Stop Discarding Devices Frequently- It’s Risky for Mother Earth as Well As Your Cybersecurity

Stop Discarding Devices Frequently- It’s Risky for Mother Earth as Well As Your Cybersecurity

Aunty, do you happen to have any waste paper at home? I need them for my Environment Day project,” chirped a bright little thing standing at my door early Sunday morning.

I am sure I have. What is your project this year?”

Oh! I want to emphasize on ‘Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.’ by making durable paper bags that people can pack their gifts in. It will also reduce the use of plastic.”

We need more such efforts on the part of all producers, consumers and recyclers to restore the balance on earth, which we have sadly turned into a dump yard of toxic waste that is polluting our land, water and air. The matter is serious and calls for judicious purchase and use of goods.

This Environment day, why not pledge to reduce e-waste, digital citizens?

What is e-waste?

Electronic waste or e-waste describes discarded electrical or electronic devices. Used electronics which are destined for refurbishment, reuse, resale, salvage, recycling through material recovery, or disposal are also considered e-waste.

Which means all your obsolete devices and electronic goods, that are lying around at home or been thrown away in bins, make up e-waste.

Why is there a rise in e-waste?

The volume of annual e-waste is on the rise, thanks to the desire for latest models fueled by the rise in disposable income, technological progress and cheap data rates. Gone are those thrifty days when we purchased goods to last; now we want only the smartest and latest.

Consider this: The Global E-Waste Monitor, 2017 published by the United Nations University estimated that India generates about 2 million metric tons of e-waste annually, of which almost 82% comprises of personal devices!

Why are we worried about e-waste?

We want the Earth to continue being the clean, green and beautiful planet that it is, right? But the increasing amount of e-waste is a threat to the environment. If not processed properly, it can have negative effects on pollution levels and consequently on the health of all life forms. Toxicity in soil will affect soil fertility, and hence crop production. We have already witnessed the effect of plastics and toxic fumes from incinerators on birds and animal life.

How is e-waste connected to cybersecurity?

Improper disposal of devices can also pose a security risk. If you have not taken the trouble to delete all the content and reset to factory settings, then your data, including photos may fall in wrong hands and could be misused. Before you give or throw away old devices, take care to thoroughly clean content and unsync from other devices.

How to reduce e-waste?

This is your Environment Day Mantra: Reduce. Recycle. Refurbish. Reuse.

Every time you desire to replace an electronic item, ask yourself, ‘Is it really necessary to purchase it now or can it be postponed? Am I doing it to keep up with or ahead of the Joneses? What will I do with the old product?’ Such soul-searching often leads to sane decisions that you will not regret later.

With that in mind, and the following tips handy, you can become a positive contributor to keeping the environment clean.

  1. Keep your devices in top condition: The two most common devices to be found in homes across India are the computer (or laptop) and smartphone. Replace slow batteries and keep them secured. Carry out regular scans and clean-ups and install all software updates.
  2. Protect your phone from damage: Use a screen guard and phone cases to reduce chances of breakage. Your kids can choose trendy cases that will serve two purposes: protect their phones as well as encourage them to use the devices for a longer period
  3. Battery life: Avoid overcharging the battery to extend battery life
  4. Secure your products: Use licensed security tools to remove malware and optimize performance

Some countries offer financial incentives to return old devices at designated collection centres. Perhaps we should start something like this to encourage people to recycle?

Things You Can Do This Environment Day:

Still not found a suitable project for Environment Day? Why not go on a collection drive of gaming devices and mobile phones that your neighbours have lying at home. You can then clean them and get in touch with a reputed NGO to channel these gaming devices to children’s homes, domestic help and others. Think about it.

Credit

https://www.greenchildmagazine.com/reduce-ewaste/

https://tcocertified.com/news/global-e-waste-reaches-record-high-says-new-un-report/

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/waste/e-waste-day-82-of-india-s-e-waste-is-personal-devices-61880

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What Will You Do If You Find That Your Kids Are Sharing Their Troubles and Pains Online?

“Am I fat?”

“I am so depressed. Please help! I have been scoring less, my parents don’t understand me… my brilliant siblings treat me with disdain… my girlfriend has broken up with me….”

“Thanks! That’s why I feel a connect with you- you really get me (no one else does!) ….”

“I am closing my Facebook account for a while. I have fallen but I promise you I will rise again, like the Phoenix and will proudly stand before you once again. For now, I am going away. Please don’t try to contact me.”

“I hate you ********!”

All the above statements are variations of real ones posted on different social media platforms by adolescents. Do spare a few moments thinking about the posts- I spent days. What are your thoughts on these? How do you feel about getting a direct look into the hearts of these innocent and confused children?

It is both saddening and worrying that kids are turning to the Internet to find solutions to their problems. But what propels them to trust strangers?

Why do adolescents overshare online?

