Tag Archives: Security

“Are You A Sitting Duck?”

The 7 Most Critical IT Security Protections Every Business Must Have In Place Now To Protect Themselves From Cybercrime, Data Breaches And Hacker Attacks

You, the CEO of a small business, are under attack. Right now, extremely dangerous and well-funded cybercrime rings in China, Russia and the Ukraine are using sophisticated software systems to hack into thousands of small businesses like yours to steal credit cards, client information, and swindle money directly out of your bank account. Some are even being funded by their own government to attack American businesses.

Don’t think you’re in danger because you’re “small” and not a big target like a J.P. Morgan or Home Depot? Think again. 82,000 NEW malware threats are being released every single day and HALF of the cyber-attacks occurring are aimed at small businesses; you just don’t hear about it because it’s kept quiet for fear of attracting bad PR, lawsuits, data-breach fines and out of sheer embarrassment.

In fact, the National Cyber Security Alliance reports that one in five small businesses have been victims of cybercrime in the last year – and that number is growing rapidly as more businesses utilize cloud computing and mobile devices, and store more information online. You can’t turn on the TV or read a newspaper without learning about the latest online data breach, and government fines and regulatory agencies are growing in number and severity. Because of all of this, it’s critical that you have these 7 security measures in place.

1. The #1 Security Threat To ANY Business Is… You! Like it or not, almost all security breaches in business are due to an employee clicking, downloading or opening a file that’s infected, either on a web site or in an e-mail; once a hacker gain’s entry, they use that person’s e-mail and/or access to infect all the other PCs on the network. Phishing e-mails (e-mails cleverly designed to look like legitimate messages from a web site or vendor you trust) is still a very common occurrence – and spam filtering and anti-virus cannot protect your network if an employee is clicking on and downloading the virus. That’s why it’s CRITICAL that you educate all of your employees on how to spot an infected e-mail or online scam. Cybercriminals are EXTREMELY clever and can dupe even sophisticated computer users. All it takes is one slip-up; so constantly reminding and educating your employees is critical.

On that same theme, the next precaution is implementing an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). An AUP outlines how employees are permitted to use company-owned PCs, devices, software, Internet access and e-mail. We strongly recommend putting a policy in place that limits the web sites employees can access with work devices and Internet connectivity. Further, you have to enforce your policy with content-filtering software and firewalls. We can easily set up permissions and rules that will regulate what web sites your employees access and what they do online during company hours and with company-owned devices, giving certain users more “freedom” than others.

Having this type of policy is particularly important if your employees are using their own personal devices and home computers to access company e-mail and data. With so many applications in the cloud, an employee can access a critical app from any device with a browser, which exposes you considerably.

If an employee is logging into critical company cloud apps through an infected or unprotected, unmonitored device, it can be a gateway for a hacker to enter YOUR network – which is why we don’t recommend you allow employees to work remote or from home via their own personal devices.

Second, if that employee leaves, are you allowed to erase company data from their phone or personal laptop? If their phone is lost or stolen, are you permitted to remotely wipe the device – which would delete all of that employee’s photos, videos, texts, etc. – to ensure YOUR clients’ information isn’t compromised?

Further, if the data in your organization is highly sensitive, such as patient records, credit card information, financial information and the like, you may not be legally permitted to allow employees to access it on devices that are not secured; but that doesn’t mean an employee might not innocently “take work home.” If it’s a company-owned device, you need to detail what an employee can and cannot do with that device, including “rooting” or “jailbreaking” the device to circumvent security mechanisms you put in place.

2. Require STRONG passwords and passcodes to lock mobile devices. Passwords should be at least 8 characters and contain lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols and at least one number. On a cell phone, requiring a passcode to be entered will go a long way toward preventing a stolen device from being compromised. Again, this can be ENFORCED by your network administrator so employees don’t get lazy and choose easy-to-guess passwords, putting your organization at risk.

