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Be an Online Ninja Part 1: Stealth

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

Being a ninja is synonymous with stealth. This lesson is all about online stealth.

In the last year or two, internet privacy has been in the news. Sites from credit report companies to the emails of our presidential candidates have been hit with online attacks. Our local governments and schools are regularly accosted for personal information. What can we do to protect ourselves? The average person is not going to receive the same volume of scrutiny from hackers as, for example, a candidate for senate, but you still want to make sure that you are protecting yourself as much as you can.  Browsing the internet in the most private manner possible is a good start. Now I’m not talking about taking your laptop into the broom closet, I’m specifically referring to the way you surf the net.

Virus protection and firewalls

This may seem like a basic bit of information, but you’d be amazed at how many people need to hear it. ALWAYS use your virus check software. NEVER turn off your firewall. Antivirus software keeps incoming cyber-attacks from disrupting your computers functioning. Without it you could be giving people access to anything from your browser history to your credit card information and even every key stroke you make. It is the active defense system for your computer. The firewall is the passive defense. Just as a real firewall keeps blazes from reaching parts of a building and burning through property, a computer firewall keeps people on the outside from getting into your info and burning through your bank account.

Your Browser’s Privacy Feature

Almost every browser out there, for mobile or desktop devices, has a privacy feature. It may be called something else, but if you look you should be able to find it fairly easily. While this is not the same as going online incognito, it does offer a certain amount of protection. Here are the basics for the most common browsers:

  • Internet Explorer: Here you’re looking for the In Private Browsing feature. It’s under the tools menu in the   drop downs on the menu bar, or you can access it by hitting Control + Shift + p. InPrivate Browsing keeps your computer from storing information like cookies, temporary Internet files, and history.
  • Firefox: In Firefox You can access the private browsing mode by clicking the hamburger button and then choosing the private icon that resembles a carnival mask. You can also use the same hot key combination as internet explorer. The Major difference with the Firefox protection is that it keeps sites from trying to track where you’ve been.
  • Chrome: From the more menu click new incognito window. Chrome refers to their privacy mode as incognito mode. It opens in a separate window so there is no mistake about whether it is on or not. Incognito mode does not save your browser history of cookies, but what you did can still be tracked by your network provider, be that your ISP, work or school.
  • Safari: When you open a new private browsing window from the file menu in the pull down bar of Safari, you are getting a fairly similar private browsing experience to the Chrome user. This hides your history from the people who use your computer but not from the provider of your internet service.

TOR Browsers and VPNs

For true internet privacy you need to be using a Virtual Private network (VPN), the TOR browser, or both. VPNs are a special private network used while on a public network. It allows communication from one source to another in a secure private manner. While private browsing features keep your computer from picking up information about what you do online, the TOR browser keeps everyone else from seeing it. This gives you the freedom to be online without leaving your IP footprints everywhere you go. Even using these in tandem, however, is not foolproof. Always make sure that you give out as little personal information as possible when going online.

The Throw Away Email

One final tool is the throw away email. This is an email you can set up with a company like gmail that allows you to create an email that does not have any of your actual personal information attached to it. With an email like this you can still sign up for those contests and newsletters that may pique your interests but might be a tool for spammers to get your information. The important part is making sure that when you set up the email you are using a service that does not ask for name, address or phone number. There are even services that will set you up with a temporary email, such as guerrilla mail.

The internet can make your everyday life great deal easier, but it can also make it easier for spammers and scammers to make your life miserable as well. Protect yourself according to your needs and never give them more information that you want them to have. Remember, the first weapon of the internet ninja is stealth.


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Internet Safety for Kids

By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department

Let’s talk about the Internet for a minute. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know what I would do without the Internet. We have access to information literally at our fingertips, and it’s absolutely fantastic. I love being able to find answers to the random questions zipping through my head. Of course, I don’t have to list off all the benefits of the Internet, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the dangers of the Internet either.

The Internet can be a scary place for anyone. There are creeps and weirdos galore, and who knows whether or not our information is really private? It’s tough enough for many adults to navigate, so it’s no wonder we receive lots of requests for books about Internet safety for kids. Kids use a variety of online services, from social media to games, and each one hosts its own safety concerns. Below are a few basic tips parents can be sure to implement no matter how their kids use the Internet, as well as a list of resources to use for talking about Internet safety with kids:

  • Keep the computer in a high-traffic area of your home.
  • Establish limits for which online sites kids can visit and for how long.
  • Remember that the Internet is mobile, so make sure to monitor cell phones, gaming devices, and laptops.
  • Surf the Internet with your children and let them show you what they like to do online.
  • Know who is connecting with your children online and set rules for social media, instant messaging, email, online gaming, and using webcams.
  • Continually talk with your children about online safety.

The following websites provide more in depth tips and suggestions for talking about Internet safety with children:

  • http://www.netsmartz.org/Parents
    • A program of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, NetSmartz Workshop provides interactive, age-appropriate resources to help teach children how to be safe online. This website features videos, games, presentations, and other activities for kids ages 5 through 17, as well as guides for parents and educators.
  • http://www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia/
    • PBS Parents is a great resource for information about all aspects of child development and early learning, and the “Children and Media” section is especially helpful for talking to kids about online safety. Featuring numerous articles and age-by-age tips for helping children and teens get the most out of media and technology, this website provides information for parents of children ages 3 through 18.
  • https://www.commonsensemedia.org/privacy-and-internet-safety
    • Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization that provides information and advice to help parents navigate the issues surrounding raising children in the digital age. The website’s extensive FAQ section features questions from real parents that are broken down by age group or topic.

And finally, here’s a list of books we have here at WCPL about Internet safety and security for both kids and parents:

  • “Berenstain Bears’ Computer Trouble” (part of 5 Minute Berenstain Bears Stories) (J E BERENSTAIN)
  • Savvy Cyber Kids (J E HALPERT)
  • What Does It Mean to be Safe? (J E DIORIO)
  • Online Privacy (J 005.8 MAR)
  • Safe Social Networking (J 006.754 LIN)
  • The Smart Girl’s Guide to the Internet: How to Connect with Friends, Find What You Need, and Stay Safe Online (J 006.754083 CIN) American Girl nonfiction
  • A Smart Kid’s Guide to Social Networking Online (J 006.754083 JAK)
  • Information Insecurity: Privacy Under Siege (YA 323.448 JAN)
  • iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up (004.678083 HOF)
  • Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (302.2310835 PAL)
  • It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (302.30285 BOY)
  • How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Roadmap for Parents and Teachers (305.235 SMI)
  • Cyber Self-Defense: Expert Advice to Avoid Online Predators, Identity Theft, and Cyberbullying (613.602854678 MOO)

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