Safety in the virtual world

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Rakshit Tandon
Founder/Chairman of A & R Info Security Solutions Pvt Ltd,

“Virtual World: It’s not a game, It’s your life…stay safe!” says Rakshit Tandon, who has been addressing this subject since 2008 and has addressed around 1.8 million children/teachers/parents across the nation.

“Sir, someone hacked my Facebook account and is misusing it.” “Someone has created a fake account of mine on Instagram and is now morphing my pictures with abusive content.” “I had shared some personal pictures with my friend but now he has leaked those pictures. I can’t share the matter with my parents, please help me.” This is what usually my inbox is flooded with, daily at the tune of 30-40 queries per day. That’s what the web world can do – making us vulnerable to such issues.

In this age of digital revolution, our schools are getting digitally smart – they are online, connected to web and mobile applications. They offer smart classes, online assessments, online official communication and much more. Not only this, our children are also young NETIZENS who love to stay 24×7 online with their smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers. This sudden migration to virtual world and our day-to-day dependence on digital world has created new threats in the cyber space not only to our digital infrastructure but also to individuals. All this creates the need for proactive approach on cyber security and safety for schools.

Major threats…

Some of the major threats encountered include website hacking, email hacking, social media abuse, fake IDs, impersonation, cyber defamation, cyber bullying, stalking and some serious issues with children like sextortion/sexting (haring compromised pictures and sexual content) and issues related to pornography.

What schools should do…

It is the responsibility of the schools to provide a cyber safe environment for the students in school and also educate them on how to use net safely. Here are a few tips for school educators, principals and administrators:

  1. Start early: Since children start using internet very early in life, it is important to educate them on digital citizenship, netiquettes & cyber hygiene through awareness programmes, starting right from Class 5. Schools can also engage teachers and parents in such programmes.
  2. Frame a policy: It is important for the school to frame cyber security policy for schools, teachers, students and parents.
  3. Form Cyber Clubs: Form Cyber Clubs (or as I call it Cyber Congress) where an internal team is trained for handling the cyber issues in schools. Such a team is trained by a cyber security professional and may include ICT teachers/counsellors and a team of students.
  4. Put cyber security infra in place: Schools should use cyber security framework for existing infrastructure of technology in schools, for e.g. Firewall, Proxy Servers, Security software etc.
  5. Repeat for a greater impact: Regular workshops at frequent intervals should be conducted to sensitize students on cyber threats and cyber laws.

Educate children on how to face online threats…

In case, students face any threat, they should not panic. Here are a few tips schools should share with their students:

  • Don’t delete harmful communications (emails, chat logs, posts etc). These may help provide vital information about the identity of the person behind these.
  • If you feel any immediate physical danger of bodily harm, inform your teacher or parents, who can call your local police.
  • Make sure that your ISP and Internet Relay Chart (IRC) network have an acceptable user policy that prohibits cyber-stalking. And if your network fails to respond to your complaints, consider switching to a provider that is more responsive to user complaints.
  • If a situation online becomes hostile, log off or surf elsewhere. If a situation places you in fear, contact a local law enforcement agency.

Rakshit Tandon, Founder/Chairman of A & R Info Security Solutions Pvt Ltd, this Cyber Security Evangelist has experience of more than a decade in security domain. He is Director Executive – Council of Information Security and Cyber Security Consultant to Internet and Mobile Association of India. He is marked as Resource Person/Faculty for Cyber Crime Investigations at BPRD Bureau of Police Research and Development for training law enforcement officers across the country. He is also Member Advisory to National Cyber Safety and Security Standards. In his personal capacity, he has sensitized more than 1.8 million students on the issue of Cyber Safety across the nation covering more than 24 states, 4 union territories. For more info, email at info@rakshittandon.com or rakshit@arinfosec.com


Suggestions For Better Security

    • Use strong passwords. Choose passwords that are difficult or impossible to guess. Give different passwords to all other accounts.
    • Make regular back-up of critical data. Back-up must be made atleast once in each day. Larger organizations should perform a full back-up weekly and incremental back-up every day. Atleast once in a month the back-up media should be verified.
    • Use virus protection software. That means three things: having it on your computer in the first place, checking daily for new virus signature updates, and then actually scanning all the files on your computer periodically.
    • Use a firewall as a gatekeeper between your computer and the Internet. Firewalls are usually software products. They are essential for those who keep their computers online through the popular DSL and cable modem connections but they are also valuable for those who still dial in.
    • Do not keep computers online when not in use. Either shut them off or physically disconnect them from Internet connection.
    • Do not open e-mail attachments from strangers, regardless of how enticing the subject line or attachment may be. Be suspicious of any unexpected e-mail attachment from someone you do know because it may have been sent without that person’s knowledge from an infected machine.
    • Regularly download security patches from your software vendors.

Tips for e-security

Here are a few e-security tips for children and parents, which the schools can share with children and their parents

Tips for children:

      • Do not give out identifying information such as Name, Home address, School Name or Telephone Number in a chat room.
      • Do not send your photograph to anyone on the Net without first checking with your parents or guardians.
      • Do not respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent or threatening.
      • Never arrange a face-to-face meeting without telling parents or guardians. Remember that people online may not be who they seem to be.
      • Avoid getting into huge arguments online during chat or discussions with other users.

Tips for parents:

    • Use content filtering softwares on your PC to protect children from pornography, gambling, hate speech, drugs and alcohol.
    • There is also software to establish time controls for individual users (for example blocking usage after a particular time at night) and log surfing activities allowing parents to see which site the child has visited. Use this software to keep track of the activities of your children.