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!

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.

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.

Combining The Old With The New

Mom look, that’s the app I was telling you about!” remarked my friend’s teen, pointing to an ad running on the TV.

Which one?”

See this, you can learn Physics at home with this app; Ramya tells me the lessons are very good and they make the concepts crystal clear. In fact they offer coaching in many other subjects,” explained the excited teen.

My daughter concurred, “Oh yes! I did an online course on Creative Writing. These courses are really good.

I was listening to the conversation and marveling at the level of awareness in today’s kids. They are so confident, aware of their problems and proactively look for solutions. They have friends hailing from different parts of the nation, and even the world, and they are well aware of global events. The world in fact has become a global village. Hence the demand for more knowledge, customized content and greater control over the learning process. This is the generation that is leveraging the net and digital devices to get the best of global education.

Education today is thus going beyond books and notebooks and understandably so. The internet has opened up multiple portals to the world of learning. There are just so many things to learn and so many ways of doing so. You can take lessons from an online teacher on a one-to-one basis, join a group education program, or do your own research using dedicated search engines and other customized tools- you take your choice. A plethora of such educational apps are available and many are free of charge. Even schools that still follow traditional teaching practices require children to do a lot of work online, including homework and projects, and children use these apps to enhance their learning and turn in great projects.

As a cyber security advocate, I however also consider the grey areas of learning with the aid of digital devices. These are mainly to do with the risks associated with all virtual world activities. Being aware of, and applying these checks, will make the entire learning process a safer and smoother one.

The following list will help you and your child to select the right educational app:

  1. Is the app age appropriate?

There are different apps out there for different age groups and learning levels. The right choice is necessary for learning to occur.

  1. Is the app free?

It’s always best to purchase the app. You will get better quality content and the app is more likely to be malware-free. Some apps and websites do offer free solutions and recommendations but for deeper learning, dedicated apps are necessary.

  1. Is this the right app?

Ask around. There are just too many apps and it is difficult to choose. Find out what apps your child’s friends are using. Ask your child’s teachers for recommendations.

  1. Does it need 2-way communication?

If the app requires the learner to take oral quizzes or tests with camera on, you will want to monitor this.

  1. What is the data requirement?

Ideally, there should be a mix of online and offline time or else data consumption might be high and child may be tempted to access social media sites at the same time.

  1. What permissions does the app require?

Class, age and email is permissible but if the app wants access to photos, contacts etc., then you may want to reconsider.

  1. Is the security at maximum?

This is necessary to identify unauthorized downloads that may occur and also to block pop-pups.

As we move towards our vision of Digital India, the use of digital devices is likely to increase in all fields and our children, the future digital citizens, are on the threshold of this changing scenario. Some of us may still be new to technology but it is still our duty to help make the digital experience for our kids the best and safest possible. Collaborate with teachers and other parents and do your own research online to always make the right choices for your child.

Next time we will explore if your kids are playing virtual hide-and-seek with you by selectively hiding their activity. Till then, sayonara.

Raise a United Voice Against Cyberbullying: Stop Cyberbullying Day

What does Zoe Saldana have in common with Sonam Kapoor, other than the fact that they are both renowned actors? They have both faced bullying online. And due to the anonymity and sense of security offered by the internet, not just celebs but even ordinary people like you and I could be subjected to cyberbullying.

Isn’t it time we stand together to put an end to it and say ‘Stop Cyberbullying’?

The digital world offers everyone a chance to connect with people, and voice their opinions. Unfortunately, some people misuse this privilege to harass others, victims could suffer from emotional disturbances or in extreme cases even fatalities.

Our children are the first generation of digital citizens and often, their posts and online actions make them easy targets for bullies so as parents, we need to guide them on social media etiquette, and also explain the threats of the virtual world to enable them to handle adverse situations.