  • Embarrassing topics: The would-be adults have many doubts about adult life that they feel shy or scared to discuss with their parents
  • Emotional outbursts: Adolescence is a time for emotional upheavals and the kids find social media the best place to voice their thoughts
  • False sense of privacy: As they are not connecting one-to-one in real life, children feel more comfortable discussing and sharing personal matters with online friends
  • No fear of recrimination: This is one reason why they may not open up to adults at home
  • Peer pressure: If most of their friends are venting on social media, your kids are likely to follow suit

Help! I am losing it!

Rule No. 1 for parents- don’t get worked up. You are not alone. Most parents go through this phase. Here are some tips to help you bond better with your tweens and teens.

  • Be patient. You are the parent- always keep that in mind and don’t lose your cool. It will help you to mark your own space and earn you your child’s trust and respect
  • Be in touch with their online lives. Be proactive and stay updated on the latest in the social media world so that you can interact in them in the same wavelength
  • Monitor screentime and keep them engaged: If your child is withdrawn in real life but spends a lot of time online, you need to know why. Set internet usage limit. Remember, boredom and low self-confidence can lead a child to look for friends online, so ensure they are productively engaged offline.
  • Help them to know their personal boundaries. They need to know and respect the limits you set on sharing
  • LISTEN and listen well and only then offer your suggestions
  • Keep communication channels open. Do not let a wall build up between you
  • Be in touch with child’s friends and ensure your child has plenty of good time with them.

Tips to share with kids:

  1. Think before you lay bare your personal life online: Your blog or page isn’t your diary, for it’s not private. How would you feel if in a few years your seniors, professors or employers read this?
  2. Your online friends are strangers: Think. Do you want to share your deepest concerns or most private details with them? What if they out them? Can you handle the consequences?
  3. Share with real friends instead: Your online friends may not have any sense of loyalty towards you. Better to have one or two dependable real life ones, who you know well.
  4. Keep real identity private and maximize account security for all accounts: This is very important for your online safety. Secure your device with licensed security software and use two-factor authentication to secure accounts.
  5. Do not share passwords with anyone: Some things in life are best kept confined to self- including your passwords. Do not give remote access to your screen to online friends either.

Your parents are always there for you

This is what you need to impress upon your tweens and teens: Even though you may feel we do not understand, we do, for we were of your age once. We understand what you are going through. We may set rules that seem tough or discipline you when needed but that doesn’t mean we do not love you. We do what we think is best for you. And we are always there for you.

Before signing off, let me remind you of our cybersafety mantra that you need to repeat often at home: STOP. THINK. SHARE.

Happy parenting!

On Mother’s Day, Show Your Love for Your Mom by Introducing Her to Helpful Apps

A mobile chat with my mother usually goes off like this:

Hello! Can you hear me! I am very busy so can’t talk much! I have a question.”

“Umm OK but is your speaker on? Can you please speak a little softly?”

Yes, yes, OK… I know how to operate smartphones. Still smarter than a lot of you! Don’t waste my time; I need to go to the dentist so please book a cab for me.”

Despite pushing 80, my mom has a strong competitive spirit and has taught herself how to operate a smartphone, sign up on social media and listen to music. I have often been ticked off for not being considerate enough to read and like her posts!

The man-phone tussle senior citizens experience

As I drove to her place, I thought about her and all other Moms who are past their middle age. They must be struggling to come to terms with technological progress. It must be so difficult for them- from having the whole neighbourhood dropping in to watch Doordarshan on their new shiny black-and-white TV set to streaming the latest movies on their personal devices! From typing out letters on typewriters to emails on computers- they have a lot on their plate to adjust to.

It occurred to me that I need to help out more and not assume she can pick up the rest herself. I needed to show Mom how she can use her phone for booking cabs, ordering her meds, buying grocery and so on; it would be of immense help to her. She would feel tech-savvy and happy not to be dependent on others. Not wishing to waste a single moment, I made a date with her and took her out to lunch. Over lunch and a leisurely conversation, I introduced her to the several ways apps can make life easier for her.

Mother’s Day Idea

Why not try this idea out on Mother’s Day? Take your Mom out for a picnic or a movie-and-meal; sit, chat and regale each other with your childhood stories- the stories she probably likes the best? Give her your undivided attention- and this may mean keeping your own phone on silent- and instead show her what all she can do with hers?

Apps can indeed make life easier

  • Online grocery- these are really helpful as she can decide and buy and have everything delivered home.
  • Recipe Apps- she is growing old and it will become progressively tougher for her to remember all the recipes and ingredients. You can download apps of her choice of cooking and show her how to navigate through the site. I have one on my mobile that gives me a new salad recipe everyday! Life is so easy, and oh so happily healthy
  • Apps to keep track of doctor’s visits- Many hospitals too have apps that keep records of visits, tests etc. Download if her clinic offers an app service
  • Apps to book cabs: Remember to add your name and that of other family members, so that you receive intimation when she travels
  • Calendar app: Show her how to save birthdays, anniversaries, appointments and reminders so that she is free of the onerous task of remembering petty details
  • e-wallets – She will be able to place orders online without being worried about credit card fraud. That would be very helpful for her
  • e-reader app- If she loves reading, she will bless you for an app that will bring the library into her hands

There are many, many more. Take your pick as per your mom’s interest.

