Indians Are Increasingly Realising Nothing Said Online Is Private

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

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

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

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

Other India-centric salient findings of the study:

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

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

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

Tips to stay safe online and protect what matters most:

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

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

Happy surfing!

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Cheat Codes to Digital Parenting

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

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

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

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

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

  • Courtesy
  • Responsibility
  • Courage
  • Empathy
  • Judiciousness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How so?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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