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.

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!

 

Importance of Cybersecurity Lessons in Schools

Are you aware that there are more than 460 million internet users in India, and this is expected to grow to around 635.8 million by 2021? Or, that nearly 81% of kids between the ages of 8-16 are active on social media? Or, that of the children who are active on social media, 69% have published photos, 58% have posted their email address and 44% would meet or have met someone in person that they first met online?

Just goes to show, that our kids are tech-smart but not very cybersafety conscious. To make the Digital India dream come true and benefit the nation, internet users must be well-versed in cybersecurity and cyber etiquette. As our kids will be tomorrow’s India, bringing them up to be model digital citizens should be a top priority. Where can they get this knowledge? Schools, without a doubt.

Let’s think about why it is important to teach cybersafety in school:

  • Children accept teachers as information providers and give credence to their words
  • Cybersafety training can be tailored according to age and grade
  • Group learning helps in building virtual social bonds, and confidence
  • Campaigns, contests and bulletin boards can be used to promote better virtual behaviour
  • New lectures similar to value education can be taken up to teach online etiquette. Many schools have been organizing such cybersafety sessions, but it needs to become a regular feature

I asked some educators what their views were on internet safety and digital citizenship in the school curriculum and this is what they said:

It is the need of the hour,” said Sunita Rajiv, assistant headmistress, at Ahlcon International School, New Delhi.

It’s a must,” said Ritu Sehji, educator, author, presenter, based in New Zealand.

What should be the learning outcomes of cybersecurity sessions?

Children should:

  • Stay informed about cybersafety and cyber civics
  • Know how to identify dangers and tackle them
  • Make informed decisions online
  • Learn how to surf in a secure environment
  • Use the internet to learn and build a network

 

The main points to be covered in the cyber security sessions:

  • Social Media: etiquette; safety; mutual respect; diplomacy; language; content
  • The norms of sharing: How much to share; what not to share and with whom; Too much sharing and future effects
  • The importance of privacy: How to secure devices; accounts; profile; passwords
  • Scams, Spams, hacking: Attachments and links in mails and posts; key words to look out for
  • Block and report accounts: When to consider this option-How to keep records; whom to inform; how to block and report
  • Identify fake: How to identify fake profiles and messages; how to authenticate data before sharing; how to block and report cyberbullies and predators
  • Dares, challenges and other risky games: How to identify peer pressure and avoid them; understand that such risky challenges are the new faces of cyberbullying and how to counteract them; how to tackle online bullying; creating support group for victims
  • Footprints in the digital sands of time: How posts have future implications, and may impact college admissions and/or career. How to remove posts and photos shared and sanitize social media accounts
  • Smartphone safety: Using security apps, GPS, geotagging, selfie risks
  • Financial risks: e-transactions

It will be a great idea to set up information kiosks or designate a bulletin board where the latest updates on internet safety can be shared. Further, schools need to sensitize parents and organize cyber security awareness seminars for them. The presence of a dedicated counsellor to advise and guide kids on issues pertaining to cybersafety will be of great help to children and parents alike.

And always wind up your lessons with the cybersafety mantra- STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

 

 

Be a Social Media-Savvy Parent For Your Kids

If your kids are ready to join the social media bandwagon, but you are completely lost when it comes to the new apps trending among teens then it’s time to learn about how to help your children stay safe in the digital world.

According to a ‘We are Social’ study, the number of social network users in India was nearly 191 million in Q1 2017 and is expected to rise tremendously

These figures should be a wakeup call to us parents. Your child is or will soon become a social media user and you need to know everything there is to know about these platforms in time to guide them. We don’t want to wait for another Blue Whale Challenge, Sarahah app or the new 48-hour challenge. These games are now becoming the new faces of cyberbullying to jolt us out of our comfort zones.

The only way to teach is to know and therefore it is important for you to stay ahead and learn about popular social media apps that your child is likely to use.

Indian kids are on Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, YouTube, and Hike. I am sure you are familiar with Facebook and WhatsApp, let’s quickly refresh our memory about the rest:

Instagram: It started out as a photo and video sharing app that allows users to tweak and filter pics before sharing. Now users can also send messages, stickers, conduct polls on stories and connect with likeminded users. The instant feedback users receive can be a real ‘feel-good’ factor.

