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Do you know your kids’ passwords?

August 27th, 2014 No comments

This is the second of two blog posts on password protection. Read Part 1: Create strong passwords and protect them.

Whether or not you should know all of your kids’ passwords depends on their age, how responsible they are, and your parenting values.

However, kids of any age and responsibility level need to know how to create strong passwords and how to protect those passwords.

Sharing is great, but not with passwords

Your kids should never give their friends their passwords or let them log on to their accounts. Also, be careful sharing your passwords with your kids.

3 strategies for strong passwords

  • Length. Make your passwords at least eight (8) characters long.

  • Complexity. Include a combination of at least three (3) uppercase and/or lowercase letters, punctuation, symbols, and numerals. The more variety of characters in your password, the better.

  • Variety. Don’t use the same password for everything. Cybercriminals can steal passwords from websites that have poor security and then use those same passwords to target more secure environments, such as banking websites.

For more information, see Help kids create and protect their passwords.

Do you know your kids’ passwords?

August 27th, 2014 No comments

This is the second of two blog posts on password protection. Read Part 1: Create strong passwords and protect them. Whether or not you should know all of your kids’ passwords depends on their age, how responsible they are, and your parenting values. However, kids of any age and responsibility level need to know how to create strong passwords and how to protect those passwords.

Sharing is great, but not with passwords

Your kids should never give their friends their passwords or let them log on to their accounts. Also, be careful sharing your passwords with your kids.

3 strategies for strong passwords

  • Length. Make your passwords at least eight (8) characters long.
  • Complexity. Include a combination of at least three (3) uppercase and/or lowercase letters, punctuation, symbols, and numerals. The more variety of characters in your password, the better.
  • Variety. Don’t use the same password for everything. Cybercriminals can steal passwords from websites that have poor security and then use those same passwords to target more secure environments, such as banking websites.

For more information, see Help kids create and protect their passwords.

Back-to-school checklist: Clean up my digital life

Ever wonder what your online image says about you? Do you constantly “check in” on social media, take daily selfies, or post the latest images of your kids? In an era of seemingly non-stop online sharing of our thoughts, images, and experiences, it’s important to understand the lasting impact our digital actions have on us and those around us.

US households have an average of 5.7 devices for personal and professional use, according to a recent Microsoft study. As this interconnectivity continues to grow, it’s not surprising that people and organizations, including employers or college recruiters for example, turn to social networking sites as a way to help assess potential candidates. Our same research, however, found that only a small percentage of global respondents take key steps to help manage their online reputations:

  • 19 percent edited or deleted information to protect their online reputation;

  • 15 percent used search engines to monitor and manage their personal information online; and

  • 10 percent used a service to edit or delete information about themselves online

This tells me that as connected as we might be, we may not be doing all we can to manage our online personas. So, before kids, and even parents, educators, counselors, and coaches, head back to school, Microsoft wants each of us to make a personal commitment to #Do1Thing to set yourself up for digital success this school year. Visit Microsoft.com/SaferOnline to share your story and learn more about managing your digital life. On the interactive website, you can also:

  • Take our social personality quiz: Which social media cliché are you?  Find out if you’re #HashtagHyper, a Click-Collector, or a One-Upper. Do you know someone who fits each profile? I bet you do.

    • Share your results through social media for the chance to win a MS Nokia Lumia 2520 Red 10.1 Tablet with Windows RT 8.1(Verizon) in our #Do1ThingSweeps sweepstakes

  • Watch our catchy video: It’s your social personality! Share this light-hearted piece with your social circles and help friends and family understand the potential impact of their online behavior.

  • Finally, review each of our online reputation tips and enjoy the dog days of summer knowing you’ve completed your back-to-school checklist.

For more information about Microsoft’s work in Online Safety, visit our Safety & Security Center, “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and look for my “point of view” following the #MSFTCOSO hashtag.

