, drinking or disparaging comments.
Review your child’s Facbook page periodically, with his/her permission and urge them to remove inappropriate posts and “untag” him/her in unseemly pics.

Approximately 43% of teens using social networks spend money on the sites, often to buy virtual items or advance in a game. For example, a Facebook credit could cost 10 cents but with many transactions, you don’t notice how much is being spent. Kids can charge credits to a mobile phone number or to a Pay Pal account if they know the password.

  • Scrutinize your bills, and never store your PayPal password.
  • Remind your kids they need to have your permission to bill purchases to you.

Internet & Online Safety

Issues and preventative measures we can take

We all know about the open access that the Internet allows in finding anything or practically anyone. Most people believe the world has become smaller by being able to visit lands of great distances at the touch of a keypad or a simple search on Google for some of the most ambiguous topics or ideas. This freedom of access also allows those that are deviant to lure the unsuspecting, lonely, curious, and adventurous individual to places or people that appear legitimate in cyberspace.

Increasingly, the Internet has become a haven for predators and when it comes to our children we all must ensure that we are teaching them safety. The alternative that some parents are beginning to administer is to keep the child offline or monitor them exceptionally close. To avoid this drastic step, we must get back to basics with our children about cautioning them in talking with strangers whether it is face to face, on the Internet at school, library or a friend’s house. And, by the way, this includes instant messaging to those you don’t even know.

Hmm… so what does a parent, teacher, employee, student or child need to be aware of and what types of preventative measures must we be prepared to take?

  • Become Informed — Make sure that you know how to use the Internet yourself. Inquire as to the safeguards used by the school, library and friends’ homes. Understand that the “Starwars” chat room may actually be a 40 year old sexual predator. If you have small children they should use only kid-friendly search engines such as or Ask Jeeves at: If you suspect online “stalking” or sexual exploitation, report it to the police. Consider installing blocking software or a filter to limit the sites your children can visit. Set rules about where your kids can visit online and what to do if they happen to find inappropriate sites. A good site for a family internet policy can be found at: You can also visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website at:
  • Be Smart — Rules should be set for Internet use such as when and how long children can go on-line. Go to: for information on time-limiting software that prevents kids from going online when you are not around. Always have them use a code name and try to change passwords frequently. Set up Internet accounts in your name and be the guardian of the password. Always maintain access to your child’s on-line accounts and regularly and randomly check the e-mail messages. Position the computer in a high traffic area where you can monitor some of the activity. Never give out your name, address, telephone number or other pertinent information that might help a predator locate you. Also, be careful never to discuss family vacation plans since this can result in house burglaries or car theft. Prohibit or monitor your children’s use of chat functions. Preview the chat rooms they use, and make sure their screen names do not identify them as children.
  • Stay Alert — Watch for changes in behavior such as withdrawal from conversation, attempting to be secretive and use of inappropriate language for the child’s age group. Be aware of questions pertaining to scanning, use of web cams and downloading digital pictures. Also, look for hidden photos of children and adults having sex which are often used to break down a child’s inhibitions. Be cautious if a child has none or a minimal amount of friends, seems unusually preoccupied in chat rooms, receives questionable mail, e-mail, gifts or packages or receives excessive telephone calls from adults or friends not known. Be sensitive to how your child is dressing especially if they dress to look older and more seductive.
  • Indentity Theft — Identity theft, also known as identity fraud, refers to a variety of crimes where someone wrongfully obtains and uses personal information for financial gain or some type of deception. Personal data such as your social security number, bank account, credit card or telephone calling card can be used by the wrong persons to personally benefit at your expense. Never give out the following information online to strangers:
    • Address of your house or apartment
    • Home telephone number
    • Genealogical information – your mother’s maiden name is often used as a kind of password by banks and credit card companies
    • A schedule of when you will be out of town
  • Name Exposure — As children begin to exchange e-mail addresses with friends they will start to receive forwarded messages using the CC field and exposing the e-mail addresses to more and more strangers. Spammers pick up those names form chain e-mails enabling them to clog inboxes with unwanted e-mails including pornographic and hate spam. Spammers can obtain personal information if the e-mail address is attached to traceable identifying information through an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Name exposure can lead to two other areas known as “bullying” or “cyber stalking”. Bullying beyond the school yard becomes harassment by persistent e-mails and makes threats a child would not make in person. A cyber stalker is someone who attempts to gain intimate personal knowledge of another person through online communications without their consent or after being told to cease. Stalkers are found in chat rooms, news groups, bulletin boards and e mail and their objective is to create fear and get some type of reaction. Although most victims are usually adult women, children are not immune. An excellent site that covers information on Internet Safety, Chat rooms, SPAM, viruses, child safety, cyber stalking, internet addition, and fraud is:

