Category Archives: Software

Strides To Stop Bullying Essay Event to Benefit the International Bullying Prevention Association

AscentiveInternet Safety News from the Ascentive team

Nancy Silberkleit, the seasoned anti-bullying and literacy advocate, is proud to announce the Strides To Stop Bullying Essay Event, a new anti-bullying initiative for 2012.  This inspirational event, open to students across the country, encourages youth to share their true stories and insight to raise awareness and stop the harm that bullying and cyberbullying can do.  Led by a panel including Former New York Governor David Paterson, Stan Davis of stopbullyingnow.com andNancy Silberkleit, the contest will raise funds for the International Bullying Prevention Association.  Selected youth will also have their story serve as the inspiration for a forthcoming educational, not-for-profit comic book written by Nancy Silberkleit. Selected essays may also be published anonymously in other ways.

Nancy Silberkleit, co-CEO of Archie Comics, is using her educational training and experience to inspire self-confidence and strength in children of all ages.  The Strides To Stop Bullying Essay Event was conceived by Silberkleit as a way to create an inspired community while also furthering her philanthropic reach. She is currently working on a series of educational comic book focusing on children’s issues such as bullying.  She aims to share her words of strength and inspiration with today’s youth.  She advises, “Never let anyone define who you are.  You know who you are.”

The Strides To Stop Bullying Essay Event, open to all students across the country ages 8-18, will be open for submissions February 1st- May 1st.  To enter, children must write a 250-word true essay on the topic of bullying. They may send their own true story about what made things better when they were bullied, or how they supported someone else who was bullied.  These essays will be used as the inspiration for one of Nancy Silberkleit’s upcoming educational comics.  For the first 200 essays sent in, Nancy Silberkleit will donate $5 per essay to the International Bullying Prevention Association.

“Creating a school environment free of harassment and discrimination has been a long term goal of mine,” says Governor Paterson.  “I’m proud to further align myself with causes such as this contest that encourage our youth to speak out and unite against bullying.”

Children are encouraged to enter throughout the submission period by emailing their 250 word stories and essays to stridestostopbullying@gmail.com.

 

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New Survey Shows Gap Between Americans’ Online Security Perceptions and Actual Practices

AscentiveInternet Safety News from the Ascentive team

More than nine in ten Americans (92%) believe that a safe and secure Internet is crucial to our nation’s economic security and 81% of Americans want to learn more about being safe and secure online, but there still exists a visible disconnect between Americans’ perceptions of their online safety practices versus the reality of their actual safety practices. These insights were revealed in the 2011 National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA)-McAfee Online Safety Study, released today by the NCSA and McAfee.

While the study found progress in a number of areas regarding online safety awareness, perception versus reality gaps continue to exist in critical areas:

70% of Americans say that they represent their child/children’s primary source of information for online safety, yet 48% of parents are not completely confident that their children can use the Internet safely.

32% of consumers either back up data only once a year—or never (20%).

15% of Americans have never checked their social networking privacy and security account settings.

According to the survey, only 7% of U.S. parents are worried about cyberbullying even though 33% of teenagers have been victims of cyberbullying, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Survey.

“This new study shows that vast majorities of Americans believe that cyber security is important for our personal safety and our nation’s economic security,” said NCSA Executive Director Michael Kaiser. “Yet this survey also shows that we can do a better job of protecting ourselves and those around us and really focus on the notion that a safe and secure Internet and digital experience represents a shared responsibility.”

“As our digital usage grows exponentially each year with a multitude of different devices connected to the Internet, cyber threats have grown more sophisticated and widespread than ever before,” said Todd Gebhart, co-president, McAfee. “This new survey demonstrates the fundamental importance of better online safety and security awareness for ourselves, our communities, our schools and our businesses.  Consumers need to think beyond just PCs, and also protect their web experiences, their data, and very importantly, their children on all the devices they use.”