YouTube: This one is a favourite with gamers, home chefs, amateur artists and comedians. Users upload their videos for general or select viewing and can subscribe to channels of their preference.

Snapchat: This app created waves when it launched because it allows users to capture videos and pictures that self-destruct after a few seconds. However, it’s good to remember that receivers can take screenshots and save pics

For all these apps, signing up is easy. Just download the app, create a strong password and use a comprehensive security software with password manager.

What are the privacy and security options recommended? First, ensure that your children meet the minimum age criteria to join any of the social media accounts. Then, be sure to share general safety tips like the ones below.

  • Public or private: Do you want anyone and everyone to see your profiles and posts? Probably not, so turn your account from public to private.
  • Enable two-factor authentication: This is a must to ensure that only you can access your account. It will require a password plus another factor (example: OTP sent to mobile phone) to prevent misuse of your social account.
  • Profile Information: Apps need your profile information but there is no reason why you have to share them with others. Also, think about your profile name and photo. Consider whether you would like to use your real name and pic or an Avatar? Your friends know you anyway, and those who are strangers, don’t need to know all about you.
  • Block and report: This feature comes handy when someone bothers you. You can manually select the follower from your friend/follower list and block and report the account.
  • Turn off geotagging: This feature allows all your friends and followers to identify your exact location. Keep it turned off and check pics to see if they are geotagged. If yes, then remove tagging
  • Tagging in photos: It is considered improper to tag people in group pics without prior permission. Also, review pics in which you are tagged before allowing them on your timeline
  • 3rd Party Access: Periodically review whether you have given access to any 3rd party and revoke access to apps you don’t need or that ask for access to too many files
  • Language: Did you know typing in bold caps is akin to shouting? Or that making rude or sarcastic comments on others’ posts is cyberbullying? Also, be careful when using acronyms that you got the right meaning
  • Conduct: Good etiquettes come in handy online. Maintain decorum, as if you are in a drawing room having a polite conversation. To know more about digital etiquettes, refer to my blog
  • THINK. CONNECT. Always think before posting about whether the photo or text is decent, correct, verified, or useful. Don’t share sensitive content or connect with strangers who insist on knowing a lot of personal details about you.

Nowadays, we get inundated with new trends on social media, which frequently create a frenzy among kids. A bit of awareness, frequent communication and supervision can help us ensure their cyber safety along with making us a cool cyber savvy parent.

Next time your kids go online, take the opportunity to engage more with them and show off your social media skills.

Star Struck? Make Sure It Doesn’t Lead You To Malicious Websites

The annual festive bash is approaching and the residents in my society are spending sleepless nights planning and practicing for the cultural show. We plan to make humour the theme this year which always helps to create a happy atmosphere.

“Humour? I have got an idea. Why not search the net for Kapil Sharma jokes? He is really witty and his one-liners pack a solid punch. We can get great ideas!” suggests my neighbor.

Google is pressed into service and ‘Kapil Sharma+ MP4’ is entered as the search term. We select a site that promises some of his best joke collection and click on it. But lo and behold! McAfee Web Advisor marks it red and we contemplate if we really want to go on the site!

We definitely don’t, so we cancel, but it brought to mind once again how cyber criminals are continuing to leverage the fascination of consumers with celebrity culture. They are banking on online searches made by fans and other unsuspecting users to steer them to potentially malicious websites that can be used to install malware, steal personal information and even passwords.

McAfee has released its 11th Global ‘Most Sensational Celebrities 2017’ list and like in the previous years, actors continue to be the most searched for celebs online in India. Whereas in the US, musicians like Avril Lavigne holds sway, in India it’s movie actors all the way. The sensational tag only indicates the popularity of the celebs as online search subjects which cyber criminals take advantage of. They leverage downloadable content like music or video files to entice consumers to visit potentially malicious websites designed to install malware.

So, who tops the list of the Most Sensational Celebrity in 2017? Any guesses? He laughed his way to the 3rd rank in 2015, failed to feature in the list in 2016 only to return as the top sensational celeb this year. He has you tickling with laughter as soon as he opens his mouth- you guessed right, it’s Kapil Sharma. He is followed by Salman Khan while Aamir Khan is close on his heels at 3rd place.

