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Google shares tips to protect yourself against cyber-attacks

The digital world is not designed to be your personal diary

By Mathures Paul

  • Published 31.08.19, 7:54 PM
  • Updated 31.08.19, 7:54 PM
Over the past few years, India has seen an unprecedented growth in Internet users
Over the past few years, India has seen an unprecedented growth in Internet users iStock

As the Internet continues to become a basic feature of everyday lives, majority of users share personal information about themselves, their address, location and even family photos online without giving much thought. That’s how most online perpetrators get an opportunity to gain access to your personal information. Sunita Mohanty, director, trust and safety, Google India, discusses Internet safety among women and young users.

How big is the issue of Internet safety in India?

Over the past few years, India has seen an unprecedented growth in Internet users. Today, the country has the second-largest Internet user base with more than 450m users online. But, with this rapid growth, there is a growing concern towards ensuring user safety, especially those coming online for the first time. In India, due to low tech-literacy, many users are unaware of basic safeguards to keep themselves safe online.

There is a lot of device sharing, account sharing and use of single passwords across accounts. This makes users vulnerable to social engineering attacks, phishing and unwanted software downloads on devices. Therefore, it’s important that users understand the risk and take precautions to ensure a positive experience online.

Sunita Mohanty, director, trust and safety, Google India
Sunita Mohanty, director, trust and safety, Google India Picture: Google India

What are some of the precautions children and women should take online?

People sometimes think of online safety as a technical issue. But a big part of online safety involves simple, smart practices like making strong passwords. Kids learn at an early age how to keep themselves safe at home, in the classroom and, most importantly, on the street. They’re taught to be aware of their surroundings and to keep their belongings safe under lock and key. The same principle applies in the online world — only instead of belongings, we’re dealing with personal information and access to online accounts.

For women users, it’s important they are aware of the risks online. Beyond ensuring a strong password for their accounts, they need to be aware of the privacy settings to ensure they are engaging and sharing information with people they know and trust.

Are some groups of children and adolescents more vulnerable to cyber safety issues than others?

For children and adolescents, the Internet is like a magical world with so much to learn and explore. Just as the Internet has been a tremendous force for good, there are also bad actors on the web. But, since children are unaware of the risks associated, young minds are always at the brink of getting exposed to adverse experiences. As children are impressionable by nature and social environment, the information they receive online can have a long-term effect on their minds. Therefore, it’s important for young kids to learn the basics of online safety and digital citizenship before they step into the online world. Parents also need to maintain an ongoing dialogue with their kids to ensure that they are cyber-proof to predators and don’t become victims of cyber attacks.

What if somebody’s being bullied? Should they reach out to peers? Is that a safe and often productive thing to do or could that actually backfire?

Even when you try to prevent cyberbullying by following the digital safety guidelines, it can still happen to you or your peers. It’s important to deal and report cyberbullying as quickly as possible, even if it is happening to someone else. It’s important for everyone to work together to stop it and protect each other.

Kids should always report any instance of online bullying to their parents, teachers and even friends or relatives they trust, to take corrective measures. Parents are required to encourage an open channel of communication at home about the web, fostering an environment of trust and comfort, allowing kids a safe space to discuss any questionable content they encounter.

The new generation of Internet users in India use their native tongues to browse. How are you promoting safety and awareness among them?

Helping people manage their privacy and security is integral to everything we do. We have been working towards educating users about the risks on the Internet and building greater confidence amongst them to explore the various facets of the web. With interactive talks, workshops, and events, we aim to familiarise them with useful services on smartphones and help them to navigate the web independently. We have been conducting multiple workshops for language users. Besides, our new Google Safety Centre provides access to more tools, information, and enhanced resources in more than nine regional languages, to help online users better manage their online privacy and security.

Over the years we’ve created multiple tools to help you be in control of your web experience. For example, ‘Google Account’ gives you access to all the settings to safeguard your data and privacy. ‘Privacy Checkup’ helps you quickly review and adjust what data Google uses to personalise your experience. ‘My Activity’ helps you review and delete the activity data connected to your account.

As the Internet continues to become a basic feature of everyday lives, majority of users share personal information about themselves, their address, location and even family photos online without giving much thought. That’s how most online perpetrators get an opportunity to gain access to your personal information. Sunita Mohanty, director, trust and safety, Google India, discusses Internet safety among women and young users.

How big is the issue of Internet safety in India?

Over the past few years, India has seen an unprecedented growth in Internet users. Today, the country has the second-largest Internet user base with more than 450m users online. But, with this rapid growth, there is a growing concern towards ensuring user safety, especially those coming online for the first time. In India, due to low tech-literacy, many users are unaware of basic safeguards to keep themselves safe online.

There is a lot of device sharing, account sharing and use of single passwords across accounts. This makes users vulnerable to social engineering attacks, phishing and unwanted software downloads on devices. Therefore, it’s important that users understand the risk and take precautions to ensure a positive experience online.

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