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National Cyber Safety Awareness Day is May 17th

We're taking a short break from our normal technical posts to write about "National Cyber Safety Awareness Day". This day is more about the prevention of "cyber bullying", but people have been asking questions about general online safety/security as well.

I've spent the morning doing a number of radio interviews on this topic and thought this might be a good place to share some tips for kids, parents and teachers on what small things they can do to help kids stay safe online.

To make this as simple as possible, I have listed some basic steps that can be taken today to improve online safety. Trustwave's SpiderLabs highly recommends that everyone take some time today to review and perform some if not ALL of these activities. Parent can also sit down with their kids and go through these items as well to help them be safe online.

  • Passwords - You pick your own password. You can always change it. When you pick something easy to guess, like your dog's name, you open yourself up to having your account's "hacked". This might be limited to your Facebook account, but often can include your online banking and other accounts with much more sensitive information. Pick passwords that are hard to guess but easy to remember. For example, if your kids favorite son is "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" pick a password that uses the first letter of each word in the first verse and combine it with a number and a symbol. In this case your password would be "Ttlshiwwya7!" Change your passwords today!
  • Updates - Most of us constantly see little pop-up messages on our computers asking us to perform an update of the operating systems (i.e. Windows) or a software package (i.e. Firefox). This is like your computer telling you it is "sick" and it needs some help. Most, if not all of these updates contain security fixes. When you see these messages, don't ignore them. Click OK and apply the updates. It will only take 5 or 10 minutes and your will be protected from some of the most recent security issues. Apply your computer's updates today!
  • Friends / Connections - With the advent of Social Media, it is sometimes a popularity contest to see how many "friends" you can have. There are many cyber criminals who create fake profiles so they can mine data from people on the social networks. To target you and your connections, all they need is to get you to accept their "friend request". If you get a request from someone you don't know, don't accept it. If you have a lot of connections on your Social Networks, review them and delete those you don't know. Remove connections for people you don't know today!
  • Privacy Settings - Nearly every Social Network (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) by default makes your profile or activities open to anyone who wants to view it. In some cases this is even open to those who are not part of the social network but using search engines. All of these networks have Privacy Settings that are not often easy to find. If view your "Account Settings" there will be a tab or a link to "Privacy Settings". In there you can lock down your account by managing who can view your "Profile". It is highly recommended that you walk through each of these settings and change them from "Everyone" to "Friends Only" or the equivalent. Lock down your Privacy Settings today!

We at Trustwave's SpiderLabs know that the items above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to information security, but for most people these small change will help mitigate the risk of them being a target on an online crime.