Everyone needs to become vigilant and smarter when it comes to the Internet. According to a 2001 Time/CNN poll, 43 percent of teenagers polled say their parents don’t have rules regarding Internet use and another 26 percent said their parents have rules but they don’t always follow them. A report on the Nation’s Youth by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for children between the ages of 10 and 17 revealed:

  • 1 in 5 received a sexual solicitation
  • 1 in 33 were aggressively solicited. In these cases a solicitor asked to meet them, called them, or sent mail or gifts
  • 1 in 4 had unwanted exposure to pictures of naked people or sexual activity and
  • 1 in 17 were threatened or harassed.

So, stay informed, be smart and stay alert to the dangers of the Internet and cyberspace. Parents must take greater control and when it comes to the safety of our children, a child’s privacy on the computer is secondary.

On the following page is a good example of Online Safety Rules put out by the Canada Safety Council. It would be good idea for children as well as adults to adhere to these rules and have your child sign and date it after reading and understanding each rule.

Online Safety Rules

  • I will not give out any personal information online without my parents’ permission. This includes my name, phone number, address, e-mail location of my school, my parents’ work address/telephone numbers and credit card numbers, and my picture. This goes for anywhere on the Internet, including e-mail, chat rooms, newsgroups, even Web sites that promise me free stuff or prizes, or on Web pages that I make myself.
  • When using the Internet, I will always use a pretend name or nickname that doesn’t reveal whether I’m a boy or a girl.
  • When creating a password, I will make one up that is hard to guess but easy for me to remember. To avoid having it stolen, I will never reveal it to anyone (except my parents) – not even my best friend.
  • I will not respond to any message that makes me uncomfortable. I will show an adult right away.
  • I will arrange to meet a friend I have made on the Internet ONLY if one of my parents has been informed and will be present.
  • I will not send an insulting or rude message to anyone online. This is called “flaming” and it is not good Netiquette.
  • I will not disable any filtering software my parents have put on the computer.
  • I will not open e-mail, files, links, pictures or games from people that I don’t know or trust. I will always ask an adult first.
  • I will not take words, pictures or sounds from someone else’s Web site without their permission.
  • I will not believe everything I read on the Internet. I will always check the source of the information.

Don’t Be Bullied by Computer Threats

With the escalating use of computers, internet and social networks so are the number of threats that can affect your personal information and critical documents. Email viruses, Trojans, internet worms, spyware and keystroke loggers have appeared and continue to spread worldwide. Many of these threats are low profile but well-targeted and are more about making money than creating havoc. Malware is unlikely to delete a hard drive or corrupt one of the Microsoft applications like a word document or spreadsheet, but the new cyber-vandalism will exploit financial gain opportunities. In fact, some files are being encrypted and others are launching service denials, preventing individuals from accessing websites.

One of the most concerning items are viruses that silently install a keystroke logger, which waits until the victim visits a financial website and then records the user’s account details and passwords. The hacker who receives this information can clone credit cards and dive into bank accounts. Once the virus has done the job it deletes itself to avoid detection.

