November 23rd, 2010
Spammers and identity thieves have committed a rash of email hijacks lately. Maybe you’ve seen a friend’s email account hacked, sending out unwanted spam. These new email account hijacks are a disturbing twist on an old hack. In most cases users’ email accounts are taken over and used to send out spam. In a new twist identity thieves are using the email accounts to steal passwords and your identity and access online accounts such as Amazon, banks, etc. Often these ID thefts result in the deletion of your email account. Don’t let this happen to you.
K.C. Budd wrote a great set of tips about preventing email account hijacking and posted it on his Facebook page. Don’t be a victim.
November 8th, 2010
ConnectSafely.org, in partnership with the iKeepSafe Coalition, has announced today their new publication, A Parent’s Guide to Facebook. This new resource for “parents, educators, and everybody looking for the basics on the world’s most popular social networking site – what it is, why young people use it, how to turn it into a great parenting tool, and how to optimize its privacy settings for teens.” The guide is available for download in PDF format and features “hands-on, step-by-step instructions and illustrations, as well as parenting points on safety, privacy, and reputation protection. It covers both cellphone- and computer-based use of Facebook and the site’s newest features, including Places, Groups, and the latest privacy updates.” ConnectSafely.org and iKeepSafe are both partners of the GetNetWise initiative.
November 4th, 2010
Today Microsoft just launch their much-anticipated Kinect for Xbox 360 along with new Family Safety Settings. If you’re not familiar with the Xbox Kinect, you’ll be amazed after watching the video on the Xbox site. Last month GetNetWise Advisory Board members were invited to an advanced demo for Kinect. Later we received an extremely professional briefing by Microsoft’s top safety and security executives. In short, Kinect is not only amazing, it also takes into account a myriad set of privacy and safety issues so that it is as family safe as possible. In David Pogue’s NY Times review he writes “The Kinect’s astonishing technology creates a completely new activity that’s social, age-spanning and even athletic.”
At GetNetWise.org we were also pleased to see that Microsoft has updated its already robust family safety settings to accompany the Kinect launch. Below is a list of new family safe features provided by Microsoft executives.
New Family Settings include:
- Intelligent default settings for children, teens and adults. When Console Safety is turned “On,” Xbox automatically assigns default privacy and activity settings for each Xbox LIVE member, based on age. For example, for children under 13, the default settings include blocking profile sharing and text, voice and video chat, and turning on Family Programming. These settings can be individually customized by parents.
- Video Kinect. Allows users to video chat over Xbox LIVE with friends and family. Family Settings automatically block this feature for Child profiles, but parents and caregivers can customize whether (and with whom) their children can video chat.
- Kinect Share. Enables users to share pictures captured during Kinect games like “Kinect Adventures!” on social media pages like Facebook. Kinect Share is automatically blocked for Child profiles but parents can decide to allow this feature for any profile.
- Family Programming. When turned on, Family Programming prevents the display of mature content on the dashboard and highlights family-friendly entertainment.
- Game Title Exceptions. Parents have the ability to allow their family members to play specific games with content ratings above the console’s designated maximum if they deem the title appropriate.
October 22nd, 2010
“Where are you?” That’s the way the vast majority of mobile calls and texts start — and it’s the question parents always ask of their t(w)eens. Parents have a frenetic need to always know “where” their children are. Unlike the era before the mobile phone parents now have a better sense of where their children are. Recent studies by Pew Internet & American Life Project show that the supermajority of teens have mobile phones.
Many parents simply call their children and ask them where they are. While teens use mobile phones, they seldom use them to speak. Asking a teen to “answer” or pick up a call may be a tall order. You will need to learn how to text “where R U?” if you want a more prompt response.
Some wireless carriers offer parents GPS location tracking services for their children’s phones. Now, smartphones contain a growing array of Apps that can be used by parents to quickly locate their children.
A really interesting and easy App that parents can use is called Glympse (available on iPhone, Android and Windows 7). Glympse is an App that allows t(w)eens to quickly send to their parents a glympse of where they are on a map. Unlike other location tracking tools, Glympse allows users to send a short duration peak at where they are. After the specified period of time is over the other person can no longer view the location of the user — it simply times out. We think this is a very effective privacy feature. Check out the “What is Glympse” page for a helpful video.
Of course there are some caveats. Keep in mind that parents should use tools like Glympse responsibly and realize that they are not foolproof. Parents should explain to their children why they want them to check in with their location (who knows, kids may rather send a Glympse than a text message or, heaven forbid, actually talk on the phone). Further, never ask your teen to initiate a Glympse or text while they are driving a car. And lastly, use this conversation as an opportunity to talk to your children about your concerns with their sharing their location information with people they don’t know or don’t trust. We are generally concerned with the amount of uninformed location sharing that is being done on social networking sites and mobile phones.
October 8th, 2010
Are Teens Broadcasting Their Mobile Location on Facebook? Well, yes. Should parents be overly concerned? Not that much more concerned than having their teens use Facebook at all. Let’s back up. Over a month ago Facebook launched “Places,” a service where people can use their GPS mobile phones to “check in” to locations such as restaurants, concert halls, and schools. Once checked in, Facebook notifies other Facebook users that John Doe just checked in to “Potbelly Sandwich.”
Obviously, those of us in the online safety community are deeply, deeply concerned about nefarious use of a child’s physical location. Frankly, the thought is terrifying. Thus parents and social networking companies need to take the distribution of kids’ mobile location very seriously.