3. Keep your network and all devices patched and up-to-date. New vulnerabilities are frequently found in common software programs you are using, such as Adobe, Flash or QuickTime; therefore it’s critical you patch and update your systems and applications when one becomes available. If you’re under a managed IT plan, this can all be automated for you so you don’t have to worry about missing an important update.

4. Have An Excellent Backup. This can foil the most aggressive (and new) ransomware attacks, where a hacker locks up your files and holds them ransom until you pay a fee. If your files are backed up, you don’t have to pay a crook to get them back. A good backup will also protect you against an employee accidentally (or intentionally!) deleting or overwriting files, natural disasters, fire, water damage, hardware failures and a host of other data-erasing disasters. Again, your backups should be AUTOMATED and monitored; the worst time to test your backup is when you desperately need it to work!

5. Don’t allow employees to access company data with personal devices that aren’t monitored and secured by YOUR IT department. The use of personal and mobile devices in the workplace is exploding. Thanks to the convenience of cloud computing, you and your employees can gain access to pretty much any type of company data remotely; all it takes is a known username and password. Employees are now even asking if they can bring their own personal devices to work (BYOD) and use their smartphone for just about everything.

But this trend has DRASTICALLY increased the complexity of keeping a network – and your company data – secure. In fact, your biggest danger with cloud computing is not that your cloud provider or hosting company will get breached (although that remains a possibility); your biggest threat is that one of your employees accesses a critical cloud application via a personal device that is infected, thereby giving a hacker access to your data and cloud application.

So if you ARE going to let employees use personal devices and home PCs, you need to make sure those devices are properly secured, monitored and maintained by a security professional. Further, do not allow employees to download unauthorized software or files. One of the fastest ways cybercriminals access networks is by duping unsuspecting users to willfully download malicious software by embedding it within downloadable files, games or other “innocent”-looking apps.

But here’s the rub: Most employees won’t want you monitoring and policing their personal devices; nor will they like that you’ll wipe their device of all files if it’s lost or stolen. But that’s exactly what you’ll need to do to protect your company. Our suggestion is that you only allow employees to access work-related files, cloud applications and e-mail via company-owned and monitored devices, and never allow employees to access these items on personal devices or public WiFi.

6. Don’t Scrimp On A Good Firewall. A firewall acts as the frontline defense against hackers blocking everything you haven’t specifically allowed to enter (or leave) your computer network. But all firewalls need monitoring and maintenance, just like all devices on your network or they are completely useless. This too should be done by your IT person or company as part of their regular, routine maintenance.

7. Protect Your Bank Account. Did you know your COMPANY’S bank account doesn’t enjoy the same protections as a personal bank account? For example, if a hacker takes money from your business account, the bank is NOT responsible for getting your money back. (Don’t believe me? Go ask your bank what their policy is on refunding you money stolen from your account!) Many people think FDIC protects you from fraud; it doesn’t. It protects you from bank insolvency, NOT fraud.

So here are 3 things you can do to protect your bank account. First, set up e-mail alerts on your account so you are notified any time money is withdrawn. The FASTER you catch fraudulent activity, the better your chances are of keeping your money. In most cases, fraudulent activity caught the DAY it happens can be stopped. If you discover even 24 hours after it’s happened, you may be out of luck. That’s why it’s critical that you monitor your account daily and contact the bank IMMEDIATELY if you see any suspicious activity.

Second, if you do online banking, dedicate ONE computer to that activity and never access social media sites, free e-mail accounts (like Hotmail) and other online games, news sites, etc. with that PC. Remove all bloatware (free programs like QuickTime, Adobe, etc.) and make sure that machine is monitored and maintained behind a strong firewall with up-to-date anti-virus software. And finally, contact your bank about removing the ability for wire transfers out of your account and shut down any debit cards associated with that account. All of these things will greatly improve the security of your accounts.