10 New Year’s resolutions for your digital devices and your online life

December 31st, 2013 No comments

It’s a new year, which means it’s time to resolve to create healthier habits in our daily lives. But we don’t have to stop at just improving our body, mind, and spirit. It’s also a good idea to resolve to keep our PCs, laptops, smartphones, and social networking sites healthy this year.

1. Keep your software up to date. You can help protect against viruses, fraud, and more by keeping your operating system, antivirus software, antispyware software, web browser, and other software updated. Microsoft releases security updates on the second Tuesday of every month. Learn how to get security updates automatically.

2. Create strong passwords, keep them secret, and change them regularly. This is particularly important for those passwords that safeguard your computer, important accounts (like email or Facebook), and sensitive information, like financial and health data. Get more information about creating strong passwords and protecting them.

3. Use antivirus software. If your computer is running Windows 8, you can use the built-in Windows Defender to help you detect and get rid of spyware and other malware. If your computer is running Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, Windows Defender removes spyware.

4. Check and adjust your privacy settings. You can participate in the online world and keep your information private. Learn more about how to manage your privacy settings in Windows, Internet Explorer, your Microsoft account, Windows Phone, and more. 

Watch a video about privacy in action (1:19).

5. Teach your children about online safety. Before kids use computers, gaming consoles, or mobile devices, make sure you agree on clear limits, talk about how to keep accounts and passwords secret, and help them stand up to online bullying. If your child got a new device this holiday season, read this checklist for safety tips.

6. Monitor your children’s online behaviors, and continue to talk to them about Internet safety. If your kids are online, it’s important to have regular online safety conversations and to continue to keep track of what they’re doing. For more information, see Age-based guidelines for kids’ Internet use.

7. Upgrade to modern software that provides the latest security technologies and protections. Advanced security technologies in modern operating systems are specifically designed to make it more difficult, more complex, more expensive, and therefore, less appealing to cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities. Learn more about how support for Windows XP ends this year.

8. Use SkyDrive to help protect your personal information. Ransomware is a type of malware designed to infiltrate your computer and hold your files (photos, documents, reports, etc.) hostage until you pay the demanded amount of money to a cybercriminal. One of the best ways to protect your files is to back them up using a removable drive or a cloud service like SkyDrive.

9. Explore new tools for PC protection. If you feel comfortable performing more advanced computer tasks, consider downloading the free Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET), which will make it even more difficult for malicious hackers and cybercriminals to get into your computer.

10. Ignore fake tech support phone calls. Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes. If you receive a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, all you have to do is hang up. For more information, see Avoid tech support phone scams.

 

Parental controls in Xbox One

December 3rd, 2013 No comments

Xbox One is the newest all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft. If you’ve already purchased one, or if you plan to, it’s a good idea to learn more about the built-in privacy and safety parental controls.

Control the content your children play and watch

Customize your children’s access to specifically rated games, movies, TV shows, and music according to their ages. By default, if the child is under 8 years of age, Access to content is set to “off.”

Filter the web

Parental controls let you determine what kinds of websites children can view in the Xbox One Internet Explorer app. 

Manage what your children download and buy

Xbox One enables you to control what kinds of apps each child may download from the Xbox store. The setting options are:

  • Blocked (none)
  • Free apps only
  • Free or paid apps

For more information:

Help teens prepare for digital drama with new ebook

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month—a great time to check in with your family about their online safety habits. Are everyone’s devices and apps up to date with the latest security? When was the last time you reviewed your children’s online profile, or helped them update the privacy settings on their social networks?

For teens in particular, it’s important to help them prepare to deal with the “drama” that can unfold within their online social circles. While teen conflict is nothing new, today’s gossip, jokes, and arguments often play out through social media like Formspring, Twitter, and Facebook. Teens often refer to this as “drama.”

We’ve asked Linda McCarthy, online safety expert and author, to share insights about her new digital book, Digital Drama: Staying Safe While Being Social Online.

DOWNLOAD THE BOOK FREE!
From September 24 through 27, you can download English and Spanish versions of the ebook FREE.

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Kim Sanchez: You’ve written a number of books about online safety and security for teens. Why the focus on this audience?

Linda McCarthy: In 2009, my two teenagers destroyed the security on my home network; that was a game changer for me. I spent 15 years protecting security networks for corporations, and this happened in my house. At that moment I knew that I had to help families—kids love technology and they need help understanding the risks.

Kim Sanchez: So this was the impetus behind Digital Drama?

Linda McCarthy: Yes. The Internet is a great resource for connecting, learning, and entertainment, but these limitless possibilities also open the door to risky situations. Parents worry about their kids talking to strangers in person—online that risk is 24/7. Also, many parents feel overwhelmed by technology features and functions. Watching the kids in my house grow up on the Internet, and the challenges they (and I) faced, I felt that teens need more information on how to stay safer online.

Kim Sanchez: What are you hearing from kids about the ebook?

Linda McCarthy: The response has been great, which excites me because this is my first digital book. I’ve been writing and publishing security books for 20 years, and I love to hold a solid book in my hands, so I wasn’t sold on the ebook idea. However, teens prefer to read online and we have to be able to give kids what they want, right?

Kim Sanchez: What is an important tip you’d give teens to help them deal with digital drama?

Linda McCarthy: Know when to walk away, when NOT to respond, and when to get help.

  • Know when to walk away. When your friends start documenting their stupidity online, don’t hang around and become the star in their pictures or videos. Anything that’s posted online can stay around forever.
  • Know when NOT to respond. If “friends” start sending you bullying text messages, don’t get pulled into their drama by responding. Bullying can be a crime depending on what the bullies are doing.
  • Know when to get help. When drama is about to turn lethal or bullying is happening, reach out to a trusted adult for help. You can do it anonymously so you don’t become the next victim of the bully, and reaching out might just help someone else, too.

Kim Sanchez: How about a tip for parents that would help teens deal with digital drama?

Linda McCarthy: The most important thing I can say to parents is don’t just hand your child a new device, like a smart phone or tablet, and that’s it. Instead, set up some rules of the road together.

For example, guidelines for using a phone might include no bullying or teasing others, no texting and driving, share location cautiously, and create a positive online profile (don’t share scandalous photos). Then if drama unfolds, you can refer back to the family agreement, which might help minimize the extent of the drama.

Kim Sanchez: Your book was written for teens. Would it be useful for anyone else?

Linda McCarthy: Digital Drama has something for everyone. Parents can read it and get ideas about how to talk with their kids about online safety. Even if you don’t have kids, you’ll find guidance that will help you, a family member, or a friend. So download the ebook and share it with everyone you know.

Kim Sanchez: You’ve devoted an entire chapter to online bullying, or “cyberbullying.” Why is that?

Linda McCarthy: According to Microsoft research, 62 percent of teens have witnessed cruel behavior online. Just about every teen I talk to either knows someone who has been bullied, or has been bullied themselves. So, I’ve given ten pointers to help teens protect themselves and their friends from cyberbullying—starting with reporting it. I’m also publishing a book for parents about cyberbullying this fall: Cyberbully Upstander: My Child Is Safe. Parents need to talk with kids about bullying and why it’s important to reach out and get help when first witnessing it.

Join the Twitter conversation!

Join Microsoft and other online safety experts on September 25 at 3:00 p.m. EDT/12:00 p.m. PDT as we chat with Linda McCarthy (@ddramabook) about how her ebook can help you talk with kids about digital safety. (Use #ChatSTC to join.)

When should kids be allowed online?

August 9th, 2013 No comments

As a parent or caregiver, you probably needed only one trip to the playground to realize that children can have radically different styles of play. Just as there’s no “one size fits all” approach to helping children navigate the jungle gym, the way you talk about online safety with kids will depend on the child, their maturity level, and your family’s values.  

