Safer Internet Day – Not just for kids…

It’s Safer Internet Day 2018, a day dedicated to the promotion of young people using the internet safely and responsibly.

The UK Safer Internet Centre coordinates thousands of activities throughout the country, providing free resource packs and organising events to raise awareness of the day and of how to use the internet responsibly.

This year the theme is “Create, Connect and Share Respect: A better internet starts with you”, teaching young people to be safer when making connections and interacting online; you could argue it harks back to the days when the internet first became a household staple and we urged children first using the internet to not speak to, or meet, strangers.

Educating our generation of digital natives

We’re more connected now than ever before, and Safer Internet Day is the opportunity to educate the generation we know as ‘digital natives’ on how they behave online. My age group (I’m 25) was probably one of the first to grow up as digital natives in some respects; I had a computer from an early age, and I spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years on the computer. My earliest memory of using a computer involves creating masterpieces (ahem) on Paint and playing Minesweeper, even though I didn’t quite understand it…

We adopted laptops and smartphones and smart gadgets with relative ease, as well as social media. This new generation of young people has never known a time without social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, and this brings with it its own challenges.

But what can we learn from Safer Internet Day?

It’s not just young people that need to be educated and informed on their internet usage. The cyber-threat landscape today is more wide-reaching than ever before thanks to more people being online for longer, and the range of services and devices we use. Your attack surface, and your business’ attack surface, is wide thanks to all of those, and hackers will use that to their advantage.

A lot of the messages aimed at the key audience of Safer Internet Day, 8-18-year-olds, can be heeded by the rest of us too.

Don’t accept social requests from strangers

It’s obvious why this is key advice for young people on the internet, and it’s not something we need to go into here. But this is guidance we should all heed, and it comes back to the key point that people aren’t always who they say they are. Social engineering – “deception and manipulation” – is one of the most successful tactics in a hacker’s arsenal, and the more information they have on you, the easier it is to trick you.

Accepting strangers on social networks like Facebook can give them a whole host of information on you, like where you work, your interests and even your friends. All of this information could be used either to impersonate you for fraudulent purposes, or to manipulate you. You might even get a request from someone impersonating someone you know. It’s good practice to check your mutual friends; if your Financial Director is sending you a Facebook friend request, but they’re not friends with any of your other colleagues, that’s a warning sign.

The same goes for emails from unknown sources; don’t interact with them. Equally, if you receive a suspicious email from someone you know, speak to them in person or over the phone. Hackers are becoming more sophisticated than ever when it comes to impersonation; read our blog on email spoofing to find out more about spotting fake emails.

Don’t give out your passwords – and create strong ones

During my diligent research for this blog, I took the Safer Internet Day 2018 quiz, which asks you questions based around this year’s theme. Naturally, it’s aimed at people in a younger age bracket than myself, but one question centres around password-sharing. I was surprised at the example; your friend shares their password with you, and in return they expect you to share yours. I do wonder if this is prevalent with young people; the attitude certainly seems feasible. I share something of mine, and you share something of yours.

It might seem obvious to keep passwords a secret, but you’d be surprised at how many people innocently share them. It might be to your social networks, where you give your partner or best friend access to your login because you trust them. It might be a shared password in your business; maybe your colleague hasn’t had their own account setup for a site you need to use daily, so you share yours. The most dangerous aspect of password-sharing – and for that matter, using weak passwords – is password reuse. I’d bet my bottom dollar that you reuse at least one of your passwords; I’ve been guilty of it in the past.

Hackers are now using details of previous data breaches to try and crack into other systems – a key target at the moment is Spotify accounts. This might not sound like much at first, but paid-for Spotify users will have financial information stored in their accounts. Brute force attacks, where hackers use a number of popular passwords to try and hack into your accounts, are still common, so if your password isn’t complex, make it so. It’s recommended that you use multiple unrelated words in order to create an uncrackable password – but whatever you do, don’t use one of the 25 worst passwords of 2017.

Check your facts

Another piece of advice from this quiz advises young people to check information that they or their friends see online. In the era of fake news and sensationalised stories – and with Facebook being cracked down on thanks to the proliferation of false information disseminated on the platform – this is good practice and we’d always recommend it; remember that most things you do online can be traced back to you. But we can apply it to more than simply fact-checking anything we share.

Typosquatting is the latest cyber-attack trend where hackers rely on your spelling mistakes to infect your system with malware like Ransomware, or direct you to a convincing fake site in order to steal your login credentials. Mistyping a website address by even one letter can have disastrous consequences. When you’re on a website, no matter how convincing it looks, always check that the URL is spelled correctly (Google the company if you have to in order to double check). Most reputable websites will also have an SSL certificate (highlighted by a green https:// at the beginning of the URL) to ensure a safe connection.

How can I find out more?


We’re always posting about IT security on our blog in order to help our customers stay safe online. You can check out some of our blogs in our security section and you can find out more about Safer Internet Day 2018 and how to get involved on its dedicated website.