To Pay Or Not To Pay: A Hacking Victim’s Dilemma

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

Hackers have all kinds of methods to make your digital life a mess. One of the more vicious tools in a hacker’s arsenal is ransomware, a malicious piece of software that takes over your computer and threatens you with harm. This harm is usually in the form of denying you access to your data.

Ransomware is commonly delivered via Phishing, which involves a hacker crafting an email, text message, or social media message that is written in such a way that you are compelled to click the link or open a document that is part of the message. The temptation to click and open anything has made Phishing the most widely used technique for hackers to deliver their malicious software.

Other forms of ransomware delivery exploit security holes in your computer’s (or mobile device’s) operating systems (OS). Certain vulnerabilities will allow a hacker to take control of your system without you having to do anything.. This is why we have told you to always keep your operating system software up-to-date!

What happens next? The hacker will demand a ransom from you, promising — (and can you trust the word of a criminal?)  — to restore access to the data once you pay the hacker the ransom. Most ransomware software encrypts your data so that it is unreadable or inaccessible. The only way to get your data back is to decrypt it with a mathematical key only known by the hacker, but only if you send an untraceable Bitcoin payment to the attacker (or so they say!).

So, if your system has been infected with ransomware and you've lost vital data that you can't restore from backup, should you pay the ransom? The answer may depend if you are a big organization or just an individual. But generally, the guidance is to NOT pay the ransom. Law enforcement agencies urge victims not to pay ransomware attackers. They would argue that paying ransom only encourages hackers to create more ransomware. In addition, just because you pay they ransom fee, doesn’t mean the criminal hacker will send you the decryption key (they are criminals, remember?).

So, should you listen to your cyber-criminal and pay? WHOA…Time to take a breath before you pay anyone, anything. You need to first verify that you are the victim of ransomware and not being manipulated with an empty threat. What looks like ransomware may not have actually encrypted your data at all. Make sure you aren't dealing with "scareware" and go to your browsing history and delete your history. If this is a superficial attack, you may regain control of your computer. In addition, some ransomware encryption can be defeated by applying various techniques to restore your data.  

Now, if you have accidentally and unfortunately stumbled across the real deal, a pirate in the world wide web, outside of taking the risk of paying the ransom, what can you do?

  • Reboot your computer to safe mode
  • Install ransomware removal software
  • Scan the system to find the ransomware program
  • Restore the computer to a previous state

These steps can remove the malware from your computer and restore it to your control but it won’t decrypt your files. If you have not recently backed up your files, they may be lost…but at least the computer is back in your control.

So, To Pay or Not To Pay is NOT the question. The question is, how can you protect yourself from ransomware so that this never happens to you?

HOW TO PREVENT RANSOMWARE:

  • Keep your operating system up-to-date. This ensures that you have fewer vulnerabilities to exploit.
  • Don't install software or give it administrative privileges unless you know exactly what it is and what it does.
  • Install antivirus software, which can detect malicious programs like ransomware as they arrive.
  • Back up your files, frequently and automatically! That won't stop a malware attack, but it can make the damage caused by one much less significant.
  • Stop clicking on everything!

We have said it before… regrettably, there is not a virtual justice system ensuring that those who use the internet for good are rewarded and that those who do otherwise face appropriate consequences. It’s up to you to keep yourself and your private information safe from cyber criminals!

Ready to stay safe online? Good!

___________________________________________________________________

Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.


Want to engage more with your grandchildren? Get on Instagram!

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

Sometimes you just have to meet folks where they are at. And, your grandchildren, where are they? Geography aside, they are at Instagram, among other social media platforms. That's the beauty of technology, your grandkids could be living down the street from you or a continent away, Instagram doesn’t care. And truth be told, your grandkids might very well be more attentive to what you have to say when you post it.

The great thing about Instagram is that it’s PUUURFECT for grandparents. Think of it as your virtual photo album, or brag book, if you will - one that allows for your own unique narration…in other words, an opportunity to share your POV, your feelings and your memories with the younger generation -- when (and where) they are listening!