Here is the list of the top 10 in 2017:

  1. Kapil Sharma
  2. Salman Khan
  3. Aamir Khan
  4. Priyanka Chopra
  5. Anushka Sharma
  6. Sunny Leone
  7. Kangana Ranaut
  8. Ranveer Singh
  9. Shahid Kapoor
  10. Tiger Shroff

 

Compared to last three years when Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra and Sonakshi Sinha had respectively topped the lists, the male actors seem to have generated more risky results this year. The young brigade that made its appearance in the list in 2015, Ranveer and Tiger have made it to the list this year as well.

The study by McAfee is conducted using McAfee WebAdvisor site ratings to determine the number of risky websites generated by searches on Google, Bing and Yahoo!, that included a celebrity name and search terms likely to yield potentially malicious websites in the results. For example, if you search for Salman Khan + MP3, the results returned may include some risky websites.

Fear thee not, Cybermum India will help you stay safe online, as always.

Follow these 3 tips to stay safe while satisfying your desire to get to know your idols better:

  • Be careful where you click: Hackers often offer links or popups that promise to contain just what you want. Do not be tempted by 3rd party links that may be ploys to steal your data. STOP. THINK. CLICK.
  • Browse with security: Use a tool such as McAfee WebAdvisor to keep you safe by identifying malicious websites before you click. Move away from sites marked in red and research well before accessing suspicious sites marked in yellow. It’s that simple- like traffic lights. Install it on the entire family’s laptops.
  • Free comes with a catch: There are no free lunches, the old adage goes, and it holds true for the online world too. You may end up downloading malware along with free MP4 or wallpapers. So, wait for the actual release of a video or song. better yet, purchase it from a legitimate source.

It goes without saying that your data security depends on your device security too. So always use a comprehensive security software on your devices to enjoy a hassle-free search for your favourite celebrity.

 

 

Why it’s important for parents to monitor kids’ digital footprint?

There is a new cybersafety awareness among the people of my generation – post the Blue Whale Challenge scare and rising concerns over cyberbullying – and quite a few have started playing a more proactive role in their children’s online lives. That is the way to go!

And not just parents, grandparents too are becoming aware. Just the other day, a friend’s mom cornered me at a party and expressed concern over her grandchild’s online habits.

She is all of three but spend hours watching Spiderman cartoons on our iPhone. She knows how to unlock the phone and turn on You-Tube, she is that smart.

I nodded, wondering where this was going.

But I caught her the other day watching a very violent cartoon. I asked if that was a Spidey cartoon and she said no, she had come across it while surfing for new toons. She was enjoying it! All that violence at 3! What do we do?”

Now this is the case of a grandma, who despite her minimal technical knowledge, was wise and experienced enough to realize that her grandchild needed monitoring.

That is what parents need to realize – we may lag behind our children in tech-savviness but we are way ahead of them in the department of wisdom borne of age and experience.

According to a McAfee study, 49 percent of the Indian parents surveyed are concerned about stranger danger and almost 93 percent of them have discussed the potential dangers on the internet with their children at some point. Yet only 36 percent of Indian parents admitted to using software to monitor their children’s activity on their devices. We would like to see that number grow!

As children carry out most of their online activities on their mobile phones, it is necessary that parents secure these devices too. So today, I will introduce you to a wonderful product, McAfee Safe Family that will help you to monitor your kids when they are on their phones too.

Let’s first check out what all this parenting control app can help us with:

  • Password-protected settings: You will be using a password to protect the parental control settings so only you can administer and make changes
  • Age-appropriate web-filtering: You can choose which websites your children can access, suitable for their age, and/or review or change the content that’s available to them
  • Set rules and time limits: You, the administrator, will be able to set internet-use rules and timings
  • Activity Feed: View your kid’s device activity from application and website access to current location and checked-in places
  • Family Locator: Wouldn’t it be nice to quickly check where your kids are, in the middle of a busy work day? You can use this tool to locate them on an interactive map
  • App Management: You can get report of installed apps on your children’s devices and also block in-app purchases
  • Encourage parent-child bonding: The tool allows you to be flexible. Sometimes your kids may need longer net time or access to certain blocked sites. This is the opportunity to discuss cybersafety, digital responsibility and etiquette. Then you can make necessary changes.

