Be safe in the Net

Once upon a time there were two part-time working moms. One lived in the Netherlands, let's call her Antje, the other one in Switzerland, well, that was me. We both enjoyed playing Hatchlings Egg Hunt on Facebook, and over time, started chatting and became friends. So far so good.
One of her real life friends, let's call him Eugenius, started playing and chatting, too. He was an international Headhunter and always made sure to tell me about his latest openings as Head of HR EMEA of company X or Y. Another real life friend, we'll name him Willem, you guessed right, added me to play and chat, too. He was some executive hotshot with a sports car, always happy to flirt and pay me compliments. We were one merry Facebook community.

Antje and her family were planning a vacation in Switzerland and suggested to meet. Sure, that sounded like fun, meeting my online girlfriend in person! We exchanged mobile numbers and agreed upon a specific day.

When that day came, she texted me, and we met. I really didn't think much of it, and it all had to do with the fact that I knew that she was a married woman, mother of two, holding a decent job and having a nice picture on her FB profile, yada.
We had a lovely brunch, laughed and talked.

At some point she said "hey, this is great, you are just as I imagined you'd be, and my husband has sooo lost his bet!" Turned out he was a bit worried that I might be an old, fat, bald and ugly guy!

I was a bit shocked but had to admit that there might me lots of people pretending to be someone else on the Internet.

Antje smiled and said "you know, he's not so far off. Our friend, Eugenius? He is a divorced dad with a teenage daughter who's on Facebook, too. He felt he had to be careful about having ladies post and comment on his wall, so he signed up for an additional account, using a different name and identity."

Wow, like a parallel life? Clever! Imagine the possibilities! You can literally be whoever you want!

Her smile turned into a grin "you didn't hear it from me, but his other account? It's Willem!"

Geez! No way! Eugenius was this decent, reliable, nice guy, and Willem, well, it was clear that he was too good to be true, but I suspected that he was married and looking for an adventure!

What does that tell us?

Things are not always what they seem to be!

I am writing this post as a favor for Sam with SingleHop who asked me for a contribution. They are running an initiative to educate people on the importance of online safety and privacy concerns.

Now - even though I work in the IT field, and we are a certified distributor of a leading firewall and Internet security solution - I may not be the best person to give advice, which the story above demonstrates. Also I log on to public wireless nets at the malls and such. I post lots of pictures of myself and my cute son on this blog, and worse, on Facebook, even though I am a aware that they can be viewed and used by potentially bad people. I still believe in the good of people. Call me naive.

However there are a few things I'm doing right, and I'd encourage you to do so as well:
  • I have passwords that include upper case letters and numbers. Unfortunately I can't do iEmoji in passwords, now this would be really cute!
  • My password has nothing to do with my BOD, my son's name or the like
  • I don't write passwords on sticky notes and pin them on the computer or carry them in the wallet - don't laugh, I know people who do it because they can never remember otherwise
  • I don't share my password, bank code, credit card details, etc. Sounds like a no brainer. Still we know that clients or ours try to send this kind of  info via email and complain about that %&*@! firewall not allowing it.
  • I don't put my phone number in profiles like Facebook, LinkedIn and such
  • I back up my data on an external hard drive plus a cloud and encouraged my boss at work = hubby to store weekly backup tapes in a safe deposit box at the bank. We even tested whether the magnet rays of the security screening hurt our data. Imagine the frustration when one day you want to restore your files, and that backup tape is empty!!!
  • I am aware that said is said. Any email can be forwarded to people you wouldn't want to read what you wrote about them in an email. So I dutifully refrain from sending messages like "you're supposed to call back that pushy bitch, she needs you to hold her hand while she installs a patch."
  • I never, ever open attachments that come with messages like "you are a winner" 
  • I don't click on links in messages that look like they were sent by my bank, stating that someone tried to hack my account and they need me to verify my logon data. Even though they come with the correct logo and some fancy lawyer language
  • I don't add FB friends who have no common friends - but as we know this doesn't protect me from the Willem's of this world, hahaha! No hard feelings!
 Enough preaching. The net offers a lot of fun opportunities, and we should enjoy them, keeping in mind that things are not always what they seem!

Just be sure to use a condom when you have cyber sex. There are a lot of ugly viruses out there!