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Children/Teens Safety Online | Phishing | Spyware from organized crime | Google Desktop | Time's "Person of the Year"
Keep children and teens safe online

I want to reach out and inform people of dangers to children, grandchildren, or even friends' children that they care about.

I believe many kids under 18 are being too active online. What many don't realize is that the owner of the internet connection (parents, grandparents, friends' parents, etc) are the ones legally responsible for anything that child does while on that connection. If the kids connect to sites you wouldn't - whether or not you condone this activity - and any charges result, you are the one in trouble.

Secondly, and just as important, kids rarely understand the implications of what they think is safe behaviour. Websites like "Facebook", "My space", "Second life", and chatting live while playing games online may seem to be innocent, safe places to share information and have fun with "friends". Instead, invite the friends over for a visit and be sure your kids really do know these people! Ask your kids for the first name, last name, home address and home phone number of all their "friends" on the computer, just as you should with their other friends. If they cannot give you that information, they shouldn't be talking to them online, nor anywhere else.

The risks of predators is high. The risk of exposing your other personal information stored in your computer is high. The risk of harm to the kids or their future endeavours is high. I can't stress enough how little I trust these activities for those under 18. I believe that all online activities for under 18's should be supervised, for both their protection, and that of the computer owner.

Many of these websites have removed "thousands" of profiles belonging to convicted sex offenders, but they are refusing to cooperate with police to identify such users. They are also assuming that these predators use their real names online! There are links below to more information. Few people, especially kids, realize that what goes online, stays online! There are ways of retrieving information long thought deleted from websites.

In addition, whether or not you worry about the legalities of downloading music or videos without paying for it, there are real risks to allowing millions of other people into your computers, bypassing your security, by the use of programs such as Bearshare, Morpheus, Kazaa, Azureus, Limewire and Torrents. I won't allow these programs on any computer I own, as I value my privacy. So should you!

Stay safe, keep the kids in your life safe, and if you have questions about any of this, please contact us. Remember that while we are local in the Ottawa, Ontario area, we provide remote support anywhere!

Good resources include the Canadian mediasmarts.ca and www.safekids.com in the US.
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Warning/reminder re "phishing" emails

Please be cautious about clicking on links that are in messages which appear to be from your Internet Service Provider or bank, saying there is a problem with your account or your email. Many messages sent "from" financial institutions are an attempt to get your login and password. DO NOT click on links in these emails. Instead, type the email address of your bank's website into your browser. These messages are often referred to as "phishing".

A client, an intelligent and aware individual, received an email from PayPal recently, (a service to safely make payments online), saying there was a problem with a payment through her account. Unfortunately, she clicked on the link in the message before contacting us, but got suspicious and got in touch with us within minutes. On checking the link/webpage address in the browser, she discovered it was not a legitimate PayPal address. (That would _start_ with "paypal.com" ... this one was something completely different, with "paypal" appearing later in the address.) We advised her to close that window, go to the real PayPal website and change her password immediately, then contact PayPal through their legitimate website to advise them her account was at risk, as, she'd used her real PayPal login and password to "login" at the fake website, thereby giving away her information.

This type of message "from" ISPs, banks, or other "trusted" institution arrives in our email several times a week. Being cautious is the best way to protect yourself. If you think the message might be real, pick up the phone and verify it with your bank, etc. Very few of these messages are real, and it's better to delete and ignore, and be safe, rather than sorry.
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Microsoft admits organized crime behind spyware (2006)

Microsoft has finally admitted something we've known for two years - that organized crime is behind some of the worst spyware around, trying to obtain computer users' logins and passwords for banking and other financial type account, and/or credit card information. Because the worst vulnerability is through Internet Explorer (IE), this only confirms our belief that IE is not a good or safe program to use to browse the web. Please go to www.mozilla.com to obtain Firefox, a great alternative to IE.

Security researchers warned Web surfers on Thursday to be on guard after uncovering evidence that widespread Web server compromises have turned corporate home pages into points of digital infection. The researchers believe that online organized crime groups are breaking into Web servers and surreptitiously inserting code that takes advantage of two flaws in Internet Explorer that Microsoft has not yet fixed. Those flaws allow the Web server to install a program that takes control of the user's computer. The extent of the attacks is unknown, but the security community has seen numerous cases of personal computers infected when the user merely visits a Web site.

Earlier this month, an independent security researcher found an aggressive advertising program, known as adware, that installed itself onto a victim's computer via the same two flaws in Internet Explorer. A large financial client called in Symantec in late April after an employee's system had been infected when he used Internet Explorer to browse an infected Web site.

The flaws affect every user of Internet Explorer, because Microsoft has not yet released a patch. Moreover, the infectious Web sites are not just those of minor companies, but major companies, including some banks, said Brent Houlahan, chief technology officer of NetSec. "There's a pretty wide variety," he said. "There are auction sites, price comparison sites and financial institutions." The Internet Storm Center, which monitors Net threats, confirmed that the list of infected sites included some large Web properties. "We won't list the sites that are reported to be infected in order to prevent further abuse, but the list is long and includes businesses that we presume would normally be keeping their sites fully patched," the group stated on its Web site. The group also pointed out that the malicious program uploaded to a victim's computer is not currently detected as a virus by most antivirus software. With no patch from Microsoft, that leaves Internet Explorer users vulnerable.
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Consumers Should NOT Use Google Desktop (2006)

Ever since the Google Desktop came out, I've advised my clients and friends NOT to use it, as I didn't trust them not to index my computer and keep the info on their servers. It seems I was right, as they are now offering that as a "feature".

The nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation said a new feature recently added to Google Desktop is a serious privacy and security risk because of the way a user's data is stored on Google's servers. An excerpt from their article is below, which includes the statement "Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the Desktop software can index".

See the full article at: http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2006_02.php#004400

Google Copies Your Hard Drive - Government Smiles in Anticipation
Google today announced a new "feature" of its Google Desktop software that greatly increases the risk to consumer privacy. If a consumer chooses to use it, the new "Search Across Computers" feature will store copies of the user's Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and other text-based documents on Google's own servers, to enable searching from any one of the user's computers. EFF urges consumers not to use this feature, because it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who've obtained a user's Google password. "Coming on the heels of serious consumer concern about government snooping into Google's search logs, it's shocking that Google expects its users to now trust it with the contents of their personal computers," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "If you use the Search Across Computers feature and don't configure Google Desktop very carefully—and most people won't—Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the Desktop software can index. The government could then demand these personal files with only a subpoena rather than the search warrant it would need to seize the same things from your home or business, and in many cases you wouldn't even be notified in time to challenge it. Other litigants—your spouse, your business partners or rivals, whoever—could also try to cut out the middleman (you) and subpoena Google for your files."
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You are Time's "Person of the Year" (2006)

Citizens of the digital democracy have been named Time Magazine's "Person of the Year." Time says the 2006 winner is anyone using or creating content on the World Wide Web. Time cited the shift from institutions to individuals, the citizens of the new digital democracy.
Read more from CFRA
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