Friday, January 16, 2009

How to protect your children online 

Step one is to know what the dangers are, and sensational TV shows turn out to be a bad guide.

A large government-industry-academic team has released a report on dangers to minors online and especially at social networking sites.

You can figure out just about all their conclusions in advance by just thinking about the fact that social networking sites have people on them who do people-type things.

With that thought in mind, you won't be surprised by
Bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors face, both online and offline.
or by
Social network sites are not the most common space for solicitation and unwanted exposure to problematic content, but are frequently used in peer-to-peer harassment, most likely
because they are broadly adopted by minors and are used primarily to reinforce pre-existing social relations.
or by
Minors are not equally at risk online. Those who are most at risk often engage in risky behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives. The psychosocial makeup of
and family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies.

One member of the task force maintains a database of sex offenders, and even he said "This shows that social networks are not these horribly bad neighborhoods on the Internet ...Social networks are very much like real-world communities that are comprised mostly of good people who are there for the right reasons.".

So teach your children to take the same precautions they would in the offline world.

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Things to know about the "Conficker" or "Downadup" worm 

The extensive publicity about this piece of malware, which has infected millions of Windows PCs, usually leaves out some things you'd want to know.

For example, you might wonder how to tell if you've been infected. Symptoms include being locked out of accounts, being unable to connect to the websites of security companies, and some more technical symptoms.

Or you might wonder what to do if you are already infected. That's a problem because the worm tries to defend itself against antivirus software. The latest edition of Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool is said to be able to delete the worm.

As for protecting yourself, you're safe if you've been taking normal precautions. It won't go through a firewall, and it can only spread to computers that aren't up to date on Microsoft's security fixes.

In fact, if you'll pardon me a little flame, the fact is that Microsoft released a fix that protects against this worm back in October. They even made it one of their emergency unscheduled patches. When they do that they really mean it. Some companies do need to delay installing patches while they test them for compatibility, but come on, three months? And for home users I recommend turning on automatic updates.

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