But what is your parenting style when it comes to introducing your children to new devices and online technology?

Take a brief survey and get tailored tips to help you have conversations with young Internet users about staying safer on the ever-changing digital playground.

7 ways to avoid TMI

July 23rd, 2013 No comments

Technology can make everything in our lives easier—including sharing too much information (TMI). Just because you can take a picture of your new credit card and post it on Instagram doesn’t mean that you should. In fact, you shouldn’t.

Sharing too much information can lead to identity theft. It can also damage your online reputation, which could prevent you from getting into college, getting a job, or even getting health insurance.

Here are ways to avoid sharing TMI:

  1. Never share your address, phone number, Social Security number, or other personal information through online interactions. 
  2. Use and manage your privacy settings. Limit who can see details of your online profiles.
  3. Never shop, bank, or enter passwords or credit card numbers over public Wi-Fi.
  4. Ask questions. Sometimes we do need to share personal information, but before doing so, ask why the information is necessary and beware of imposters.
  5. Use sites that you can trust. Learn what to look for.
  6. Stop and think before you post an image, blog, tweet, or comment. What does it say about you and how you want to be viewed online?
  7. Take charge of your online reputation: Discover, evaluate, protect, cultivate, and restore as needed.

For more tips on avoiding TMI, check out the hashtag #IsThisTMI on our Twitter channel.

 

Spring break online safety tips

April 15th, 2013 No comments

If you’re traveling with your laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other device this spring break, the following tips can help you stay safer online with a mobile device.

  • Make sure your laptop or tablet has up-to-date antivirus and antispyware software installed. Windows 8 includes antivirus protection that’s turned on by default. If your computer isn’t running Windows 8, download Microsoft Security Essentials for free.
  • Choose the most secure Wi-Fi connection. Both Windows 7 and Windows 8 can help you evaluate and minimize network security risks.
  • Avoid entering passwords, credit card numbers, or other financial information on a less secure public network.
  • Be careful about who you alert on your social networking site that your home will be empty.
  • Be mindful of your online image. Remember that spring break photographs and videos that you post on the Internet could be there forever. Learn how to take charge of your online reputation.
  • Lock your mobile phone with a unique, four-digit PIN. Keep it secret. Take our poll about mobile manners and safety and get more tips.

Get more tips on using public computers and wireless devices more safely

Win cool prizes for your online safety creation

December 13th, 2012 No comments

Calling all teens!

Here’s your chance to create something fun that can help others. Start by reading the eligibility requirements and prize information in the official rules. Then have a look at the online safety materials from Microsoft for ideas to do one of the following:

  • Stage a skit or presentation
  • Produce a video
  • Write a story or draw a cartoon
  • Compose a song
  • Conduct a survey

Participate in the Safer Online Teen Challenge

Beware of deceptive downloads

October 18th, 2012 No comments

The Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR) analyzes online threats using data from Internet services and over 600 million computers worldwide. Volume 13 of the SIR is now available and focuses on vulnerability disclosures from the first and second quarters of 2012.

A featured article, Deceptive Downloads: Software, Music, and Movies, highlights a growing trend of malware infection associated with unsecure supply chains, including legitimate sites that make shareware and music available for public downloads.

Download the latest report

Do you know what your kids are doing online?

July 31st, 2012 No comments

Last month McAfee released results from their 2012 Teen Internet Behavior study. The study revealed that 61 percent of teens think that they can successfully hide their online behavior from their parents.

Here are a few examples of what they do:

  • Erase browser history
  • Minimize browser window when parents come into the room
  • Use their cell phone for Internet activity, instead of the family computer

We think that the best way to protect your child on the Internet is for both parents and kids to understand the risks and for families to communicate with each other about their experiences online. That means making sure everyone knows the basics of online safety. Some parents have also found that once you establish your own rules, it helps to create an Internet contract.

For more information:

Don’t click text message spam

May 31st, 2012 No comments

Several readers have contacted us lately about suspicious text messages that they’ve received on their smart phones.