Key Findings:


Security Perceptions

Less than half of the population (46%) reports that they feel safe from viruses, malware and hackers while on the Internet.

When it comes to the issue most Americans are concerned about regarding online safety and security, 43% of respondents reported they were most worried about identity theft; 13% were concerned with loss of privacy; and 12% reported their biggest concern was someone monitoring or recording their online activity.

When asked how people would like to learn about staying safe online, 37% of Americans are willing to receive regular information from an organization about safety best practices; 15% are willing to educate others; 13% would attend an in-person education session; 20% are not willing to do any of these and 15% are not sure.

Crime and Law Enforcement

When asked what puts Americans most at risk of a cybercrime or a loss of personal information the largest number of respondents, one-third (33%) said they believe connecting to an unsecured wireless network puts them most at risk yet more than half (53%) of Americans said they have logged onto a wireless network without entering a security password.

One in 5 (18%) Americans have been the victim of a cybercrime and 38% know someone who has been victimized, and 65% of all respondents do not think their local police department is equipped to handle reports and investigate Internet crimes.

Of the 17% who were victims of cybercrime but did not report them, 34% were either unsure what exactly happened or were not sure who to report it to.

More than half (53%) of Americans indicated they have received fake anti-virus warnings but 87% said they did not believe the warning was legitimate. From 2008 to 2010, fake anti-virus scams have grown by 600% and are estimated to victimize one million Internet users per day, according to McAfee research.

Safe Computing Practices

54% of Americans don’t back up their data regularly; with 21% backing up just monthly; 12% backing up only once a year and 20% of consumers never backing up.

21% say they don’t think it’s necessary to change account passwords regularly even though experts believe this is a basic online safety practice.  More than a million password-stealing malware samples were discovered from January 2011 –June 2011, according to McAfee Labs.

25% say they never change their passwords unless prompted.

Social Networks

26% say they are sharing more information on social networks today than one year ago.

Nearly half (47%) of Americans are confident in their ability to use privacy and security account settings in their social networks, but another 47% are only somewhat confident with 24% saying they are not confident at all.

15% of respondents have never checked their social networking privacy and security account settings and only 18% said the last time they checked their settings was in the last year.

Meanwhile, one out of ten (11%) Americans reported that their social network has been hacked in the last year, while 81% did not.

Children and Online Safety

70% of Americans say that they represent their child/children’s primary source of information for online safety, yet 48% of parents are not completely confident that their children can use the Internet safely.

According to the survey, parents worry most about contact with strangers (38%) online, 7% worried about bullying and harassment and 9% were worried about identity theft even though 140,000 minors are the victims of ID fraud each year according to ID Analytics.

The concern that ranked second according to parents was exposure to adult content yet 44% of parents admit they have not discussed Internet pornography with their children and 44% don’t have content-filtering software on their computers.

48% of the parents surveyed say they know their child/children have seen pornography online and of the parents who aren’t sure if their kids have seen adult content, 68% think it unlikely that they have.

Of those parents who don’t have content-filtering software, 34% say they trust their kids.

Workplace Cyber Security Practices

The survey also polled a sub-sample of Americans cyber security practices and attitudes in their workplace.  The survey found that a majority say their employer has a formal work Internet usage policy (59%) while 26% do not.

But respondents are split as to whether or not they have had training on keeping their work computers safe and secure (43% to 43%).

Seven in ten (69%) say that a safe and secure Internet is dependent to their job, 45% of which say it is very dependent. Six in ten (61%) say that losing Internet access at their job for 48 consecutive hours during a regular business week would be disruptive, 43% say it would be extremely disruptive.

A 2011 NCSA/Symantec study of small businesses finds that two thirds (66%) say that their business is dependent on the Internet for its day-to-day operations, two fifths of which (38%) would characterize it as very dependent.  Two thirds (67%) of small business owners describe their businesses as more dependent on the Internet than it was 12 months ago.