So, start with the photo or image. For inspiration, check out these grandparent selfies. Just like your traditional photo album, choose an image that is interesting to look at, whether it shares an experience or a mood. Instagram is about telling stories through images. A memory from your childhood is a story waiting to be told. A picture of your daughter with her new baby might remind you of when your daughter was a baby and what you were feeling then. Honoring your grandchild’s academic or sports achievement is perfect for Instagram. Instagram can be all about introspection, especially when this dive inward opens a window into who you are in a way that your family can see and share it. Instagram encourages you to share more detail about an image with a description. Feel free to express yourself here.

Then, don't forget to close with hashtags. Using hashtags is pretty much like joining the conversation with your grandkids. They will notice. Technically you are encouraged to use more than one, say 10 -- but no more than 30. And yes, you can curate your own collection of hashtags and re-use them on each post, maybe updating a few for the specific content of the post. Here is a collections of hashtags that you could use for yourself:

  • #grandparents #family #love #happy #fun #cute #instagood #familytime #life #photooftheday #smile #kids #children #mom #dad #sister #sisters #siblings #mother #father #related #brothers #brother #sis #bro #instatags4likes #grandma #grandpa #parents #grandparentsday #summer #memories #blessed #photo #birthday #anniversary #easter #wedding #uncle #babyboy #mothersday #babygirl #auntie #bookart #fathersday #halloween #babyshower #foldingwithlove #parentstobe #gift #summer

Want to see how other grandparents are doing it? These grandparents used the hashtag #grandparent and now are representing grandparents on Instagram. A hashtag is like a filing system for social media posts. It helps you look things up and be part of a trending or common topic. Finish your social media posts with the hashtag #grandparents and your post will now be part of this worldwide filing cabinet. https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/grandparents/

Think this is sounding a bit frivolous? Think again. Here is the proof in the Instagram + Grandparent formula…This 75-year-old grandfather in South Korea seemed impossibly far from his grandchildren in the United States. Like you, he may have wondered, will they ever really know me or what will they remember about me? Chan Joe’s son recognized his father’s talent with art and saw its potential on Instagram. He encouraged his father to draw for his grandchildren and share the images on Instagram. This account, Drawings for My Grandchildren, is pretty much the gold standard of making meaningful family social media connections.

Worried you might get it all wrong and embarrass yourself or someone else. Sometimes getting it wrong is just right! Just keep in mind a little social media etiquette and you should be just fine!

  • Don't post unflattering/inappropriate photos of your grandkids;
  • Don't hijack every post and turn it into a conversation;
  • Don't use social media to guilt kids or grandkids; and
  • Don't add your grandkids' friends unless they instigate it.

There is another side benefit of getting on Instagram or other social media. It gets you involved in your grandchild’s online world . This a great conversation starter for you and your grandchildren. Ask them for help setting up your account and for Instagram tips. They will be glad to engage with you on this! Our kids need us there. Be a digital grandparent and help keep the youngest generation safe.

Ready to give it a try? Good!

___________________________________________________________________

Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.


So you want to meet up with someone you met online… Taking the Stranger Danger discussion to the next level

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

savvylogo

Today’s children are considered ‘Digital Natives’ because they were literally born into a world defined by technology, but are actually “Digital Naives.” Without intervention, children completely lack an understanding of the implications of their digital actions.

We tell kids that they should NEVER meet-up with a person they met online and that someone you don’t know in real life is ALWAYS a stranger (because you can’t confirm who they really are). But, let’s face it, the internet is about making connections.

From dating sites to Craigslist and special interest chat groups, adults regularly make online connections that turn into physical world connections. At some point, children will have legitimate reasons to make these connections too. Even if that some point is when they go off to college, the adults in children’s lives need to model behavior that ensures safety in the digital world. Here are tips for staying safe when meeting and talking to unknown people online.

