Cyber Parenting – Let’s Hear What Mothers Have to Say

Children’s Day is around the corner and it has me thinking. With all the brouhaha over a connected future and devices that can monitor, make decisions and communicate; are we doing enough to prepare our children to stay safe online? Are we, the digital immigrants, cyber-mentoring the next generation?

Parents today have a tough job bringing up kids in a high-tech environment that is not native to them. And for the safety of their kids in the virtual world, parents themselves have to learn and understand the good and the bad of the internet and be aware of the threat landscape.

The next step is to raise their children as responsible cyber citizens and the earlier they start the better it is and all said and done, parents are the BEST teachers for their kids

As Intel Security Cybermum India, I thought it was time to find out if parents were on the right path to teach their kids cybersafety, so I approached some of my mom friends on Twitter with targeted questions listed below. I hope it resonates with you if you are looking at taking the first step to raising responsible cyber citizens

Q- At what age did your child start using the net? Did you have a cybersafety talk at that time or before that?

Most kids do not have a defined time when they first go online, so moms found them too young to discuss cybersafety. However, the new breed of young mothers seem to be prepared to handle it when the time comes.

As Banker Mom, Shruti Mahajan Singh says, “My child is still young but I would be talking to her soon about cybersafety, cyberbullying, cyber love chats etc. and how not to get affected by them.”

Yojna Sharma, a social media consultant and blogger, says her child was exposed to the internet at the age of 2, when he watched nursery rhyme videos under his mother’s supervision. She explains, “Going forward I plan to regulate his usage for a max of half hour per day. I plan to have a chat with him probably when he is 4-5 and can understand things better but I have started exploring options on net safety like firewall etc.”

Q – What are the top internet usage rules at home that your kids have to follow?

Blogger Mom – Neha Jain has these rules for her kids:

  1. No social media presence until you turn 13
  2. No sharing of personal information
  3. No online interaction with strangers
  4. Stipulated time to go online
  5. Access the internet in communal space only
  6. Do not hide if someone tries to bully or makes you comfortable in any manner
  7. No downloading or installing any software without parents’ consent

Neha, you have covered almost everything. Great work!

Q – According to the 2015 Teen Tween Technology Report by Intel Security, 48% of the parents surveyed believe that the worst thing that could happen to their children is interacting with strangers online. What’s your take on this? Do you monitor your child’s online activities and keep tabs on online friends?

(A major threat online is that it brings the outside world right into your home! Your child can be approached by a stranger without your knowledge, something you would never allow in the real world. So how do moms handle this?)

Army wife and mom Jyothi Menon monitors her son online. She also follows basic safety rules like using security tools and keeping the laptop in a common area. She adds, “We have had a discussion about pedophiles and how they use false identity to lure unsuspecting children. He uses my mobile to WhatsApp his friends and is not on Facebook or Instagram yet.”

Q – Almost half the children surveyed last year said they have bullied people over social media. Do you feel there is a rise in cyberbullying? What should parents do to contain this trend?

Singer, traveler, InfoSec girl Parul Jain agrees. “They (parents) should interact with their children about their friends. And keep track of day-to-day activities. Also (parents should) tell them about cyberbullying. Most of the time parents are not comfortable to talk about these topics.”

Agreed. Parents need to break the communication barrier and discuss cyberbullying, stalking, abuse, morphing etc. with growing kids so that they can identify such behavior, know what to do, seek parental guidance and not get depressed.

Q – Please share what you feel is THE biggest threat online and THE most important cybersafety step that all parents should follow.

Blogger and Stay at Home Mom, Madhu believes that the biggest threat online is “ease of access to any content and related fields that show up in search!” while family lifestyle blogger, Richa Choudhary thinks it is ‘is getting influenced by someone on social media or get trolled.’- and both are right!

Madhu shares several cyber safety measures but ranks setting up parental controls as Number One on priority list. I particularly like the fact that she stresses on frank and continuous discussions with kids and the need for teaching them digital disconnect for a proper digitally balanced life.

Richa has the very same idea when she advocates “limiting app downloads, restrict inappropriate websites from opening; basically, closely monitoring your kids web usage.”

Thank you so much for your inputs ladies! I genuinely appreciate your approach to ensuring cyber safety by applying the right mix of monitoring, mentoring and communication. It’s heartening that parents are giving cyber safety its due importance and handling it rationally, helping to create ideal digital citizens who can handle the connected future of tomorrow.

Happy parenting!

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Online Safety Should Be A Priority For Our Tech-Savvy Children

The joy of parenthood!

We offer our children the best of facilities that can enable them to become happy, healthy, responsible and educated citizens of the country. While, we want to understand their needs and desires to become the ideal parent, we also remain concerned about their well-being, taking outmost care to ensure that they grow as responsible citizens. This concern has become much more profound in the last couple of years as the Generation Z or our teens and tweens convert into digitally savvy netizens who want to share and access information at the flick/swipe of a screen. Undoubtedly, it is quite natural for us to jump upon on any new reports / studies that helps us understand how our children are adopting the digital wave.

The Teens Tweens and Technology 2015 carried out by Intel Security is the go to study for me as it should be for every parent. It studies the pattern of online activities among the teens and tweens aged between 8-16 in India in great depth. The good folks at Intel Security unveil their findings annually hence we can take stock of trends over the years.