Age Disparities

Respondents ages 18-54 feel that individual users are most responsible for keeping the Internet safe and secure, whereas users 55 and older believe that it is the Internet service provider who is most responsible.

As the age of the user increases, so does their concern over identity theft, with 40% of 18-29 year olds, 39% of 30-49 year olds, 47% of 50-64 year olds, and 50% of those 65+ citing this as their largest concern.

As respondents’ age increases, a smaller percentage feels safe using smartphones with 23% of 18-29 year olds, 11% of 30-49 year olds, and 2.5% of 50-64 year olds feeling safe accessing the Internet using their smartphones.

Gender Attitudes Towards Cyber Security

If a computer were infected by a virus or malware, and the user was provided step-by-step instructions to fix it, only 31% of females feel very confident in fixing the computer on their own versus 53% of males who feel very confident about pursuing this task.

Nearly one in every five males (or 19%) backup their data and digital information on a daily basis while a less amount of females – only 12% – do so each day.

Thirty-eight percent of females have undergone training to keep their computer safe and secure at work, while 48% of males received training about safe and secure cyber security practices in the workplace.

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Cyberattacks on the Rise

AscentiveCybersecurity information from the Ascentive team

New cybercrime statistics published by HP reveal that the cost of cyber attacks has risen more than 50%* since last year, and IT security expert Stu Sjouwerman cautions that number is likely to grow. As the founder and CEO of Internet Security Awareness Training (ISAT) firm KnowBe4, Sjouwerman (pronounced “shower-man”) has made it his mission to learn the increasingly sophisticated tactics used by the latest generation of cybercriminals – and to educate small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on how to recognize and avoid them.

According to the Second Annual Cost of Cyber Crime Study, which was sponsored by ArcSight (an HP company) and conducted by the Ponemon Institute, survey respondents reported losses between $1.5 million and $36.5 million per year due to cyber attacks. Collectively, their median annualized cost was $5.9 million – a 56% increase over the $3.8 million figure reported in the July 2010 study. Other key findings announced by HP: the frequency of cyber attacks has increased nearly 45%, and the time and cost to resolve them has risen. The study’s findings indicate that a single attack now takes an average of 18 days and $416,000 to correct.

As many executives and entrepreneurs have learned the hard way, today’s cybercriminals are stepping up their efforts with stealthy tactics and sophisticated technology. This latest study shows that cyber attacks and their related costs are rapidly growing, so business need to be proactive in combating cybercrime if they want to avoid financial loss,” cautioned Sjouwerman.

To educate SMEs on the evolution of cybercrime – and help them better understand what they’re up against today – KnowBe4 provides an overview of the “Five Generations of Cybercrime” on its website. “While the first generation of hackers were more interested in notoriety than financial gain, today’s cybercriminals – Generation Five – are more likely to be operating within organized crime syndicates and profiting handsomely from their schemes,” Sjouwerman explained. “Coding skills are no longer required. Tools and malware are readily available through a thriving underground market, so even a relative novice could quickly get in on the action.”

Among the alarming developments Sjouwerman and his KnowBe4 colleagues are seeing today are:

  • · Licensed malware complete with technical support
  • · Cybercrime social networks with escrow services
  • · “Pay-for-play” malware infection services
  • · Botnet rentals for cybercrime sprees

Sjouwerman believes that the reason so many companies are falling victim to cybercrime is because they’re not taking proactive measures to prevent it. He attributes the growth of the criminal enterprise to a false sense of security among executives at SMEs and a lack of training among their employees. “Many people assume antivirus software and an IT team are sufficient protection against cyber attacks. But the fact is that cybercriminals can bypass corporate security measures simply by tricking one employee into clicking a link. With one click, malware can be instantly downloaded to a computer and quickly spread across an entire network. And in most cases, the employee is completely unaware he or she has just given cybercriminals open access to company systems.”