While you can never guarantee anything you do will keep you 100 percent safe, there are certain precautions you should consider if you really want to meet up with someone you met via tech.

  • Ask them to Facetime, use Google Hangouts, or another social media app with live chat. If they refuse or can’t for some reason, ask them to send you a selfie with something that shows the day’s date and time. If they also refuse to do this or can’t send a selfie, do not meet up with them! Ask yourself, why would they be refusing to prove who they really are?

But is this enough to keep you safe? Unfortunately not.

Woman charged in DeKalb dating app murder to face judge

The details of this story are disheartening. After they met online, they spoke on the phone and they live streamed. He verified it was really her before agreeing to meet-up in real life. And he brought someone with him for extra safety. And despite these precautions, he is now dead because he met up with a stranger he met online.

So let’s add the most important safety tip….

  • When you arrange to meet-up NEVER go alone and be sure to meet-up in a PUBLIC PLACE.
  • Tell the person that “I’m bringing along my friend (or insert name of trusted adult) too. Just giving you a heads-up! If you are as paranoid as me and you have someone coming too, they could sit together!”

If you are under the age of 18, these are not merely suggestions. You MUST bring a trusted adult with you IF this trusted adult APPROVES of the meet-up.

If any of your plans are not accepted by your “new online friend”, STOP COMMUNICATING. Time to go into BLOCK mode on your accounts for this “person.”

There is one TRUTH you need to remember. Parents, teach your children this! When meeting and talking to unknown people online, your safety and comfort should be important to them. It will be important to any good person you meet online who wants to meet up IRL.

The reality is that it’s a dangerous world out there. Even following these tips cannot guarantee your safety.

Don’t be the next headline. Talk to the trusted adults in your life, use good judgement and stay safe out there.

___________________________________________________________________

Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.


So you want to meet up with someone you met online… Taking the Stranger Danger discussion to the next level

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

savvylogo

Today’s children are considered ‘Digital Natives’ because they were literally born into a world defined by technology, but are actually “Digital Naives.” Without intervention, children completely lack an understanding of the implications of their digital actions.

We tell kids that they should NEVER meet-up with a person they met online and that someone you don’t know in real life is ALWAYS a stranger (because you can’t confirm who they really are). But, let’s face it, the internet is about making connections.

From dating sites to Craigslist and special interest chat groups, adults regularly make online connections that turn into physical world connections. At some point, children will have legitimate reasons to make these connections too. Even if that some point is when they go off to college, the adults in children’s lives need to model behavior that ensures safety in the digital world. Here are tips for staying safe when meeting and talking to unknown people online.

While you can never guarantee anything you do will keep you 100 percent safe, there are certain precautions you should consider if you really want to meet up with someone you met via tech.

  • Ask them to Facetime, use Google Hangouts, or another social media app with live chat. If they refuse or can’t for some reason, ask them to send you a selfie with something that shows the day’s date and time. If they also refuse to do this or can’t send a selfie, do not meet up with them! Ask yourself, why would they be refusing to prove who they really are?

But is this enough to keep you safe? Unfortunately not.

Woman charged in DeKalb dating app murder to face judge

The details of this story are disheartening. After they met online, they spoke on the phone and they live streamed. He verified it was really her before agreeing to meet-up in real life. And he brought someone with him for extra safety. And despite these precautions, he is now dead because he met up with a stranger he met online.

So let’s add the most important safety tip….

  • When you arrange to meet-up NEVER go alone and be sure to meet-up in a PUBLIC PLACE.
  • Tell the person that “I’m bringing along my friend (or insert name of trusted adult) too. Just giving you a heads-up! If you are as paranoid as me and you have someone coming too, they could sit together!”

If you are under the age of 18, these are not merely suggestions. You MUST bring a trusted adult with you IF this trusted adult APPROVES of the meet-up.