Some of these messages appear to be from Microsoft, Starbucks, Best Buy, or other well-known companies and are designed to trick you into clicking links with lures of free gifts or prizes. If you click these links you could be taken to a malicious website that could automatically download malicious software onto your phone. This could cause damage to your phone or could be used to steal your personal information or remotely control your phone.

Don’t click links in text messages unless you know the sender and are expecting the link.

Get more information on how to protect yourself from email and web scams and learn how to help secure your smart phone.

Why location services matter

May 15th, 2012 No comments

Mobile services (often called “geolocation” services) now have the ability to track and share our location with friends.  Location positioning services can help you find local movie times, weather, or directions to the nearest coffee shop. They can also help you find out where your friends are. But you might have privacy concerns about who else is looking at this information.

You can take a few basic steps to help ensure that you don’t expose your personal information to strangers.

  • Pay attention to the settings that use your location. You should always have choice and control over access and use of your device’s location. Consider turning off features that add location information (also called “geotagging”) in your tweets, blogs, or social network accounts. Learn how to turn off location services in all Windows Phone applications. You can turn them back on whenever you want.
  • Share your location only with those you trust. For example, in a service like Facebook Places, create a separate list of your closest friends. Use privacy controls to restrict access to location status updates, messages, and photos.
  • If you use a family location service to monitor your kids’ whereabouts, make sure others cannot locate them. Otherwise, consider disabling the location feature on your child’s phone—at the very least, turn it off in the phone’s camera.

Get more guidance about how to use location services more safely.

What’s your online reputation?

January 25th, 2012 No comments

Most of us put a boundary between our personal and professional lives. Online that’s not easy to do.

In the Official Microsoft blog, Brendon Lynch, Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer, writes, “Every piece of personal information that exists online about you — whether posted by you or by others — has the potential to impact how you are perceived by family and friends, an employer, a mortgage lender, and more.”

That’s why, on Data Privacy Day 2012, Microsoft is providing information and resources about how you can manage your personal information online.

Top tips to manage your information online

  1. Stay vigilant and conduct your own “reputation report” from time to time.
  2. Consider separating your professional and personal profiles.
  3. Adjust your privacy settings.

 Get the rest of these tips and learn more about how to safeguard your online reputation:

Microsoft launches digital citizenship resources

September 8th, 2011 No comments

Digital citizenship is usually defined as a set of standards of behavior for technology use. Adults, teens, and even younger children can learn how to be good digital citizens.

On September 8, 2011 Microsoft released a white paper about digital citizenship and results from a teen reputation survey, to promote the concept of digital citizenship. The idea is to help people become better digital citizens, and to show our customers what Microsoft is doing to promote safer online habits and practices for all. . More information

Facebook uses Microsoft tool to help prevent child exploitation

June 28th, 2011 No comments

Pornographic images of children circulate on the Internet at an alarming rate. Since 2002, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) have reviewed and analyzed nearly 49 million photos and videos of child pornography–more than 13 million in 2010 alone–according to Ernie Allen, NCMEC president and CEO.

PhotoDNA is a technology developed by Microsoft that helps find and remove some of the “worst of the worst” images on the Internet. Microsoft donated the PhotoDNA technology to the NCMEC who developed a PhotoDNA-based program for Internet companies. Recently, Facebook announced that they would be using the service on their site.

For more information, see 500 million friends against child exploitation. To learn more about other ways Microsoft continues to advocate for a safer Internet, see the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit Newsroom

Why you need a strong password

April 27th, 2011 No comments

These days almost everything online requires a password. You already know that you should use complicated passwords and that you shouldn’t use the same password for every account. Here are more tips on how to create stronger passwords and how to test your password strength.

If you want to know why it’s so important to create different strong passwords for all of your accounts (and to change them often), see How I’d hack your passwords by MSN Money blogger, John Pozadzides.