Please read the information below about internet safety.
Keeping your children safe when they are online is not an easy task. As the children get older, their computer ‘aptitude’ will quickly match or exceed your own.
Here is some plain and simple advice which can help. Nothing can protect you 100% – but this will give you a great start.
Install a web filter protection system
A web filter watches every single page, image or media file that your computer requests from the internet. If it detects a request from a web site which is known to be of questionable origin, that page is blocked. Simple.
The best product available is K9 Web Filter. This is a free application provided by a larger commercial company. They fund the free application by selling their commercial product to large organisations. The list of unsafe sites is automatically updated every day.
After installation, you simply state how well protected you want your computer to be. Any unsafe site, or image, is blocked automatically. If you need to view a site which K9 blocks, you just enter your parental password.
It’s quick, it’s easy, and most importantly, it does a great job. It works with every version of Windows, and a Mac version is available, too.
Keep the computer in the living room
It sounds a little daft, but keeping the computer in a shared area of the house means you can keep an eye on how it is being used. As your children get older, use your own discretion to decide if the computer can be moved. Be especially wary of allowing younger children to use a laptop. If they have one, make sure the web filter is also installed.
Facebook, Bebo and similar social web sites
Teenagers, especially, really seem to love these web sites. Imagine walking down the high street of a large city, and telling every single stranger you meet all about you. Show them your photos. Give them your contact details. Write it all down, and make sure it is available for ever.
This is social networking. It’s not all bad. If done correctly, it can be useful. For example, as a way of someone travelling the world to keep in touch with their friends back home. Ensure that your personal details are not placed on the site. Keep your email addresses, phone numbers, and home locations private.
Any reputable site will have comprehensive security options. Make sure these are always enabled. Only allow close friends access to your information. But keep an eye on the terms and conditions. These will change over time, and your previous privacy settings may change without you knowing.
Remember that information placed on the internet will live for a long time. When your children want to apply for a job, be confident that recruiters will check social networking sites. It can be very difficult to remove information from some sites. Check the terms & conditions of the site you use. Check who ‘owns’ the content that you add. Some sites claim ownership of whatever content is uploaded. This is true even if your account is closed. Your information could remain shared indefinitely.
Here is opinion from an industry expert:
Facebook’s Gone Rogue; It’s Time for an Open Alternative
Other peoples houses
No matter what you do to provide online protection in your own home, be aware that your children may well use a computer at someone else’s house. It may be worth asking other parents if they have done anything to address these issues.
Many Government web sites exist which suggest ways of keeping children safe. These tend of offer information about potential threats, but not much in the way of solutions.
DirectGov Keeping children safe online
web site – good suggestions, but little actual help.
Stay Safe Online
web site. Details many online threats.
MALWARE & SPYWARE
Malware and Spyware are not computer viruses, but they are similar in many ways.
The key difference is that Malware and Spyware rely on certain social engineering tricks, or on flaws in your computer operating system and browser. They are not typically destructive, but they do attempt to steal information or persuade you to visit other websites.
Even the latest Microsoft operating system, Windows 7, is still open to spyware and malware. Friends and neighbours still come to me with compromised computers, and they cannot understand how they have acquired such ‘infections’.
Avoiding these issues is relatively easy. Here are the recommended solutions:
Install a specific Spyware/Malware blocking application
Spybot is widely recognised as the best product available. And it is completely free. It uses signatures files, in a similar way to a virus scanner, to look for suspicious files or activity.
It also proactively works with your web browser, and prevents any web pages from sending you malicious files.
You can download Spybot here, from the Safer Networking website.
If you have a recent Windows operating system, Vista or Windows 7, then you should also have Windows Defender already installed. This is supposed to block Spyware and Malware – but doesn’t do a great job on its own. It is recommended to use Windows Defender as a second line of defence only. Windows XP users can install Windows Defender from the Microsoft Security website.
Use an up to date Virus Scanner
Many new PCs are sold with a time limited virus scanner. These are generally good while they last, but demand more money to keep you protected.
There are several free virus scanners available. The following two are highly recommended, especially when used in conjunction with Spybot.
Avast is a free product for home use, offering daily virus signature updates, and also blocks certain spyware and malware. It does require you to register with your email address, but this is never sold on to other companies. Click here to visit the Avast website.
AVG is another good virus scanner. It is free for home use, and provides daily updates. The spyware and malware blocking facilities seem less effective than Avast. Click here to visit the AVG website.
With both of these products, you should be careful to choose the free product, because they do their best to encourage you to buy the commercial product.
Malware, Spyware and Virus infection are usually accompanied by a number of symptoms:
- Unusual windows show up on your screen – programs you don’t remember installing, or suggesting you visit unknown websites, or pay a fee to clean your computer
- Your computer runs much slower than normal – check the Task Manager
- Lots of noise is coming from your computer tower – the hard drive is thrashing