If any of your plans are not accepted by your “new online friend”, STOP COMMUNICATING. Time to go into BLOCK mode on your accounts for this “person.”

There is one TRUTH you need to remember. Parents, teach your children this! When meeting and talking to unknown people online, your safety and comfort should be important to them. It will be important to any good person you meet online who wants to meet up IRL.

The reality is that it’s a dangerous world out there. Even following these tips cannot guarantee your safety.

Don’t be the next headline. Talk to the trusted adults in your life, use good judgement and stay safe out there.

___________________________________________________________________

Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.


The Real You Vs Social Media You: How Social Media Is Shaping People’s Perception Of You

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

It’s a new year and time for a NEW YOU, right? A little introspection in the new year can be a helpful and healthful approach to making positive changes in your life. Maybe you are taking some time to take stock of the past and to make plans for the future. As you go through this process, don’t forget to take a moment and scroll back on your social media accounts. Do you recognize yourself from your posts? Is your social media persona a true representation of you? Is it your best self? Or sometimes maybe not the self you would want to impress others with?

WHO ARE YOU ONLINE?

Make no mistake, your social media presence is curated by you. What you choose to write about, the pictures you choose to share and the comments you decide to post are all choices. Put together, these words and images form a representation of you, an impression that is absorbed and judged by others.

Intention aside, there is no argument that your social media persona shapes how people regard you and impacts the ways they treat you in real life — for better or for worse.

As a society, we spend a lot of time creating and maintaining our online presence. According to Statista, today’s global internet users spend on average 135 minutes per day on social media, with a steady growth from 90 minutes per day in 2012.

We may not think of it this way, but our time on Facebook, Instagram and any other social media platform is about more than staying in touch with friends and family. Yes, we expand our social networks thanks to social media. But, our investment into our social media profiles is, above all, about our efforts to create and define our personal brand. Until you recognize that you curate your personal brand (positive or negative) with each post, you may not be making the best decisions online.

DO YOU CARE TOO MUCH?

So, once we admit to ourselves that what we post on our social media profiles is no accident and that, consciously and unconsciously, we post what we want to represent about ourselves to our family, peers and friends, then we can explore why we post what we post. No doubt, perception is entirely subjective. How people see a picture and feel about a comment can widely vary. But when we create our self-portrait online, we are heavily influenced by what we think our ideal self should be and how we think others will view a picture or feel about a comment.

This is a lot of pressure. That’s 135 minutes per day, 15+ hours per week, 63+ hours per month and 756+ hours per year that you spend stuck in an internal conversation with yourself, debating, maybe agonizing, about the impression you are making on others and linking your self-worth to likes and other online affirmations of your worth.

Maybe we can’t help ourselves. After all, our human nature is driven by competition. Whether we compete to earn money, do good or surround ourselves with love, it is still a competition defined by achievement and status.

So, if you spend time on social media then the best thing you can do for yourself is to acknowledge this pressure to achieve and to always represent your best self and make sure that this pressure is not turning your time on social media into a whipping stone that makes you feel badly about yourself.

Here are Savvy Cyber Kids’ social media tips for the New Year:

• Don’t compare yourself to others. Remember, that’s their carefully curated self you are viewing. What’s the point of comparing yourself to someone whose profile is an exaggeration of real life?

• Be you. By representing your individual and honest self, you will not only be more authentic, you will be expressing some self-love for your uniqueness. You won’t be holding yourself up to anyone else’s standards and you can let the pressure of social media perfection go.

• Acknowledge what you are competing for and make that your reality. Instead of spending time creating an identity that matches what and who you want to be, invest that time into making it happen for you in real life.

• Take a break from your online life. Periodically, give yourself time and space to unplug and cultivate your life off the screen — just for fun! Remember, when you are “spending” time on social media, you are giving up time for everything else!

If you make these changes, the natural outcome is that you will be more honest, more real and more likable online. People will know you better and they will know the REAL YOU.

__________________________________________________________________

Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for their free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics.