(by Lenandlar Singh)
The rapid growth of the internet gives rise to a number of services to anyone who is connected. However, connected users are also at the risk of illegal activities if their personal and private information are compromised and personal abuse if they communicate with malicious users.
Online risks are generally greater than offline because we have to make assumptions about those we communicate with and with whom we transact business. It is not always possible to verify the identity of online users as we would offline. Further, you can never be sure how personal information supplied online is collected and used by others.
The internet is an open space. This is one of its greatest strengths but it’s also one of the greatest challenges. The internet is not owned by any one entity or person and therefore is not protected by any one person or organisation.
The internet offers us great freedoms. We are free to use available services and communicate with anyone. The openness of the internet and the freedom to use it means that we are responsible for protecting ourselves from the consequences of such freedoms.
Online Safety focuses on the protection and wellbeing of all categories of internet users and their personal and private information from criminal activities and the mechanisms for minimising security risks and threats.
Protecting information assets is one of the most important personal responsibilities of all internet users as hackers and other malicious users are constantly looking for ways to compromise and access information sources. Internet users you are responsible for protecting their information assets and properties and the information assets of other users that they have access to. Users are also responsible for their personal safety and the personal safety of others under their care.
Identity theft and Internet Scams are two of the most common information and property threats faced by online users.
- Identity theft – stealing someone’s personal information and pretending to be that person. Identify theft usually starts out with malicious users gathering information about other users. This information can be found online or can be provided directly by the user. Identity theft may result in fraudulent transactions by a malicious user pretending to be the real user. Common problems associated with identify theft are credit card and financial related, impersonation (usually on social networks and other online spaces)
- Internet Scams – are schemes that attempt to use deception for the purpose of obtaining personal property from users. Phishing is one popular method of deceiving users. Phishing scams operate by disguising as trustworthy source in order to obtain personal information such as email addresses, credit card numbers and so on. For example, an email may appear to be coming from your bank requesting information but in fact may not be from your bank but some other malicious source.
To protect yourself from identity theft and internet scams you should follow these basic guidelines:
- Share information with ONLY authentic sources. Information such as names, pictures, personal identification numbers, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses are often required by various internet services. Verify the authenticity of any such services or individual requests before sharing personal information.
- Think carefully about the information you share online and especially on social networks. Birthdates, email addresses and other personal information can be easily accessed and used by malicious users to fraudulent activities on your behalf
- Do not open emails or download email attachments that you are unsure about. Attachments may contain malicious programs used to steal your personal information.
- Install and update antivirus and anti-malware programs to prevent malicious software from accessing your computer and your personal information.
- Do not download software that you are not sure about. Do background checks before downloading and installing unusual and unpopular programs.
- Do not share your passwords with any other and do not write your passwords
Cyberstalking, Cyberbullying and Online Predation are the most common personal safety threats faced by internet users
- Cyberstalking – is the use of the internet by malicious users to stalk and harass other users and organisations. Cyberstalking can take many forms such as gathering information for identity thefts, allegations and defamations, damage to digital and physical property, monitoring, false accusations, and solicitation of minors or under aged children for sexual purposes.
- Cyberbullying – is a form of bullying similar to offline bullying but committed using the Internet. Malicious users may post obscene pictures and other personal information in public spaces with the intent of committing harm in a repeated and hostile manner. Malicious users may also use online space to intimidate threaten and abuse others by posting insults on forums and message boards, writing fictitious stories and creating and posting threatening audios and videos. One of the real dangers of cyberbullying is that it can be done anonymously.
- Online Predation – is the act of engaging under aged users and minors for the purpose of committing sexual offenses. This can be done using various communication methods including emails, chat rooms and social networks in general.
To protect yourself and children from personal attacks online, the following actions are advised:
- Minimise communication with strangers. The best rule is to never entertain strangers. If you must, be cautious and take steps to verify those you communicate with. Children are the most vulnerable groups. Children should never communicate with strangers.
- Do not respond to emails, chat room messages, or social network requests to those you do not know.
- Do not share the personal information of others that you have access to with strangers.
- Do not allow under aged children to use the Internet unsupervised.
- Report any suspicious or malicious threats or other activities