Google has setup the Family Safety Centre to help parents and teachers keep their children safe online. After spending a little time in the resource, it seems to be a good introduction to online safety for children from a parent’s point of view. If you need to know more, you can then take it further through some of the links.
The Centre has four main sections:
i) Google Safety Tools – information on Safesearch, which stops inappropriate material being returned in searches, and YouTube Safety Mode, which similarly stops age-restricted videos from appearing.
ii) Advice from partners – information from children’s organisations on cyberbullying, privacy, talking to strangers online, adult content and malware.
iii) Reporting abuse – if you find inappropriate material on any of Google’s properties (YouTube, Buzz, Picasa, Blogger), here’s how to flag the material to Google.
iv) Video tips from Google parents – a set of videos on YouTube from parents to parents. In this section there’s also six basic tips for on-line safety. Frankly, I think these tips should be more prominent as they’re good.
– Keep computers in a central place
– Know where your children go online
– Teach internet safety
– Help prevent viruses
– Teach your children to communicate responsibly
– View all content critically
Each country has its own slight variant, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, US and UK versions – there are probably others for non-English speakers. The main difference seems to be the list of partner organisations that Google has worked with (and spelling).
If you are a parent, you should spend a few minutes having a read of the information here.
“Security center has detected malware on your computer.” Have you ever seen that message pop up on your computer? Have you ever seen it happen over Skype? Well, I’ve received that message three times in the last month as a Skype message. It tells me that my Windows software is infected and I need to install a patch. It even gave me a website (link) to go to to help me install the patch.
I may have fallen for the trick but I don’t know how a Windows patch would fix my iMac running OSX. I don’t run Bootcamp, or Windows in a virtual machine, nor does my iMac know what an .EXE or ActiveX file is. I’m sure if I clicked on this link and installed the patch on my Windows machine, my machine WOULD have been infected with malware! (For now Mac machines may be safer from malware infections but it’s wise to still be careful.)
I’ve written before about being safe on the Internet and not going to sites you don’t know or clicking on links in emails, but this is the first I heard of a message over Skype. If you look at the message box (on my iMac), it doesn’t even say it’s from Skype and the window title says. “Software Updates.”
What concerns me is that many people may fall for this trick. I know most readers of GNC and listener’s to Todd’s podcast are tech savvy enough that they wouldn’t fall for something like this, but what about mom (or dad) or your grand parents who get a web cam for Christmas and install Skype so they can talk to the grand kids? Would they click on this link and install the “patch” if this message box appeared?
Google is trying to find sites that install spyware and root-kit software on your computer, but you can’t depend on this for every “bad” website. Recently there was a SQL-injection virus that infected a large number of websites. The virus takes advantage of PCs running Windows that have not been patched with the latest updates. You don’t have to click on any links to get infected — just visit a site taken over by this malware software. It does this by linking to the site 318x dot com (please don’t go to this site). If you search for 318x dot com using google, the first search listing says “This site may harm your computer.” That because this site has been around for a while and has given enough time for Google’s security bots to find the site and determine that it’s up to no good. Here is the link for the Google Safe Browsing page for the 318X site: http://google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=318x.com/
Now back to my Skype message. I mentioned that this is the third time I’ve received this message in the past month. Each time I did a Whois search of the linked website and found that the website was created within one day of when I received the message. The website mentioned in the most recent warning message was created the same day I received the message. This tells me that the author of this warning message is changing the website URL to keep it from being flagged by Google and the security monitoring sites. If you do a Google search for this site it comes up clean. Oh, did I mention that the owner of this site (and the previous two sites) is from Prague, Czech Republic (outside US laws)?
As you visit relatives and friends over the holidays make sure everyone knows about safe surfing on the Internet. Don’t click on links in emails (or Skype message boxes) and make sure to keep your computer’s OS patched and up to date.