Are you safe online? Microsoft observes Safer Internet Day
My nephew is arguably Manchester United’s greatest fan ever. This devotion sends him regularly online to follow the Red Devils’ latest results, news and chat. Recently, he was devastated to see comments he had never made appearing in a chat room discussion and was rebuked for views that were not his or insulting remarks he had not contributed. It was soon clear that he had fallen victim to identify theft from a so called friend. It was a hard earned lesson for a young internet user that is unfortunately a growing trend today among others.
This was evidenced in research released by Microsoft this week that shows how most internet users have basic online security protection but they are less knowledgeable about how to defend against cybercrime threats that rely on deception such as phishing, identity theft and fraudulent links. The study coinciding with Safer Internet Day, organized by Insafe, a European Commission initiative to raise internet safety awareness, reinforces the importance of encouraging internet users to take action to stay secure online. The findings are based on the Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI) which gathered responses from more than 11,000 people in 27 countries to examine their adoption of online tools and behaviours. Respondents were awarded points for proactive security practices to arrive at an overall MCSI score out of 100 but alarmingly the average score across all countries was just 44. While many consumers are using firewalls, anti-virus software and strong passwords, they are still vulnerable to social engineering attacks and are not taking the right precautions to guard against cybercriminals using increasingly sophisticated and devious ploys to steal money and personal information. For example, only half of people change their social networking privacy settings to limit what information they share, just 29 per cent say they use phishing and web browser filters and only 18 per cent have installed anti-virus or spyware software on their mobile phones.
Further education is clearly needed on the actions and tools that can help protect against these new threats that deceive users. As part of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to education and keeping families safe online, 600 Microsoft employees across 20 European countries volunteered to support Safer Internet Day to train approximately 98,400 children, teachers and parents on protecting themselves online. Each year, from Larnaca to Helsinki our employees rise to the challenge for Safer Internet Day working with schools, NGOs and other partners as part of our digital citizenship efforts to improve lives through technology.
To further enhance internet safety in schools in particular, Microsoft supported the eSafety Label initiative launched on Safer Internet Day by Commissioner Neelie Kroes. eSafety label is an online safety support and accreditation system for schools across Europe that was developed by European Schoolnet in collaboration with the Ministries of Education from Belgium-Flanders, Italy and Portugal.
But beyond education and awareness, working to secure privacy through technology continues to be a top priority for Microsoft. Of all potential privacy issues, being tracked across sites while browsing comes up most consistently. We therefore empower consumers to use tracking protection lists when they browse the web. Tracking Protection Lists define rules that allow or block tracking elements such as third party images, web beacons, ads and other third party content on web pages. Two leading privacy advocates – Simon Davies and Alexander Hanff of Privacy International – have released new Tracking Protection Lists for Europe, and are working on one focused on protecting children. These TPLs and other helpful information on privacy are available at http://privacyonline.org.uk/.
So the work continues at all levels to ensure a safer online experience for consumers and particularly young users so they are protected against new and emerging risks. Safer Internet Day provides an important opportunity to learn more about what consumers, educators and industry can do towards that goal.