Consider this:

  • According to the McAfee 2017 study “New Family Dynamics in a Connected World,” 49% of Indian parents have shown concerns about their child potentially interacting with a social predator or cybercriminal online.
  • The 2015 McAfee Teen Tween Technology report states that 43% of the children active on social media claim to have witnessed cruel behaviour on social networks. Almost one out of four (22%) of those active on social media claim to have been the victim of cyberbullying themselves

Are parents aware of cyberbullying? The good news is yes, they are, and most of those surveyed said they have discussed this issue with their children and follow their children on their social media networks. Having said that, there are still many parents who do not believe in monitoring their kids online. Children, especially teens, are quite vulnerable and prone to peer influence. They need guidance on handling cyberbullying and parental support is paramount. A confident child will usually not seek attention or approval among strangers online.  Kids who are bullies also need counselling and guidance, further stressing the need for parental supervision.

Sharing a few tips on creating a safer and inclusive online environment:

  1. Choose your friends with care. It’s easier for rude people and strangers to bully you. Be wary about accepting requests from strangers. Never give out your cell phone number and email address, and never reveal passwords even to close friends.
  2. Mind what you share: What you say and how you say it, makes a difference. Also, keep personal information private. By refusing to use privacy settings, your profile is open to anyone and everyone, which increases the chances of being bullied or personal photos being downloaded and manipulated
  3. Be positive and don’t react: Don’t lose your calm and react- this what cyberbullies want. You should take measures after careful deliberations.
  4. Ignore, block or unfriend those who provoke or humiliate you. Block and report abusers by clicking on the ‘report abuse’ icon. If the issue persists, you can always take help from your parents in resolving the same
  5. If you are cyberbullied, share your experience with people you trust. Unburdening helps you to get good tips and the support proves invaluable to regaining emotional strength. Reach out to your parents or close peers at the first sign of bullying or conflict online.

Quick tips for parents to help them be on the top of things

Talk to your kids, frequently and frankly: This is THE most important thing to do to help you stay aware of what’s happening in your child’s virtual life and for them to feel free to confide in you. You can use role playing with real life situations to help kids learn how to respond to online bullies.

Monitor and mentor kids until they are mature enough to handle online issues on their own.

We are part of the #STOPCYBERBULLYINGDAY campaign because we are committed to a positive and all-inclusive culture in the virtual world. McAfee security solutions like McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe offer parental control feature to help parents remotely monitor their kids. This is an excellent way to monitor, guide and keep them safe online.

Raise a united voice against cyberbullying by joining a Twitter campaign on 16th June. Use the hashtag #STOPCYBERBULLYINGDAY to share your views, tips and stories on cyberbullying and mark your solidarity with the movement.

Curbing The Threat Of Fake Accounts

My bubbly teen was so excited the day she found Priyanka Chopra had started following her on Twitter. She was literally hopping around the room, squealing in delight. As a parent and my daughter’s cybersafety guide, I checked her page to confirm and what I saw made me sad but I had to burst her bubble.

No darling, that’s not the real Priyanka Chopra following you but a fake twitter account. See here @priyankachopra ‏, this is her original handle. And see this blue tick – it means Twitter has validated this account to be a genuine one as it usually verifies popular accounts.”

“Why do people create fake accounts then?” ranted the peeved teen, as she angrily blocked the fake handle. (It’s painful to lose a celeb follower on social media you know.)

Why indeed? Why do people create false accounts on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook? For the same reason why we have fakes/imitations in the real world; someone stands to gain from it, or leverage it to make mischief.

Are the number of fake accounts significant enough to warrant attention and action? It apparently is. According to a research carried out by a graduate student at UCL recently, there are more than 500,000 fake accounts on Twitter alone, for instance, Deepika Padukone’s account (@Deepika_Officia). Fake LinkedIn accounts of company CEOs is a common way to fraud job seekers signing up on the site. Another big fake account source is the duplication of celebrity accounts and hapless fans often end up following the fake account online. These can do major harm by sharing false or inappropriate content. Fake accounts are also created to boost follower counts, share incendiary or dishonest messages, create trending topics, send spam, troll and abuse users, launch scam or phishing attacks or set traps for naïve children.

Fake account creators bank on the intrinsic trusting nature of users that lead them to believe in the authenticity of an account. They leverage this trust to swindle, bully, defame the person or others. So, the thing to do is to be skeptical and vigilant.