Another malware activity is turning your computer into a remote-controlled “zombie” to relay millions of profit-making scams on unsuspecting computer users. And, let’s not forget the social networks like Twitter and Facebook where cybercriminals are finding new ways of infecting computers and stealing identities.

Phishing continues on a large scale by sending out mass mail messages but now there is something called spear phishing. This type of phishing focuses on a small number of people within an organization. The mail appears to come from colleagues in trusted departments and the attack is more likely to succeed because the victim thinks that the message is from a trusted source. It is a new method to infringe on security.

There is a litany of computer threats out there so here is a summary of what else you need to be aware of:

  • Adware – software that displays advertisement on your computers
  • Autorun worms – Malicious program that take advantage of the Windows AutoRun feature that execute automatically when they are plugged into a computer
  • Backdoor Trojans – Allows someone to take control of another user’s computer via the Internet without their permission
  • Boot sector malware – Spreads by modifying the program that enables your computer to start up
  • Browser hijackers – Changes the default home and search pages in your internet browser without your permission
  • Chain letters – An email that urges you to forward copies to other people
  • Cookies – Files placed on your computer that enable websites to remember details
  • Data theft – The deliberate theft of information, rather than its accidental loss
  • Denial-of-service attack – Prevents the users from accessing a computer or website
  • Document malware – Takes advantage of embedded script or macro content in document files
  • Drive-by download – The infection of a computer with malware when a user visits a malicious website
  • Email malware – malware or viruses distributed by e mail through attachments like Netsky and SoBig. Be very careful not to bring up attachments from unreliable sources.
  • Fake anti-virus malware – Reports non-existent threats in order to scare the user into paying for unnecessary product registration and cleanup
  • Hoaxes – Reports of non-existent viruses or threats
  • Internet worms – Create copies of themselves across the internet. The Conficker worm is one that infects machines over the network, spreading rapidly.
  • Keylogging – When keystrokes are surreptitiously recorded by an unauthorized third party
  • Malware – A term for malicious software including viruses, worms, Trojan horses and spyware
  • Parasitic viruses – Also known as file viruses, they spread by attaching themselves to programs
  • Phishing – The process of tricking people into sharing sensitive information with an unknown third party
  • Ransomware – Software that denies you access to your files until you pay a ransom
  • Social networking – Websites allowing you to communicate and share information but can also be used to spread malware and to steal personal information
  • Spam – Unsolicited commercial email, that is equivalent to junk mail that comes to your mailbox
  • Spear phishing – The use of spoof emails to persuade people within a company to reveal sensitive information or credentials
  • Spyware – Software that enables advertisers to hackers to gather sensitive information without your permission
  • Trojan Horses – Programs that pretend to be legitimate software but actually carry out hidden and harmful functions.
  • Viruses – Computer programs that can spread by making copies of themselves
  • Zombies – An infected computer that is remotely controlled by a hacker. Often part of a botnet which is a network of many zombies or bot computers

Now that you know about some of the major threats, what can you do to avoid viruses, worms, spyware, Trojans and other destructive items?

For starters, try to block files that often carry malware especially those with more than one file-type extension. Also, make sure you use anti-virus endpoint security software and it helps if you subscribe to an email alert service. Remember to use a firewall and back up your data regularly.

You should also stay up to date with software patches, disable autorun functionality and introduce a computer security policy that is distributed to all staff.

You should always choose secure passwords, avoid spam and never respond to emails that request personal financial information. If you do online banking, type the address into the address bar instead of following links embedded in an unsolicited email.

Don’t forget to buy online safely. Purchasing from a secure computer or device running the latest anti-virus software, firewalls and security patches will significantly decrease your chances of becoming a victim and never follow links from unsolicited online communications such as e mail Twitter or Facebook. Finally, only share sensitive information when you are fully satisfied with the legitimacy of the company. Only purchase through websites using encryption and those are URLs that start with https:// instead of http:// (the s stands for secure).