Thursday, October 22, 2009

October: Cybersecurity Awareness Month

by Robin Sax

Did you know October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month? Although it's intended to teach Internet users about reporting and avoiding crime, I'd never heard about until recently -- and I live in the world of Internet crime and safety! This is actually the sixth year the
Department of Homeland Security has marked Cybersecurity Awareness. They put on events and have lots of information on how to stay safe on the Internet. See for more details. The information on their site is important to review (for those of us who use the Internet – just a few billion of us), and not many of those billion people know where to get the resources or knowledge to implement Internet safety.

For example, do you know where to file a complaint about a crime that involved the Internet? If you answered law enforcement or the
FBI, you get partial credit. The actual answer is much more complicated, an entire protocol for where and how to report crimes related to the ever-growing World Wide Web.

To determine some of the federal investigative law enforcement agencies that may be appropriate for reporting certain kinds of Internet crime, please refer to the following table:

As you can see, the
Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) noted quite a lot on this chart. So what is the IC3? I bet you didn’t even know that it existed. In their own words, The Internet Crime Complaint Center “is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). IC3’s mission is to serve as a vehicle to receive, develop, and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cybercrime. The IC3 gives the victims of cybercrime a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations. For law enforcement and regulatory agencies at the federal, state, and local level, IC3 provides a central referral mechanism for complaints involving Internet related crimes.”

IC3 seems to give an appearance of some sort of coordinated effort between agencies - at least in the reporting of Internet crime. That is a good thing. But what about before the crime occurs – is there a coordinated effort to prevent the crime. In other words, if someone is reporting a crime it means that most likely someone was already victimized. Is after the fact reporting enough? OR do we need to figure out how to police the Web prior to victimization?

The Internet is the largest city in the world. It literally has portals and accessibility to everyone—adults, children, young, old, thieves, pervs, predators, and hundreds of millions of others. While there may be individual rules and regulations for specific sites, or in specific countries, there is very little “law of the land” -- other than the concept of what is illegal in real life is illegal online as well.

There are many Internet crimes that are readily known due to effective media, astute educators - who take the time to bring information to their school communities, successful public relations campaigns, or from the unfortunate victimization of people we hear about or even our own family and friends.

Most people have heard of -or use- social networking sites such as
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and My Space and also know some online lingo (such as LOL, TTYS, etc.). Many people have heard of concepts such as texting, tweeting, sexting, and cyber-bullying. But there are literally of hundreds of aspects of the Internet that we don’t know about…and we may never know about. There is an underground to the Internet, and it can be very scary.

So what do we do? Bury our heads? Pretend it is not happening? Just complain about it? How about we learn about what we don’t know. Staying current with technology is a must our world today. Figuring out what things are worthy of fear and what things are not can save us from a lot of anxiety. It is critical that we keep our knowledge current about Internet “threats” and can be prepared to face them.

And even though I am going to give you some simple steps you take today to be safer on the Internet, the best way to even know what we are worried about is to peruse, search, and click through the Internet. You can't fear something that you don't know about. Don't simply trust the hype, check it out for yourself. For example, many parents fear "Facebook" but I happen to think that
Facebook is among the safer social networking sites out there. They actually have a protocol for dealing with hate crimes, pervs, and bullies. They have security and privacy measures and work diligently to address the issues as the site grows. Is every social networking site that way? No way!! And our social networking sites the only place where trouble lurks? No way. There are websites, ad-sites, instant messaging services, and many more avenues where trouble can surface.

So what's the answer? Know what you don't know. I know it seems daunting and time consuming and it can be. But don't let it!!! Chip away with a places, click through, check it out, and if you need help ASK!!! Want to know what your kids are doing online and can't bear checking yourself? There are sources and resources for help. But if nothing else, keep these tips in mind:

For Your Computer

• Make sure that you have anti-virus software and firewalls installed, properly configured, and up-to-date. New threats are discovered every day, and keeping your software updated is one of the easier ways to protect yourself from an attack. Set your computer to automatically update for you.
• Update your operating system and critical program software. Software updates offer the latest protection against malicious activities. Turn on automatic updating if that feature is available.
• Back up key files. If you have important files stored on your computer, copy them onto a removable disc and store it in a safe place.

For Yourself (Habits To Adopt)

• If you get deceptive spam, including email “phishing” for your information (that means a scam site that is looking for you to input your personal information for the purpose of stealing it), forward it immediately to Be sure to include the full Internet header of the email. Also forward the email to the company, bank, or organization that is impersonated in the phishing email.
• Use strong passwords or strong authentication technology to help protect your personal information.
• If your computer gets hacked or infected by a virus immediately unplug the phone or cable line from your machine. Then scan your entire computer with fully updated anti-virus software, and update your firewall.
• If a scammer takes advantage of you through an Internet auction, when you're shopping online, or in any other way, report it to the Federal Trade Commission, at

For Your Friends, Family, Colleagues

• Use regular communications in your business (newsletters, e-mail alerts, etc.) and in your home (conversations with your partner and children) to increase awareness on Internet safety issues.
• Set up household and workplace rules on issues such as updating software processes, protecting personal information, securing your wireless network, software downloads, spyware, email attachments.
• Make your preferences clear to your friends regarding email “Forwards” and suspicious attachments.

For more tips, visit:

Bottom line: educate yourself, be smart, be safe online! Treat the online community like a city street – walk where there are lights, don’t travel in a back ally, keep your senses alert, don’t trust strangers, etc. A small amount of preparation will go a long way in protecting yourself and your family!

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