It’s that spooky time of year, so here are some scary stats:
• Kids age 8-18 spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes online each day.
• 1 in 5 U.S. teens have received unwanted online sexual solicitations — and 25 percent of those teens did not tell their parents.
• Baby boomers embrace new technologies 20 times faster than members of Generation Y, including social sites, podcasts and blogs, according to Accenture. Yeah, that one surprised me, too.
This means that it’s more important than ever to be cyber-smart. Because it’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month, now is as good a time as any for a refresher course on what you need to be doing at home, at school and at work.
Simply put, cyber-security is general Internet safety, which includes protection of anything connected to or accessible by the Internet, from networks to information stored on computers. The Internet has evolved greatly over the last 25 years and we now email, instant message, send photos, host websites, shop, manage finances, make donations, order prescriptions, date and do all kinds of work online.
If you lock up your home to keep out criminals, shouldn’t you do the same with your computer?
Here are some commonsense rules from the real world that apply in the online world, compliments of your BBB and the Department of Homeland Security.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Cyber-criminals hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. What you say and do online is visible to others, and it’s not erasable. Don’t reveal any personal information to strangers online. Personal information includes your name, address, age, phone number, birthday, email address, Social Security number and even your doctor’s name.
Look before you leap. Don’t enter contests, join clubs or share personal information for any reason, unless you know you are on a reputable website. Don’t open attachments, click links or respond to email messages from unknown senders or companies that ask for your personal information. Most organizations don’t ask for personal info over email. Beware of requests to update or confirm your personal information.
All that glitters is not gold. Be aware of emails offering “free” gifts, prize or vacations. These are tricks designed to get you to give up personal information that can be pieced together to steal identities, money or credit.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Once you understand the dangers online, you need to tell others family members, colleagues and friends who might not be as cyber-smart and savvy.
Keep a clean machine. Having the latest operating system, software, Web browsers, antivirus protection and apps are the best defenses against viruses and other online threats.
For more consumer tips and information, visit wynco.bbb.org or staysafeonline.org.