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Viruses?

In dealing with the onslaught of viruses, you wonder if the scare is really over. MyDoom, also known as Novarg, Shimg, and Mimail.R, started propagating itself at a furious rate, initially through Kazaa and as an e-mail attachment. Soon, the fastest-moving infection yet on the Internet was everywhere.

MyDoom wasn`t anything special. Most people got infected by clicking on an attachment that turned out to be an executable file—something we`ve warned our readers about for years. But many still continued to click, and the virus spread.

This is just one more example of the problems that viruses and security holes are creating.
Just consider these stats: In two days, at the height of the infection, in more than 500 messages at a public e-mail addresses: 10 were MyDoom viruses, 300 were about undelivered e-mail due to MyDoom, 200 were spam, and only 30 were legitimate messages. Makes you realize what kind of trouble we may all be having with viruses.

Keep an Eye on what your kids do online.

There are some actual dangers, though, and here are a few ways to keep your kids safe.

Use a kid-safe search engine.
One of the most common ways that kids get onto inappropriate websites is by going to search engines and typing in words and phrases that you and I would consider innocuous, such as "Backstreet Boys" or "American Girl." While most kids would expect to find out about the band or the dolls, your average search engine could come up with just about anything based on those phrases.

The solution is to use a search engine that`s geared to kids, where you`re guaranteed to get sites that are kid-friendly. Two of the search engines I like best for younger kids are Ask Jeeves for Kids and Yahooligans.

Older kids can use Google`s SafeSearch Filtering which, once it`s set, won`t return adult sites.

Beware of misinformation.
You can find websites that say that there`s no danger from second-hand smoke, or that global warming isn`t happening, or that the Holocaust never happened.

One of the main reasons for kids to be on the Net is to use it as a research source. But no matter the topic, they`ll find someone out there with a different viewpoint on the subject.

All responsible parents should make sure that their kids understand that just because something`s on the Internet, doesn`t mean that it`s true. Skeptical thinking is a useful skill, and it`s never too early to learn that you can`t trust everything you read.

Be careful of chat rooms.
One of the most popular things kids like to do online is chat with their friends. Unfortunately, there`s no way to know if the person your 11-year-old daughter is chatting with is another pre-teen girl or a middle-aged man. Depending on your child, there are a number of different approaches to avoid some of the latter. For instance, if you`re on AOL, you can set up your child`s access so that she can`t chat at all or can only chat in moderated chat rooms.

For younger kids, this is definitely the approach to take. All kids should know that there are certain things they should never tell anyone -- their real names, their addresses, or their phone numbers.

If you`re on AOL, use those seven screen names that you get with your account. Set up one that`s just for chatting and an entirely different one that`s just for email. That way, you or your kids won`t ever have to deal with the spam that`s sure to appear shortly after they participate in a public chat.

Reduce spam.
Your best bet is to set up your email program to use filters or rules. Different mail programs have different terminology and different ways to set them up. For instance, Hotmail has a junk mail filter, and Yahoo! Mail automatically sends most spam to a bulk mail folder. If your kids are on AOL, you can set up their email so that you can configure their email accounts to accept only certain email addresses, and to not accept photos or other attachments.

If you have a regular POP email account, you can use a program such as Outlook to restrict what comes in. For instance, my son`s email is filtered so that if the sender isn`t in his address book, he never even sees the message. Instead, anything from an unknown account is forwarded to me and then automatically deleted. If a message from someone comes through that he should get, I just have to forward the message back to him and add that email address to his address book.
(Don Smith, TechTV)