This will be akin to killing three birds with one stone:

  • Make her tech-savvy – Smartphones confuse older generations, with new models offering yet newer features and functionalities. Spend time with your Mom and take her through the new features. Take this opportunity to install mobile security if you already have not.
  • Add a zing to her life- you will have the pleasure of knowing you have somewhat helped to make her life more interesting and engaging, now that she has more free time on hand.
  • Quality bonding time- The more personal attention you give her, the happier she will be- for that’s all she wants from you, your time.

Being an experienced digital user, you know well that not all apps are genuine or safe. Make it a point to download apps only from a verified source, even if you have to pay for it.

Let me sign off with a cybersafety tip – Activate a password manager, like the trusted TrueKey from McAfee, that will remember her passwords and keep them safe for her.

Tip for you: TrueKey is included in McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe. One product can cover several devices and so you can use yours to cover your Mom’s phone too. That way you can renew protection without troubling her with these nitty-gritties.

Happy Mother’s Day to all beautiful moms out there! You ladies are superwomen!

Here’s a Codicil to Add to Your Will – Disposal of Your Digital Assets

We were still in shock over the sudden demise of a dear family friend. But the bereaved family had no time for grieving. The gentleman had not left any will and no one had any clear idea about his financial and physical assets. The family was running from pillar to post, trying to sort out the mess.

Tomorrow, you and I will go meet our lawyer and find out how to draw up our will. I want us to leave everything in order, with specific instructions, so that there are no complications for the kids later,” announced my spouse one fine morning.

I readily agreed; however, I had a question.

OK, but what about our digital assets?”

The spouse looked confused and so I continued, “Shouldn’t we also make arrangements for how we want our digital assets to be handled post our decease?”

Most of us in the age group of 40-60 years are active in the digital world in a big way, with multiple online accounts- from social media, banking, travel booking, trading, e-mail, e-transaction to blogs, e-wallets and home service. We share personal photos and videos online. We also deal with virtual currency, the records of which are stored online. The sum of all this digital data is loosely termed as our digital asset.

You may wonder what’s the big deal about a will for digital assets as some may not even have any monetary value. Well, it will help in identifying your legal successor who can take decisions about your online accounts. Otherwise, your beneficiaries will have to run around searching for passwords, filling up forms, submitting requests at various places and so on. Secondly, your families need to know about any outstanding bills you may have received via email or credit card program, or financial payments due to you.
A will outlining usernames and passwords for all accounts and detailing what you want to be done with your digital asset will make it easier for your beneficiaries to take the right actions. Also, it will allow your family to continue receiving the payments from your online investments, or even payment from your blog site!

Prepare ahead

You can take any of these three steps:

a- Explain to your family about all your online accounts and passwords

b- Write down all details in a diary and keep it where it can be easily found

c- Create a will outlining your wishes and specifications regarding your digital assets

The first two options call for sharing passwords beforehand, something that you may not be comfortable with. So, the  third option is the best available. Go for it and your dear ones will bless you for your foresight.

Be proactive about your online presence

  • There may be content on your accounts you would not want others to see- We may create or download content that we would like to keep private. The best thing to do is to regularly sanitize accounts and delete what you don’t want others to see.
  • Inactive accounts and profiles are much in demand– cyber criminals want access to inactive accounts to create false IDs and fake profiles. They can also create problems for friends and families of the users.

While most of our generation limits themselves to a handful of social media accounts, below are a few handy guidelines to securing key social media accounts –

Facebook

The social media giant allows you to appoint a legal heir who can either opt to memorialize the account or delete it permanently. They will not offer login information to the family though.

Instagram

Just like Facebook, Instagram too offers the option of either getting an account deleted or memorialized, after they receive a valid request. They also pledge to take measures to protect the privacy of the deceased person by securing the account.

YouTube

YouTube does not yet offer any facility for preserving or deleting content created by users. In fact, it regularly deletes inactive or dead accounts, which is quite understandable, given the huge volumes of uploads per minute.

Twitter

It allows legal successors to place request for deactivation of the account. They will guide you through the process, which is similar to that of Facebook and Instagram.

LinkedIn

The legal successors/family members need to approach them with certain information and fill out a form shared on their site. They will then close the account and remove the profile.

Google

Sign into Google -> My Account -> Personal Info & Privacy -> Inactive Account Manager -> setup. Then add up to 10 trusted people who will be notified if you have been inactive for a specified period. You can leave them a last message and they can also download the data that you have chosen to share with them – like emails, passwords saved by Google, photos in Drive etc.

Or else, you can ask Google to delete your entire account after a certain amount of inactivity.

Microsoft including Outlook

Similarly, legal successors can inform Microsoft to close down the account and download any information you may have chosen to share with them.

