Monday, October 27, 2008

Superintendent's Bulletin Warns of Phishing Scheme

The Superintendent's Bi-Weekly bulletin had a warning for people that are receiving emails that claim to be from the City of Boston Credit Union. These emails are NOT from the City of Boston Credit Union. These emails are an example of phishing, which are emails sent to try and get the user to provide their personal information such as account numbers, passwords and social security numbers. According to the bulletin, these emails have been in several forms including the following:
  • Surveys with a cash reward if you enter your personal information
  • Implications that your account is in jeopardy of being closed unless you enter your information
  • A notice that we are updating our security enhancements, so please enter your personal information
  • Plus, many other schemes to entice people to enter their personal and confidential information.
All of these emails are fraudulent. This is a classic example of a phishing scheme. Once you input your personal information it is sent to a criminal who may use that information to commit identity fraud. They may also sell your information to a third party who may use it to open up credit cards or obtain loans in your name. Banks, credit unions, brokerage firms and other types of financial institutions will not send an email to ask you to input personal information! If you ever have any questions about whether or not your financial institution is looking for something from you, give them a call using the phone number from one of your financial statements.

Remember, it is always a good idea to periodically check your credit report with one of the three major credit agencies just to make sure you have not fallen victim to identity theft. By law, you are entitled to a free credit report once every twelve months from these agencies. The Federal Trade Commission website about identity theft is full of helpful information about strategies to avoid a problem and what to do if someone does steal your identity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Internet Safety Poster Contest

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Information Technology is holding an internet safety poster contest for 4th and 5th grade students. The deadline for the contest is December 19, 2008 and here is what the judges are looking for:

  • Posters depicting Internet safety (being careful not to download viruses, not giving out personal information on the Internet, no cyberbullying, opening email only from people they know, be careful opening email attachments, don’t give your password to friends, don’t post personal pictures, don’t meet anyone “offline” that you’ve only met online).
  • Hand drawn (large, dark text is easier to read, crayons & markers work best).
  • Poster cannot include trademarked images such as Disney characters.
  • Spelling counts!
  • Size: 11” wide x 8.5” high (Landscape layout).
  • Each Poster Art entry must be accompanied by a completed School Entry Form.
  • One child per Poster Art entry and artwork.
  • Student’s name, school, town, grade, etc. should not be written on the front of the art work. In order to protect the student’s personal information, this type of information should be written on the back of the poster.
Contest Winners:
  • Three Grand Prize winners will be selected, and will be recognized by Governor Deval Patrick. The winning artwork will be submitted into The National Cyber Security Awareness 2010 Calendar Contest. The school contact person named on the School Entry Form will be notified by telephone as well as by email from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Information Technology Division personnel.
  • Any posters selected to be used in the MS-ISAC 2010 Cyber Security Awareness calendar will include the student’s first name and name of school.
  • Winning posters will be featured on our Security Web Site (
  • All entries submitted become the property of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Information Technology Division and may be used in future publications. Poster Art will not be returned.
Requests for poster entry forms and questions may be directed to Bob Milosavljevic, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Information Technology Division at 617-626-4490 or emailed at

You can also check out the Cyber Security Awareness Month web page for information, resources and webcasts about cyber safety!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Education Week Holds Live Chat on Cyberbullying sponsored a live chat focused on cyberbullying today. The chat featured Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin who are Internet-safety experts who are co-authors of the new book Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying. They also created, an information clearinghouse on cyberbullying.

One educator asked how can a teacher know that a student is being bullied, if most of the bullying happens out of school, online? Dr. Patchin answered that educators are very good at sensing when a student is distressed and to ask them what is causing their distress. He also says to make the student feel safe and welcome, so that they feel comfortable in talking to the teacher about the issue. This is extremely important as research shows that most kids do not tell teachers or their parents when they have been cyberbullied. I think another tell tale sign to look out for is if you have a student who is all of a sudden, chronically absent, or withdrawn from the other students in the class.

More than one participant in the chat asked what grades/ages are most affected by cyberbullying. The answer was that they seemed to see the most evidence of cyberbullying happening in 7th and 8th grade, which is also true of traditional bullying. They also suggest that cyberbulying prevention education should take place in elementary school.

Another educator asked a question, that I myself ask..."1. By definition, what is bullying? 2. What is cyberbullying?"

The answer to this question was:
Bullying can be defined as unprovoked aggression often directed repeatedly toward another individual or group of individuals. We define cyberbullying as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Conceptions of cyberbullying victimization must stem from the target's perspective.

Net Family News
had reported on a very interesting article from the Journal of Adolescent Health a couple of weeks ago questioning the definition of what cyberbullying is. Is it automatically cyberbullying when a kid gets an email or text message from someone else insulting them? Or is cyberbullying repeated harrassment of a victim over and over again? Are there levels of cyberbullying compared to cyberharrassment?

Another very common question that was asked was, "At what point does what appears on the Internet become a school issue/responsibility in terms of discipline?"

Dr. Hiduja answered:
"When it substantially or material disrupts learning, interferes with the educational process, compromises the value system that the school district and school are trying to foster, infringes upon another student's rights (civil rights or their ability to learn without distraction and harassment), when it is obscene, when school-owned technology is used to mistreat others, and when it involves a school-sponsored activity or a school-sponsored resource. With this said, we encourage informal responses and only suggest formal responses (changes of placement, suspensions, expulsions) in severe cases."

Other questions and topics that were discussed were about online gaming and cyberbullying as well as parent education, acceptable use policies, teacher and student education. I encourage you to read the entire transcript of the chat, it is full of information about cyberbullying.