Top tips to avoid being a cyber crime victim

7 Feb 2012

Caithriona Hallahan, MD, EMEA Operations Centre, Microsoft Ireland; Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan; Anna-Maria Barry, UPC; and Ireland's Minister for Children, Francis Fitzgerald, attend the launch of Safer Internet Day

Today is Safer Internet Day, with countries around the globe holding events to educate parents, teachers and children about using the web, especially social media, more safely. Microsoft Ireland has issued 10 tips for parents and kids on being more internet savvy.

Now in its ninth year, Safer Internet Day in Europe is organised by Insafe, a European network of awareness centres that promote safe use of the internet and mobile devices to young people.

Because children are now migrating to the internet at an earlier age, be it to carry out school projects and use educational resources, or to social network, the issue of internet security has come to the fore of late, with words like cyber crime, cyber bullying and identity theft terms that parents are increasingly hearing about.

Just today, an online survey carried out by Trend Micro for Safer Internet Day revealed that 44pc of kids have friends on Facebook who they have never met in real life. Another worrying statistic from the study was that half of children, who responded to the survey, use the internet mostly on their own, without supervision. They also admit to not telling the truth about bad online experiences they’ve had.

Sharing information online

In Ireland, Microsoft Ireland employees visited 161 primary schools today and met with 16,800 students to talk to them about online safety.

This afternoon, Dr Kevin Marshall, head of Education at Microsoft Ireland, spoke about how the advent of social media has created a world of sophisticated web users but that children and young people continue to need guidance on what and how personal information can be safely shared online.  

As a result, Microsoft has created some tips and guidelines for kids and parents alike to think about and potentially put into practice when using the web

10 hints and tips to stay safe, secure and private when online

1. Defend your computer
Install legitimate antivirus and antispyware software. Never turn off your firewall. Protect your wireless router with a password. Think before you open email attachments or links.

2. Protect sensitive personal information
Before you enter sensitive data, look for signs that a webpage is secure.

3. Use social networks more safely
Check out the settings on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to manage your security settings. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to see on a billboard, says Microsoft, which has additional advice on social networking.

4. Take charge of your online reputation
Discover what is on the internet about you and periodically re-evaluate what you find – Google yourself, for instance! Consider using separate email addresses for personal and professional matters and use the professional address for sites such as LinkedIn.

5. Create strong passwords
Make your passwords stronger by creating long phrases or sentences that mix capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Use different passwords and keep them confidential.

6. Protect your data on the move
When using the internet on public computers, remember that web browsers can keep a record of your passwords and every page you visit. Remember to erase your tracks on web browsers.

7. Take extra steps to keep kids safer online
Make online safety a family effort, a mix of guidance and monitoring.

8. Help stop cyber bullying
While blocking individuals is one form of defence, parents should also consider discussing incidents of bullying with their child’s school. Microsoft says cyber bullying can also be reported to its abuse reporting service.

9. Use location settings carefully
Consider whether or not to allow geo-tagging or to apply location settings selectively so only friends can see. If you have children, Microsoft’s advice is to disable the location setting completely.

10. Email scams
Learn more about identifying and protecting yourself from phishing scams. Test your spam-spotting skills on

Parents could also consider restricting access to online content, based on a child’s age. Xbox Parental Controls for instance, help parents restrict their child’s ability to play inappropriate content, such as that from games or DVDs not suitable for kids.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic