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National Cyber Security Awareness Month Is Coming Up--Here Are Some Tips

National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) is the full month of October.  So before you carve those pumpkins, it is time to think about what Internet safety means to you, your family, and your co-workers. It may vary depending upon your age, how you use the internet at home and work, and the type of hobbies or job that you do that involves the digital world. I recently co-authored a book to help businesses and consumers have fun AND be safer online called "Protecting Your Internet Identity:  Are You Naked Online?"  The answer is, "yes", we are all naked online but we can take steps, most easy and free, to regain our privacy and protect ourselves from cybercrime and cybercreeps. If you think talking about internet safety is so "2011", here are some sobering statistics that illustrate why it needs to be part of your daily thinking.

After busting a kiddie porn ring and rescuing 18 victims, ICE Director John Morton once said "Many of the child exploitation cases under Operation Orion began with a child or teen chatting with someone he or she met online."

According to the Federal Trade Commission, 10 million people will be a victim of identity theft every year. Another survey estimates that 1 in 10 of children will be a victim of identity theft before their 18th birthday. Add to that, the frustration of law enforcement and victims that cybercriminals get arrested roughly 1 out of every 700 cases.

Some of the web's most targeted victims? The elderly who can be tricked easily into trusting strangers. Children who are meeting and talking to people online are susceptible to fraud, cyberbullying, and worse.

Viruses are floating around trying to invade your life through your digital devices. The Department of Homeland security recently reported that they are seeing a new type of attack roughly every 90 seconds. Security firm Kaspersky has reported that they see 70,000 viruses a day via their security software. Picture most professional football stadiums filled with fans and that's the number of viruses floating around.

In a recent study by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), less than half of the people polled said they feel safe from cyberthreats and cybercrime.

For many of you, you might be concerned that too many companies now know your every move and that privacy is gone. Facebook already told you that your thoughts, dreams, posts, and pictures on Facebook belong to them - did you miss that in the new privacy policy?  Hyper-speed search engines can connect dots in your life that you wish your brain cells actually did. When you forget a name when you see someone, it would be great to have this amazing recall power wouldn't it?

Agent Lowry in the movie Paranoid said it poignantly, "If the intelligence community is a family, think of us as the uncle no one talks about." The entire retail and Internet industry are now part of a self-created, quasi-intelligence community. Too bad we now have a room full of uncles nobody wants to talk about. You can thank every place you shop, visit, and all the online social networks for this newfound openness in your life. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said it well when he said, "By giving people the power to share, we're making the world more transparent." Remember that and smile and wave up to the heavens from your porch to your guardian angel and the spy planes overhead.

So now that you have bared all to the world knowingly or unknowingly, what can you do in the month of October to improve internet safety?

Number one, talk about it! Talk about it with your kids, your neighbors, your co workers, and employees. The best weapon against most cyber attacks is being aware.

I hear from businesses and consumers every day that they are not sure what to focus on when it comes to Internet safety. The best way to describe internet safety is to take on the role of neighborhood crime watch. In the physical world when we talk about safety; that term can cover anything from how to cross the street, to avoiding dilapidated bridges, to worrying about child predators, home invasions, muggings, and other issues of safety. In the digital world, the worries are not much different. We need to share, engage, and inform each other on how the bad intentions of others take advantage of a weak point that puts you and your loved ones in danger.

5 Quick Tips on Internet Safety:

1. Grandmom Rule: If you would be embarrassed for your Grandmom to hear what you say or see that picture, don't post it online.

2. Bad Guy Rule: If a bad guy were stalking you, would you want him to know that piece of data? If not, don't post it online.

3. Trust But Verify: Assume most emails and posts on social sites like Facebook or Twitter that sound like a sweet deal are scams. Also, try your best to avoid clicking on links or opening attachments, especially in emails. For links, try installing the Web of Trust widget available for Firefox and Google Chrome. McAfee has a free tool called the Site Advisor. Phishtank will let you test a link and report suspicious ones. Or, go directly to the company itself by typing in the domain name.

4. Interjections: As the School House Rock song says, "Interjections show excitement or emotion..." If you think you want to use an interjection online, especially the four-letter kind, think twice because digital is forever. What feels great to post in the moment may be something you wish you could take back years later.

5. Updated Settings: Keep those browsers, operating systems, virus protection, software products and privacy settings up to date. Check them at least weekly.

Some web resources you may find helpful are:

The Fortalice team tracks internet privacy and safety issues:

Facebook | Twitter | Blog

National Cyber Security Alliance info

NCSA's Facebook page /a>

Let's keep the conversation going.  Tell me your ideas for making National Safety month part of your daily routines.  What works well?  What is positively awful?  Tell me your opinions on Twitter via @FortaliceLLC or right here at the Blaze.

Theresa Payton is the co-author of the new book, "Protecting Your Internet Identity: Are You Naked Online?"

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