In conclusion

So, you see if you leave everything written and registered in your will, your dear ones will have less to bother about. Also, it’s our duty as well, for this is the digital world and we are the digital natives. It is about time we start doing things right in cyberspace too so as to not leave behind a legacy of clutter, confusion and possible cybercrime.

Always keep your devices secured with advanced security tools like McAfee Total Protection so that cyber criminals don’t get to your data before your heirs do.

On World Health Day, Give Your Children the Key to Good Digital Health

My morning walk route takes me past a school that usually has its assembly at 7:00 am. I catch glimpses of students praying, reading out the news, teachers giving talks and often stop to watch them do their morning drill. It’s an arresting sight – 500 kids in bright uniforms moving in a synchronized manner to drumbeats. The school is doing it right; light exercises before the start of the academic day helps to enhance positivity, concentration power, alertness and readiness to learn. After all it’s an age-old saying, ‘A healthy mind resides in a healthy body.’

Perhaps you are wondering why McAfee Cybermum is discussing health. Well, 7th April was World Health Day and what better time than this to have a heart-to-heart on good health, especially, good digital health?

Let’s accept it- we are parents, first and foremost, and our focus is always (even when we are sleeping or partying or just chilling) on our kids. All we want is to raise happy, well-adjusted kids who will be able to think rationally and act for themselves and know how to stay safe- both in the real and in the digital world.

When we were kids, outdoors was the place to be! Life centered around our gardens, parks and roads outside our houses; where we spent hours playing, chatting or just hanging around. Today’s digital kids also play and socialize a lot, but the bulk of it happens online. They have their favourite hanging out zones, gaming sites, digital libraries, social media etc. We all are quite tech-savvy and so, we are well aware how addictive digital activities can be as well as how the long hours spent online can have adverse effects on health and mind. This is why we worry when our kids prefer digital lives to the real one; we take measures like setting device-use rules and see red if the rules are breached.

But losing our cool isn’t the solution- we need to promote a balanced digital life, right from the day the little tykes mark their initiation into the digital world and educate them and act as their digital role models.

Here’s how you can ensure a healthy digital life for your kids:

Health is wealth

Play games, swim, run, exercise, go for treks! It’s also a good opportunity to show them that devices can be put to other uses besides gaming and socializing, viz; tracking activity and monitoring health statistics. When they are using devices, teach them the right postures so that they don’t strain their back or eyes.

Balance is the keyword

Often, we forget to practice what we preach- which, in this case, is to have some device-free hours. Keep your device away (a) when with family, (b) when there’s company, and (c) during bedtime. Children will protest and perhaps bawl, but will also learn a valuable lesson, rather two lessons – There are other sources of entertainment besides devices, and a NO means NO. While the first lesson is important to lead a balanced digital life, the second one is important for them in the real world too.

Fix up an activity schedule that includes household chores

Not only will this help to maintain digital balance, it will also give the child the first lesson in responsibility. Whether it is making their own beds, cleaning out their wardrobes or helping to wash the car or set the table, these are values you are teaching kids non-verbally. Even little tykes can do small tasks and trust me, it will make them feel proud. Just take care that the daily timetable doesn’t start resembling an army cadet’s training schedule.

Set clear-cut rules

This helps kids learn discipline. Stress on how excessive use is akin to misuse. Their daily schedule should specify timings for device use. If they breach the timings, bring it up immediately. Repeated breaches need to be tackled firmly. Maybe the privilege of using the device needs to be surrendered for a few days. This, you as a parent need to decide.

Let them know you will be remotely monitoring their activities

It’s recommended that you mentor kids in the digital world till they are mature enough to handle matters responsibly themselves. Use parental controls that come with comprehensive security tools like McAfee Total Protection or McAfee LiveSafe and keep the admin password a secret. BUT LET YOUR KIDS KNOW you would be supervising them online. Explain it’s similar to how you keep an eye on them at public places. Remember to set internet timings and filters.

Have purposeful family activity time

Use that evening hour before or after dinner to chat, play board games, tell stories or discuss the news. Share, play, connect- the perfect ingredients for a close-knit family! And of course, all devices, including the digital assistant, is off-limit during this time.

Teach kids to be upstanders

Online abuse can lead to emotional disturbances in vulnerable kids. Even adults are negatively affected by cyberbullying and trolling and so you can understand the impact of such behavior on kids. Give your kids the security of your love and trust so that they grow up to be strong and confident and can stand up against bullies.

Discuss cybersafety often and with due seriousness

Living in the connected age, where we all use the same router for our devices along with other smart devices like CCTV, digital assistants etc., it is important to reinforce how the carelessness of one can affect the safety and privacy of all other family members. A safe and secure net connection is needed for mental wellness.

So, what are you waiting for? Start working on your family’s digital health today!

Ghosts May Not Be Real but Trolls Are – Look Out for Social Media

The Cambridge Dictionary describes a troll as “an imaginary, either very large or very small creature in traditional Scandinavian stories, that has magical powers and lives in mountains or caves.”