And the best part? This amazing tool is currently available for free! Download it here.

At the same time, don’t forget to regularly talk to your kids about stranger-danger, importance of privacy and sharing limits. Awareness and security together will help the child grow up to be a confident and responsible net user.

Cyber Insurance – The Need of the Hour

Years ago, when we were complete newbies to computers, data loss was a frequent occurrence. Files were lost as they were not saved or else power cuts played culprits. We saved our work on floppy disks, and CDs, remember? But the problem was that they frequently got corrupted. I once had to redo the entire year’s marksheet for my class at the 11th hour!

And then we learnt how to backup on the hard drive itself and what a relief that was! But then whoever had access to the computer could access the saved data and copy/wipe/misuse it. Also, if the device crashed, we needed a technician to retrieve it from the drive. So, we learnt how to take backups on external drives, for safety and better storage. And now of course, there’s cloud storage.

We have also seen how data can be compromised in the process of transmission, device theft or hacking. Such losses not only disrupt peace of mind but also affect business dealings. It may have various consequences- ranging from temporary inconvenience, loss of peace of mind and of personal information to more serious ones like cancellation of deals, redoing entire projects and loss of client details. These are broadly termed as the costs of data loss.

How would you peg the cost for loss of data like contracts or financial details or client credit card details, identity documents or contacts? Add to this cost the price of time loss, opportunity loss, productivity loss and even client and business deal losses and you will know how serious the matter is. In this competitive world, no company can afford a breach, but it is happening and may happen more frequently, given the rise in cyberattacks.

No doubt we have very good security policies in place that help us stay safe from known attacks and thefts. There may also be contracts with server providers for compensating time and opportunity losses arising from data loss. But they do not compensate for data loss. For that we need cyber insurance.

What is cyber insurance? It’s like your normal insurance offered to protect against internet-related losses in business. The insured can compensate for delays and losses and compensation demand from affected parties. A cyber attack like a malware or ransomware can cause serious harm to a company’s reputation, financial position and business models. If client data is breached and falls in the wrong hands, then it becomes quite difficult to rebuild the seller-client trust. It can also be expensive to compensate clients for losses suffered and herein lies the advantage of an insurance.

Do you and I need it? Depends on what kind of data you and I are storing and how, and the extent to which we would be affected if that data is compromised. Most of you supermoms would be entrepreneurs working from home, and may have important data stored on your tab, the loss of which may cause you inconvenience. Many of us may overlook the security part of the processes and hence, a cyber insurance can save your day. Small businesses can also gain from insuring their data and more and more firms are expressing interest in insuring their data.

Future prospects- Cyber insurance is slated to be big in the coming years, with the market likely to reach USD 14 Billion globally by 2022. And why not, for after all it stands to reason. We insure everything that’s precious to us- our houses, cars, art, even life- then why not our data that is now less on paper and more in e-format? Keeping in mind the ever-expanding cyber threat landscape, it can be said that cyber insurance will soon become a necessity, instead of an option.

Cyber insurance is however not a replacement for cyber security, for if there is no comprehensive security framework in place and users are proven to have been careless, insurance claims may not stand ground. We can look at it as an extension of the security framework that helps to compensate for losses due to data breach. It is this part of the proactive measures to keep data safe.

Sarahah, honesty and making sure your kids aren’t part of the problem

Freedom of speech in written texts? Totally anonymous? No fear of being identified and penalized? Whoa, that’s what GenY was waiting for! And youngsters have been, going for it I mean, by the drove!

If you are still wondering what I am talking about, it’s the new app Sarahah, that’s got everyone’s attention. The brainchild of a Saudi Arabian developer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, its original purpose was to provide a platform to people to offer honest but anonymous feedback in the workplace without the fear of retribution. Zain soon realized the potential for it in personal use and so opened a new section in the website for personal feedback from friends. This feature became very popular in the Middle East and Africa, which led to its introduction in the western countries as the Sarahah App.

How does it work?

All you have to do is download it and link it to your social media accounts- SnapChat, Facebook or Instagram and share the link you receive with friends or public; and voila, you are ready to tell anyone- anonymously- exactly what you think of them, their work, their attitude, their past deeds or whatever it is about them that pleases or irks you.