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New Studies show that Parents don’t Properly Protect Children from Cyber-Bullying

AscentiveSafe Internet Use Tips from the Ascentive team

With about half of young people experiencing some form of cyberbullying or other harassment online, a majority of parents with children under 18 say they are concerned about their children’s social networking activities and want to find ways to protect them. Most parents also admit, however, that they do not have the tools, knowledge or time to properly monitor their children on social networks—and many admit that they take no precautions at all. That’s according to two new studies released today by an online monitoring service.

According to the studies, over 69% of parents with children ages 10 – 17 say they are concerned about their children visiting social networking sites, with their biggest fears being, in order, contact from strangers, information being displayed online that shares their child’s physical location, postings that could tarnish their child’s reputation, and their child getting cyberbullied.

However, the data also shows that most parents do not take the proper precautions to ensure their child’s safety when visiting social networks. For example, even though 68% of parents believe that daily monitoring is a must because news on social networks spreads fast and needs to be resolved quickly, only 32% of parents say they actually monitor their child’s social networking activities every day, and 28% of parents admit they only occasionally, rarely or never monitor their child’s social networking activities.

Meanwhile, 66% of parents believe they should monitor all of their child’s Facebook activity including emails and chats, yet the most common monitoring technique stated—”friending” their child—does not allow the parent to monitor email, chats or many other activities where dangers could lurk. Even if a parent were to “friend” their child, it would be practically impossible and extremely time-consuming to monitor what all of their child’s friends are doing, especially since the average teenager has more than 200 friends on social networks. Many parents don’t realize that the greatest danger posed to their child on social networks isn’t what their child does, but what others do to or say about their child.

“Almost all parents agree that they have a responsibility to look out for their kid’s safety and well-being while they’re on social networks, but there is a serious gap between what most parents believe is sufficient monitoring and what they are actually doing, which in most cases is far from sufficient,” said George Garrick, chief executive officer of SocialShield. “Our goal is to evaluate every friend request, every comment, every photo and all other activities regarding our customer’s children—including by all their friends—so that we can alert the parents if there’s anything suspicious. It’s ironic that so many parents insure their cellphones or protect their computers with anti-virus software, yet fail to properly protect their children from potential threats that can be both physical and psychological.”

Unfortunately, suicides by teens who have been cyberbullied on social networks are a fact of life today, as are incidents of predators stalking and contacting young teen girls, with such contact often leading to tragic outcomes. About half of young people have experienced at least some form of cyberbullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, which also found that cyberbullying victims are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to youth who had experienced no cyberbullying.

Since using a social network essentially requires the use of your real name and identity, many people (younger, more vulnerable teens in particular) often post excessive amounts of personal data including their daily habits and locations, not realizing they are leaving a real-life trail of who they are, what they do, and where they can be found.

Other findings from the report include:

  • 62% of parents feel that occasionally looking over their child’s shoulder while he/she sits at the computer in the family room is enough to monitor his/her activities effectively, even though 71% admit their child also accesses social networks from other places, such as at a friend’s house or the library.
  • 50% of parents admitted that “properly monitoring would take a lot of time and I’m sure there are things I’m not seeing”
  • 63% of parents say they frequently review who their child is friending on social  networks to make sure it is only people that he/she knows in real life (although it’s impossible for any parent to really know who a particular “friend” is)
  •  54% of parents say they monitor their child’s social networking account by logging into his/her account as him/her on occasion; only 5% say they are currently using a monitoring application that alerts them if there is something they should be aware of.

Steve DeWarns, a San Francisco Bay Area police officer said: “Whenever I’m speaking to parent organizations, I always tell them that you don’t know what you don’t know, and this data proves that while parents want to protect their kids on social networks, they don’t necessarily have time or even know the most effective way.  And at the most basic level, a large proportion of parents really don’t understand what social networks are and how they work, thus where the risks lie.”

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Demi Lovato and Seventeen Team Up to fight Cyber Bullying

Internet safety tips from the Ascentive team

Along with stars from ABC Family, Demi Lovato, has team up to put an end to bullies on and off the internet. Lovato is one of many stars who have faced cyber-bullies online and hopes to put a stop to it.

