Street smarts for the digital world

Kudos to Officer Anna and her team of volunteers! Our son Naoki really enjoyed Safety Town at the Westlake Police Department this summer.

With technology permeated into every nook-and-cranny of our lives, it needs a digital world-equivalent of Safety Town. Gaining "internet street smarts" is my answer to the question: “How do we minimize our risk of being a victim in the digital world?”

The gray matter between your ears is the single-most powerful tool that you possess. Here are some tips to start building your internet street smarts!

Tip No. 1: Keep up with regular maintenance of your technology. Computers need regular maintenance just like your car needs regular oil changes. Regular maintenance for your computer should, at minimum, include: keeping your operating system patched through Microsoft’s Windows Update or Apple's System Update; keeping application software updated; having an active antivirus software subscription so virus definitions are automatically updated (virus definitions are akin to antidotes for poisons); and scanning for malware weekly.

Tip No. 2: If you utilize wireless networking at home, secure your wireless router. If unsecured, anyone can connect to your network, commit illegal electronic activity and be long gone. The problem is that the trail goes cold at your router and the burden of proof that you didn’t commit the electronic crime may be on you.

Tip No. 3: Avoid clicking on links that are sent to you. If you believe that it is a legitimate link, then open your browser and type in the web address directly. For example, if your friend sends you a link to an article on CNN’s website, go to the actual CNN website and search for that article by title instead.

Tip No. 4: Refrain from giving out personally identifiable information online when given the option. Before the internet, people guarded their personal information; nothing should’ve changed with how you value your information even with the proliferation of the internet and social networks.

Tip No. 5: The adage “there's no such thing as a free lunch” is especially true in the digital world. The currency of the digital world is information; by giving your information in exchange for something "free,” you probably gave away too much.

Tip No. 6: Even though an email message may appear to come from a trusted source, if the subject of the message is uncharacteristic of the sender, it is blank, or you don’t know the sender, do not click on the message. Increasingly, email accounts are compromised and SPAM with malicious content can be sent while impersonating the email address owner.

Tip No. 7: If you are told by friends and email contacts that your account is sending SPAM as described in Tip No. 6, change the password to your email account immediately.

Tak Sato

Business strategist & technology expert with 20+ years of practical experience and senior management positions. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

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Volume 4, Issue 16, Posted 10:27 AM, 08.07.2012