I hope you will find this post informative and useful. I am looking forward to hearing your comments. That’s all I have for today, until next time make it a great day!
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The Single Most Dangerous Assumption Businesses Make About Bank Security That Can Cause Them To Lose ALL Their Money

The Single Most Dangerous Assumption Businesses Make About Bank Security That Can Cause Them To Lose ALL Their Money

Here’s a shocker to most business owners: You’re bank often can NOT reclaim money stolen from your bank account due to fraud or cyber-crime. That means if money gets drafted from your business bank account from a hacker, phishing attack, identity theft or by any other means, you have little to no chance of getting it back.

This often comes as a surprise to businesses who think the FDIC will “save” them from getting their accounts wiped out, and can get the money back once taken. The reality is that the FDIC insurance is to protect you from bank failure, NOT fraud. So if your debit card or account information gets accessed by a hacker and you don’t notice it within the same day, you can pretty much kiss that money goodbye.

Recent studies have shown that 83% of small businesses take no formal measures against cyber threats even though almost half of all attacks are aimed at them.

Here are 5 essential steps you can take right now to protect your business:

1. Enforce A Strict Company Password Policy. This is a simple step, but it is still violated by many companies every day. Make sure that you and your employees change passwords regularly, don’t use the same password for all accounts and require complex passwords.

2. Set Up A Firewall. Small business owners tend to think that because they are “just a small business”, no one would waste time trying to hack into their network. The fact is that hackers will target the weakest link. Without a firewall, that “weak link” is YOUR company.

3. Designate A Banking-Only Computer. Banking fraud is one of the biggest threats to small business. The 2011 Business Banking Study showed that 56% of businesses experienced payment fraud (or an attempt at fraud) and 75% experienced account takeover and fraud online. By using a single computer solely dedicated to online financial transactions (no e-mail, web-surfing, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) it’s much harder for outsiders to gain access to your information.

4. Back Up Your Files Daily. It just amazes me how many businesses never back up their computer network. You can lose data as well as money in a cyber attack. Thanks to many new cloud based technologies, you can even schedule offsite backups to occur automatically. If the data in your business is important to you, make sure that you have more than one copy of it.

5. Educate Employees. You staff is the first line of defense AND your biggest security hole at the same time. Uneducated employees are one of the most common causes of data breaches. Make sure that they are aware of the do’s and don’ts for your company with regards to data security. 

I hope you will find this post informative and useful. I am looking forward to hearing your comments. That’s all I have for today, until next time make it a great day!

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9 Steps To Take Now To Be Certain Your Finances Are Protected Online

9 Steps To Take Now To Be Certain Your Finances Are Protected Online

Seems like we’ve been inundated over the past 6 months with rampant cybertheft. Target, Nieman Marcus, Yahoo and even mysterious $9.84 credit-card charges. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, this is most likely the norm going forward and not just a blip on the radar.

So, how can you stay protected online? While there is no way to absolutely, positively, 100% stay safe online, by taking these 9 steps, you will be as safe as possible.at night knowing you have a way to continue to operate when disaster strikes.

1. Only Shop On Secure Websites. Before you type your credit card into a website, ensure it is secure. Look for “https://” in the address bar of your web browser when you are checking out.

2. Avoid Financial Transactions Over Public Wifi. You can’t guarantee that free or shared WiFi access is secure. Ok to connect for browsing the web, but avoid financial transactions on these connections.

3. Use A Secure Network For Financial Transactions. Protect your computer with a firewall, antivirus and anti-spyware software.

4. Setup Banking Alerts For Unusual Or Large Transactions. Ask your bank to notify you of any suspicious or large transactions.

5. Use Credit Cards Instead Of Debit Cards. Most credit cards offer better fraud protection, plus if money is stolen from a debit card, then it has already left your bank account.

6. Pick Complex Passwords. Use phrase acronyms and keyboard combinations. Never use repeat passwords or words in the dictionary for your financial accounts.

7. Never Directly Answer Or Respond To An Email From Your Bank. Criminals have become very adept at appearing that they are a financial institution when they are not. Never rely on links in emails to access your financial accounts.

8. Install Available Security Updates On Your Computer, SmartPhone and Tablets. Many cybercrimes target known security holes on your computing devices. Stay up to date to stay secure.