As a contributing editor for Seventeen Lovato has opened up about her struggle with being a victim of bullying in the past. “I was bullied when I was younger, it got so bad that I ended up leaving school because of it and the effects of that traumatizing time are still with me to this day,” she revealed in her recent article.

Stars such as Shailene Woodley (Amy Juergens from The Secret Life of the American Teenager) andTyler Blackburn(Caleb Rivers from Pretty Little Liars) have also joined their fellow ABC Family costars to promote the fight against bullying.

“All it takes is to speak up, to say something. All it takes is to find that strength within yourself, to be the one to say something, to tell someone about it, to tell a teacher, tell a parent, to tell another peer—somebody—what’s going on,” said Shailene Woodley.

Tyler said, “I think that the social media aspect of bullying is different because it spreads like wildfire immediately. So in that way, I think it’s almost more intense. But it’s just as hurtful as bullying someone face-to-face,” said Tyler Blackburn.

“I think that some people use bullying as a way to fit in, and I’ve noticed it’s not just the “cool” kids doing it anymore. Sitting behind a computer gives people a sense of anonymity, but everyone needs to realize that words—even the ones they write online—have a strong power to hurt people” said Demi Lovato.

ABC Family also recently premiered the two-hour ABC Family original movie, “Cyberbully,” starring Emily Osment (“Hannah Montana”), Kelly Rowan (“The OC”) and Kay Panabaker (“No Ordinary Family”), presented as part of the Delete Digital Drama Initiative. The initiative, will launch this summer both on the network and in the magazine’s August 2011 issue.

“Cyberbully” follows Taylor Hillridge (Osment), a teenage girl who falls victim to online bullying, and the cost it takes on her as well as her friends and family. Taylor is a pretty 17-year-old student dealing with her parents’ recent divorce and painfully aware of her lower social status in high school. When her mom gives her a computer for her birthday, Taylor is excited by the prospect of going online to meet new friends without her mother always looking over her shoulder. However Taylor soon finds herself the victim of betrayal and bullying while visiting a popular social website. Obsessed with the damaging posts, she begins to withdraw from her family and friends, including her life-long best friend, Samantha Caldone (Panabaker). Tormented and afraid to face her peers at school, Taylor is pushed to a breaking point. It is only after this life-changing event that Taylor learns that she is not alone – meeting other teens, including a classmate, who have had similar experiences. Taylor’s mom, Kris (Rowan), reels from the incident and takes on the school system and state legislation to help prevent others from going through the same harrowing ordeal.

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Best Free Phone Services on the Web

Business tips from the Ascentive team

Despite the birth of email and instant messenger, the phone is still an important part of business. People use the phone to connect with a voice they think they can trust that represents a particular product or service. But phone service doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg; here are the best free Phone Services on the web.

GoSIP:

Make free VoIP calls from your Web-enabled mobile phone through Wi-Fi with GoSIP’s free download.

Fring

Fring harnesses your phone’s SMS technology to deliver free VoIP calls wherever you are. It also lets you chat with friends on most major chat clients.

MOBIVOX:

Mobivox offers a free download that allows individuals to call anyone in the world, regardless of the phone they use.

FreeConferenceCall:

FreeConferenceCall offers accounts that can accommodate up to 96 users.

Free Audio Conferencing:

FAC provides free conference calls and offers toll-free conferencing for participants at 7.9 cents per minute.

RingCentral:

Offering a “complete internet fax service,” RingCentral’s free trial allows you to receive faxes as emails, to fax any MS Office file and to sign faxes electronically.

FaxDigits:

FaxDigits offers most of its services – a dedicated fax line, incoming faxes as PDFs, unlimited inbound faxes – for free. A premium services suite runs users $7.95 per month.