If you have read your fairy tales, you would know that trolls are generally grotesque creatures that stay away from human habitation. They take pleasure in carrying out antisocial activities and causing people pain and mental suffering.

Those trolls are mythical, but the online trolls are very much real. These digital trolls use the anonymity offered by the net to stay hidden and cause disruption and harm through their malicious and negative comments. They share provocative, malicious content and delight in fomenting unrest. If the victim takes the comments personally, it can leave them emotionally disturbed.

Why do people troll?

Why do people troll? Why do they want to insult, abuse, criticize, hurt and spread negativity? There are many studies available online that offer detailed analysis of how a troll’s mind works. However, we won’t go into such details. For our convenience and easy understanding, it will suffice to say that trolling may be the result of an individual’s background, low empathy levels, anger, frustration, jealousy, sadness and/or bitterness.

  • Low empathy: There are people who have less empathy or sensitivity and often find grim or disturbing situations funny. They will, for e.g.; not think twice about posting a joke on a social media thread where everyone is offering condolence on the demise of a loved one. They may see nothing wrong in it, rather it may give them a laugh.
  • Inflexible attitude: Some people find it difficult to accept that others too can have their individual viewpoints and instinctively target people with different opinions as enemies and make it their mission to abuse them, as if to prove that they are wrong. They hamper freedom of speech online for they do try to desist other users from sharing their personal opinions.
  • Revenge: Some go on a rampage to seek revenge for the ‘wrong’ done to them or someone else.

The anonymity provided by the net enables many cowardly people to feel strong by attacking others and give vent to their emotions online.

How do you identify trolls?

Easy. They are the rabble rousers, the ones who have nothing positive to contribute but are only out to disrupt, disturb and upset you. Their posts may vary from personal comments on your photo, satirical outbursts on your blogs or videos or direct attacks on your person, to out-of-context malicious remarks in an ongoing discussion. They would definitely be using a false bio and either no profile pic or a false one.

What do you do if you are trolled?

  • Avoid feeding them – they thrive on your emotional upheaval and vituperative responses. The smart thing to do is to neither acknowledge their comments nor respond to them. Nothing is as putting off as an IGNORE.
  • Keep records and block – If the trolling continues, keep records and block account of the troll and report to the platform. Let your friends know about the account too.
  • Consider keeping commenting off on your YouTube channel – you may also choose to delete negative comments.
  • Make amendments to posts – if factual or grammatical errors or an archaic style of writing your posts or blogs have brought out the trolls, consider apologizing for the errors and making revisions. Reply positively, thanking the troll for the feedback. You will take the wind out of the troll’s sails.
  • Don’t take it to heart – adults may use humour to counter trolls online, but it may not be easy for teens to keep emotions aside and reply to abusive comments lightly. So, it’s best to ignore.

As a digital parent, you may already be aware of trolls and the emotional havoc they can cause. You want to protect your kids from their attacks when they go online. At the same time, you need to explain to them why trolling is wrong and sometimes funny isn’t funny at all but may be hurtful and nasty.

How to ensure your kids know it’s wrong to troll?

  • Good manners: Whether online or off it, there is no substitute to good manners and etiquette. Ensure your kids feel happy and secure at home. Model the kind of behavior you expect from them and reward good manners with appreciation.
  • Empathy: The world runs on kindness and empathy. Reinforce empathy right from childhood. They need to understand that there are all kinds of people and each one is special in some way. Help them grow up to be generous, tolerant and broad-minded people.
  • Positivity: A child with a positive outlook and sunny disposition is most unlikely to be rude and deliberately mean online. Lay stress on being positive, whatever the situation may be.
  • Monitoring: It is recommended that parents monitor the conversations kids have online. Avoid participating in their conversations or taking to task those who maybe bullying or trolling them, for though this will delight the troll, it will be embarrassing for the child. Instead, have discussions on how he/she plans to handle it and let him/her tackle the issue.
  • Last but not the least, ensure all your devices are installed with licensed comprehensive security software that offers the parental controls feature. This will allow you to monitor activities remotely, though you should keep your child informed that you are doing so.

One last word: we cannot make trolls vanish, but we can empower our kids to vanquish them.

Let’s Discuss Cybersecurity as a Career Option This International Women’s Day

Even as I write this blog, the higher secondary board exams have started in schools across India and I send up a silent prayer for the thousands of nervous youngsters who are at the juxtaposition of a crucial time in their lives – the time when they have to take serious decisions regarding college education and career. The Board results would no doubt play a major role in this decision making.

With International Women’s Day around the corner, I am naturally thinking about women, their emancipation and their choices in life. I imagine them thinking independently, making decisions based on their capabilities and preferences, and supplying the necessary valuable skills that our country so needs.

But often that isn’t the case for teens as they are indecisive, and their knowledge of professions isn’t vast. They often miss out on plum prospects because, well, they were not aware of them or feel they may later hamper their family lives! I am going to do my bit for all the young ladies finishing school education this year- I am going to talk to you about choosing cybersecurity as a career option.

