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News Featured Story Playing It Safe on the Internet Posted: April 4, 2007
Which country has the highest number of Internet users? How many Web pages are in existence in cyberspace? Who spends more time online, adults or teens? If you answered the United States, more than 100 million pages, and adults (three times as many teens access the Internet, but adults spend more time online) you’d be right on the money. But did you know that the Internet, perhaps the most useful tool yet invented for communicating, retail shopping, and learning, is a magnet for cyber criminals? According to the FBI’s Internet Complaints Center, 207,492 complaint submissions of Internet crimes were received between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2006. The majority of those were about auction fraud, credit/debit card fraud, computer intrusions, spam/unsolicited email, and pornography. Hoaxes and goofs with forwards containing computer viruses, invitations to participate in “get rich quick” schemes, and e-mails containing hateful and violent material also find their way uninvited into e-mail inboxes. Kids: easy targets While adults are often the unwary victims of Internet crimes and scams, children are even more likely to be targeted. Kids are especially vulnerable to solicitations over the Internet because they are naturally curious, easily led by adults, need attention and affection, and like to defy parents by doing things they wouldn’t approve of, says Dan Bien, an investigator with the New York State Police Computer Crimes Unit, who presented “Internet Safety: Your Seatbelt for the Information Super Highway” at the Bank on March 20. The presentation was hosted by the Compliance Function.
Dan Bien, an investigator with the New York State Police Computer Crimes Unit, gave a presentation on navigating the Internet safely.
“Kids are growing up with a mouse in their hand,” says Bien, noting that one out of five children are solicited for sex on the Internet and that 90 percent of these young victims meet their attacker online. While parents can’t always monitor everything their children do, Bien offered steps they can take to protect their kids from Internet predators: set up computers in a central area of the home, not in a child’s bedroom or a secluded area; know your child’s password and screen name; and set reasonable time limits for computer use and ensure that the time limit is respected. “It’s your computer; you set the rules,” Bien emphasized. Bien also pointed out that commercially available software (Chat Watch and Net Nanny, for example), can monitor, track and maintain a log of your child’s Internet activity. It’s also smart to periodically review kids’ bookmarks and Internet page history files. And he warned parents to keep younger children out of chat rooms altogether. Myspace.com Bien spent a while dissecting Myspace.com, a popular social networking site with teens and 20Useful Web Links somethings. Users (who must be 14 or older to join) can create a page about themselves, with photos and personal details, but even the most harmless pieces of information posted on a Myspace identitytheft.org page can help a predator track a child’s whereabouts. Parents should teach kids to avoid divulging: privacyrights.org idfraud.org their name or friends’ names cyberangels.org where they live wiredsafety.org when and where the family is going on vacation safekids.com netsmartz.org where they hang out in their free time ncmec.org the name of their school and school teams troopers.state.ny.us times when they can be reached at home ojp.usdog.gov phone numbers ic3.gov (Internet crime complaint center) Photographs are another big no-no. “Predators go shopping for children” by browsing sites loaded
with face photos, says Bien. “Your children’s friends already know what they look like, where they live, and what school they go to. That information does not belong on the Internet for all the world to see.”
ftc.gov (Identity theft complaint center)
A quick Google search of a school name to retrieve the school’s address, combined with a recognizable face photo, for example, can lead a predator directly to a child, Bien warned. To further protect younger users, parents can secure their child’s Myspace profile with privacy settings that block viewing by anyone other than known friends. Myspace also provides an online guide for parents and teens that includes tips for safely using the site. In a worst case scenario, parents may authorize removal of their child’s profile from Myspace.com, but Bien advises against it. Forbidding children from creating a Myspace page is not necessarily best because they will find some other way to defy their parents, he stressed. “Let them have it,” he says about Myspace and similar networking sites, but make sure kids understand the importance of keeping personal information and face photos off their page. Cyber-bullying Another problem both kids and young adults may encounter online is cyber-bullying, the practice of using technology to harass, or bully, someone via e-mail, instant messaging, on Web pages, and in chat rooms. Cyber-bullying is a growing problem in schools, says Bien, who offers these tips to beat bullies: Bullies often thrive on the reaction of their victims. Avoid escalating a situation by not responding to the bully with hostility. If you are harassed in a chat room or by instant message, leave the chat room or block the other person. Report cyber-bullying to local authorities. Document the activity (e-mail exchanges, Web pages, instant messages) by keeping a record of it, including dates and time. Archive electronic copies and print out copies to give to authorities. If your credit card is used on the Internet, call the police and give them a copy of your credit card statement. Ask your credit card company for a detailed bill. Spam: just say no No one likes to get spam – unsolicited, unwanted, irrelevant, or inappropriate e-mail messages (especially commercial advertising in mass quantities) – delivered right to your inbox. When it comes to spam, the delete key is your best weapon, says Bien. You should delete spam from anyone you don’t know. If the subject line is blank, delete it. If the subject link says anything like RE: (2), hit the delete key. Look for keywords like Dear User, Customer, Subscriber or Member to identify spam. “If it’s really for you, it will have your name on it,” Bien says. The only exception for deleting unwanted e-mail is a message you’ve already opened that’s clearly criminal (e.g., terrorist threats, threats made to your life, the life of friends and family members, to your property, etc.). Contact local authorities immediately. Technological tools Bien also ran through a list of technological precautions you can take to protect your computer from intruders: Use a firewall, especially if you use a high-speed Internet connection like cable, DSL or T-1, which leaves your computer connected to the Internet 24 hours a day. The firewall stops uninvited guests from accessing your computer. Without it, hackers can take over your computer and access your personal information. Have a good anti-virus program and pay for updates. New viruses come out daily. Use more than one anti-spyware program. Use encryption with wireless access. Encryption protects against unauthorized use of your Internet, and protects you from becoming the target of an investigation. Have questions or suggestions? Contact Dan Bien at 845-344-5300. Related links: Dan Bien’s PowerPoint presentation Myspace.com FAQs Find out about the latest Internet scams and hoaxes on hoaxbusters.org and snopes.com — Suzanne Davis Green, Internal Communication Have comments or questions on this story? Have a story idea? E-mail the Internal Communication team. Featured Story Archive >>
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