PamFax via Skype:

Although not quite free, some Skype plug-in developers have harnessed the power of Skype to send faxes to any fax machine in the world. Users pay in Skype credits per page with no monthly fees.

Facebook:

WalkieTalkie, Conference Calls and Chatterbox are just a few of the new applications Facebook offers. Facebook has also become a proving ground for VoIP-freeware development.

Ekiga:

Ekiga provides free VoIP for Linux enthusiasts.

GrandCentral:

Acquired by Google,  with GrandCentral one phone number makes all your phones ring.

JAHJAH:

JahJah  links two traditional phone lines together without downloads

KPhone:

KPhone is a Linux-based softphone project based on volunteer efforts.

MindSpring:

Earthlink’s free SIP phone download.

NadizPhone:

NadizPhone is a VoIP-enabled social networking site that allows free calls between members.

SightSpeed:

SighSpeed is an award-winning VPS that is free for personal use. Business plans start at $19.95 per month.

TelTel:

TelTel has a free download, but calls cost TelTel credits, which must be paid in $10 increments.

VoIP Discount:

VoIP Discount offers free VoIP calls, but only to trial members. After the trial period, users must buy credits, which gives them 120 “free days” of calling.

AIM Call Out:

Now that every major IM client has its own VoIM service, VoIM less about features and more about brand loyalty. For those still clinging to AOL, here’s yours.

Google Talk:

Finally, Google Talk is a freeware voice over Internet protocol VoIP client application offered by Google.

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Report links Cyberbullying and Suicide

Internet safety tips from the Ascentive team

Although the taunting of children by their peers always been a fact of life while one grows up, the growing popularity of the Internet in our society has escalated bullying to alarming proportions. Known as Cyberbullying, this type of bullying usually occurs when individuals utilize information and communication technologies to execute deliberate, repeated, and hostile actions intended to harm others. Whether it’s creating a fake social network member page to impersonate another child, transmitting harmful text messages or images, or posting malicious comments somewhere on the Internet, CyberBullying can seriously hurt a child. Mean comments, lies, embarrassing photos, videos, or malicious polls can be spread to a wide audience through texts, email or through posts on social networks. Some photos are even doctored with Photoshop to make them even more embarrassing and harmful.

Even worse, studies are now connecting Cyberbullying and teen suicide. A report by Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. and Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D of the Cyberbullying Research Center notes that victims of Cyberbullying were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide when compared to children who have not experienced Cyberbullying at all.

So what can you do to prevent Cyberbullying?

Talk to your Child

The first and most crucial step to take to prevent CyberBullying is to talk to your child about it. Make sure they know CyberBullying is wrong, and explain your expectations for their behavior. Encourage your children to come to you immediately if anything gets out of hand, and make sure they know never to take revenge on a cyberbully.

Create a Code of Conduct

Warn your children that if they would not say something to someone in person, then they shouldn’t communicate it online. And remember to set guidelines for the use of their computers and cellphones.

Online Security

Remind your children to keep their passwords safe, and not to share anything private online. Have them create their email and IM accounts with you, and make sure they do not put their personal info in their profile or screen name.

Delete Suspicious Emails

Train your child to always trash suspicious emails without opening them.

No Pretend Behavior

Warn your child never to pretend that someone they are not in chat rooms, IM’ing, or on social networks.

Filter Emails

If your child is cyberbullyied via email, use an email filter to direct all the cyberbully’s messages to go to a special folder, then forward the messages to the email provider.

Block Bullies

Tell your child that they can block bullies from their messenger buddy list by clicking on the “Block Buddy” button.

Research School Policies

Review your children’s school’s policies on bullying and discuss them with your children. And if there are not any policies on bullying in place, ask whether there are any plans to create them.

Install Tracking Software

Tacking software is special software that tracks malicious emails and automatically forward these emails to the sender’s Internet Service Provider.

Watch your Children

Finally, continue watch your children’s behavior. Ask your children how they interact with their friends and what kinds of problems pop up.