So girls, if you possess good reasoning power, enjoy ferreting out the source of the problem, are a natural at coding or are a serious video gamer, think cybersecurity.

Why Cybersecurity you ask? Let me present the facts.

  • Skills shortage

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) recently estimated that India alone will need 1 million cybersecurity professionals by 2020 to meet the demands of its rapidly growing economy.

Demand for security professionals in India will increase in all sectors due to the unprecedented rise in the number of cyber-attacks, added NASSCOM. Despite having the largest information technology talent pool in the world, India is struggling to produce an adequate number of professionals to close the cybersecurity skill gap.

  • The age of diversification

There is gender gap in the cybersecurity sector and companies globally are trying to correct this, not just to promote diversity but to add value to their work culture with the addition of the visions, perspectives and skills that women bring in.

  • Flexible work arrangements

With more women joining the profession, employers are doing their best to make the work atmosphere favourable for them. Not only are they offering flexi-timings but also work-from-home opportunities when it’s possible. I have heard of companies that allow mothers with infants to work from home for extended periods! Isn’t that a blessing?

According to a 2013 McKinsey Report34 percent of India’s IT workforce is female. However, most of them exit the employment pipeline at the junior to mid-level.

This only goes to reveal that many women scientists and engineers drop out, perhaps because they find it difficult manage their work-home balance. With flexi-timings and work-from-home options, this figure will definitely decrease!

  • Good support system

Great news for all women exploring cybersecurity as a career! There are organizations like Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) that aims at offering a common platform to women cybersecurity professionals from academia, research and industry where they can network, mentor and be mentored, share information and experience; which means, you will never feel alone as help is just a click away!

  • You don’t need to be an engineer

Employers are trying to plug the cybersecurity skills gap with alternative solutions. It has been found that video gamers too have the right types of skills along with a different approach to threat hunting. So, if you are an avid gamer, go for it!

  • Steady jobs with good pay

This last bit is the clincher really! In this super-competitive market, isn’t it a dream to have a high salary job that rarely gets monotonous?

McAfee lists some cool cybersecurity job prospects for you, check them out!

Job 1 – Forensics Expert

They analyze and determine who the mastermind behind a security breach might be. It can be almost as complex and precise as understanding human DNA.

Job 2  – Cryptographer/ Cryptanalysts

Cryptographers develop algorithms, ciphers and security systems to encrypt and hide sensitive information from cyber hackers.

Job 3 – Threat Hunter

Threat hunters use manual or machine-assisted skills to detect and prepare for security incidents

Job 4 – Security Architect

They design systems to help develop and test the security vulnerabilities of a business

Parenting tips to rear future cyber security experts:

You can help your child make faster career decisions if you instill security habits in them from an early age. It goes without saying that you need to model cybersecurity habits so that they can learn by imitating you. Discuss cybersecurity as a profession and explore the prospects together online. Take your child to meet friends in the field so that they can get their doubts cleared. Have dinner time conversations on how attacks are becoming more advanced and the best means to fight them. If your daughter enjoys playing online games, use that as a conversation starter to talk about how security firms are looking at video gamers—even those without a background in cybersecurity.

The best gift you can give the women in your family on International Women’s Day is a sense of independence, security and equality.

Happy International Women’s Day!!

What About a Heart-To-Heart Talk with Your Loved Ones This Valentine’s Day?

I was listening to the Valentine’s Day playlist of my friend when suddenly espied one of my favorites- Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and started humming the song. Remember it?

If you need me call me

No matter where you are

No matter how far;

Just call my name

I’ll be there in a hurry

You don’t have to worry coz

Baby there ain’t any mountain high enough…

To keep me from getting to you.

Post becoming a mom, it resonated more with me and I would often find myself singing the song whilst doing my daily chores. (Hope the kids heard me and remember the words!).

In the digital age, when kids are maturing faster and social media reflects the rapid rate at which hearts are getting connected and then disconnected, it’s important that we talk about online romances, dating sites and privacy with our teens.

Is your teen sporting a moony look and walking around as if on cloud 9? Then it’s time to sit them down and have ‘the talk’- the one about crushes, love and the need for separating digital life from their romantic life.

So how do you go about it? You can start on a light note, discussing Valentine’s Day and the number of roses they may have received or gifted. Talk about their friends and the various plans they are making for this special day. You may then gently lead the conversation to online romances and the rising interest in dating websites among adolescents. Finally, it’s time to discuss account security and privacy.