I personally, look forward to this study to understand the new trends amongst children as they adopt digital technologies. This year’s study also includes information on the behaviour of parents too thus offering a holistic overview of what we as concerned parents think about our children’s online footprints. It thus offers great insights into the changes that have taken place in the attitude towards the online world, and the new concerns in the virtual parenting horizon.

Dear Readers, today, I will be sharing with you, the salient conclusions from the survey which you should be cognizant of:

STARTING WITH GOOD NEWS:PARENTS RATED HIGH ON CYBER SAFETY AWARENESS

This year, the survey has thrown up ONE very positive finding: Parents have become more aware of internet-related threats, thereby starting to educate their children about them. Nearly 91% parents polled said they have discussed the risks of social media with their children, including that of cybercrimes, cyberbullying, identity theft, data stealing, online reputation threats. In addition, 85% of the parents claim they follow their children on their social media networks.

Further, most parents want their children to receive online safety or cyber security training in the next 2-5 years to keep their personal information and themselves protected. I believe that this is a good sign of things to come as more parental involvement surely means better guidance for children online and consequently, greater safety for them.

ONTO THE CONCERNING NEWS: CHILDREN COULD BE FOOLING YOU!

The study indicates that some parents considered their children’s knowledge of social media far superior to their own, and this hampers their attempt to monitor their children online. Technology-savvy tweens and teens also know how to hide their social media presence from their parents by using aliases or by deleting search history. Quite a few respondents from children, definitely do not want their parents to see their social media pages and confess they would behave differently online if they knew their parents were watching!

But are all parents watching? No, because they do not want to pry on their children’s online life as they trust them. What, they are definitely aware of is that the risk of a stranger connecting with their children online is definitely real. And this has them worried. Yet surprisingly, only around 1 out of 6 parents discussed stranger-danger as a topic with their children.

BEWARE OF STRANGER DANGER- IT’S REAL

The survey reveals that almost half (44%) of the youth polled would meet or have met someone in person that they first met online. That’s quite an alarming number, isn’t it?

Children tend to be inquisitive and adventurous by nature. Clearly, they are interested in meeting new people but would this be the most advisable way to doing the same? The answer to the same is a resounding NO! Parents should educate children about how they can interact with new people by joining sports or various extracurricular activities but meeting someone in person they met only online should be strictly avoided.

Another finding that came out was that most tweens and teens who were polled maintained that they are conscious of the need for maintaining privacy. However, many unintentionally share details like name, date of birth, photographs etc. This increases the chance of a cybercriminal preying on them.

CHILDREN ADMITTING TO CYBERBULLYING

I can’t help but wonder at the rise in cyberbullying incidents among the children. Most children today are aware that social media platforms are being used to troll and bully; and they are scared of becoming victims themselves. Yet, a large number of those surveyed admitted having bullied someone online by posting something rude or mean about them, exchanging inappropriate language or tagging them in a mean picture.

This calls for serious pondering on the part of the parents in particular and the society as a whole; are we bringing up a generation of rude, vengeful, aggressive children? Cyberbullying indeed calls for serious planning on educating children to become ideal netizens. Don’t you think so too?

CHILDREN COULD BE INVITING TROUBLE ONLINE

Despite their awareness, only 42% have said they have never done anything risky online. The rest- which makes it a majority with 58% admitted to doing activities including playing video games with strangers, uploading intimate photos and messages, watching porn, bullying someone, purchasing harmful substance or gambling! Parents should ensure that children are made aware that such risky behaviour can cost them their future and have an impact on their parents even.

THE BOTTOM LINE

  • Talk to your children, frequently and openly, about digital threats, hygiene and etiquette. Explain why it is important today to manage one’s digital reputation
  • Monitor and mentor children online- don’t just leave it to the children to work out their problems. Let them know you are there for them if they need support and suggestions
  • Stay updated on all new social media sites and issues related to those. Ask your children about the new sites, their pros and cons and the wisdom of signing up on several sites
  • Be strict about following rules online yourself and guide children to do the same. Appreciate it when children stick to the rules, like not signing up on Facebook before 13
  • Use security tools with parental controls on all internet-enabled devices to monitor children online and guide them accordingly
  • Till then, ensure your security software is updated and running and talk to your children about cybersafety.

P.S.: Follow me on @Cybermum_India to know more on the findings from Teens, Tweens & Technology 2015.

P.P.S.: I will be participating in a tweet chat being planned by MyCityForKids and Intel Security on 29th Oct 2015 to discuss more on the blog topic with the hash tag #TeensTweensTech2015. Do join the conversation to make the online platform safe for yourself and your loved ones.

Send Your Kids Back to School with Cybersecurity Knowledge

Summer vacation is on and chances are that your kids are spending time indoors as the scorching sun makes it too hot to go and play outside. They are probably lounging around with their devices, which may include gaming devices, smartphones, laptops, desktops, virtual assistants, livestreaming sticks, smart toys or e-book readers. And why not? These are the children of the digital age after all.

As a parent, you may be concerned about whether your children know how to conduct themselves online so that they have a safe digital experience without compromising their personal information. Recently, the news is all about social media platforms saving and sharing personal data of users tracking their activities. You have been reading about how hackers steal data by communicating with vulnerable children through smart toys or even change settings of devices, like the home CCTV. What bothers parents most is that they may not be around all the time their children go online. With many schools adopting BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and children having their own smartphones, the use of devices is no more restricted to homes.

