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Remember when "bullying" meant a little stolen lunch money, or a playground run-in with an especially tall fifth grader? Those were the days. Kids today face an entirely different beast: cyberbullying. You've heard of it before, but what does it really mean?

"Cyberbullying" is a term that encompasses hostile or harassing communication through different mediums of technology. Remember, this type of behavior only counts as cyberbullying when the exchange takes place between minors. If an adult is involved, the offense is more serious.

Potential avenues for cyberbullies include not only websites and chatrooms, but also emails, text messages, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Unlike those playground bullies from your school days, cyberbullies can often act anonymously, pretending to be someone else or posting from mean remarks from a fake account. To make matters worse, cyberbullying does not necessarily end when the school day does. Our kids are constantly connected through cellphones and the Internet, which makes this kind of torment hard to escape. A cyberbully might post or send mean or degrading comments to or about their victim, post unflattering or manipulated photos of their victim, or pose as someone else in order to embarrass their victim. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, about 24% of students surveyed in their last several studies have personally experienced cyberbullying.

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"There's an app for that." Apps, or applications, can make our lives easier. They can help us with recipes, directions, logging workouts, editing photos, and everything in between. Even if you can't find the time to play Scrabble or Angry Birds, it is likely that your kids are learning to navigate the world of mobile apps in the pursuit of fun and games.

There are age-appropriate games available for download, and many educational activities that have the parent stamp of approval. Things can go wrong, however. Just ask the five parents who sued Apple in 2011 after their kids charged hundreds of dollars while playing games that they had downloaded from the app store. These games were free to download, but gave the option of using real money while playing.

While that might be an extreme case, we still have to ask ourselves how to monitor what our kids are downloading. High costs are not the only threat. There are apps that contain malware, apps that access too much personal information, and apps with content unsuitable for children. What can you do about it?

  • Talk to your kids early and often about how to navigate the net and use mobile devices. Set clear ground rules about what is permissible and what is not when it comes to apps and activities. Click here if you need some ideas about how to start that conversation.
  • There are blocks and filters available to parents that can restrict your children's' online activity when you aren't hovering around them. Spend some time viewing the restrictions available in your settings. On Apple devices you can prohibit explicit language, in-app purchases, multiplayer games, downloading apps, and more. For Android users, check out the various parental control apps available to you.
  • If you don't want to mess with the settings on your own Apple account, consider setting up a separate "child safe" account. It does not have to be linked to a credit card, and you will be able to send paid apps as gifts from your account to theirs if you so choose. Remember: you can have multiple accounts on one device.
  • When your kids download apps from the Apple Store or Android Market, try them out yourself. The content may be aimed at an older audience, or include links to social media sites so that users can share their scores.
  • Read the fine print. There are apps aimed at children that will access your phone's unique I.D., your phone number, or your geolocation data, and pass it on to a third-party. This can happen with all different kind of apps, but do not permit downloads from third-party sources as they are more likely to be harmful to your device.
  • Keep your devices updated and protected with security programs.
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Posted by on in News

You may want to share your vacation pictures with your friends, offer your opinions on Twitter, or schedule a meeting with five of your coworkers, but there are other things on your mobile device that you would like to keep to yourself. Unfortunately, as technology evolves, so do the hackers and viruses. Think your desktop computer is the only target? Think again. Susan Jin Davis, VP of strategic services at Comcast, says that cybercrime of the mobile variety is a "growing trend." Mobile devices lack certain basic security measures because they are geared more toward the consumer market than the corporate one. That can leave you, the consumer, susceptible to mobile attacks.


Here are 7 quick and easy tips to help you protect your devices:

  • Delete emails and texts that contain confidential information.
  • Beware of apps! Stick to the Apple Store and Android Market when you download them, and read the fine print in the description of the app itself. What information does it access?
  • Be wary of connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. They can make your device vulnerable while you surf the web.
  • Check your bank account often, particularly if you access it through a mobile device. A major privacy flaw was discovered in the Google Wallet app last year.
  • Think before you click. Malicious links can be sent via email and text message.
  • Updates can be about more than just little tweaks and bells and whistles. Make sure you are up-to-date on security software.
  • It may be basic, but use strong passwords and autolock features. If you are still one of the many people using "password1" to protect your information, change it as soon as you finish reading this.

To further protect your mobile device please download Constant Guard for your iOS and Android devices.

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In its on-going push to improve mobile safety and security, the FCC today launched a new online tool to help consumers protect their mobile devices.

The new site allows users to pick their platform (Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows) and provides the user with a list of security and safety tips that range from how to remotely wipe a phone to the proper steps for safe recycling of a mobile device.

The FCC notes that almost half of Americans now own a smartphone and close to 20 percent have been the victim of mobile cybercrime.

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Posted by on in News

My wife recently informed me that our children's test grades can be retrieved online, along with homework, notes, and basically any other critical component of their schoolwork. I guess I was not surprised by that - virtually, everything is online these days, but of course, the cyber security side of my brain immediately pondered how protected this information was against hacking. This thought must have also crossed the minds of the school's webmaster because the rules around creating a password for this website is about three times as strict as the rules that govern our web access to our online banking account. Disaster avoided.

In all seriousness, password safety is a critical component of protecting your online identity. Yes, it's true that even with a secure password, a cyber thief can compromise your accounts, but the front door is really your password; and, if that is weak then you've just made the job that much easier for a hacker to have direct access to your banking account, credit card, 401K, and yes, even you child's homework grades.

