ONLINE SAFETY

It is being spoken about almost constantly on the news, TV, radio, and internet: ISIS cannot seem to get itself AWAY from the internet.

What we mean by this is that ISIS has created one of the largest most effective online campaigns ever seen by an organization in the internet’s history, never mind with just terrorist groups. Their presence on Twitter and other social media sites has been prominent and they have used their presence to recruit over 250 people from the United States. A handful of these individuals have been recruited online through Skype, Facebook, and Twitter (just to name a few).

 

"It began with messages sent through an anonymous app"

 

In 2014, three girls were recruited by ISIS to join their organization. What started as just a few messages through WhatsApp, led to these three teenagers from Colorado flying to Syria to marry terrorists.

Before we mentioned the prowess of the ISIS social media campaign. In any given day, over 200,000 pro-ISIS tweets are sent out. Recently, social media companies have been working very hard to remove extremist content. They have developed software and created teams who have the specific task of preventing terrorists (or extremists) from using their platforms. Though, this does not mean that the terrorists still don't find ways to set up accounts and spread their hateful messages (even if it only lasts for an hour).

When on the internet, it's important to be responsible and be in control. If you run into something you have questions about, don’t be afraid to ask a parent, friend, or a teacher for guidance. If you are confused about something, it is okay and better to ask for help.

Some very simple tips to take note of when you're online:

  1. Be smart: First and foremost, be smart. If you have to second guess yourself on a decision, chances are it's one you shouldn’t make. Don’t post inappropriate things or say something hurtful to others. They can damage your reputation and hurt you greatly in the long run when it comes to getting accepted to a college or hired for a job. On the same note, avoid posting any images, or comments that may reveal where you live or which school you attend. People with bad intentions can use this information to try and harm you. 

  2. Your friends: When someone sends you a Facebook friend request (or any follow request) and you have no idea who they are, do not accept it. If their pictures are full of stock photos (free pictures from the internet), this could be a red flag that the person is not who they say they are. These people might have a different reason for 'friending' you. Only add people if you know exactly who they are, occasionally people will pretend to be a school aged child and create a fake account using a real school and 'real' images. Even if someone seems to be a student, follow the same rules and only add people who you truly know. 

  3. Be careful who you talk to: When you are in a chat room, get random Facebook messages, or someone sends you a direct message, and you just don’t know who they are, don’t respond. If it continues, tell a parent or a school counselor. Just opening up a conversation with them could lead to things you would not expect or want. We are not here to tell you to not to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, or Oovoo,  but we want you to be aware of the potential risks associated with social media. Unfortunately, these people can find ways to learn who you are, and who your friends are. But they can only find this information if you allow them to by posting it on social media. Remember: When its on the internet, it stays there. Even if you delete it!

  4. "Casual meetups" are risky: Don’t ever meet up with somebody you met online, especially if no one knows you are doing it. It is not uncommon to hear about people being kidnapped from a 'random' online meetup. The rule is the same for someone who is your age, you have no real way of knowing who they truly are if you only message them online. Some online predators have mastered the ability to pretend like a young student. 

  5. Let you be the only you: It is vital to keep your information safe. It is very easy to just have your password be the same for everything, but it can also be very risky. If your password gets leaked, that is a key to your private information and possibly your reputation. Change your passwords every three months and don’t tell others your password. A good rule of thumb is to use a random combination of words that are easy to remember but hard to guess! Have a combination of upper and lower case symbols and only tell your parents what your passwords are (avoid telling your friends, even if you think they will keep them safe). 

  6. The cloud: You hear the cliché term all the time that nothing is ever deleted from the internet. We aren't trying to be cliché, but there is some truth to it. Every time you press delete, that thing is just moved somewhere else in the vast interest universe, its not destroyed. So sending risqué pictures, being an internet troll, and attacking people online will never go away no matter how hard you try. Be smart about the decisions you make, because just because you forgot about them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

  7. Update Apps and Software: Always be sure to have the most updated apps, anti virus software, and browsers on your laptop/ computer. Having updated software ensures that your devices are in the best position possibly to protect you from potential hackers. If you need help with updating your browsers or software, ask you parents or your school computer teacher/ technician for guidance.  

 

Technology is smarter than you

We say this loosely of course, but have you ever had a moment of "okay.... that was weird?" Like when you get a text with plans and it just automatically gets placed in your calendar. Or maybe when you post on Facebook, it says where you are posting from? This might seem harmless but information like that can be used in many ways that can be hurtful. A predator knowing where you are at all times is dangerous. It's worth a thought to turn off your app's access to your location.

 

Online Gaming

Part of the online gaming experience is talking online. It's another way to connect millions over the world and it's all good and fun. For the most part it is safe and harmless, however it is worth noting that a large demographic of the 'targets' for predators are found on Xbox, Playstation, and PC gaming. It is important to be smart with what you're saying to these people online. In private chats it is safe to talk to your friends, however when in public forums like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and other multiplayer games, stick to the game and avoid personal talk with anyone you don’t know.

Online gaming, in regards to terrorism, is sometimes overlooked. The 2015 attacks in Paris were believed to be planned over the PlayStation 4 network and terrorists often use Grand Theft Auto screen video in their personal recruiting videos. The use of online gaming by predators and ISIS is becoming more and more prevalent, and because of this, it is important to report anything suspicious and be smart about what you say on these multi player gaming systems.