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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the list of the top 10 in 2017:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

I nodded, wondering where this was going.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cyber Insurance – The Need of the Hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does it work?

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

Quick facts on Sarahah:

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

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

What does this mean for parents & kids in India?

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

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

What parents need to understand?

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

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

Stay safe folks!

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

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

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

The facts first:

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

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

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

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

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

What can parents do?

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

World Wide Web – The journey from 1990

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some notable global cyber-attacks include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.