I was probably about 11 years old when I had my first experience with Internet safety.
My sister and I had discovered an online chat room that a lot of kids from our school frequented. We’d spend hours every day searching for kids our age to talk to. We found kids that lived down the street and also spoke to many kids who lived across the country.
After a few weeks of visiting this chat room daily while our mom was at work, I got a threatening email from a stranger. Scared for my life, I showed it to my mom, police were called and a report was filed.
The message in the email I received was not a serious threat. It was actually just a quote from a movie that I wasn’t familiar with at the time. I had no idea who this person was or how much information about myself I had let slip during an online conversation. I couldn’t know how valid that threat might be.
Kids today face very different issues online. It’s not faceless chat rooms they’re entering. There are photos, check-ins and constant status updates. Everyone has need to worry about just how much of their personal information is out there.
Even computers at the city of Phoenix sometimes come across viruses that may compromise some information. When that happens there are employees, like Ilene Klein of the city’s Information Security and Privacy Office, who know exactly how to get rid of viruses and keep them from coming back. Klein’s job isn’t to respond to malfunctioning equipment but to teach employees about Internet safety for themselves and for the city they work for. Now the Information Security and Privacy Office has built a website to share that knowledge and experience with everyone.
“Part of the city’s strategic plan is to increase the outreach to the public,” Klein said. “We want to help educate not only employees but all of our residents on the importance of information security and basic safeguards to protect their information, their systems and their families.”
Phoenix.gov/infosec is full of ways to protect your information and keep your family safe on the Internet. There’s information on cyber-bullying, PC-protection, passwords, mobile-devices, security, privacy, viruses, ID theft and even phishing. There are helpful reminders, protection strategies and links to other government-sponsored websites with even more resources for help.
Klein compares taking care of your computer to taking care of your car. Just like you might need an oil change or a tune up on your car, you need anti-virus software on your computer and that software often has updates that need to be applied. Keeping up with your computer’s updates and making sure you have the latest version of software is a basic way to keep your information safe.
The website has sections not only for residents but for businesses, too. There, businesses can find out that latest scams and can gather information on complying with industry requirements.
Klein and her team worked hard to make sure the new website is approachable and not written in too many technical terms that are hard to understand. It’s meant to give clarity, explanations, and balance to the information that is out there.
While the city hopes the website will be helpful it is only meant for general information. It’s not possible for the city to answer very detailed questions about your specific computer problem, but Klein said she plans to answer any general questions that come in. To submit a question, send an email to email@example.com. For ideas on how to best protect your information on the Internet, visit phoenix.gov/infosec.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or firstname.lastname@example.org