Google Safety Center

googleWhether for work, school or personal use, you may be using Google’s products in one form or another, including an Android device, Gmail, Chrome, Google Docs or other applications. Google is committed to keeping the web safe for everyone and understands that it is a shared responsibility. They have put together a website to help you learn what you can do to protect yourself and your family online.

Topics include securing your password, managing your Google account, checking settings, and more to help you to stay secure and private when online. They also show ways to keep the bad guys out of your stuff.

There is a wealth of information included in the Google Safety Center, so it’s well worth while checking out.

Website Safety and Reputation

If you have children, you may have concerns about the places they visit on the Internet. While it is one thing to keep track of your child in the physical world, it’s much more difficult to know where he/she is going online. Setting up your home computer with limited access to sites may be one way to limit risks.

Another is to educate your child on the risks of the Internet and help the child know which sites he or she will want to stay away from. Know whether a site is risky, not just in terms of content such as scams, but also when it comes to the possibility of contracting malware such as spyware or spam.

If you use Chrome or Firefox, you can install an extension called Webutation that scores websites, based on a safety rating. The plug-in shows the score when you visit sites and it can block fraudulent e-commerce shops or adult sites. For other browsers (IE, Safari, e.g.), there is a bookmarklet. Webutation collects feedback from consumers to determine a site’s score, and collected information is updated regularly.

If you don’t want to install the software, but still want to know the safety reputation of a particular website, visit the Webutation page to look them up. Learn more about Webutation here. This software is not distributed, vetted or supported by Information Systems & Technology.

Other resources for parents and young students regarding online safety:

Cyber Monday & Online Shopping

More people are expected to shop online on Cyber Monday than visit stores on Black Friday, according to American Express. The use of mobile devices for online shopping is projected to increase as well.

Whether you’ll be conducting transactions from your desktop, laptop or mobile device, keep these tips in mind to help protect yourself from identity theft and other malicious activity:

  • Secure your computer and mobile device by making sure they are current with all operating system and application updates. Anti-virus software should be installed and running.
  • Use strong passwords. When logging on to your computer or mobile device and when visiting sites or using applications for shopping, use passwords that are not used for other accounts.
  • Use applications with caution. Malware could be downloaded onto seemingly legitimate shopping applications, to steal credit card or other sensitive information.
  • Know your online merchants. Limit your shopping to merchants you know and trust. Go to them by typing in the URL rather than through a search bar. If you are unsure about a merchant, check with the Better Business Bureau or Federal Trade Commission.
  • Consider using an online payment system or credit card. Where available, use online payment services, which keep your credit card information stored on a secure server, and let you make purchases online without revealing your card details to retailers (example: PayPal). When you use a card online, use a credit, not debit card, which are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may reduce your liability.
  • Look for “https” before you click to purchase. The “s” stands for secure and indicates the transaction will be encrypted. A padlock in your browser’s status window is another indicator.
  • Secure your browser. Make sure it is up-to-date with latest security patches. Turn off pop-ups and unwanted ads (some browser plug-ins can suppress ads on web pages). You may also set the browser status to “private,” so that your activity on the Web can not be traced, removing any history and cache information from others who may have access to the same device.
  • Do not use public computers or open wireless networks for your online shopping. Criminals may intercept traffic on public wireless to steal sensitive information. Make sure the settings for your computer or device prevent it from automatically connecting to open wireless spots.
  • Home wireless networks should be secure with authentication requirements and a strong password.
  • Be alert for scams. Cyber criminals try to take advantage of people’s generosity during the holiday season and can use fake charity requests to gain access to your information or computer/device. Think before clicking on emails making these requests. Don’t give your financial information to anyone via email, text or phone, especially when it is unsolicited.

More online shopping assistance can be found at:

Ouch! Newsletter on Protecting Your Kids Online

The April edition of Ouch! covers protecting your kids online. The newsletter explains the top three risks to children online today and the steps you can take to defend against them.

You can download the free newsletter here (pdf).

Online Shopping Risks During the Holiday Season

The trickery involved in a different form of phishing came to my attention this weekend. You may have already heard about phishing as it relates to emails. Phishing emails are spam messages that arrive in our mailboxes and pretend to come from a legitimate entity, such as a bank or your school’s email administrator and then attempt to obtain your credentials so that they can access your email account, your bank account or any of your other online accounts. A keen eye and suspicious mind will go far to prevent you from falling for these scams.

What you might not be as familiar with is internet phishing. This is when you visit a website that you might already trust or which has a good reputation and so you have no reason to suspect foul-play. Even so, some scammer has managed to compromise a portion of that site so that when you are submitting your personal information, you are actually submitting it to a cyber criminal.

An example I saw this weekend involved renting a vacation property via a popular website. When submitting an inquiry or deciding to place a reservation, the victim is unaware that he is sending his information to the phisher, rather than to the property owner/manager. The phisher intercepts the client’s credit card information and the victim is unaware that not only did the inquiry or reservation not go through, but his credit card could now be compromised. In this example, the phisher impersonated the owner/manager and perhaps already gained access to his or her email account.

Today is Cyber Monday, kicking off the online shopping season, and cyber criminals are out there busily setting traps for the unwary shopper.

This news article provides some tips to help you have a safe and pleasant online shopping experience this holiday season. In addition, if you experience fraud via a website, be sure to let the owners of the website know so that others don’t fall victim as well.

Generation Gap in Computer Security

A broad adoption of digital media and social networking, combined with increasing amount of sensitive data stored online, is making personal computer security more important than ever. But do different generations understand this problem and protect themselves while online? See the infographic (click the image when it opens in your browser to view the full size) provided by ZoneAlarm to find out who is safer, Gen Y or Baby Boomers.

Cyber Shopping Risks

The Monday after Thanksgiving (today) is known as Cyber Monday, one of the busiest online shopping days of the year.

The National Retail Federation reports that almost half of all Americans plan to shop online this season. Unfortunately, just as shoppers hit the Internet to search for deals, cyber criminals are trolling the Web for their next victim. A significant increase in malicious shopping websites are launched between October and January, according to Webroot, an anti-virus and anti-spyware software company.

Tips for shoppers:

  • Think before you click. Never click on links to unfamiliar websites, especially those provided within emails.
  • Install security software. Protect your PC with up to date anti-virus programs.
  • Know the retailer. If unfamiliar to you, look for more information about the company by contacting the Better Business Bureau.
  • Monitor your credit report. Once a year you can freely check your report to look for suspicious activity on your bank or credit card accounts.
  • Keep your passwords safe. Never reveal them to anyone and do not have a password that contains commonly known information, such as your birth date.
  • Only make purchases from secure websites. Secured site web addresses start with “https:”

For more tips on how to stay safe while shopping online, visit the FTC site: “Fight Back Against Identity Theft.”