Family Safety Wrap: 5 Headlines You May Have Missed


shutterstock_152688101From kidnapping family photos, to risky new apps and a teen jailed for a Facebook post, the conversation on family safety online is cooking this month. Here’s a wrap up of several stories. Also, we’ve covered the Heartbleed virus extensively on this blog lately.  Please do not  forget to change your passwords (and have your kids do the same) on all online platforms to protect yourself against the Heartbleed virus.  Please take the time to read more on the McAfee site about this far-reaching computer virus.

1. Hackers Hold Family Photos for Ransom

It sounds crazy but it’s true. Hackers have found the pain point of families who don’t think twice about storing years of digital photos on their home computers. According to a news report from WSMV-Nashville, hackers recently encrypted seven years of Loretta Barbee’s family photos and held them for $1,000 ransom. The sophisticated encryption could take years to decode so the family remains at the mercy of the hackers, who aren’t interested in the photos, only the cash. Please read more about the story.

How do you prevent a similar attack on your computer?

  • Don’t open email attachments from people you don’t know.
  • Invest in an external hard drive and back up your content off line.
  • Invest in a back up data warehouse online that will protect your data.

2. Dating App Connects People in the Same Room

We wrote about the Tinder dating appimages Tinder (and other dating apps we noted) allows users to connect with other Tinder users in the same vicinity, Mingleton will connect users in the same room. According to the app site, Mingleton is “an easy, low-key way to break the ice with the people literally around you and find out who wants to meet you.” Hats off once again to the technology feat of the Harvard students who developed the app using iBeacon technology, but parents, do be on the lookout for the “M” in the blue box on your child’s phone and discuss the family safety talking points we went over a few weeks ago. Here’s a short product video on the app.

3. Vanishing, Untraceable Texts via Cyber Dust App

A new app called Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 3.44.46 PMstored anywhere—not even on Cyber Dust’s servers, which gives users a higher level of privacy and security. However, that claim is not true since any end user can take a screen shot of any content. Cyber Dust says it is “ working on a solution to completely prevent screenshots in the future.” If a screen shot is taken, however, the Cyber Dust sender is alerted, which is a great reminder that “vanishing,” really . . . isn’t. Who is Cyber Dust for? Says the site, “Cyber Dust is for anyone 13 years of age or older who wants to communicate through instant messaging without leaving a permanent record of messages sent.” While this sounds like a great app for amping privacy in our not-private cyber arena, from a parenting point of view, you need to be on the lookout for this app on your child’s phone. As we’ve stated in the past, “vanishing” messages carry red flags to cyber bullying, sexting, and other potentially harmful online behavior. It may be helpful to review our family talking points around these kinds of apps.

4. Are Your Kids Downloading the “Down” App?Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 4.11.00 PM

Another “dating” app that just came on our radar is Down, formerly known as “Bang with Friends” (can you tell this is not an app you want to find on your kids’ phone? Look for the red “D” icon on your child’s phone. While the app is for 17 and over, that means little to kids today. Down is launched through Facebook and accesses all Facebook friends of a user. The app allows users to categorize their Facebook as either someone they’d like to “hang with” or someone they are “down” to hook up with. This is NOT an app you want to find on your kids’ phone.

5. Teen Arrested for Facebook Comments About Deceased Peer

A United Kingdom teen was arrested last week over comments she posted on Facebook about a recently deceased peer.

According to news reports, a 17 year-old girl was arrested for posting what law enforcement deemed as “grossly offensive” comments about the deceased teen on a Facebook memorial page. Laws on free speech—especially online—are far more restrictive and carried harsher penalties in the U.K. Apparently, bullying and hate speech applies to comments directed at both living and deceased individuals. This latest legal move is a win for families and efforts to eliminate cyber bullying.

Has a story impacted you this week regarding family safety online? Please share!


Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @SafeEyes. (Disclosures).

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