Quick facts on Sarahah:

  1. It is available for download on PlayStore and iStore
  2. It is anonymous so just about ANYONE can send a message
  3. Spam Alert: Fake sites like Sarahah Spyer and Sarahah exposed are sending spam messages to users to check sender’s name on their sites
  4. There is a minimum age criteria though- the app is for people over 17. But a large number of teens are on it so the age criteria has obviously not played a deterrent.

So now my Facebook page is flooded with sweet comments that people have received via Sarahah (The comments are not visible to others unless users choose to share) and reciprocal outpour of love and guesses on who the sender might be. Sometimes they guess it right, sometimes they do not. What concerns cyber security experts like me (yeah, we like people to use their devices and the net with their eyes open) is that the anonymity may embolden some malicious users to reveal “honest” feelings- and so be abusive, mean, acerbic and untruthful. Or to use the app to insult or demean someone they do not like. How will the receivers handle it then?

What does this mean for parents & kids in India?

According to McAfee’s “Teen Tween Technology 2015” study in India, 43% of the children active on social media claim to have witnessed cruel behaviour on social networks, while 52% of the children indicated that they have bullied people over social media themselves. And this when there was no Sarahah app around! We learn two things from here, children are being bullied and simultaneously children could be playing accomplice to cyberbullying by being the perpetrators or witnesses.

Such apps that allow people to “speak their mind” have the potential to turn into breeding grounds for cyberbullying and according to reports, it has started happening, with some users allegedly receiving hate mails and death threats!

What parents need to understand?

  1. Watch for signals: If a child faces cyberbullying, there could be behavioral changes like depression, drop in academic performance, marked disinterest in everything. Watch out for these signs in your teen. Also, as the McAfee study suggested, kids could be not just be on the receiving end but initiating it also. This is where a good open relationship with kids about cyber etiquettes is critical from an early age.
  2. Better to be safe: Monitoring underage kid’s activities online through parental control app is critical at points in time like these. Until kids gain maturity to identify on their own, guidance from parents is essential just like how you would help cross the street. If you feel uncomfortable or disturbed by any message, its recommended to take screen shots and uninstall the app
  3. Communicate: What goes online stays online and may have future consequences. It’s important to empower children early until they can judge what can harm them. That said we also need to highlight that participating in such acts can have consequences and if seen, should be reported.

It is difficult to predict whether the popularity of the app will gain steam or lose sheen in the coming months. But what we can say for certain is if you and your kids stay aware and updated, you will enjoy your virtual experience.

Stay safe folks!

Blue Whale Challenge – What You Need To Know And Do!

Indian parents are waking up to this new online threat to their kids: ‘The Blue Whale Challenge’ which in extreme steps leads children to commit suicide. Fingers are flying fast on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter sharing ‘facts’ about the challenge, tips about mentoring kids, and opinions of experts that are adding to the confusion.

What is the Blue Whale Challenge?” “Is it a game or an app?” “Where is it available?” “How can I know if my child is playing it?” These and other similar questions are now making the rounds, understandably, as perturbed parents are trying their best to get a grip on the issue.

The facts first:

Alternate names: A Blue Whale/ A Quiet House/ A Silent House/ A Sea of Whales/ Wake Me Up at 4:20 am.

The background: The Blue Whale Challenge was developed by a Russian who is currently behind bars. The game had an app but now it has been removed. HOWEVER, if anyone has backed up data and saved the app, it may still be there on their devices. It may also be shared in unregulated groups.

The game: The game consists of a series of dares, and every time the player completes a challenge, a new one is assigned to him/her. This happens over a period of 50 days (According to some reports, this includes carving a Blue Whale on the hand). The last one is supposed to be one that is potentially life-threatening. Not only that, the participant has to livestream or share the suicide on Facebook.

The modus operandi: How does the moderator get the participants to accept and complete challenges? Simply by goading them on; shaming them or belittling them if they show hesitation. They already have the phone numbers and email addresses of the participants, so it’s easy for the moderator to contact the participants. The participants are also threatened not to keep records of any mails or messages or else their family member’s personal information would be hacked and made public.