Identifying fake accounts on social media:

This is not an easy task by any means, but still we need to be vigilant to avoid risks. Here are a few pointers that will help you stay safer online:

  • Absent: The account does not engage in real-time conversations much
  • Mechanic: Repeats a single message and tags several accounts at random
  • Agenda: Shares false, inappropriate or suspicious content consistently. Sometimes engages in trolling or bullying and apart from it, does not share any tangible storyline or views
  • Inadequate identity: A Twitter handle without a profile image
  • Imposters: New friend requests from existing friends, not to mention those suspicious favors asked online. The moment you come across a duplicate or fake account, flag and report it. That way the sites would know of its existence and take remedial actions. And never be in a hurry to accept friend/follow requests. Take your time. Check the account profile, posts and friend list. Then decide. Do not trust blindly- each new friend or follower need to earn your trust before you interact with the account. Remember to be a true Doubting Thomas when online. STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

 

The Week That Was In Internet History

From the wheel to the internet, we have come a long way in terms of technological progress. While the invention of the wheel set human progress in motion, the industrial revolution with its assembly line production gave it a boost and now the information revolution has catapulted us to the digital age.

This week we observed Internet Day on May 17. Internet Day, aims to show the possibilities offered by new technologies to improve the standard of living of people by giving them more understanding of technology and its functions. Ironically, we also saw one of the most prolific ransomware attacks in history with ‘WannaCry’.

While the digital revolution has disrupted industries and eased the way we live, work and think, it has also led to loss in the form of identity theft, malware and the topic of discussion i.e. ransomware. Today, innumerable companies collect information about us, the consumer, for their research and are susceptible to breaches.

As Spiderman says (Peter Parker to you), “With great power comes great responsibility.” Cliché, I know, but true at a time like this. In a day where big data is instrumental in winning opinions, it is necessary that each one of us know how to use technology safely and responsibly. Data privacy and cybersecurity form the core pillar of the privilege of technology, and so let us refresh our understanding of internet security. In order to stay prepared and keep your personal data secure, follow these tips:

  1. Back up your files:Always make sure your files are backed up. That way, if they become compromised in a ransomware attack, you can wipe your disk drive clean and restore the data from the backup.
  2. Update your devices:There are a few lessons to take away from WannaCry, but making sure your operating system is up-to-date needs to be near the top of the list. The reason is simple: nearly every software update contains security improvements that help secure your computer and removes the means for ransomware variants to infect a device.
  3. Schedule automatic updates.It’s always a good practice to set your home systems to apply critical Windows Security Updates automatically. That way, whenever there is a vulnerability, you receive the patch immediately.
  4. Apply any Windows security patches that Microsoft has sent you. If you are using an older version of Microsoft’s operating systems, such as Windows XP or Windows 8, click hereto download emergency security patches from Microsoft.

The recent WannaCry attack is perhaps one of the largest and most widespread ransomware attack in recent history, with India being a prime target. The most affected were those, who were running old and unpatched software, which threatens more than just data of the consumers. While there is no silver bullet to security, this attack does serve as a reminder for consumers to prepare for ransomware attacks.

Stay safe. Together is Power!

New Family Dynamics As Connected Lifestyle Grows

“You know that we are living in a digital world

and I am a digital girl.”

I often find myself humming the above lines when I am struck by how digital has become a part and parcel of our lives. Digital India has made the internet an indispensable part of consumers’ life. From benefits related to education, medicine, transportation and entertainment to your personal comfort at home, internet related services have come a long way.

As our real world and cyber world merges, there are bound to be changes in the family dynamics. Devices, for instance, our smartphones are already playing an increasingly significant role. We can use it to turn the TV into a smart TV, operate the car lock, connect the home CCTV system to our smartphones, or even monitor AC temperature of our homes.

The growth in connected homes equate to new family challenges. Are we aware of all the implications and challenges of a smart home and how to prepare our kids for it? To better understand family behavior and attitudes towards the connected lifestyle, McAfee conducted a global survey of 13,000 adults about their family’s evolving digital habits and more.

The McAfee global survey, “New Family Dynamics in a Connected World,” emphasizes the need for simple ways for parents to manage internet connectivity in their homes.

Indian parents are concerned about their children’s internet usage. 93% of the parents have had a talk with their children about the dangers of cyber criminals and identity theft. 49% of parents are worried about the potential interaction of their child with a social predator or cybercriminal. Many are monitoring screen time, with 57% of them limiting it to 1-2 hours per day. Some parents have admitted to having arguments with their children about taking devices to bed.

