Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Looking for an Internet security or fraud prevention article we published in GCFlash? Find highlights here.
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Stop Bullying Now
I'll never forget Debbie. Her boyfriend sat next to me in class. One fateful day, he leaned over and asked if he could borrow a pencil.
We were in the 8th grade. Over 40 years ago. Yet the memory still lingers every time I hear about children being bullied.
Debbie was furious that her boyfriend spoke to me, a fact I learned walking home from school that day. She taunted me the entire walk home, calling me names and threatening to beat me up the next day.
It never occurred to me at that young age that she would have attacked me on the spot if that were truly her intention. No advance scheduling would have been necessary for something of this nature.
My stomach was in knots the next day. I did not want to go to school. Yet neither did I want to appear afraid.
Tension mounted throughout the day. Anticipation of the dreaded meeting heightened with every tic of the clock. It finally happened. The bell signaling the end of another school day rang louder and longer than it ever appeared to have before.
I ran home as quickly as my little legs would carry me. I never showed up at the designated time and location. I'm guessing she didn't, either, as the names continued but the threats eventually stopped.
It wouldn't have mattered much at the time to know how our lives would transpire. She still lives in our hometown, a divorced mother of three struggling to break the chains of addiction.
I'm gazing out my office window, watching the palm trees sway on a tropical island writing this column. Neither of us resemble the children depicted in that scenario four decades past. Yet it remains quite vivid to me.
Back then, I had the safety of my home to protect me from my tormentor. Children today have no safe place. The Internet brings their harassers right into their place of refuge. There is no solace. There is no relief. Threats continue to live on in one form or another, long after the originator turns their attention to the next victim.
Cyberbullying can occur in various ways. The child may receive mean text messages or emails. Someone may post rumors on social networking sites, or embarrassing pictures of them on a website. They may create a fake profile using their identity to post derogatory comments. Or even bully others using the victim's name.
It can be impossible to trace the source and take down the fake profile.
Children who are bullied online are often bullied in person as well. If you see a sudden change in your child's behavior, they may be a victim of bullying. They may be reluctant to go to school, their grades may drop or they may lose self-esteem.
Bullied children are more likely to develop health problems or use alcohol and drugs to mask their pain.
It's important that parents talk to their children about cyberbullying, along with other online security issues. Know what sites they visit, where they're going, what they're doing and who they're doing it with.
A responsible parent will monitor a child's online activity if they have reason for concern. There are several good parental control programs available to help achieve this. But don't stop there.
Learn about their favorite sites. Get a feel for their texts. Ask for passwords, but promise to only use them in an emergency. And keep that promise. If they're not comfortable "friending" you on Facebook, ask another trusted adult to do so.
Explain the importance of telling you immediately if they're being bullied, or if it's happening to someone they know. Make sure they know you won't punish them for the actions of another by taking away their computers or cell phones.
Children are still trusting creatures, they haven't yet been scorched by the realities of life. They need to be taught the consequences of posting something they may one day regret. It's a lesson as equally important as not talking to strangers. Even more so as they begin to think of those they meet online as friends. The distinction between stranger and friend is now blurred, presenting an even greater danger.
Teach them the importance of keeping their passwords safe and not sharing them with friends. Here comes that blurred line again; where you lend a pencil to the boyfriend of someone once thought a friend. It could be an action just as innocent that turns their life upside down.
The website StopBullying.gov offers excellent advice on how to respond to bullies, support the kids involved, where to report it, and how to find help for victims. Every parent should bookmark this site and visit often. Feel free to share this column with them, too. The health and welfare of your child could depend upon it.
The End of XP
All good things must come to an end. For Windows XP, that end is coming April 8, 2014.
Many people and businesses still use the operating system. For good reason. It was one of the most stable, user-friendly products Microsoft released in quite some time. They seem to hit a home run with one product and strike out with the next release.
Folks cling to that which works. If you're among those that still use XP, you're in good company. But there are things you will need to know.
Your computer will continue operating on April 9, 2014. The operating system will not self-destruct.
However, Microsoft's support for the product will end. This means no more updates. Updates patch security holes. No more updates means anyone still using XP will be ripe targets for cyberfraud.
Windows XP was released 12 years ago. And so much has changed in the technology world since that time. If you are using a PC old enough to run on XP, it may not be capable of upgrading to the current Windows 8 OS. Microsoft has a utility you can run to check your computer for compatibility. Find it here.
Windows 8 takes a lot of getting used to. It's quite different than previous versions. We offered some help here.
Microsoft advises XP users to either migrate to Windows 8 or buy a new computer if their current system isn't capable of the upgrade.
But there may be a better option. You can still find copies of Windows 7 online with a quick Google search. The upgrade is easier and system requirements not quite so different than XP. You'll need a machine with a 1 GHz processor or faster, 1 GB RAM for a 32-bit or 2 GB for a 64-bit system, 16 GB available hard disk space (20 GB 64-bit) and DirectX9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver. Certain features require additional requirements.
And Windows 7 falls into that home run cycle, unlike its successor 8. There's a brief learning curve but you're quickly up to full speed.
XP is not going to its grave alone. Microsoft is killing Office 2003 along with it. The support end, that is. And since malware payloads are often deployed via Visual Basic scripting, the risk is equally as high when the patches stop coming.
Upgrading Office 2003 to the current 2010 product isn't quite as easy. You can't get there from here. You'll need to upgrade in steps, loading Office 2007 first.
To run Office 2007, you'll need at least a 500 mHz processor, 1.5 GB hard disk space, 256 MB memory and display resolution of at least 1024x768. Fairly lean by today's standards, but if your system is of the Office 2003 era you'd better check it first.
Not all copies of Office 2003 are upgradable. If you have the 2003 Student and Teacher or Basic editions, you'll have to purchase the full installation copy. Otherwise, the upgrade-only version will work just fine.
This article assumes the reader is familiar with performing software upgrades. If you're not, don't try this at home. Seek assistance from your trusted computer support center.
Tip of the Week
Identity thieves find opportunity around every corner. The Affordable Care Act is no exception. Con artists are contacting citizens with promises of helping them navigate the enrollment process. They claim to be experts on various plans and procedures, well-qualified to guide you through step-by-step.
Don't fall for it. They are only after your personal information. You'll need to initiate contact with a navigator or program representative for any assistance you require. No legitimate entity will contact you first. Beware of anybody that does.
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