Origin:  There are contradictory reports about existence of an app and now it’s been removed from online stores. Social media and forums are recognized means which have helped proliferate the same.

What can parents do?

This is not a case of malware or virus attacks. It is more related to human psychology and banks on the child’s naiveté, lack of self-esteem and acceptance to a group. Such games have existed and continue to exist and bans won’t prevent their creation. Just like there are fun challenges like the ice bucket challenge and the pink whale challenge, there are also potentially harmful ones that include taking selfies in front of running trains and other dangerous acts. Children by nature are adventurous and dares, no matter how small or big, could satisfy this need for excitement.

  1. Open Conversation: Like in the real world where you guide your child, likewise your child needs guidance in the online world too which can only be given by you until they attain maturity. Have regular and informal conversation so they share without the fear of being reprimanded. Encourage questions, address their curiosity and guide them in a friendly manner rather than leaving up to them to figure things on their own Also, its recommended to impart knowledge to break free from peer pressure and not be negative online. A strong, confident child will be able to make better decisions and this is the skill as parents you can teach your children.

 

  1. Stanger Danger: According to McAfee’s ‘Connected Family’ study in 2017, 49% of Indian parents are concerned about their child potentially interacting with a social predator or cybercriminal online. Education and open conversations within families are critical as kids are curious and give trust easily. Highlight incidents about how strangers try to earn trust falsely for their own agenda which can extend from cybercrime to physical theft when you are not home. Insist that they should avoid entering into any form of communication, sharing or confiding with strangers including calling, emailing, texting or meeting people they don’t know well in person.

 

  1. Balance: Set daily internet time when they can surf online and do school work. Also, make the rule -Absolutely NO devices go to bed with your child. If you notice your child is online more often than usual you should investigate.

 

  1. Monitor: Even if you are not a tech savvy person, there is nothing like a parent’s concern to keep children on the right path. It’s suggested you use the parental control features available in reputed security software which makes it easy and simple to help keep your children safe online.

 

  1. Do your part: Discuss with your child about how to identify such online dangers and report it if they encounter any. It’s our duty to keep the ecosystem safe for everyone as we would expect from our neighbor.

Monitoring your child’s online experience until they get a sense of judgement is something I have always advocated for, and is now more important than ever. Do your part and help make the internet a safer place for everyone.

 

World Wide Web – The journey from 1990

This year on my birthday, family and friends sent me gifts and flowers bought from online stores. Even my cake was ordered online! I wondered, “How would things have been without the World Wide Web?”

August 1, 2017 was the 26th birthday of the World Wide Web and this is the right opportunity to thank its creators, and this service for all that it has made possible.

The World Wide Web (we know it better as the www that precedes all web addresses) was the brain-child of Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau, and was born in August 1990 at CERN in Switzerland. Very soon this service became the magic portal that gave access to infinite resources online – something our previous generation would have thought possible only in science fiction.

A year later in August 1991, the first website was published, and today there are more than one billion websites in existence!

How many times do you use the browser service each day? Take a guess-10, 20, 30? Almost everything you do online requires you to use a browser – whether it’s using Google for information, watching movies and shows online, checking social media accounts, making online transactions or even communicating through WhatsApp. Well, that makes it how many times??

Cyber criminals have created bugs that can attack systems, crash devices, steal files, and disrupt organizational functioning and services. As responsible netizens, we should therefore be aware of the potential cyber threats and use a reputed security software to keep us and our family safe online.

The theory of a computer bug or virus was introduced long before the first virus was developed. In 1983, Fred Cohen demonstrated a program that could replicate itself multiple times. The first worm to create global disruption was the ‘Morris Worm’. Developed by Robert Morris, it leveraged the vulnerabilities in the UNIX system and replicated itself regularly, massively slowing down computers. This attack has the dubious distinction of being the first global multi-platform attack and raised awareness about the need for cybersecurity.

The exponential growth of internet users, businesses and services online has given ample opportunities for cyber criminals to launch targeted attacks, to fulfil various ends. Modern hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated using social engineering and phishing to target gullible users.

Some notable global cyber-attacks include:

  • 2004: Netsky and Sasser worm attacks
  • 2006: Operation Shady Rat
  • 2008: Project Chanology
  • 2009: Yahoo attack (Operation Aurora)
  • 2010: Stuxnet worm
  • 2011: Sony PlayStation Hack
  • 2012: Flame
  • 2013: Spamhaus Project
  • 2017: #Wannacry and #Petya ransomware

Though we use the terms Virus, Worms, Trojan Horses interchangeably, they are in fact not quite the same. While a virus needs a host file to spread from one computer to another; a worm is a self-replicating program that can create copies of itself and send to all on the user’s contact list. A Trojan horse pretends to be a genuine software but actually contains a malicious code.

Being aware is the first step towards cyber safety and what better way to observe World Wide Web day than by being a safe surfer? Here’s how you can ensure your safety while browsing:

  • Use a well-known security software, like McAfee LiveSafe or McAfee Total Protection
  • Always install OS updates, don’t keep it for later
  • Disable Auto-run of attachments in your e-mail program
  • Be very suspicious of .exe files
  • Scan all apps, devices, files and software before use
  • Use McAfee WebAdvisor to identify safe sites to visit

Here’s looking forward to the achievement of the Digital India vision where every citizen will know how to browse safely and lead a secure digital life and encourage their family to do so.

The rise in ransomware attacks has directed global attention towards cyber insurance and we shall be exploring this in our next blog. See you next time!

Are Your Kids Playing Virtual Hide-n-Seek With You?

We all grew up playing hide-n-seek. Remember how your toddler loved playing hide-and-seek as well? Well, today’s tech savvy kids have taken the game to an all new level by playing digital hide-and-seek with their parents. They have started hiding their online activities from their parents, just to enjoy some privacy and feel ‘grown-up.’

Now kids will be adventurous and try to stretch boundaries, especially teens. They also hide certain things because they may feel parents wouldn’t approve of them. These can range from networking at late hours, hacking, cyberbullying, connecting with strangers or watching age-inappropriate content.

So how do kids play the virtual hide-and-seek game with their parents? Aha, they sure know some smart ways around it that will keep you searching in vain:

  1. Using multiple email and social media accounts
  2. Signing up on social media platforms that parents don’t frequent
  3. Regularly deleting messages, temporary files and history
  4. Using the incognito mode
  5. Use of acronyms in messages
  6. Keeping passwords secret from parents
  7. Renaming contacts and files in devices

Consider the fact that 84 percent of parents allow their child to bring an internet connected device to bed, as per the McAfee Connected Family Study 2017. Do you think that can perhaps be the reason why it’s easy for kids to hide their activities from their parents? Further, 59% of parents monitor their child’s device usage, whereas 41% allow their child to use their devices whenever they want with no restrictions.

Websites are continually upgrading their security and introducing checks like minimum age criteria seeking to control the spread of fake accounts. Before exploring the online world, children need to first learn how to surf safely and handle online issues. As a parent, you are the primary educator for a child’s cybersafety training, you need to observe and guide them. It’s highly unlikely of you to leave your child alone, without keeping an eye out while going out in the real world. Similarly, why would you leave them on their own in the vast cyber world?

As your children grow older they will seek more privacy, and you may have to give them that freedom. It is important as it would instill in them a sense of ‘grown up’ and strengthen the bond of mutual trust between the child and the parent. But before you arrive at this stage, help them learn to stay safe online.

In the cyberworld, children sometimes may want to venture into unsafe territories and talk with strangers, away from parental monitoring. Not monitoring children would seem like a difficult proposition in such a scenario, unless you have parental controls activated or are aware of the online sites they visit and their passwords. They will try their best to hide their virtual footprints from you. Then what?

As your children sign up on social media sites, you need to be ready as well with the following tips:

  • Be friends with your children online
  • Encourage them to share their passwords with you
  • Periodically review the apps on your child’s phone and discuss the pros and cons with them
  • Activate parental controls to monitor them remotely
  • Keep communication channels open with them and ask them to be wary of online dangers, like cyberbullying
  • Advise them to share uncomfortable or negative experiences with parents immediately

Kids will be kids and we need to make allowances for them, understand and trust them to an extent. However, it is equally necessary that your children reciprocate that trust and respect for a fulfilling parent-child relation. For this, start their cybersafety education early on and be a parent as well as a friend to them.

So start today, if you haven’t already, and help your child stay safe online.