Fret not. You can also become a super cool cyberparent- just help your children pick up some essential online safety tricks this summer for, as they say, prevention is better than cure.

It goes without saying that the first step is to secure all connected devices using a licensed comprehensive solution, like the McAfee Total Protection. This new solution can help you manage and protect devices connected to your home network while providing parental controls that can be suited to the needs of all age groups.

The second step is to discuss cybersecurity with your kids and set up DO’S and DON’T’s for them to follow when they go online. Here are some discussion starters to help you along:

  1. Explain the implication of privacy breach and data theft. Discuss how hackers steal passwords and data using infected links and phishing mails and what they can do with the data
  2. Share stories about fake social profiles, kidnappers etc. and outline the probable future consequences of connecting with strangers, even if it is a person of their own age
  3. Repeat often the cybersafety mantra- STOP.THINK. SHARE. Ask them if they have faced social media issues like cyberbullying, fake news, cyber stalking and converse how these need to be tackled

The third step is to share these top 10 cybersafety tips with your kids:

  • Change default passwords in each device
  • Keep passwords a secret, even from your BFF: It’s just like sharing the keys to your house. If it falls into the wrong hands, it can be misused.
  • Use only secured devices, at home and elsewhere: Do not make it easy for a hacker to steal data from you
  • Protect your personal data: Your data is your business and nobody else’s. Preferably do not share facts like your name, birthday, address, school, hobbies anywhere online
  • Say ‘NO’ to friend request from strangers: That 14-year old teen who seems to share all your interest may be a 55-year old. Also, be suspicious of duplicate friend requests
  • Never comply with requests for sharing personal pics: Would you hand over a picture of yours to a random person on the street? No? Then don’t do so online either
  • Refrain from opening email attachments or video/ message links. Be suspicious of emails that have your name wrong or have spelling errors like ‘www.yhoo.com’
  • Do not click on websites if they don’t start with ‘https’
  • Use 2-factor authentication to make your account security stronger
  • Keep location services off when not needed and do check in on social media

Your kids are a year older and a lot wiser. Let them feel grown-up and responsible by encouraging them to take charge of their digital lives. And bask in the glory of having done your bit to bring up responsible netizens.

Privacy Awareness Week-Are We Responsible for Our Data Breach?

“The best match for me,” announced my daughter one Sunday morning sometime back, “is a Scorpio.”

“Oh really? And this piece of vital information no doubt came from Linda Goodman?” I queried, giving her a been-there-done-that look.

“Why read when there are multiple sites online that can predict the perfect match for you? You need to share your name, date of birth and place of birth and voila, the dream match is revealed!”

“Name, date of birth…hmm. What else do you share?”

“Sometimes they ask about likes and preferences and favourite colour/animal/food etc. to get a better idea of your personality so that they can get a near-perfect match.”

Not just children but adults too enjoy such online quizzes, sharing personal data to know their perfect match or personality or the movie heroine they resemble or, a new one…’how and when will you die’. Cyber crooks know just how to trap us naïve digital citizens- through non-toxic -looking quizzes, free gift offers. Thus we end up sharing a lot of personal data when we log into e-commerce, gaming or health websites etc. They make us willingly offer the data they need. If the site is breached, this data becomes available to 3rd parties.

Identity Theft’; ‘Privacy Breach’; ‘Data Mining’; ‘Ransomware’ are some of the terms that are regularly making headlines now. We are aware that there are unsavory online characters who are continually finding ways to dig deeper and get their hands on our important information. The latest McAfee global study titled ‘New Security Priorities in An Increasingly Connected World’ shows that people are becoming more aware, with 79 per cent Indians saying their concern about online security has increased compared to 5 years ago.

Our awareness levels are high, but is it reflecting in our online behaviour?

Unprotected devices can get hacked, leading to possible loss of family photos, saved passwords and/or important mails and documents. How do we protect and keep private what’s ours?

By being proactive about protecting our privacy.

We need to take ownership of our digital life and plug all possible gaps. This privacy week get the entire family to sit down together to discuss privacy norms, breaches and security tips. Let children share their latest knowledge and parents share their concerns and problems. Lay down privacy do’s and don’ts for the whole family to follow.

Some of the points that you will need to discuss and work on:

  • Device Security: All family devices should have running security software. GPS and Bluetooth need to be turned off when not in use. The default passwords of all devices should be changed. All connected devices should be password-protected.
  • Data Security: Do not store important data like passwords on devices. Regularly back up data, preferably on an external drive. Erase data with the help of tools before disposing off old gadgets. Remove temp files and cookies. Consider using ad blockers.
  • Review your content: Check whether you are inadvertently sharing any personal information. Use strong passphrases for accounts. Avoid participating in quizzes/personality tests that ask for a lot of information. Assess permission required before installing apps. Remove apps that are no more used and revoke permissions, where needed.
  • Social media checks: Think before you post. Review privacy settings of each user and read site privacy policies. Also, review profile pic and bios. Refresh knowledge of social media do’s and don’ts.

Let the family data security mantra be- ‘My data, my responsibility.’ We can’t blame the service providers if we willingly share our data with 3rd party apps. So, it’s our duty, as responsible digital citizens, to be mindful of our online activities and secure our privacy.

Last but not the least, install all updates your OS sends and use branded comprehensive security solutions for all smartphones and other internet-enabled.