9. Check Your Bank Balances And Statements Regularly. Good ol’-fashioned visual checks on your balances and a scan of your transactions are the best practice to be sure that nothing has slipped through the cracks.

I hope you will find this post informative and useful. I am looking forward to hearing your comments. That’s all I have for today, until next time make it a great day!
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How Long Would It Really Take To Crack Your “Strong” Password?

How Long Would It Really Take To Crack Your “Strong” Password?

How many @’s, %’s and other crazy symbols are in your password right now? Are they really all that necessary? According to a recent Carnegie Mellon study, the answer is no. The only thing that really influences your password strength is its length! Not whether it has X minimum characters or Y maximum characters. And not whether it has a kazillion combinations of numbers, letters and other doodads that are bound to confuse most of your employees.

Regular Password Changes Decrease Security

In the recent past, regularly scheduled password changes were a common friend of network security. However, with most computer users now requiring upwards of 20-30 passwords between work and home, this whole password security game has gotten a bit out of control. When pressed to change their password regularly, your poor employees start to use “sucky” passwords pretty quickly because they need something that is easy to remember. Or just as bad, they create a good password and then write it on a sticky note to put on their computer monitor so they don’t forget!

How To Choose A Strong Password

You want to choose a password that is hard for anyone to guess. Ideally you would want to use a lengthy string of letters, numbers and odd characters AND still be able to remember it easily. One way to do this is by creating a random phrase and using the first letter of every word, substituting +’s or &’s for the word “and” or numbers like 4 for the word “for” (or any similar tricks that are easy for you to remember). As an example, the phrase “I love my computer guys and they are the best company for me!” would translate to a password of “ilmcg+trtbc4m.” That’s easy to remember and almost impossible to crack. In fact, you can test out your password at http://passfault.appspot.com/password_strength.html to see just how strong it really is. The password we created above would take 1,306,628,104 centuries to crack…. Now that’s a strong password!

Using A Password Management Solution

Even if you have a strong password, you should never use the same password on different websites. Your online banking password should be different than Facebook, which should be different than Gmail, which should be different than your network password at work. A quick and easy way to remember all of these unique strong passwords is to use a “Password Management Solution.” A few of the most popular tools you can test out are KeePass, RoboForm and AnyPassword. These tools allow you to securely keep track of all of your passwords while remembering only one.

I hope you will find this post informative and useful. I am looking forward to hearing your comments. That’s all I have for today, until next time make it a great day!
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What You Need To Know About The New Security Breach Notification Laws

What You Need To Know About The New Security Breach Notification Laws

It’s Monday morning and one of your employees notifies you that they lost their laptop at a Starbucks over the weekend, apologizing profusely. Aside from the cost and inconvenience of buying a new laptop, could you be on the hook for bigger costs, and should you notify all your clients? Maybe, depending on where you live and what type of data you had stored on that laptop.

An Emerging Trend In Business Law

Since companies are storing more and more data on their employees and clients, most states are starting to aggressively enforce data breach and security laws that set out the responsibilities for businesses capturing and storing personal data. What do most states consider confidential or sensitive data? Definitely medical and financial records such as credit card numbers, credit scores and bank account numbers, but also addresses and phone numbers, social security numbers, birthdays and in some cases purchase history—information that almost every single company normally keeps on their clients.

“We Did Our Best” Is No Longer An Acceptable Answer

With millions of cyber criminals working daily to hack systems, and with employees accessing more and more confidential client data, there is no known way to absolutely, positively guarantee you won’t have a data breach. However, your efforts to put in place good, solid best practices in security will go a long way to help you avoid hefty fines. Here are some basic things to look at to avoid being labeled irresponsible:

-Managing access. Who can access the confidential information you store in your business? Is this information easily accessible by everyone in your company? What is your policy about taking data out of the office on mobile devices?