So, take a minute to consider some really basic rules around password safety. A little bit of forethought really can go a long towards avoiding a headache. And were about ready to head into the holiday season, when there will already be lots of headaches!

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Posted by on in News

Well, it's that time of year again - time to start buying those special gifts for our friends and family. For some in my family, Black Friday is a yearly ritual to drudge out in the cold, dark, very early hours to find the best possible deal. Fortunately for me, and my wife who would do anything to avoid this hassle, we can rely on online shopping. Cyber Monday has been invented for those of us who would prefer to click and tap, rather than wait in line and battle other shoppers.

Online shopping is convenient and efficient. But, it does not come without risk. Cyber criminals are all too aware of your tendency to make online purchases at this time of the year, and they have polished their identity theft skills and tools.

There are some things you can do to manage the risk. As we gear into the holiday season, it's a good time for a refresher:

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Halloween brings the annual opportunity to partake in trick-or-treating, costume parties, and other spooky amusements. Ghouls and goblins, colorful candy, and the familiar sight of pumpkins on doorsteps remind us that in October a little scare can be a lot of fun.

However, getting tricked online is anything but a treat. One of cyber criminals' favorite ploys is Phishing; disguising themselves digitally to fool you into providing personal information such as credit card numbers, bank accounts, or even your email address and password.

Phishing has been around for some time now, but as cyber criminals get more sophisticated they're extending their tricks to new platforms like social networking sites and smartphones. Once the bad guys have your information, they can attack your identity (e.g, through social security number), your bank account (e.g ,debit card numbers), your line of credit (credit card number), and more.

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Posted by on in News

One of my roles here at Comcast is helping to manage all of the Internet safety resources that we make available to the public on our Constant Guard Web site. Not only do I share Internet safety and security tips online, but occasionally I get the opportunity to speak about this topic at community events.

Recently I participated in a forum called Protecting Kids from Dangers of the Internet. The purpose of the event was to inform and educate parents about the potential threats associated with children's Internet use. Panelists demonstrated real-life examples and shared helpful tips and practical steps to help keep families safe online and avoid becoming victims of fraud, identity theft and cybercrime.

Here are some tips:

  • Talk to your kids about online safety. Consistent parental involvement is one of the best protections kids have against online risks. Educate yourself about social networking (i.e. Facebook and Twitter) and other cyber trends and talk to your kids about proper online behavior. What exactly should you talk about? The answer is in my next tip...
  • Download and use the Cyber Safety Challenge. The Cyber Safety Challenge was developed as a conversation starter to get parents, teens and kids to start talking about Internet safety, social networking, online threats and what they can do to protect themselves and their computers. There are two versions of the challenge, one for conversations with teens and one for conversations with kids. Download the documents and discuss each of the pledges with your kids.
  • Put the family computer in a common area of the house. Instead of allowing your child to use a computer in his or her bedroom, put the computer in the living room or another common area of the house so you can monitor their online activities better.
  • Always protect your computer with security software like Norton™ Security Suite. Installing active and up-to-date security software will help protect your computer from viruses, spyware, online identity theft and other cyber threats. Xfinity Internet subscribers, can get Norton Security Suite at no additional cost by downloading it from the Constant Guard Protection Suite.

For more information about the online safety event, please visit www.phillyburbs.com/internetsafety/.

Posted by on in News

We're all concerned about protecting our digital information these days. But are we doing enough? And, are we doing the right things? From protecting our children online to securing our smartphones, here are some handy tips to call out just in time for Data Privacy Day!

Data Privacy Day Events

The U.S. Senate has recognized January 28th as National Data Privacy Day in the United States. On this day, the National Cyber Security Alliance is hosting an event in Washington, D.C. Speakers and activities will highlight the importance of data privacy to encourage all of us to be more vigilant about how our personal information is collected, shared and stored online. Events are also held in Canada, across Europe and in a host of other countries. Most are free and easy to access. So, join in the celebration by attending an event below or following a link to learn more.

Secure Your Mobile Devices

We can easily forget that tablets, eReaders, game consoles and smartphones are all connected to the Internet and need to be secured. Reading the Simple Steps to Safer Devices on iKeepsafe.org can help protect your data and your family while enjoying those digital devices.

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Posted by on in News

It's that time of year again - time to gear up and head back to school. Many of you have children starting high school or college, or perhaps some of you are returning to school yourselves. Before you know it, you will be hit with school assignments, papers, and mounds of homework.

In today's digital age, our school work is completed on the computer more than ever. With the added convenience of these tools comes the risk that your weeks of research, reviews and documentation could be instantly lost because of a computer failure or virus. With all of the stress at school, do you really have time to remember to backup your files to an external hard drive? Did you know that in a recent poll of Comcast High-Speed Internet customers, we found that nearly 60% of customers only backed up their files every month or later - some only once a year! That's a lot time between backups - and a lot of work you could lose.

The good news is that as a Comcast High-Speed Internet customer, you can download Secure Backup & Share. It automatically backs up your important files when your computer is connected to the internet and stores them on secure servers. So no more worrying about having to backup your computer - and no more cumbersome CDs and disks to keep track of. Need to access your backed up research paper between classes? No problem! Once your files are backed up you can access them from an internet connection (or compatible mobile phone) through your personal online vault. The best news? You get 2GB of online storage at no additional cost with your Comcast High-Speed Internet subscription.

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