Now, for teen users (those under 18 yeas old) Facebook only allows their “Friends” to see the places they have checked into. Even if the teen foolishly changes their privacy settings to allow “Everyone” to see their information, Facebook automatically prohibits anyone but the teen’s friend from seeing their mobile location in the physical world. This is a positive privacy and safety measure by Facebook. However, this auto feature does not exist for those over the age of 17 who set their profile to “Everyone”
Of course, the teen’s safety and privacy really hinges on whether they trust those in her “Friends” list. As a general rule, parents should talk to teens about limiting their Facebook “Friends” list to only those they know and trust. If they don’t, none of their information is safe — especially their physical location.
More about Places can be found on ConnectSafely.org and on Facebook itself.
October 1st, 2010
Many of us use Web-based email services like Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo for personal communications. Many of my most personal and secret conversations are stored in my Web email account. It’s horrifying to think that my email life is a password away from anyone anywhere to access. Most importantly, use passwords that are hard to guess but easy to remember! That said, recently we have seem some pretty clever practices by Web mail companies to make those communications more private and more secure.
Now Hotmail allows users of their Web mail to provide a mobile phone number so that Hotmail can text a password reset code in case you forgot. This is probably more secure than having secret security questions that can be guessed by others. Hotmail also allows users to register “trusted” computers that are recognized by the email service. See this great CNet blog on the subject.
Recently Google’s Gmail has implement a similar mobile phone text reset mechanism. And it also provides a handy tool to find out whether anyone other than you has accessed your Gmail account.The “Last account activity” shows you what what type of device accessed your Gmail (e.g. Browser, Mobile), the IP addresses of the device and when it was accessed. For instance, if the “Last account activity” report says your Gmail was accessed by a mobile device yesterday and you don’t access Gmail on mobile, you may have a problem. Gmail also alerts you to suspicious behavior on your account. Here is a more thorough blog post on the subject.
All I can say is, Way to go Hotmail and Gmail.
October 1st, 2010
Malware bots are the biggest computer cyber security threat to Internet users. To kick off Cyber Security Month Comcast has launched for its high speed broadband users Constant Guard to help clean up the bots. The New York Times blog has a good description of the service. Bots are becoming increasingly malicious and many traditional anti virus tools have trouble identifying them. Congratulations to Comcast for using its resources to help its customers stay free of infections.
September 9th, 2010
Google Consolidates Family Safety Tips and Tools In The New Family Safety Center
Today Google launched its new Family Safety Center — a one stop shop for great Google tips and tools for staying safe online. It’s featured at Google.com/familysafety/. The Family Safety Center interface is typical of Google’s other products and services — it’s clean and easy-to-navigate. The Center presents family safety resources for using the Google ecosystem of products and services such as Safe Searching (including Mobile) and YouTube family safety. It also provides great advice on how you can help everyone’s safety online by reporting abuse.
If your family uses lots of Google services like search, YouTube and Picassa, you can find instructions and videos on how to use these products more safely. The safe search information shows you how to prevent sexually explicit search results — and make that setting permanent. You can also learn how to make YouTube searches safer for kids.
See More at Google’s Blog post
August 3rd, 2010
One of the biggest new features of Apple’s new operating system, iOS 4, is the iAds mobile advertising system. iAds will show you full-screen ads within apps on your iPhone or iPod touch. Like most other advertising these days, iAds are also targeted based on data collected about you from your phone usage – so, for example, if you’re searching for nearby pizza joints, you’ll probably see pizza-related ads. But what if you don’t want iAds to be collecting your personal information to tailor the ads you see?
Fortunately, Apple has provided a quick way to opt out of “interest-based” advertising if you’d prefer not to share your data with iAds. You will still see ads on your device, but they won’t be targeted based on personal information (although they still might be related to the content of the application you’re running). Just point your iOS4 device’s web browser to http://oo.apple.com. You should see a message telling you that the opt-out was successful. If you have more than one device running iOS 4, you must opt-out individually for each device.
It’s worth noting that this opt out does not affect the collection of location-based data – though Apple assures us that location information is collected anonymously and safely.
Click here for more details from Apple.
June 29th, 2010
Parents know that kids are logging on earlier than ever – children as young as five might have an account on the family computer or on sites like Club Penguin or Webkinz, with their own username and password. Signing up for their first account is a great time to talk to you child about how to keep their information and identity private. While there might be little real security risk for a young child using these services under supervision, it’s important to start building lifelong smart security habits early.
The most basic ground rule is this: NEVER share your password with anyone except your parents. Password sharing with friends and peers is a surprisingly common practice amongst youth. A 2001 study from Pew Internet found that 22% of youth 12-17 who use email or IM have shared a password with others. Often this is seen as a sign of trust between friends and significant others. But sharing passwords put kids at risk for being impersonated online, having their personal information compromised, or being a target of cyberbullying. Sharing passwords makes children more vulnerable to online harassment, as kids will sometimes exploit access to each other’s accounts as a tool for humiliating or damaging the reputation of the target if a friendship takes a turn for the worse.
Make sure your child knows how to protect their online identity. Even young children can understand these password security basics:
- Passwords are secret and shouldn’t ever be shared with anyone.
- Choose a password that’s hard for others to guess, using a mix of letters, symbols and numbers.
- Don’t write your passwords down—make sure it’s something you can easily remember.
For more password safety tips for kids, check out http://www.connectsafely.org/Safety-Tips/tips-to-create-and-manage-strong-passwords.html.