-IT security and passwords. The more sensitive the data, the higher the level of security you need to keep on it. Are your passwords easy to crack? Is the data encrypted? Secured behind a strong firewall? If not, why?

-Training. One of the biggest causes for data breaches is the human element: employees who accidentally download viruses and malware that allow hackers easy access. Do you have a data security policy? A password policy? Do you have training to help employees understand how to use e-mail and the Internet responsibly?

-Physical security. It’s becoming more common for thieves to break into offices and steal servers, laptops and other digital devices. Additionally, paper contracts and other physical documents containing sensitive information should be locked up or scanned and encrypted.

The bottom line is this: Data security is something that EVERY business is now responsible for, and not addressing this important issue has consequences that go beyond the legal aspect; it can seriously harm your reputation with clients. So be smart about this. Talk to your attorney about your legal responsibility.

I hope you will find this post informative and useful. I am looking forward to hearing your comments. That’s all I have for today, until next time make it a great day!

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Top 4 Threats Attacking Your Network And What To Do About Them

Top 4 Threats Attacking Your Network
And What To Do About Them

#1 Overconfidence

User overconfidence in security products is the top threat to your network. Failure to “practice safe software” results in nuisance attacks like porn storms (unstoppable rapid fire pornographic pop-ups) and more subtle key loggers that steal passwords. Surveys promising free stuff, result in theft of information like your mother’s maiden name, high school, etc. used to answer common security questions leading to theft of otherwise secure data. Think before you click!

#2 Social Networking Sites

Social networking sites like Facebook are exploding in popularity. Threats range from malware (eg. viruses, worms, spyware) to scammers trying to steal your identity, information and money. Many businesses and government agencies are using these sites to communicate with clients and constituents, so simply blocking access is no longer reasonable. Defending your company while allowing employee access requires social network education for your employees and the enforcement of strong acceptable use policies. We can help you develop a policy, then monitor compliance using a Unified Threat Management device that controls and reports on network access.

#3 Attacks On Mobile Devices

Everyone is going mobile these days not just the “road warriors.” Once limited to laptop computers, mobile network devices now include PDAs, handheld computers and smart phones, with new appliances appearing in the stores every month. Mobile devices often contain sensitive data yet they are easily lost or stolen. Be sure to password protect and encrypt data on all mobile devices whenever possible. Include mobile devices in your acceptable use policy.

#4 Cloud Computing

“The Cloud,” in its most simple form, involves using the Internet to access and store your data. When you access email using a web browser, you are working in “the cloud.” Using the cloud for automated off site backup is rapidly gaining popularity and is just the beginning. Companies like Microsoft, IBM and Google envision the day when we will use inexpensive terminals instead of computers to run programs and access data located somewhere on the Internet. You need to be sure that any data you store and access across the Internet is secure not just where it is stored, but during the trip to and from the Internet.

I hope you will find this post informative and useful. I am looking forward to hearing your comments. That’s all I have for today, until next time make it a great day!

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5 Steps to Protect Your Business from Cyber Crime

5 Steps to Protect Your Business from Cyber Crime

A Seattle company was recently broken into and a stash of old laptops was stolen. Just a typical everyday crime by typical everyday thieves. These laptops weren’t even being used by anyone in the company. The crime turned out to be anything but ordinary when those same thieves (cyber-criminals) used data from the laptops to obtain information and siphon money out of the company via fraudulent payroll transactions. On top of stealing money, they also managed to steal employee identities.

Another small company was hacked by another “company” that shared the same high-rise office building with them. Management only became aware of the theft once they started seeing unusual financial transactions in their bank accounts. Even then, they didn’t know if there was internal embezzlement or external cybertheft. It turned out to be cybertheft. The thief in this case drove a Mercedes and wore a Rolex watch…and looked like anyone else walking in and out of their building. Welcome to the age of cybercrime.

You Are Their Favorite Target

One of the biggest issues facing small businesses in the fight against cybercrime is the lack of a cyber-security plan. While 83% lack a formal plan, over 69% lack even an informal one. Half of small business owners believe that cybercrime will never affect them. In fact, small businesses are a cybercriminal’s favorite target! Why? Small businesses are not prepared and they make it easier on criminals.