Indians Are Increasingly Realising Nothing Said Online Is Private

The world is becoming increasingly connected- with locks for you home controlled on your smartphone; CCTV cameras in every room that allow you to keep tabs on your home when you are out; smartphones that help you work, run and plan activities; smart TVs that allow you to connect to the internet; smart refrigerators that take stock of your grocery and place orders with the supermarket; games that can keep you glued to your screen for hours- the list is ever growing.

We all enjoy this connected lifestyle, it has made the world a global village and daily chores so much easier and faster. But there are some caveats attached. We tend to forget that in the virtual world, your safety and privacy depends a lot on you and the precautions you take. Else you end up sharing Too Much Information about yourself and your family, making you a likely candidate for ID theft and phishing.

This is exactly what a new global McAfee survey titled New Security Priorities in An Increasingly Connected World demonstrates – we are putting more personal information into the digital realm in today’s connected world. The study also reveals a disparity in concerns as Indians do not view safeguarding their connected devices (25%) as equally important as safeguarding their identity (45%) and privacy (39%).

On a positive note, 39% of Indians rank security as the most important factor when purchasing a connected home device. That’s more than one-third of the total respondents. In addition (this one is my particular favorite)71% of the parents would be interested in a monitoring tool to supervise their kids online.

Other India-centric salient findings of the study:

  • 79% of the Indians indicate that their concern about online security has increased compared to 5 years ago. Forty-five percent rank protection of identity as top priority.
  • 39% rank security as the most important factor when purchasing a connected home device.

But though users are aware of the pitfalls of sharing too much information, they are not as proactive about their online security as they should be. The survey highlights the need for more hands-on involvement on the part of the consumer. Not only should they need to take advantage of security tools, but they also need to act responsibly online.

Do you know that if you could somehow collect all the data shared by you over the years, you might be surprised at how much you have let slip unknowingly, including facts like whether you prefer coffee to tea? A simple search or a like on a post can also reveal a lot about you and your taste and character. Worried? The thing to do is to take steps to stay safe online.

Tips to stay safe online and protect what matters most:

  • Do the little things.Cybercriminals don’t have to be great at what they do to steal your personal information. Minor tactics like changing default passwords and using a unique password can go a long way to prevent your personal information from being stolen. A password manager can help you create strong passwords and eliminate the need to remember your passwords.
  • Research before you buy.Look up products and the manufacturer before you buy internet-enabled devices. If you find a manufacturer isn’t taking security seriously, then it’s best to avoid.
  • Use identity theft protection. Consider getting an identity theft protection service to monitor use of your personally identifying information, provide insurance against financial losses and recovery tools in the event of ID theft or fraud.
  • Keep devices up to date. Update device and application software when it becomes available from the manufacturer. Many new versions of software or operating systems contain specific security updates designed to protect the user.
  • Review your account info. Regular reviews of online bank and credit account transactions can help you spot suspicious activities or purchases. If you see something suspicious report it to your financial institution and law enforcement.
  • Re-check your privacy settings. Its always important to do a quick check on privacy settings and alter them timely so that your personal data is safe and only in the hands of the few people you trust.

In an ever-changing digital world that is continually fuelled by speed, developments and complexities, your security is your responsibility too. Own your digital presence and make your digital realm a secure one.

Happy surfing!

Cheat Codes to Digital Parenting

As digital immigrants, I have seen a lot of my friends in a constant dilemma/struggle about bringing up children in this digital age. I understand, there aren’t any rule books that can be used as a guide or any previous experience to fall back upon. Consequently, there arises digital conflicts between parents and kids ranging from device use to social media excesses. Before we get onto the solution, we need to understand the inherent nature of kids living in a connected world.

  • It is difficult to keep kids off the digital world – The demarcation between the real world and digital world is fast disappearing, as children start using the digital medium for education, entertainment and socializing at an early age and continue to use it increasingly as they grow up.
  • Stay updated on all that’s happening in your teen’s life -To understand our kids better and be on the same page with them, we need to be aware of issues they relate to, including staying updated on tech.
  • Monitoring is essential – I am sure we never intend to let our kids away from our sight while going out until they are mature. The same way there is a need to monitor their digital footprints as well. They should be guided on the dos and don’ts, until they show an adequate sense of responsibility and know how to rightly handle online situations.

Keeping these in our mind, let’s get started on our digital citizenship primer for kids. Here are some cheat codes that will surely make digital parenting a much smoother experience.

#Cheat Code 1: Extend real life values to cover the virtual world.

The values we have and revere are those that have been handed down to us by our families and enforced in the Value Education classes in school. These include:

  • Courtesy
  • Responsibility
  • Courage
  • Empathy
  • Judiciousness

They work well in the virtual world too. Teach him/her to be well-mannered, stand up against wrongs like cyberbullying and respect people’s need for privacy. Also, explain the need for discretion with personal data

#Cheat Code 2: Think of digital devices as portals to unknown territories. Use home safety rules.

You have the ‘Dos and Don’ts of staying alone at home’ drilled into your child, right? Let’s extend this to cover the cyberworld.

  • Secure devices– Use only those devices that are secured with a comprehensive security tool. This is how you fortify your digital space.
  • Stop unauthorized access Use only secure Wi-Fi connections, VPN or mobile internet connections.
  • THINK. CLICK. – Do not click on links or attachments or respond to spam emails. Keep passwords strong and DO NOT share them with anyone except parents.

#Cheat code 3: Extend your stranger-danger rule to cover the digital world. 

