Don’t Get Tricked

As I write this up, it is the last day of “National Cyber Security Awareness Month” as well as Halloween, so I thought it would be the perfect time to do one last pitch for being Cyber Security Aware.

As you get ready to put on your (or help your child put on their) costume – remember, you aren’t the only one out there pretending to be someone else.  There are many hackers, pretenders and “bad actors” pretending to be someone or something else.  The act of pretending to be someone or something you are not is a tactic many cyber criminals have used since the Internet began.  This can be called “spoofing” or sometimes called a “phishing attack” – with the with real and scary intention to get access to your personal information, or to do harm to a computer network.

What is it, and Why do I care?

Phishing and Spoofing are very similar, in that they are trying to get you to do something based on fake or forged documents or information.  “Spoofing is the dissemination of the email from a “spoofed” (or FAKE) email address, and phishing is often used in conjunction with a spoofed email. Phishing is the act of sending an email falsely claiming to be from an established legitimate business to trick the recipient into divulging personal, sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and bank account numbers.” (This description from the Department of Homeland Security, and you can learn more from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3))

These types of attacks can be hard to detect – and in many cases, a “spoofed” email can look very real  So, how do you tell?

Watch for these warning signs
  1. First, a bank will NEVER tell you to log in to a website to fix something. DO NOT click on that link in the email.
  2. Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, (don’t send  and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. This includes following links sent in email.
  3. Do not send sensitive information over the Internet without checking a website’s security (look for that “S” after the HTTP)
  4. Pay close attention to the URL of a website (that’s the title at the TOP of your browser, starting with a HTTP). Malicious and fake websites may look identical to the real site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).
Help your Kids Be Safe

When I teach Internet Safety classes to teens, the kids are often surprised when I show up and start rattling off information I know about them that I have found by just trolling the Internet.  I point to each one, say their name, where they live, where they have gone on vacation or maybe mention their brothers or sisters or talk about their favorite sports.  There’s always a girl in the class that starts looking around from friend to friend with a look of sheer paranoia on her face.

I do my best to talk about the big items – like Cyber Bullying, Cyber Security, and the longevity of information on the Internet.  We talk about how a whisper on the internet is like a scream in a crowded mall – with an echo that lasts forever.

We also talk about the ramifications of “poor choices” on the Internet.  Some of those “poor choices” could even land them in jail!  More than 82% of parents say their children have been exposed to cyber-bullying. And North Carolina recently became the first state to make student cyberbullying of teachers a crime. Starting December 1st,  the School Violence Prevention Act of 2012 will take effect that will make it a Class Two Misdemeanor for any student posting online that cyberbully, intimidate, or torment a school employee or teacher. This new legislation will impose jail time or a $1,000 fine on anyone attempting to bully a teacher online.

Tips to Help With Your Technology Aware Kids

  • Be involved – and talk about the Web. What they see, what they search for, and how they use it for their homework. Show them how to be a “smart cyber citizen” – to not pass on Urban Legends and hoaxes that continue on the Internet.  Have them look up strange offers or hoaxes at
  • Keep your computer in an open area – Keeping your computer in an area where you can see them, and what they are doing, is a great way to help them as they start out on the web.  If you see a behavior that’s inappropriate, you can correct and remediate it, immediately.
  • Be clear with rules, and dangers out there – Kids need to know your expectations. What they can do, what they can’t, how long they can be on the computer, and what they need to be aware of.
  • Talk about the ethical issues with downloading pirated music and videos (a common teen activity) and how it can increase their risk of downloading viruses and other malware. Make sure that teens are familiar with legitimate ways to stream or download music and videos online. (Check out Pandora, 8Tracks, iHeart, Spotify)  And finally, make sure they have security software on their devices.
  • Watch them– Be aware of what your child is doing on the computer, by monitoring their computer activity – such as which websites she is visiting. If she is using email, instant messaging, or chat rooms, and make sure she knows who is on the other endBe open to questions  – Make sure they know they can come to you with ANY question, concern or problem.Think about parental controls and separate partitions– Most operating systems will allow you to create a different user account for each user. That makes it easy to give different access to different users on the same PC.  Parental controls are also available within your browser. In fact, Internet Explorer allows you to restrict or allow certain websites to be viewed on the computerCheck out this cool INFOGRAPHIC – on the “Spooky Side of Cyber Security” Perfect for Halloween!

Hope this information helps – and stay safe out there.