Monday, March 30, 2009

60 Minutes Report on Cyber Security

60 Minutes ran a story last night about computer viruses and the notorious Conficker worm that has been spreading to networks across the world.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cyber Safety Mentors from the Greater Eggleston High School

Two weeks ago, the BPS Cybersafety Team was asked to present to the Greater Eggleston High School students as a part of their Health and Wellness Day at the school. The school lined up organizations to present on various issues of health and asked us to talk with their students about cyberbullying. So the team put together an hour long presentation for high school students about the different types of cyberbullying and strategies to avoid it. After the presentation, the students were encouraged to comment, ask questions, discuss what they just learned. The biggest response came when Felicia Vargas asked the group of students who would be interested in becoming a cybersafety mentor. The Greater Eggleston has a community service component in their curriculum and a lot of students expressed interest in becoming internet safety certified and teaching elementary school students about cybersafety strategies.

So this morning, three of those students came up to the offices of OIIT to become internet safety certified. They watched the videos from the iSAFE cybermentor certification program and we discussed the most important cybersafety strategies to teach elementary school students. Here were some of their ideas:

The students were quick to point out that the strategies to deal with cyberpredators were common sense things that a lot of teenagers already know, however, it is important for middle and elementary school students to understand that people sometimes misrepresent themselves online and try to take advantage of you.

On the topic of cyberbullying, the Eggleston mentors felt that it was important that students understand the consequences of their actions if they decide to be bullies. The consequences they have on their victims as well as the consequences they may face in school. They would also like to teach the students who are victims of cyberbullying to tell someone what is happening to them. They feel it is important that kids have someone who they trust to talk to and tell them if people are bullying them.

On the topic of Cybersecurity, the mentors felt that younger students need to learn how to be proactive when it comes to keeping their computers free of malware, instead of being reactive. One student said that she thinks most people don't learn about things like viruses and worms until they already have one on their computer and have to get it fixed. The solution they have is to teach students three important points about cybersecurity. First, they need to learn about what viruses, trojan horses and other malware are. Second, they need to understand how these things can affect their computers and third, they need to learn how to prevent malware from getting on their computers.

There were a lot more points that the cybermentors discussed this morning. They understood that their role in teaching internet safety strategies to elementary aged students is a very important one and all of them said that they felt that they were up to the challenge. They really want to bring their own experiences and real life examples into the classroom with them when they go out and teach those students. The next steps for them will be to go through some presentation skills training and practice what activities and lessons they will be using to teach students about staying safe online.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ID Theft - True Life Story

Okay, here is a true life story. The other day a friend of mine answers the phone. I hear him say to the caller, "No, I didn't make that purchase, nope, that one wasn't mine either." He talks for a few more minutes and then hangs up the phone. I asked him who called and he told me that his credit card company called because they noticed some irregular purchases on his account. Apparently, someone had gotten his credit card number and began to go on an online shopping spree. Luckily, the credit card company was on top of it, they notified my friend, put a stop on his card and notified the bank. After speaking to the bank, my friend decided to put a fraud alert with the major credit bureaus and file a complaint with the FTC. After an hour or two all of the work was done, and major damage to his credit was avoided. He does not know how his credit card account got into the hands of criminals, but he is very thankful that the credit card company was able to identify the issue and move quickly to stop it.

Identity theft rose by 22% in 2008, according to an article from A report on id theft was released last in February by Javelin Research. In the report it shows that electronic identity theft accounts for 22% of of reported cases. This data only reflects case of identity theft in which the victims know how their identity was stolen. Low tech methods of identity theft are still the most prevalent, with lost or stolen wallets the top method of identity thieves.

What can you do to protect yourself from electronic identity theft? Eric Esteves, from TechBoston sent a link to an article by Hiawatha Bray, who is an excellent technology reporter from the Boston Globe. He wrote this very helpful article about keeping your computer safe. The article explains antivirus software and how to keep Windows up to date. One piece of advice we never hear enough is not to download any software online unless it is from a reliable source! There are places online, such as, that test programs for malware before they offer them to the public.

Sometimes, as is the case of data breaches, you have no control over if your personal data is stolen. Therefore, it is always a good idea to regularly monitor your credit report, and if you do see a problem, to contact your bank, credit card companies and credit bureaus immediately. The FTC website has a lot of great resources about identity theft and what you can do if you are a victim.

Friday, March 13, 2009

ABC World News Reports on 'Sexting'

ABC World New Tonight just aired a television report on Sexting. As we wrote in this blog last month, the media has really started to shed a light on this teenage cell phone practice.