  • Do not connect with strangers: It is very easy to hide one’s identity and pretend to be someone else online. The same person may adopt different identities. It’s safer to connect with people you know in the real world.
  • Do not trust online friends: If someone asks too many questions or makes you feel uncomfortable immediately report that person to your parents and together decide what to do.
  • Do not visit unfamiliar sites: You may suddenly land on a website that looks exciting and interesting but stop a minute! Did you want to go there? Does the web address seem genuine? If in doubt, abort mission and return to safety.
  • Do not accept free gifts or favour from anyone; nothing comes free in this world.

#Cheat Code 4: Reiterate that every action has consequence online too

Help kids develop long-term vision, understand what seems like fun may actually not be so:

  • Over Sharing: If privacy is breached, your personal information may be misused. So, avoid sharing too much data. Sometimes, you unknowingly share your personal data, for instance while signing up on gaming websites or taking quizzes etc. Things you should avoid sharing include your name, date of birth, address, pet’s name and mother’s maiden name. These may be used to steal your identity.
  • Digital addiction: Like excess of cold drinks harms teeth, excess of online activities is also harmful to health. Practice digital balance.
  • Say NO to cyberbullying: Neither should you accept bad behaviour online nor should you be a party to cyberbullying. It’s wrong and may have unforeseen consequences. Report bullies to parents or teachers.

It’s pretty simple after knowing these cheat codes, isn’t it? As Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn’, open your communication channels with your kids. Involve them and make your way through to protect your kids online from the digital world threats.

Using the Internet as a Medium For Women To Break The Glass Ceiling

You know, the internet has done wonders for my business,” said a lady baker to me, beaming at all the appreciation coming her way from happy guests at a party she was catering.

How so?” I asked.

When I started out as a home baker, it was all word of mouth as far as advertisement went and my clientele was limited. Today I have my own Facebook page and my WhatsApp is filled with price requests for customized baked goods.”

We have come a long way since the launch of the internet in India in 1995. By 2021, the count of internet users in India is likely to reach about 635.8 million, of which 40% would be women, according to a recent study. Many of these women, including in rural areas, are taking advantage of the internet to achieve their dreams. What a better day than Women’s Day to show appreciation to such women, who are in sync with the Digital India vision that aims to empower women.

2017 also saw a lot of women lead a global movement of advocacy, activism and support for gender parity through the medium of the internet. Taking cue from the same, the global theme for International Women’s day 2018 is #PressForProgress, which aims to motivate women to think, act and be gender inclusive.

There are many women’s self-help groups online that offer them a platform not just to connect, set up a support network and seek advice but also to conduct e-commerce. Cyber-savvy women are already using WhatsApp to form local groups to carry on home business, including the supply of home-cooked food, samplings, cakes, caregivers and even drivers! The internet has been a blessing to women who are able to pursue their career from home.

There are also forums like Sheroes, Women Web and VAW (Violence Against Women) that work for women empowerment by giving them a voice, and in the case of Sheroes, a second chance at a career. There has also been a rise in synergy between the urban and rural sectors, thanks to the internet. Urban businesswomen are helping to revive dying crafts and traditions in rural communities by taking orders for such products.

There’s more! Women are also using the internet to showcase their talents. The growing count of YouTube accounts sharing music, story-telling sessions, cookery classes, dance and exercise, e-books, and DIY shows are proof to that! Such sharing has given women a new self-confidence and quite a few have already become internet influencers. Let’s see if you can name a few J

Kudos ladies but be aware of the cyber threats that exist, including identity theft, scams, cyberbullying, trolling, malware attacks, ransomware and data theft. Also, a tendency to ignore ‘stranger-danger’ and sharing too much online may lead to consequences in the future.

As we aim to become a responsible netizen, we can impart the same learnings to our kids. Mothers nowadays are leveraging the internet to understand the digital world better so that they can bring up their children to be digital literates. This is fantastic because cyber safety training needs to start at an early age and preferably at home.

As the saying goes, we have to move ahead with the times and adapt to the changing environment. As technology is the way forward, we should strive to adopt it and utilize it to carve out a better future for ourselves.

For that, we should take charge of our digital safety first and foremost

  • Device and account security: This is THE most important step for you to protect your data and that of your clients. Secure all your devices with licensed security tools and ensure auto upgrade is turned on. You already know how unsafe it is to use public network so get your own data plan and a VPN connection.
  • Double the Security: Two Factor Authentication may sound tedious but this added layer of security will give enhanced protection to you. Activate this for not only social media accounts but also financial accounts.
  • Password protection: We all know we must use unique passwords that need to be kept secret. If you are not good at remembering, then consider using a password manager and put an end to all your password woes.
  • Account Privacy and Security: Check privacy and security options on your accounts on a regular basis. Revoke access given to 3rd party apps if not in use.
  • Profile authenticity: Where there is money, there may be scammers. Always verify details and read reviews before finalizing a transaction.
  • Block and report: Most users will be appreciative, but some may not be nice. Learn to accept critical comments but do not submit to cyberbullying. Report such profiles and block them.

Personally, I believe every day is Women’s Day, but marking a particular day as such reminds us of the fact that we are women and we need to take charge of our lives and make it more meaningful. So let’s make the most of the internet and share your inspiring digital stories with other women who are still not on the bandwagon. Cheers!