The result? Cyber-attacks cost SMBs an average of $188,242 each incident and nearly two-thirds of the businesses affected are out of business within 6 months (2011 Symantec/NCSA Study). A separate study by Verizon showed that over 80% of small business cybercrime victims were due to insufficient network security (wireless and password issues ranked highest). With insecure networks and no formal plan to combat them, we make it easy on the criminals.

How They Attack

The #1 money-generating technique these “bad guys” use is to infect your systems with malware so that whenever you (or your employees) visit a website and enter a password (Facebook, bank, payroll, etc.), the malware programs harvest that data and send it off to the bad guys to do their evil stuff.
They can get to you through physical office break-ins, “wardriving” (compromising defenseless wireless networks) or e-mail phishing scams and harmful web sites. Cyber-criminals are relentless in their efforts, and no one is immune to their tricks.

5 Steps to Protect Your Business

-Get Educated. Find out the risks and educate your staff.

-Do a Threat Assessment. Examine your firewall, anti-virus protection and anything connected to your network. What data is sensitive or subject to data-breach laws?

-Create a Cyber-Security Action Plan. Your plan should include both education and a “fire drill.”

-Monitor Consistently. Security is never a one-time activity. Monitoring 24/7 is critical.

-Re-Assess Regularly. New threats emerge all the time and are always changing. You can only win by staying ahead!

I hope you will find this post informative and useful. I am looking forward to hearing your comments. That’s all I have for today, until next time make it a great day!
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Why Your Laptop Needs An “Instant Kill” Switch

Why Your Laptop Needs An “Instant Kill” Switch

It’s lunch time and you stop by your favorite café to check e-mail and grab a bite to eat. You settle in at a table when your pickup number is called. Returning to your table, you find your laptop and appetite—has disappeared!
Okay, maybe you’re not foolish enough to leave your laptop unattended in a public place, but one of your employees might think it’s okay to leave a laptop or PDA in their car, a hotel room, or in their gym bag and end up exposing your company’s data and network to thieves.
If it hasn’t happened to you or someone you know, according to the FBI, it will. Maybe you have a backup of the data, but now detailed information about you, your family, your business and your clients is in the hands of a criminal intent on stealing your money, identity or worse. There is a lot of software and hardware that protects your data from being stolen by online criminals, but how do you protect your data when someone steals your physical laptop or PDA?
Until now, your only recourse was to change the passwords to your network, financial websites, etc., watch your credit report and cross your fingers hoping for the best. But thanks to new security software, you can instantly erase all of the data on your laptop or PDA preventing thieves from accessing the data.
Here’s how it works: Special security software is installed on your laptop that checks for your “kill” command whenever it connects to the Internet. This happens even before Windows prompts for the user name and password. If it receives the “kill” message, the data on your computer is instantly destroyed. You may not get your laptop back, but you’ll prevent the thief from stealing the information it contains.
If you’re a business, check out Absolute Software’s Computrace and Novell’s ZENworks. Both should be installed and configured by your system administrator or a computer consultant. If you want to protect your home computer or personal laptop, use zTrace’s zControl. Although designed for the general public, it can be confusing to install and configure so seek the help of a professional.
In the PDA world, there’s remoteProtect from sCPsOFT for Windows CE, Windows Mobile and Pocket PC devices or Bluefish’s Central for the Palm Treo. If your PDA is stolen, you simply text a message to it that includes your password and the PDA is reset it to its blank factory default condition. What could be easier?
As with all theft and hacker deterrents, thieves can circumvent this software by downloading your data before connecting the device to the Internet. Surprisingly, the typical thief isn’t smart enough to know this. So, for absolute security, data encryption remains the most reliable form of protection. Encrypted data is unreadable to thieves unless they have your encryption key. There are pros and cons to both approaches, but it’s important for you to have SOME protection. For help in determining the best solution for you, give us a call: 985-871-0333.
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“3 Lessons From Hurricane Isaac”

“3 Lessons From Hurricane Isaac”

As we are just getting over the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, I wanted to share 3 of the lessons that we confirmed as we helped our clients get back up and running. Hurricane Isaac confirmed 3 of Ener Systems’ best practices.