Here are some tips you can share with your kids during your heart-to-heart talk on digital age romance:

  • Whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ears but not your account passwords
  • Share your hobbies and dreams, but keep your sensitive information private
  • Make new friends online but only as long as the conversation stays decent and non-intrusive
  • Use PIN or biometrics to lock your devices. Set autolock to 10 sec
  • Money attracts the attention of cyber criminals like nothing else. Avoid making online payments to help out a friend seemingly in distress, without consulting someone senior and trusted. Be judicious – do not share ATM PIN or credit card CVV number
  • Take time to decide whether or not you want to create a common social media account and avoid if possible. You wouldn’t have the control over posting
  • If your social media account is compromised, write a general post informing all about it, take screenshots of offending content and delete account
  • Use only secured devices with authentic software -This is to be implemented without fail by all family members

Isn’t it also a good time to talk to kids about real love – The love that isn’t limited to romance? Love is also when Mom gets up at midnight to make a studious child a cup of hot chocolate; when Dad forgoes his annual vacation plans to buy a collegian a dream laptop; when friends make plans to spend maximum time possible with a depressed friend; when a teacher spends extra time helping a child improve grades; when a 4-year old makes and proudly serves her Mom a cup of tea. Love is all that and more.

Recently Safer Internet Day was celebrated worldwide and I am really happy to note that not only security firms, government agencies and experts, but even schools, media and various NGOs showed support through activities, slogans, posts and discussions. Though the number is still insignificant, if you consider that we are a billion plus nation, it’s a start. Awareness of the issue and commitment to be a changemaker are the first two steps towards a positive digital life.

Here are some DIY ideas for your child for Valentine’s Day:

  1. Make cards for near and dear ones, showing appreciation and love
  2. Make and hang heart chains to decorate their rooms/the house
  3. Get flowers and chocolates for grandparents, domestic help, school bus drivers, canteen staff etc. to thank them for their support
  4. Compose poems and songs mentioning each loved one and sing it at the next social meet
  5. Visit a children’s hospital with parents and share cards and small gifts

These activities will not only boost their creativity and realization of real relationsships, but will also help them lead a balanced digital life.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

Teach Kids The 4Rs Critical for Online Safety on Safer Internet Day

What are you doing?”

Uploading pics of our school fest. And don’t peer over my shoulder, Aunty. I have already uploaded a few so check them out on your Instagram account.”

I beat a hasty retreat and did as instructed. The photos brought out a smile- such fresh, innocent faces of kids having a good time! But that feeling rapidly changed when I read the comments on one particular pic.

Now why are you frowning?” asked the niece.

Perhaps you shouldn’t have shared this one. It’s attracting rude comments. “

Instantly remorseful, the niece took down the picture, but I decided to nevertheless give her a talk on responsible posting.

On the occasion of Safer Internet Day (SID) 2019, let us find out what can make our digital world a happier and safer place, and our digital experience a more positive one.

There are many, like you my dear readers, well aware digital users who endeavor to take measures and ensure that your accounts are secure and devices safe. However, one needs to keep in mind that we are linked online, and therefore the key word is ‘together’. No single entity or product can guarantee 100% safety online, but together we can strive to bring about a better digital experience for all. That’s the theme for 2019 too – ‘Together for a better internet’.

Incidentally, McAfee too has a similar tagline, ‘Together is Power’, underlining the fact that it needs the collaboration of all players- digital users, organizations and vendors- to make cybersecurity effective.

Organizations lay down rules and monitor usage, vendors provide security tools and that leaves us, the users.  What can we do?

‘What can we do as parents?’ Let us start by helping our kids develop four critical skills – the 4Rs of online safety:

  • Respect– I treat myself and others the way I like to be treated
  • Responsibility – I am accountable for my actions and I take a stand when I feel something is wrong
  • Reasoning – I question what is real
  • Resilience – I get back up from tough situations

RESPECT

How do we teach what respect means? We respect those we love or admire. But we also need to learn to respect rules, people’s feelings and take a sympathetic view of differences in physical and emotional aspects of people.  The two values that this calls for are tolerance and empathy.

Here are a few ways you can teach kids respect:

  1. Appreciate when they are tactful and kind
  2. Correct them if they are mean
  3. Make it a family practice to use ‘sorry’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’ a lot
  4. Role model respectful behavior like being silent in the library, sharing photos with permission, treating boys and girls as equals
  5. Set rules and specify penalties for breaching them

At the same time, help your kids identify undesirable behavior that may show disrespect and abuse.

  1. Being approached by strangers online who ask for photos, personal thoughts
  2. Being a witness to rude, aggressive behavior that causes anguish
  3. Being belittled for beliefs, appearance, race, gender
  4. Being challenged to perform a dare the child isn’t comfortable with

Resilience

Standing up to injustice and aggression as well as springing back to normalcy despite a negative experience is what resilience is about. Let’s accept it, bullies will continue to exist and so it is in the interest of the kids to know how to survive tough situations online. The recipe also calls for dollops of love, support, patience from the family and friends.

Actions that may lead to negative experiences:

  1. Cyberbullying
  2. Risky challenges
  3. Being ignored by peers online
  4. Befriending child groomers
  5. Falling prey to hackers and scammers

You know what to do, right? Teach them cybersafety practices; change account settings and passwords or even delete accounts if necessary; report scam and abuse; rope in teachers to stop bullying in school. Stand by your child. Encourage them to get back on their feet and resume normal life. Help them be tough and face the world- they will thank you for it.