Educate your children, there are many consequences to Sexting. One consequence is the chance that the picture you send will be sent to other people in your school, or posted online for the world to see. Another consequence is that you could be arrested for the picture you receive on charges of possession of child pornography.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Some Social Networking in the News

There are many posts that I have been meaning to write about Social Networking for a little while now. Since I haven't been able to keep up with them, here are the articles that I wanted to share with a small synopsis about each.

Study of Risky Behavior of Teens on MySpace

The first article is about a study done by two doctors about risky behaviors exhibited by teenagers in MySpace. According to the results of the study, over half of the teenagers profiles contained mention of a risky behavior such as violence, substance abuse, or sexual activity. What I found most interesting, however, was the results of the follow up study. In the follow up study, one of the doctors sent a message to half of 190 of the teenagers that they found on MySpace who publicly displayed a risky behavior on their profile. The email to those teenagers warned tham about displaying that type of information online. As a result of the email, 42% of those teenagers withdrew references to their risky behaviors from their profiles. Educating students about the type of information they publicly display about themselves online is becoming more and more important.

Teen Sues Facebook and Ex-Classmates

This is an unfortunate, but all too familiar story about how social networks can be used as a tool to hurt other teenagers. A student from New York is suing former classmates for defamation over a Facebook page that was created about her. The Facebook page allegedly included defamatory statements about the teen and caused her much emotional distress. These types of online defamation lawsuits are increasing, but what makes this one particularly interesting is that Facebook is also being sued by the teen. It will be very interesting to follow this case and see if Facebook is held responsible for any of the content their users post about others.

Facebook Advice for Parents

This next resource is a blog post with some Facebook advice for parents. This blog posts raises an interesting question for parents, should you create a profile on the social network you child has a profile on to monitor them? I see two arguments, one being that these online spaces are for teenagers to talk, share, create and parents that go on them to keep tabs on their children are invading on privacy. The other argument is that it is a parent's responsibility to know what their child is posting online, what pictures and information they are making public, and who they are talking to. A good parent would monitor who their children's friends are in real life, right? This article provides some tips for those parents who want to become one of their child's online friends.

Cool Facebook Story

The next blog post offers a positive about using social networking. This is from David Warlick's blog, 2¢Worth, which is a great blog about educational technology integration. David's title to this blog post is "A Very Cool Story", to which I concur, it is a very cool story and demonstrates the enormous potential that social networking can have in gathering information and problem solving.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cyber Safety at the King Middle School

Representatives from the Boston Public Schools Office of Instructional and Information Technology were invited to present to students at the Martin Luther King Middle School today. OIIT was asked to educate about six classrooms of students about internet safety as a part of the King School Health Day. BPS Cyber Safety Campaign coordinator, Felicia Vargas, as well as Eric Esteves and Haruna Tada from Tech Boston put together a 40 minute presentation for the students about different topics of internet safety. The students first watched a short movie about internet safety called Jake's Cyber Adventure, written by and starring BPS High School students. After the movie, they led the students in a discussion and an activity about cyberbullying, cybersecurity, and online personal safety. The activity was a ten question quiz that used eInstruction classroom performance systems (clickers) to engage all of the students in the important discussion. I was not surprised that a large portion of these middle school students were very tech saavy and knew a lot about what we were discussing. It was also nice to connect with the students, hopefully we gave them some strategies to take away from the session today that will keep them a little safer while online.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kilmer Students Finalists in State Poster Contest!

I just received this email from Elaine McCabe over at the Joyce Kilmer Upper School:

I am very happy to announce that two of our fifth grade Upper School Kilmer students are semi-finalists in the 2009 State of Massachusetts Kids Safe Online Cyber Security Poster contest. In order for one of our Kilmer students to win, friends and family must vote electronically for the poster. The numbers you may want to consider in your voting process are Poster No. 33 or Poster No. 34. The poster with the highest votes will win a meeting and lunch with Governor Deval Patrick and that poster will be placed on the Massachusetts Cyber Website. Please forward this email to other interested individuals as we would like the Kilmer to be recognized for the great work that our students are producing on a daily basis. Be aware, one vote per person or email address. I have attached the email from the State with the link to view the posters and vote. IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO VOTE THROUGH THE STATE LINK, forward this email to your home address and please try it from there.

Thank you for your interest and support of our students

Congratulations to those two students and to all of the students at the Kilmer School who participated in the statewide internet safety poster contest!

Click here to vote for your favorite poster!