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Tough Economy Requires Knowledge and Vigilance Online

If current predictions are correct, 2009 will be a tougher year than 2008 in terms of the economy. In tough economic times such as these it becomes increasingly important for us to follow recommended safety practices when going online. As the numbers of Internet-related fraud and financial scams continue to increase we should expect the current economic situation to produce more victims of cybercrime. Knowledge and vigilance are the keys to remaining safe while online.

According to a 2008 poll from the National Cyber Security Alliance, over 3000 Americans were polled and asked about their Internet-related security knowledge and practices. Of those polled, 51 percent of respondents said they have been a victim of a phishing attempt, while 65 percent stated that the attempts looked like legitimate emails. Further, only 26 percent felt that their computers could be considered "very safe" from viruses, while only 21 percent felt their computers were "very safe" from an attack by a hacker.

What we can interpret from these figures is that the vast majority of users spending time online are highly susceptible to some type of scam, theft or attack, with over half most likely having already fallen victim. Internet users are overwhelmingly aware of the potential loss that can occur due to a lax attitude towards their personal security while online, yet many still do not utilize the necessary tools for cyber security protection. While the lack of proper online security measures can to some extent be attributed to a variety of causes, in the majority of cases it is the lack of knowledge and information on the part of the user that contributes to a security incident.

For a non-technical Internet user the understanding of personal online security measures and the task of applying the proper security configuration can become overwhelming. Fortunately, there are many excellent resources available online to both educate and instruct the Internet user community in proper online safety and security practices.

Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft website — "This website is a one-stop national resource to learn about the crime of identity theft. It provides detailed information to help you deter, detect, and defend against identity theft."

Internet Education Foundation's GetNetWise website — "GetNetWise is a public service brought to you by Internet industry corporations and public interest organizations to help ensure that Internet users have safe, constructive, and educational or entertaining online experiences. The GetNetWise coalition wants Internet users to be just "one click away" from the resources they need to make informed decisions about their and their family's use of the Internet."

Microsoft StaySafe - Security At Home — "This site is funded and hosted by Microsoft and provides individualized advice for teenagers, parents, and educators to protect themselves online. There is also a current news section to help keep consumers up to date on the latest Internet related news."

Onguardonline.gov — "Onguardonline.gov provides practical tips from the federal government and technology industry to help consumers be on guard against Internet fraud, secure their computers, and protect their personal information. This site is a useful source of information for quick facts about cyber security and steps the consumer can use to protect themselves. There is also a link where consumers can file complaints to help local and federal law enforcement identify and stop hackers, identity thieves and scam artists."

StaySafeOnline.org — National Cyber Security Alliance - "The National Cyber Security Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Through collaboration with the government, corporate, non-profit and academic sectors, the mission of the NCSA is to create a culture of cyber security and safety awareness by providing the knowledge and tools necessary to prevent cyber crime and attacks."

Whether dealing with home or business use of the Internet, it is important to understand the basic security fundamentals and to follow recommended security best practices to ensure your safety online. The above website resources provide a wealth of information on the subject and will assist you in staying safe and remaining vigilant while online.

By Mike Dailey, IT Architect and Sr. Network Engineer

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