Staying Safe in the Digital World

We all remember out parents telling us to watch out for strangers. We all knew the rules: don’t accept rides from strangers, don’t accept candy, food or gifts from strangers, and if anyone does try something, tell on them; immediately. And as we got older, we applied these three basic rules to our “adult” lives. We still didn’t accept rides from strangers, instead of candy or food we now make sure not to accept drinks from strangers (unless it came with the lid on or you saw the bartender pour it), and if someone won’t back off we tell someone of authority, like the cops, the bar manager or our employer.

But then came the internet. And while it’s always been around, you have to admit it’s taken on a whole new form in the last few years. So much so, in fact, that it seems like people have forgotten how to apply those three “rules”. So let’s examine how they would still work in the online world.

1.) Don’t accept rides from strangers. In the digital world, a “ride” is typically going to mean something like a friend request. It’s someone that you don’t know asking to have access to your personal information. If you were at a bar and a complete stranger come over and asked you to tell them your children’s names and what your plans were this weekend, you’d probably be a little creeped out. Just because you both like that particular bar doesn’t mean you know them enough to give them personal information. But online, if a member of a common interest (say, a Harry Potter fanclub or something), friends you, you’re much more likely to accept their request.

This is breaking the rule. Unless you know exactly who this person is (meaning you have met them in real life), they should have no access to any of your personal information.

2.) Don’t accept candy from strangers. “Candy” in the online world can be used to describe emails or services, like someone offering to clean your house. If you don’t know them, or haven’t been actively seeking their services, don’t accept it. Don’t open any emails from an unfamiliar source, and don’t accept any “free trial offers.” The scams of old are still out there, they’ve just been updated to work in the digital age. The consequences could range from a virus ending up on your computer, to identity theft, so even physical consequences, like someone showing up at your house unwelcomed.

Of course we all are a little naive. If I get an email from a long lost friend that says something like “Great news!” in the subject line, of course I’m going to open it. In that case, it’s important to have the right computer software to be able to protect yourself should your curiosity get the best of you.

3.) If anyone tries anything suspicious, tell on them. If you’ve got someone you don’t know constantly emailing you, tell someone about it; whether it’s your school that hosts the email, your employer who assigned you the email address, or even law enforcement. Since many cases of internet fraud, harassment and identity theft go unnoticed until a great number of people have been affected, it’s important that you let someone know right away when something doesn’t quite feel right.

www.secureoncampus.com

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