Monday, March 31, 2008

Identity Theft Protection?

Identity theft is a crime that continues to grow and grow and no matter what precautions you take, you personal data can fall into the hands of cyber criminals as evidenced by the recent incident with Hannaford Supermarkets. The growing media attention on identity theft and the negative impact it can have on a person’s credit has highlighted companies that claim to protect consumers from identity fraud. Services such as Identity Guard and Life Lock can provide monitoring of your credit reports and place fraud alerts for you with the three major credit bureaus. They will also request that you do not receive credit card applications in the mail, call your credit card companies for you if your wallet is stolen and assist you if you do become a victim of id theft. This seems very helpful if you are a busy person and worried about becoming a victim, however, these are all things you can do yourself without having to pay a company to do it for you.

Two articles recently published by the Wall Street Journal and explain how to do most of the same things that these companies will do for a fee. Both of the articles provide helpful tips on how to obtain your credit report and place fraud alerts with the three major credit bureaus. The articles also point out the fact that no company can guarantee safety from identity theft, but there are things you can do to minimize your risk and you do not necessarily have to pay for some other company to do it for you.

After reading both of these articles, I was able to get my credit report free online from It was very easy to do, and gave me some peace of mind to know that everything looked correct. My wife also checked on hers. If you want to order one for a child under 13 years of age, you are going to need to send in additional documentation.

I am in no way discouraging anyone from using credit monitoring and protection services like the ones mentioned above, in fact, they look extremely helpful for people who do not want the hassle of having monitor their credit themselves. I am merely trying to drive home the point that you should monitor your credit information on a regular basis and you can do it yourself, if you so choose.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

McAfee Introduces Internet Safety Plan for Families

Antivirus and internet security software company, McAfee, has created a 10 step internet safety plan designed to help protect families online. It is a nice guide filled with step by step information on how parents can keep their children safe online. While most of the information is common sense for some, it is nicely organized and easy to follow. The steps include computer placement in the home, boundaries and rules for internet use and even includes an online safety pledge that can be printed out and signed by both parent and child.

The guide also includes three sections that guide parents on ways to talk to their kids about internet safety. The sections are set up by age group starting with kids ages 3-7, then tweens, ages 8-12 and finally teens, ages 13-19.

The guide is located on McAfee’s security advice site which also has a lot of internet security information and resources including webcasts and videos.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cybersafety Resource Spotlight – MySecure Cyberspace is a great internet safety resource for teachers, parents, and children. Created as a free educational resource by Carnegie Mellon University, the site has many features for those who are looking for cybersafety resources. MySecure Cyberspace has a section devoted to sharing security advice based on the online activity your are performing such as blogging, online shopping or file sharing. It also contains an encyclopedia of terms that define different internet risks and threats. There is a section with articles about current topics of cybersecurity as well as a section geared towards parents and the caregivers of children called the family room. The classroom section contains links to recommended educational resources for teachers while the gameroom features links to internet safety related games for children to play.

The site also has a special section for children called the Carnegie Cyber Academy. On this site, children can find lots of information about internet safety and participate in training missions that teach cadets different cybersecurity subjects. After completing each training mission, cadets earn a gold badge in the cybersecurity subject they completed. The Carnegie Cyber Academy contains blogs for the students to read with different internet tips such as how to perform research for school assignments, how to keep your computer safe and how to protect yourself from online predators.

If you are looking for cybersafety resources, MySecureCyberspace has a lot to offer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hannaford Bros. Confirms "Data Intrusion"

Add Hannaford supermarkets to the latest list of retailers victimized by hackers who have stolen credit card and debit card information of its customers. According to an article in the Boston Globe, Hannaford came forward yesterday to confirm that possibly 4.2 million credit and debit card numbers have been exposed and that this data intrusion is linked to 1,800 fraud cases already to date. According to the Hannaford website, the data that was stolen did not include names or addresses of card holders, but did include the card numbers and expiration dates. The data was illegally accessed from the Hannaford computer systems during transmission of card authorization. This data breach has affected customers from all Hannaford supermarkets, so if you shop at a Hannafords, it is strongly recommended that you review your credit card and bank statements. If you see anything out of the ordinary, immediately alert your financial institution of the problem. You then may need to place a fraud alert with one of the three major credit bureaus. If you have any questions for Hannaford supermarkets, call their customer care center at 866-591-4580.

Sometimes, no matter how safe you are with your personal information, you can still fall victim to identity theft. This story is a reminder that even if you are very protective with your personal financial information, you need to keep a close eye on credit card statements and bank statements. It is also a good idea to order a credit report for everyone in your family, including your children. The Federal Trade Commission website is an excellent resource on identity theft. There are videos about identity theft and information about what to do if you think you are a victim.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Support Internet Safety - Recycle Your Phone

Do you have an old cell phone in your house that you want to get rid of? Why not recycle it and support internet safety at the same time? Sprint Project Connect is a program in which you can recycle any cell phone, regardless of the make and model or cell phone carrier you had. All you have to do is go to any participating Sprint store and pick up a free postage-paid envelope. You can also print out a free postage mailing label from Sprint. Not only will you be helping the environment, but you will also help educate others on cybersafety. The net proceeds from the recycled phones that are collected by Sprint are donated to Sprint's 4NetSafety Program. The 4NetSafety program is a partnership between the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children and the National Health Information Network. One of the resources that benefits from this program is NetSmartz which is a free internet safety website with games, multimedia, curriculum and resources dedicated to cybersafety.

You can find the Sprint store closest to your location here.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Microsoft Launches Intellectual Property Curriculum

The Microsoft Corp. has developed a curriculum aimed to teach students in grade 8-10 about intellectual property rights in a an effort to curb illegal file sharing. Earlier in the year Microsoft performed a survey on 501 teenagers between seventh and tenth grade. The result of the survey showed that many teens had a lax attitude about downloading copyrighted material off of the internet. In fact one of the key findings was that of the teens that participated in the survey fewer than half said that there should be punishment for illegally downloading materials off of the internet. This is in line with a New York Times article in which the author found that an entire group of college students he was speaking to seemed to collectively believe that there was nothing wrong with downloading copyrighted material from the internet.

Another very important finding from the Microsoft Survey was that awareness of the law impacts teen attitudes towards illegal downloading. According to the results of the survey 82% of teens ,who indicated that they were aware of the law, said that illegal downloaders should be punished. The report is very interesting and can be read here. The last key finding prompted Microsoft to launch a curriculum that teaches students about what intellectual property rights are and the possible consequences of illegal fire sharing. The curriculum consists of four thematic units and each unit contains 4 to 6 lesson plans. Right now, Microsoft is looking for teachers to field test the curriculum. The registration is free and the site has an overview of the curriculum and some FAQ's.