Concern shows awareness and needs to be backed by suitable actions. Start conversations about cybersafety early. Set simple rules like, “always use passwords” or, “don’t open emails from strangers.” You also need to stay aware of new apps that your children like and use.

Digital use monitoring continues to lag behind. In India, 84% of parents allow their child to bring an internet-connected device to bed, much higher than the global average of 76%. Of those Indian kids taking their devices to bed, 32% of parents monitor their child’s device usage but 24% do not.

You can really help your child by playing a more proactive role. Besides securing your child’s device, you may want to have the passwords for their social media accounts until they are mature enough to handle all online activities responsibly.

Adults are still not setting a very good example. On an average, 43% of adults are spending more time online than on face to face interactions when at home (40%). Consider this, 71% of parents have been called out by their child for being on their device during family time!

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As parents, you need to teach your child good digital practices through your own examples. Why not limit your own screen time and keep your device away during family time? This will send the message across that it is also important to interact in person and there are times when you need to keep the device away.

With digital getting integrated into children’s everyday lives, it’s imperative for parents to implement a few do’s and don’ts.

 Quick tips:

  • Secure devices: Use comprehensive protection, like McAfee LiveSafe, across all devices and set up parental controls for each child.
  • Stranger-danger: Teach your children to say “NO” to interactions with anyone they don’t know well in real life.
  • Strong password: Teach kids the need for strong, unique and secure passwords
  • Share passwords with parents: Children need to keep their parents updated on all their passwords until they are mature enough to understand and handle their digital responsibility.
  • Clean devices: Minimize the amount of data stored on a device. The less data on the device, the less there will be for hackers to steal. Be sure to back up your data via cloud storage or external devices.

The times are changing and children continue to seamlessly adapt to new technology. What you as a parent can do is teach them to practice digital balance early on. Keep communication channels open. Set rules but at the same time, allow them some privacy and freedom too. In the digital world, the security of connected homes depends a lot on its members. Get your family to start following cyber safety rules to make the most of your connected lifestyle.

Have a great day!

Livestreaming – This Is What You Need To Know

The Indian Premier League fever is on, that annual T20 cricket fest that everyone awaits so eagerly. The munchies are out, the best sofa seat is reserved and all household chores completed. If you are not at home or don’t have a TV in your hostel – No worries, your smartphone will be your TV on the go!

Livestreaming is trending now thanks to the convenience it brings. It is not just about watching matches online, you can also livestream the latest TV shows, movies or performances on the go. If you happen to be a football fan, you wouldn’t want to miss even one of the supercharged UEFA matches that you can livestream on your device.

Thanks to the rise in popularity of the internet across the nation, smartphone penetration, and exciting offers on data usage by service providers, livestreaming has taken Digital India by storm. People are making most of this service, not only to catch up with their favorite shows and sports, but also to share with their experiences through social media

So, what is livestreaming?

Live streaming involves the delivery of internet content as it is happening with no cuts or edits. The videos are uploaded on social media and they start playing right away without waiting for the whole file to download. Also, they don’t get automatically stored on the device either.

Initially there were apps that allowed one to livestream events to friends or the public, but now many social media forums and even TV channels offer these services. So, if you are planning to watch the latest season of Game of Thrones even before it has aired in India, or share your child’s first dance recital as they perform, go ahead and do so, but first, you need to be aware of some facts on livestreaming.

yber threat warning – While using free live streaming apps, you may find pop up ads covering the video you want to watch. The ‘close ad’ buttons could be fake, only to launch malware attacks. Another way cybercriminals target their victims is by asking the user to download “special software” to make the stream work. The software you download has a higher likelihood of being malicious.

As they say, ‘prevention is better than cure.’ Therefore, is it important to consider few do’s and don’ts while livestreaming:

If you are livestreaming content from the internet:

  • The content factor: Because it is shared live, the video may contain inappropriate content
  • The Free factor: Watch your favorite games, TV shows, or movies via a verified website and enjoy without worries. Be wary of free offers, because that may put you at risk of downloading viruses or cookies that could either steal data or compromise your device
  • The security factor: Always use devices which have security installed on them to livestream content to enjoy continued peace of mind and safety
  • The gambling factor: Betting firms advertise a lot on livestreamed content and there is always a risk of children getting lured to these sites. Further, the ads may contain adult advertisements which is inappropriate for children
  • The data factor: Long hours of livestreaming involves high data consumption and you may want to talk to your child about increasing costs and data limits

If you are livestreaming content to the internet:

  • The copyright factor: It may not be appropriate to livestream events like plays, concerts, private music shows, movies etc. without verifying if it’s allowed. You need to get prior permission
  • The privacy factor: Do ask for permission from all concerned first before you start livestreaming events like marriages, parties, dances, prayer services. Some people may not want to be in the frame and their wishes should be respected. Similarly, if you are being filmed and don’t like it, say so clearly
  • The location factor: Livestreaming from home or elsewhere with location turned on can be an open invitation to strangers to connect with you. Do not share personal videos or details without parental permission

 

Secure your device with the latest that security has to offer, like McAfee LiveSafe, opt for paid services and then sit back and enjoy the match-or whatever it is that you want to watch.

There falls a wicket and I am off to watch the match being livestreamed on a big screen in the society garden. Join me? J

Online Shopping Festivals-Things to Do Before Clicking on Add to Cart

Online sales are a huge rage these days! E-commerce firms are competing with each other to offer consumers the best deals possible. Sales carry attractive taglines like Up to 70% off, Midnight Flash Sale or Festive Discount. What could be more convenient than shopping comfortably from just about anywhere at any time?

Unfortunately, cyber criminals are also loving online shopping as it gives them an opportunity to harvest personal and bank/card details from unsuspecting consumers.

You might have come across one or all of these ads listed below, either on Facebook or WhatsApp or Pop-ups on different websites:

  • Super- Dhamaka offer!
  • Get free 4G internet for today only!
  • Share this sale link with 10 friends and stand to win an iPhone 7s

Sounds familiar? Perhaps you have clicked on the links and checked out the offers, and not just you, many other judicious net users too are lured by such tempting offers and proceed with purchasing.

The popularity of social media has made it a very useful scamming platform for cybercriminals, as messages are shared quickly and widely, especially since people tend to believe in messages sent by friends and then fall victim to phishing scams. Like this one below which was making the rounds last year:

Breaking News, Now Buy 16 GB Pendrive at Just 19 Rs. Buy It Now Before Sale Ends. Cash on Delivery Also Available. Visit  now http://XYZ.com

Fraudsters usually like to piggy back and leverage genuine ongoing sales to scam users. So, the moment reputed e-tailers like Amazon, Snapdeal, Flipkart start their mega online sales, there is likely to be a plethora of hoax websites and links shared via social media to direct users to these false sites. And scammers have become quite proficient at creating sophisticated and genuine looking websites that can trick a regular buyer too.

Does that mean you avoid buying anything online? NO WAY! I love it and I am sure you do too.

 Things to do before you start filling up your online shopping cart:

  • Check the security of your internet connection: First thing to do as an unsecured connection like public Wi-Fi can make it easy for hackers to steal your details
  • Check device security: Ensure you are using comprehensive security software to keep your device secured.
  • Check domain name: Before you click on the link, check the URL. For example, Amazon.com is quite different from amazon-flashsale.com
  • Check offers: Too good to be true? – It probably is. Cross check prices with other sites and with product review columns. Do you really believe an iPhone 7s can be priced at only Rs. 15,000?
  • Check refund and return policies: Read the T&Cs and the return policies and check the star rating of the seller. Proceed only after you are satisfied.

Cyber safety tips for, you, the smart online buyer:

  • Ignore emails from unknown sources: do not try to unsubscribe from these unsolicited emails. You could be just letting the scammers know that your email address is active. Mark as spam and move on.
  • Be suspicious: It’s good to doubt claims that seem too good to be true, and messages that contain too many words in capital, e-mojis and grammatical errors.
  • Be aware: Keep track of ongoing sales, hoax messages doing the rounds, and new phishing scams.

Knowledge is power and if you approach the shopping festivals armed with secured devices and updated info on scams, you will smartly avoid the honey traps set up by cybercriminals. Have a safe and secure online shopping experience!