Indian Digital Citizens Need to Better Balance Their Device Use and Manage Online Safety

As Bryan Adams croons in the background (Everything I do) I do it for you…. and you give the last touches to your Valentine’s Day preparations, don’t forget to do that one thing that is playing a big spoilsport in relationships today- put your devices away! After all, you don’t want a phone buzz to spoil that perfectly romantic mood.

Good idea you say? But unfortunately, many don’t. McAfee released findings from a recent India survey, “Three’s Company: Lovers, Friends and Devices” that aims to understand the online behavior of people and how it affects their real-world relationships with friends and significant others. The survey findings highlight the need for better digital balance and greater vigilance while sharing personal information.

Consider the facts discovered by this year’s survey:

  • 67% of the people in a relationship have felt that their significant other was more interested in their internet connected device than in them.
  • 77% of the respondents feel that the use of technology gets in the way of relationships
  • 89% of Indians would be concerned if their significant other did not take the necessary steps to protect their personal information.

No doubt devices have become an integral part of our lives and we cannot imagine a life without them. We need them to connect, share, learn and discover. They can also prove to be life-saving at times. Having said that, it is also imperative that we do not let devices take over our lives, or our special times with the people who matter most to us. Face-to-face interactions are very important, whether it be with your significant other, or kids, or friends.

A comparison with the 2017 survey shows an increase in undesirable device habits over the year:

  • 84% said they share their personal passwords and PINs with their partners in 2018, up from 46% in 2017.
  • 75% indicated that they have had to compete for the attention of their date with their device, up from 57% in 2017.
  • 39% indicate that they have/would allow their significant other to use their work device (s), which is slightly higher than the 35% recorded last year.

On a positive note, 76% Indians are also taking the necessary steps to ensure their personal information is protected on their connected devices. That’s great to know and they should also be more vigilant about sharing too much. Though 89% of Indians think privacy is important in a relationship, there is a lot of sharing going on between partners and it’s not just love and sweet nothings. 84% share their passwords and PINs with their partners for:

  • Online shopping websites – 60%
  • Social media accounts – 45%
  • Streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) – 42%
  • Personal email accounts – 41%
  • Banking and financial services websites – 38%
  • Work specific devices/accounts – 38%

Tip: Proactively practice digital balance by keeping devices away or on silent mode when talking to family members or your partner. Give your 100% attention to them.

We want you to stay safe online as well as stay close to your loved ones! Here are a few tips that will help you stay safe while staying in love:

  • Protect your loved ones online… secure their devices. Take control of your privacy and security. Products like McAfee Total Protection helps secure all your devices and keep your personal data personal.
  • Keep control over emotions when it comes to passwords. Please tell me your password isn’t Love2018 or MyLoveXYZ?? Be as romantic as you want in real life but be very careful when choosing passwords, they are the keys to your accounts and shouldn’t be easy to hack. Use the TrueKey app to manage all your passwords. Also, enable Two-Factor-Authentication on all accounts for enhanced safety.
  • Love you…. but love my device more? No way! I know that feeling, of wanting to ‘just scroll through’ social media messages or checking the battery if there has been no ping for some time; but hey, relax and take a chill pill. Messages won’t disappear so, give priority to real connections over virtual ones.

A successful life and relationship is all about prioritizing and doing the right thing at the right time. This Valentine’s Day give priority to a device-free date and you will love the joy and positive vibes you feel around you.

Take Charge of Your Online Privacy on Data Privacy Day

We spend a large part of our lives in the virtual world. Not only do we study, play, socialize and work; we also shop, pay bills and store documents. Today’s digital generation finds it tough to visualize a world where people had to stand in long queues each time they wanted to withdraw money from the bank, loan a book from the library or even buy a train ticket! There’s no doubt that the digital world spells ease, comfort, speed and time-efficiency. But it also means that there is a lot of our personal data out there that can be compromised, if it fell in the wrong hands.

Our data is our private property but due to malicious attacks or negligence, it may end up in the hands of unknown parties.

The aim of Data Privacy Day, celebrated on January 28th every year, is to make people aware of their rights to personal data protection and privacy.

So, what kind of data are we talking about? To name a few:

  • Resumes, certificates, photos
  • Health and employment records
  • Date of birth
  • Bank account details
  • Social media account login credentials
  • Credit and debit card details
  • Search patterns

Think back, haven’t you been surprised by how after searching for a product online you continue to receive ads for the same from various sources? How did they know your particular choice and how did the sellers get hold of it? There are these 3rd party apps that you unknowingly give permission to access your data when you install them. They collect, analyze and share the same without your explicit knowledge or consent.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, it’s no wonder that data protection has assumed such importance. The recent Supreme Court’s verdict on ‘Right to Privacy’ stand testimony to the same. It’s our data and we need to ensure it is kept private.