1. Having a backup internet connection does make a difference. Having both Charter and AT&T internet connections, kept us from being totally out of commission during Isaac’s aftermath. Our clients with redundant internet connections had the same experience.

2. Having a generator even if you plan to evacuate can help your business get back up and running sooner. Some of our clients evacuated, to come back and find their offices were still without power. Generators help them continue to run their business and help their clients sooner.

3. Having RADAR kept our clients receiving email, even when their email servers were offline due to a power or internet outage. As long as they had an internet connection where they were staying, they were able to send and receive all of their emails. They were never without email communication. This helped with client communication as well as employee communications.

We recommend that all clients have a redundant internet connection, if business continuity is important to their business. Ener Systems has a portable generator that is available to our EnerCare Total Control clients. RADAR is part of our best practices and offered to all clients as an email archive and business continuity solution.

I hope you will find this post informative and useful. I am looking forward to hearing your comments. That’s all I have for today, until next time make it a great day!

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“How To Keep Your Kids Safe Online”

How To Keep Your Kids Safe Online

Now that school is out, thousands of children will be surfing the Internet in their free time.

Although the Internet provides a tremendous learning tool for children, left unchecked it can also expose them to inappropriate material and unscrupulous individuals looking to exploit innocent children.

The statistics of online abuse towards children are alarming. According to a new survey conducted by NetAlert, nearly one child in every five using the Internet has been approached online by a stranger, and 47 per cent of children have been exposed to material that is pornographic, sexually explicit, violent, hateful, or that encourages them to participate in dangerous or illegal activities.

According to Highlights of the Youth Internet Safety Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, one in five children received unwanted sexual solicitations online, and there are a growing number of cases of pedophiles using the Internet to gain a child’s confidence and arrange a face-to-face meetings (also known as ‘online grooming’).

These cyber criminals are using everything from spam e-mails to online messaging, children’s chat rooms, and misleading domain names to trap children. If your child is using the Internet, you must take measures to educate and protect them from these dangers. I’ve outlined 3 things you should be doing now to keep your kids safe online:

1. Install web and e-mail filtering software to prevent your children from viewing inappropriate material. A good, inexpensive software is offered on www.bsecure.com. Not only will this keep the trash off your computer screen, but it will also stop inappropriate spam from reaching your children.

2. Talk to your kids about online safety and proper Internet usage. Set limits and guidelines about when they can go online, what they can do, and how long they are allowed to be online. Explain why it is dangerous for them to “chat” with strangers online or download suspicious looking files.

3. Give your children specific online guidelines or rules to follow when using the Internet. It’s not enough to warn them about potential risks; pedophiles know how to cloak their identity and gain a child’s confidence to arrange face-to-face meetings.

Below is list of rules for kids to follow online:
• I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents’ work address or telephone number to anyone online.
• I will not give out the name and location of the school I attend to anyone online.
• I will tell my parents right away if I see a web site, e-mail, or message that makes me feel uncomfortable.
• I will never send my picture to anyone online, or upload my picture to any web site without my parents knowledge and permission.
• I will never agree to meet someone face-to-face that I met online without my parents knowledge and permission.
• I will not respond to any messages that are mean or that make me feel uncomfortable in any way. If I get a message like that, I will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the online service.
• I will never give my parent’s financial information out to anyone, especially their credit card information, bank account information, or social security number.

If you want more information on how to keep your children safe online or to report illegal, violent, or explicit acts towards children, go to www.cybertipline.com. This site is run by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and is a great resource for parents, teachers, and guardians.

I hope you will find this post informative and useful. I am looking forward to hearing your comments. That’s all I have for today, until next time make it a great day!
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