Remembering cybercrime on Safer Internet Day 2017

Every day is a special day, and what’s special about today is that it’s Safer Internet Day. This year it has a theme: “’Be the change: Unite for a better internet”. The Safe Internet Day organisation has issued a stirring call for “all stakeholders to join together to make the internet a safer and better place for all, and especially children and young people.”

The day comes with some warnings and some advice from mega-sized networking company Cisco. Cisco tells us that the codgers are winning on the security awareness front, with 56% of Baby Boomers (aged 55 and up) claiming that they “secure” all their smart devices, compared to less than 28% of Gen Ys.

The report says this lackadaisical attitude amongst the youngsters is “despite the advantage of being born into an internet-connected world.” I’d suggest “because of” rather than “despite”. You’re less frightened of that with which you are familiar.

Still, this can be serious. For example:

One in five (19%) Gen Y state they cannot afford protection, despite having access to free cloud-based security, such as Cisco Umbrella, while the same number (19%) believe being “careful” of what they do online is enough to protect themselves from becoming victims of cybercrime.

Worryingly, this level of complacency among Gen Y is making them sitting ducks for cyber criminals, as research shows they are almost six times more likely to be blackmailed online than Baby Boomers, twice as likely to be the victim of identity fraud, and almost twice as likely to click on a risky pop-up.

Cisco offers five points of advice:

  1. Make sure all the devices in your home are secured – and it has advice on that, which I’ll get to in a moment
  2. “Be more vigilant and educate your family” – fair enough. It’s a good idea that the kids know not to click on an email asking for their bank details. Etc.
  3. Report incidents – Cisco recommends reporting them to ACORN, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network.
  4. Consider reputable cloud services for backing up
  5. Don’t re-use passwords and don’t use obvious information. Again, fair enough.

I’d note that backing up large data collections to cloud services is something to be avoided for many of us since for most Australians, Internet speeds are still the best that was available … ten years ago. That’s when the prospect of the NBN froze the Internet here. So those of us not on the NBN (ie. most of us) will have to wait another year or four for that one.

As for point 1, Cisco suggested its “OpenDNS” service which “is free-cloud-based security that just takes two minutes to set up, runs across a whole network, which means every device that connects to it is covered, and requires no testing, updates, installations etc.”

Sounds good. How does it work?

Well, the network router/modem in every home connects to something called a DNS server. That server looks up the website name that you’ve typed in and finds its IP address – which looks something like – so that it can connect. OpenDNS does exactly the same thing, except that it has been analysing data traffic flows for years and reckons that is identified the addresses for malicious websites. So if some clicks on the link in a phishing email, they’ll be taken to a warning rather than the dangerous website.

Oh, and it reckons its DNS lookup service is particularly fast as well.

Oh, and its free.

So maybe check it out.

Meanwhile, kids, happy Safer Internet Day 2017!