Going online is exciting. Almost everything is available at the click of a button. We can be entertained, buy those pair of shoes, become educated, make friends, find spouses, loose your job, be stalked, or get robbed. Yes, the Internet provides us all with the ability to live in a mirror-world, a virtual dimension where all our dreams and nightmares can come true.
One advantage of the Internet however is the level of control. The "real" world is a highly complex place and it is impossible to fully understand why things happen. Unpredictable things happen everyday to everyone without warning. Online, however, the vast majority of your experience can be controlled. By controlling the environment in which you live, you can ensure safety. This is why in the "real" world we build homes and have friends. In the animal kingdom birds build nests and beavers have dams. They control the place where they live to protect themselves and those that they care for. We can do the same online; if we know where to begin.
It is important to first identify the threats that exist on the internet. Without knowing what's out to get us, we won't know until its too late. There are two broad categories that most harmful situations fall into. One includes all the threatening situations that happen in a passive manner, and those that happen in an active way. Passive threats can include identity theft during an online banking session or letting a virus onto your computer system. These kinds of threats are everywhere on the net and occur without warning. Often times they occur without the knowledge of it actually happening. You find out when the damage has been done. You don't go online and look for these threats, they just happen. The second major category is active attacks. These are difficult to pin down and define but revolve around user behavior. Examples of this kind would be a child looking at adult material or joining a unmonitored chat room where sex offenders or rapists may attempt to make contact. Active threats are the hardest to control but often give rise to very dangerous situations.
Passive threats can be dealt with by becoming aware of security features available through web apps or browser and making sure those are fully enabled. Sometimes these features are not enabled by default and it really makes a huge impact on safety. Why not take the extra time just to be safe? It would be similar to not wearing a seatbelt. Its there, so use it.
Active threats on the other hand are tricky. Since the behavior of the person is causing the trouble and creating the opportunities for harm, the solution involves that person directly. Information about the threats associated with those behaviors can be reinforced in a productive way. It is important not to be viewed as a threat but as a messenger that carries a serious warning. By sharing the dangers of the situation, the behavior will hopefully change. The attack against an active threat is through physical or non-physical restraint. Physical restraint would require that person to not be allowed to access a computer. This would prevent all active threats on the internet. This is not always a practical and effective solution. Non-physical restraint offers a more practical solution by using software to do the job. Several operating system employ security measures that can prevent a user from gaining access to the internet. The next level of protection is on the browser. The browser can be set to prevent certain sites from being show, file to be downloaded, etc. There are several browser plug-ins that offer this protection. The browser history can also be used as a tool to monitor behavior.
The threats are countless but the solutions are effective. By identifying the danger, the proper measures can be taken to ensure safety. Remember, the internet was made for people, by people. Because of this, it CAN be controlled to the benefit of you and those you care for.