First and major step towards this involves securing devices, adopting good cyber practices and being a smart social media user. On Data Privacy Day, let us resolve to become more responsible netizens and take charge of our privacy through adhering to the following:

  • Don’t be pennywise pound foolish: Free security tools offer only basic security and hackers today are highly advanced in their techniques. Secure all internet-enabled devices as soon as you bring them home with reputed comprehensive security tools. And don’t you forget to secure your smartphone!
  • Double your account security: All default password for newly bought devices like smartphones, PCs and routers, should be modified right at the beginning. Create strong passwords and activate 2-Factor Authentication for all your accounts, including banking, e-shopping and social media
  • Share with care on social media: This is totally in your hands. If you are careful about not sharing your private details, contact and preferences online or telephonically, you are quite safe.
  • Consistent Backups: It’s a good idea to periodically transfer data from phone, tabs and laptops to an external storage device. That way even if a device gets hacked, your data remains safe.
  • Think before you click: Infected links and attachments are commonly used for phishing scams. Avoid clicking if not sure of the source or if the source looks suspicious with spelling errors in the URL.
  • Educate kids: Activate parental controls on your child’s devices and monitor their behaviour online. Teach them the importance of owning their online presence early on

The key is therefore to adopt good cybersafety practices and abide by them. And not just you and I, but everyone in the cyber world needs to do so as our security is linked. If one account gets hacked, it compromises all the other accounts which have been linked. That makes it our responsibility to ensure that our connected devices and virtual environment are all secure.

Dear readers, when you go online henceforth, remember to STOP. THINK. CONNECT. SHARE. Make everyday a Data Privacy Day and let’s start on this cyber safety journey today.

Stepping Into a Cyber Safe 2018 Stepping Into a Cyber Safe 2018

A very Happy New Year to all my dear readers and may this year be another fragrant flower that you will be adding to your bouquet of memories. 2018! How quickly the years fly by? leaving us with new experiences, understanding and learning.

Take our own digital world for instance. Most of us, discussed and researched cyberbullying seriously, for the first time only after the Blue Whale Challenge and Sarahah app made headlines last year. We also started taking interest in device security when ransomware attacks and data breaches became breaking news. Some of us have stopped being passive observers and started playing a proactive role in our children’s digital lives. But often, due to low awareness levels, some parents don’t know what to do when their kids face digital threats.

Let’s do something new in 2018, shall we? Let us turn the table around on cyber criminals by anticipating their moves and being prepared to handle new threats. Ready for the challenge?

The McAfee Labs 2018 threat predictions that I shared in my last blog gave a preview of 5 cybersecurity trends, if you remember. The report predicts a rise in attacks on connected devices and misuse of user-generated content. This is something we need to educate our kids about for they may not be aware that their digital footprints may have future consequences. They need to know how to keep their personal details private and why not to overshare information online.

Our concern is not with the positive posts that will help them on their digital journey, but the negative ones that could cause a hindrance. According to the McAfee Labs Threat Predictions 2018 report, many future adults will suffer from negative digital baggage, even if it comes about without their intention.

You may ask how can content be generated unintentionally? You will be surprised to know it is done all the time, even by us. A piece of malware in our phone may collect data about us, even take or store our pictures. A drone can be hacked to gather and transmit data about the user. A social engineering attack like a fun test may require us to enter personal details. This data may be shared with 3rd party vendors who will use it to sell their services or to keep track of social habits, for later use.

As smart homes and all connected devices are expected to increasingly become the targets of hackers, inadvertent content generation is a big concern and we need to take precautions to safeguard our kids online.

Here are some cyber safety tips to set your kids on the right path in the digital world:

  • Upgrade security features on all connected devices: Ensure that the devices offer more than basic security and that their passwords can be changed. Keep passwords a secret, even from BFFs.
  • Turn off unnecessary features: Do periodic checkup of all devices used by kids. Are all the apps necessary? Can some be disabled or uninstalled? What are the permissions required by the apps and what terms and conditions have your children agreed to? Remember to keep location services and Bluetooth turned off too.
  • Manage digital footprints: Teach kids the importance of STOP.THINK. SHARE. Too much information can prove an obstacle, like during internship applications, college admissions or even job recruitment. Sharing your location online by “checking in” to places can also provide potential hackers with too much information.
  • Keep conversation channels open: Teach children to make the right choices in the digital world early on. Have regular discussions on how important it is to share minimal personal data online. Let them know you are there for them 24/7 and that together you can better handle all cyber issues.

And remember the first rule, secure all your connected devices, with a comprehensive security solution.

Our children face an amazing potential future, full of wonderful gadgets, supportive services, and amazing experiences. Let’s teach them how to pack their digital backpacks so that they can make the most of it.

In the next blog, we will discuss data privacy in greater details and I will be sharing some useful tips with you on how to teach your kids to keep data about themselves minimal and safe. Till then ciao!

McAfee Shares Threat Predictions For 2018 – As the Saying Goes, Forewarned is Forearmed

2017 is fast drawing to an end and phew, what a year it has been in the digital world. Terms like ransomware, data breaches, cyber bullying, Blue Whale Challenge have become household phrases and device users are waking up to the fact that it is important to be aware and take safety measures to stay safe online. We are in a stage of cybersecurity, with new devices, new risks and new threats appearing almost daily. As such, if we knew what lay ahead in the cyber world in terms of security, it would be so helpful!

Dear readers, today we are privileged to have that opportunity to know beforehand the future threat landscape, courtesy of McAfee.

The McAfee Labs 2018 Threats Predictions Report is out and it reveals the top threats for the coming year. Eager to know more?

The 5 key trends to watch in 2018 are:

  1. Connected homes may lead to increase privacy breach: Networked devices already transmit a significant amount of information without the knowledge of most consumers. The increased use of smart gadgets like remote-operated webcams at home, security systems or even car lock systems may make us sitting targets for corporates who may try to observe our lifestyle to deduce our likes and wants. The FBI’s recent toy warning to parents might suggest that such approaches could result in regulatory and even criminal legal consequences.

