By G. Ian Bowles
Often we forget that some of the Internet’s most powerful benefits are also its biggest dangers. Information is available everywhere, good and bad, and we are all anonymous in an online context. Unfortunately, there are many people who will use that to their advantage by trying to trick us into revealing private information. The Internet is a fully shared experience, and we must think about consequences before we add to what is “out there.” Anything we leave, anything we write or “say,” cannot be taken back.
But we can’t just unplug our mobile devices and disconnect our Internet service. So to help educate Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST) members about Internet Security and Safety, IT and Web Consultant Matthew Kleinosky presented an overview of the topic during January’s BIST community meeting.
Kleinosky’s style was quite effective: most of us use the Internet, and I think all of us left this session with a reminder that although online activities should be fun and productive, our time needs to be protected as well. The presentation was fun and light, but pulled no punches when giving recommendations on being safe.
Kleinosky mentioned a few of the primary risks. One is your “online legacy”: people will be able to see, 10 years from now, simple comments you make on websites today. Future employers and co-workers and friends will see those comments as though they were just made, and you won’t be able to explain the context. There are many more malicious dangers as well: identity theft, cyber-bullying, predators and scams. Bullying is an important topic because it can easily affect how you perceive your time online, and result in physical or emotional hurt. Remember: bullying is a crime, and can be reported at Cybertip!ca
Kleinosky made several suggestions to avoid Internet pitfalls, and they all involve a certain amount of vigilance and constant observation. Much of it is being careful, but people can try to trick you into letting your guard down.
A few tricks to be on alert for:
♣ Beware of emails from people you don’t know, and always confirm what you read.
♣ Be careful about links provided in an email.
♣ Develop good password habits and never give those passwords to anyone.
♣ If you’re dealing with anything related to money or paying for a purchase, make sure you’re on a secure site. One way to check for this is to see if the URL has https:// at the beginning. (The “s” is key.)
♣ Although the Internet can be dangerous, there are also tools that help to protect us from that danger. One is Lastpass.com. Note that the https:// appears when you first go to the site; this is a tool to help to remember and use passwords.
♣ Kleinosky also suggested Snopes.com and Hoax-Slayer as sites that can be used to check out rumours or stories you hear online.
The presentation was well received and seemed popular. Hopefully, we can avoid the kinds of dangers that Kleinosky explored. Although the Internet should be a place that we can explore safely and with confidence, we need to guard our presence when we’re “out there”.
G. Ian Bowles, brain injury survivor and BIST Communications Committee Chair