Monday, September 7, 2009

Family Cyber Security

Keeping your family safe today takes on another additional front – online or the Net. The perils that you and your family face whenever anyone is online are just as dangerous as in real life. There simply is a need for cyber security to minimize, if not totally deflect, these dangers.

Cyber security is not just to protect you and your children from online dangers. It is also to ensure that your computer is safe and secure – from your children. By following some simple computer practices, these dangers can be lessened.

The usual safeguards may not be adequate. Children, by nature, are curious and inquisitive. They like to pry things, satisfy their natural need to know.

As parents, there is a delicate balance on how long the lease we give out to kids to satisfy their natural need and the necessity to protect themselves from the outside world and from themselves.

A child out into the Net, either playing a game, researching materials for homework or a term paper can be potentially harmed. Common accidents would be your child stumbling into a porn site, getting into malicious web pages that infect your computer, or inadvertently erasing your own computer’s files.

Mistakes like these happen and your child may not be aware of them. Or if they are, they may not inform you what happened for fear of punishment.

Another fearsome threat is the ‘online predator’. Because of the Internet’s natural cover for anonymity, these people deceive and manipulate other online users to get what they want. Adults are common victims of these people, and it follows that children are even more susceptible to their dangerous manipulative schemes.

The following are some suggested safeguards in implementing cyber security in the family.

Be involved with your children’s activities
There are some activities you can do with your kids that will in effect allow you to supervise their activities. If this is not possible, you can always monitor their computer use – which sites they visit, the activities they do online, etc. If they are using emails and chat rooms, try to follow who they are corresponding with, and whether they actually know them.

Rules and danger warnings
The children should be made aware about online dangers. They must be able to recognize suspicious behavior or activities from the Net.

This will help you set out boundaries on their computer use. Everything, of course, should be appropriate for their age, knowledge and level of maturity. It is not correct to scare them, but to make them be alert and aware. This includes sites they are allowed to visit, programs they can use, and activities they can do.

Separate accounts and other controls
Today’s operating systems already carries the option of creating different user accounts on one computer. You can create separate accounts for them to protect your own files and data from accidentally accessed, modified, or – horrors! – deleted.

If you don’t have separate accounts, consider limiting the functionality of your browser (like remembering passwords, other information, etc.) to preclude accidental access.
It is here that it is important to keep your anti-virus utility, firewalls, and other safeguards up to date and active.

Some browsers allow you to restrict viewing certain web sites and protect these settings with a password. (click Tools, select Internet Options, choose the Content tab, click Enable under Content Advisor, etc.)

Some service providers also offer services that protect children who go online. They can help filter and block sites that are not suited to children. The Internet is also full of special programs for children’s protection. Check those that suits your needs best.

Open communications and computers
Set your computer in an open area of the house where everyone can monitor anyone’s computer activities. It can deter children from doing things not allowed.

Most important, communication lines between all members of the family should be kept open. The children must know that they can approach their parents at anytime about anything they see on the computer.

This is very important, not just for cyber security, but also for the family’s well-being as a whole, whether anybody is online or not.

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