#cybersafety tip: Check security settings on all connected devices as soon as you bring them home, including connected toys

  1. Inside your child’s digital backpack: Often, children and their parents do not consider the consequences of their posts and uploads (explicit, implicit and inadvertent,). These could range from trivial items to revealing personal information. 3rd party vendors could use and potentially abuse private information in the future.

#cybersafety tip: Help your children navigate the digital world safely. Teach them to turn off unnecessary features, and change the default passwords to something much stronger!

  1. Increased granularity of serverless apps will lead to a comparable increase in the attack surface- Though these apps enable a new degree of granularity in computing functions, they leave the environment open to a privilege escalation attack. Also, it might make it possible for hackers to disrupt or disable the infrastructure from the outside. Data in transit can also be intercepted or manipulated

#cybersafety tip: always use secured network or VPN

  1. New targets for RansomwareCyber criminals are expected to shift focus to high-net individuals for Ransomware attacks as industry users are becoming more aware and security conscious. Car system locked down on a working day? Perhaps Ransomware attack is the cause. Further, the goal is less about traditional ransomware extortion and more about outright system sabotage, disruption, and damage, as the recent WannaCry NotPetya attacks revealed.

#cybersafety tip: Change default security settings on all your devices. Stay abreast of the latest social engineering threats

  1. Competition between defenders and attackers to use machines to outwit each other- Defenders will use machine learning, AI, and game theory to probe for vulnerabilities in both software and the systems, correct vulnerabilities and contain zero-day attacks. On the other hand, attackers will be increasingly using machines to create attacks, scan for vulnerabilities, boost attack speed and shorten the time from discovery to exploitation. With better defender-machine combo, we can surely look forward to stronger security in 2018

#cybersafety tip: Use the best and most comprehensive security tool and adopt safety practices

So, as we prepare to welcome the new year, let us also pledge to welcome a new way of life; one that involves being aware of cybersecurity and adopting safety measures in the virtual world.  Isn’t that a nice thought to start 2018 with?

That’s all for 2017 folks, happy holidays!!

Sun tan, Sunglasses, Suitcases… and Devices! Indians Find It Hard to Unplug on Vacations-McAfee

I was showing a friend around Kolkata when we noted several tourists (very evident because of their attire and photographic gears) making a beeline for a particular sidewalk. Everyone had mobiles ready for selfies in their hands.

That must be a popular tourist spot,” remarked my friend, eager not to miss a single tourist attraction.

Oh no! The reason for the crowd here is that this area has free Wi-Fi, part of our smart city plan. So, people flock here to check their messages, make calls or upload pics etc.”

We really find it hard to part from our devices, don’t we? Even on holidays? We need to stay in touch, whether it be with our family or work. Check this out:

  • 86 percent Indians want to stay plugged during their vacations so that their families can reach them if needed. That’s a significant count.
  • Further, 60 percent admitted to spending a minimum of an hour daily online.
  • What’s more, 57 percent said they felt anxiety over being unplugged!
  • And this takes the cake- 68 percent of Indian parents allow their children to use connected devices while traveling!

 

These and other findings from a recent McAfee study indicates that despite the benefits experienced from unplugging, most Indians prefer to stay connected.

The McAfee Study titled, “Digital Detox: Unwind, Relax and Unplug,” aims to better understand the behavior and attitudes of consumers when on vacation, and how digital habits could be putting their personal information at risk. The intention is to educate those planning a trip in the holiday season on risks related to using unsecured Wi-Fi connections.

It is not that people don’t want to unplug from connected devices, cut off from real world worries and enjoy their holidays unconditionally. 67 percent indicated they would want to completely unplug on a vacation if not for work obligations. So for all practical purposes, vacationers are taking their offices along on holidays!

Surprisingly, the millennials are more inclined to unplug than those in their 40s.

 

Some more salient findings:

  • Almost one in two Indians (51%) could not resist the urge to post to social media while vacationing
  • One in four 29%) admitted to checking their email consistently throughout the day.
  • Parents tend to be more tech savvy than their non-parental counterparts and are more likely to know if their Wi-Fi connection is safe and secure to use (75% vs. 64%)Only 40% would be willing to leave their smartphone behind while travelling

 

Takeaway pointCybercriminals may try to exploit travelers who put convenience over security and use unsecured Wi-Fi access points that are easily hackable. Their personal data, including passwords and financial transactions may be compromised.

Can’t Think of Unplugging? Pay Heed to These Tips to Help Secure Your Device and Data:

  • Browse securely when away from home. If you really can’t unplug while traveling, avoid using public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks. But if you have to use a public Wi-Fi network, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) like McAfee Safe Connect. A VPN will keep your information private and ensure that data goes straight from your device to where you are connecting.
  • Update your devices. Always ensure that your device OS and security are kept updated. Using old versions of software could leave you open to potential security vulnerabilities.
  • Install cross-device security. Travelling with your device? First secure it with the latest security software. McAfee LiveSafe can help your devices stay clear of viruses and other unwanted malware.
  • Use a device locating app. It’s a good idea to use a security tool that offers the device location and remote erasure features. Location applications can help you find, lock and even erase your device’s data in the event of theft or loss.

Every digital citizen should understand the importance of digital balance and practice digital detox- especially on holidays. However, if you do need to carry your devices to stay in touch, make sure you use secured Wi-Fi and secure your connected devices too. Keep your travels worry-free.

Try unplugging, you may be pleasantly surprised!