Responsibility

We have often discussed responsible online behavior in these pages, so will not rehash it. Suffice to say that we are the digital space users, content generators and consumers. So, our actions online will ultimately affect us and those in contact with us and their contacts and so on and so forth, covering the entire digital populace. Practice STOP. THINK. CONNECT. SHARE.

Reasoning

We will do the kids a big favour if we can help them to think and act instead of following the herd mentality. Encourage them to question, to reason before accepting any online content to be true. Help them understand the reach and consequences of digital posts and ways to distinguish between a fake news and a real one. Kids have wonderful reasoning power and let us push them to exercise it fully.

What can we do as a community? I think South Korea has set a sterling example:

A civil activist group in South Korea, Sunfull Internet Peace Movement, initiated the “Internet Peace Prize” in 2018 to promote online etiquette and fight cyberbullying. The award went to two people from Japan for their effort to protect human rights by tackling cyberbullying. We can start something similar in our children’s school or our neighbourhood. Schools can set up cyber armies to identify and stop cyberbullying and offer support to victims. The possibilities are many.

Stay safe online everyday; it just calls for a little care. Just like in the real world.

STOP. Read T&Cs. Then Sign Up on Social Media

Let’s start at the very beginning,

A very good place to start;

When you read, you begin with A-B-C,

When you sign up on SM you begin by

Reading T&Cs…”

The start of a new year usually has a buoyant and positive feel, like you have been offered a new opportunity to start things fresh, and make amends.

Experience has taught us that nothing comes for free; and that it’s always good to run a thorough background check on a new group you plan to join. This applies to social media platforms as well. When we sign up on a new social media platform, we are asked for our names, email and other personal information and then directed to the terms and conditions page which we must read and agree before we can proceed. Rarely do we read through all the terms to understand their implications; it’s mostly a cursory scan and tick to complete the signing up process as fast as possible, and voila, we are in!

However, much, much later, if we face issues like privacy breach or cyberbullying, we tend to complain that we didn’t know. But we did, it’s all spelt out in the T&Cs we had hastily agreed to.

Long ago, I had told you the story of a relative, whose son had forged his age to sign up on Facebook. When I questioned the mother, she said she wasn’t aware of the age clause. But again, it’s there, right at the start of the T&Cs!

Most social media platforms have updated their terms in recent times to bring in more openness in their advertising and third-party sharing policies. They have also clearly explained privacy and security terms for users. It’s now up to the users to read, understand and implement the terms to stay safe online and to help maintain digital world hygiene.

Let us explore the T&Cs of some popular social media sites and find out how many of the rules we allow our kids to follow or flout.

Facebook says- “You give us permission to use your name and profile picture and information about actions you have taken on Facebook next to or in connection with ads, offers, and other sponsored content that we display across our products, without any compensation to you.”

Layman’s terms- By agreeing to T&Cs,  you are automatically giving Facebook the right to the content you share in relation to ads etc. without receiving any compensation for it. For e.g., if I like a certain product, they will appear on my friends’ timeline with the message ‘Cybermum India likes it’.

Cybersafety tip: Check ad settings and maximize privacy levels.

Twitter says- “You are responsible for your use of the services and for any content you provide, including compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations. You should only provide content that you are comfortable sharing with others.

Layman’s terms- The user is the sole owner of content created by her or him and Twitter will take no responsibility for it.

Cybersafety tip: STOP.THINK.POST. Do not share content that may not be 100% correct or that may be intended to cause harm, hurt, or foment trouble.

Snapchat says- “Through these Terms and our Community Guidelines, we make clear that we don’t want the Services to be put to bad use. But because we don’t review all content, we cannot guarantee that content on the Services will always conform to our Terms or Guidelines.”

Layman’s terms – There may be cases of misuse of the platform by miscreants, cyberbullies and predators.

Cybersafety tip: Follow the community guidelines to know how you can let your child have a positive experience and not be accidentally exposed to inappropriate content. Ensure your teens understand they should share with you if they face disturbing behavior on the platform. It would be helpful if you activate parental controls and use term filters to block out unsavory content

Tik Tok says- “You may not access or use the Services if you are not over 13 or otherwise able to agree to these Terms.”

Layman’s terms- The minimum to sign up on the app is 13 years.

Cybersafety tip: Use this term to guide children on the right age to sign up on social media. Explain the reason behind this age criteria and allow them to sign up when they fulfil it.

Social media platforms are a great way to connect, learn and network as long as all users endeavor to keep it clean and positive. As parents, we need to arm our kids with the right skills and knowledge to help them tackle any issues that may crop up. The first step is to read and understand what the platform has to offer and its security and privacy options. This is something parents and teens can do together as it will be a useful lesson for a lifetime- both in the real and in the digital world.

And most important of all, don’t forget to secure all your devices with comprehensive security tools.
The quicker your family adopts digital safety practices, the safer they will be online!