Avoiding online dangers on Safer Internet Day

Today - Tuesday February 7 - is Safer Internet Day 2017.

Intended to highlight positive uses of technology and help create a better and safer online community, it’s celebrated globally with over 100 countries taking part.

The campaign is particularly aimed at children, and their parents, to highlight the dangers of the web. And it’s worth remembering that while youngsters are the most prolific users of social media, there are age restrictions in place to protect them

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The age limit for most of the major social networks is 13, including Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Skype, Instagram, Reddit and Pinterest.

It’s the same age for Flickr and Youtube with the additional proviso that approval of a parent or guardian is required.

Whatsapp’s lower limit is 16 years old, and Tinder’s is 18.

Of course, it’s not just children who face potential hazards on the web. There are various security risks which can affect users of all ages. Web security site https://safeandsavvy.f-secure.com recenty offered its ‘10 Commandments’ for safer surfing, which we attempt to put into layman’s terms.

1. Thou shalt not use public WiFi without a VPN.

A Virtual Private Network will add security to your device - clicking on what seems to be a ‘legitimate’ WiFi network is highly risky as these could turn out to be insecure, if not an actual fake version aimed at stealing your data.

2. Thou shalt not click “Enable Macros.”

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Macros are essentially computer programs which if allowed to run on your phone or PC, could run amok, erasing or stealing your data.

3. Thou shalt not open attachments which were unexpected or from a stranger.

An attachment could contain, well, anything - a virus or malware, or a macro (see #2) or similar malicious code.

4. Thou shalt not share personal, identifiable information on social media platforms.

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Identity theft is becoming more and more common, and the more personal details a criminal has on you - no matter how seemingly trivial - the easier it will be for them to adopt your persona.

5. Thou shalt use a unique, uncrackable password for all important accounts and — ideally — store them in a password manager.

Unfortunately, having many complicated passwords makes it hard to remember how to get into your various accounts. But it’s worth it. And a password manager will make it easier.

6. Honor your privacy settings by checking them regularly.

Social networks are adding more ‘features’ all the time, and these are sometimes buried in lengthy Terms and Conditions. (Did you know that Facebook now has Facial Recognition? You can turn it off, and probably should!)

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7. Thou shalt not keep the default password on anything, especially routers.

Because that’s the first password a hacker will try. And in the case of a router, it’s the quickest way into your home network.

8. Thou shalt not do online banking without security software that includes anti-phishing and banking protection features.

Your bank will probably offer this as a matter of course, so you should take advantage of it.

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9. Remember two-step verification and use it whenever possible.

This will, for example, send a code to your phone when you login to your online banking. A little inconvenient, but not as much as it is for the cybercriminal who doesn’t have access to your mobile.

10. Thou shalt not leave your devices unlocked

It could lead to your workmates posting an ‘amusing’ status. Or much much worse...

The UK Safer Internet Centre – a partnership of three leading charities; Childnet, the South West Grid for Learning and the Internet Watch Foundation – provide resources for children, schools and families, and tools for getting involved at www.saferinternetday.org.uk.

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Globally, Safer Internet Day is celebrated in over a hundred countries, coordinated by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission, and national Safer Internet Centres across Europe.

The day offers the opportunity to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community. It calls upon young people, parents, carers, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, companies, policymakers, and wider, to join together in helping to create a better internet.

As a result of our collective action Safer Internet Day 2016 reached 2.8 million children and 2.5 million parents!