Safer Internet Day

By Stuart Fuller


Today is Safer Internet Day across the world, a day aimed at educating online users old and new about the opportunities and risks of venturing onto the World Wide Web.  Now in its fifth year, Safer Internet Day is celebrated in over a hundred countries, coordinated by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission, and national Safer Internet Centres across Europe.  It calls upon young people, parents, carers, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, companies, policymakers, and wider, to join together in helping to create a better internet.

Education is the most important element of reducing the dangers that exist online today.  Whilst Brand Protection strategies help organisations detect, assess, report and enforce on online threats, all of these actions have to be underpinned by a programme to educate customers.  If the end user is aware what the real deal looks like, as well as the damage that cyber-crime causes then they will be less likely to be duped.  Whilst we may be cautious and keep on the right side of the law when online

In a recent TV campaign through their Digital Eagles division, Barclays Bank have tried to demonstrate the threats of both Vishing (phone calls) and Phishing (emails) using actors, underlining how convincing the fraudsters could be but also the clear messages of what Barclay’s (and to a greater extent, other banks) will never ask for.  Education is the clear call to action.  Financial fraud is a major concern not only to UK financial institutions but banks and payment providers across the globe.  In 2014 there were 23,729 reported phishing websites targeted against UK branks, significantly less than in 2012 but still 65 being discovered a day.  Telephone banking fraud is also up by 11% based on figures from 2014 according to the annual report published by Financial Fraud Action UK.

Ongoing work by INTA (International Trademark Association) through their UNREAL campaign is being widened to include Europe and the Far East, targeting teenagers in terms of educating them on how to spot counterfeit items and what dangers lurk on the internet.  If a whole new generation, tomorrow’s savvy E-Commerce buyers, understand the risks of buying counterfeit and the tell-tale signs then they will in turn educate their peer group as well as passing down the beliefs and values to their children.

Whilst today’s online criminals use technology to the fullest extent, there are some simple pieces of common sense that every internet user, whether young or old, can adopt that will create a safer internet for us all.  The NetNames three-step guide to staying present, protected and prosperous online are:-

  1. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.  Occasionally, some organisations will offer some great offers for no better reason than to say “thank you” to customers, but they are few and far between.  Most famous brands will not offer huge discounts, especially luxury brands, nor will they in the most part set up separate websites that use such words as “cheap” or “discount” and especially not “replica” (replica means copy, which in most instances means fake or counterfeit).  Be very sceptical of any offers that appear too good to be true and spend a few minutes looking for peer reviews about the brand or website, which leads us onto…

  2. Be wary of Social Media.  We all crave acceptance online and assume just because someone has lots of followers, likes or connections then they are legitimate.  Social Media popularity can be bought as easily as a downloading a new app.  Fake reviews of hotels, bars and restaurants can be created very easily, quickly and at little cost.  Amazon have recently taken legal action against reviewers who have advertised to provide 5-star reviews for money.  Likewise, think about clicking on URL shortened links within Social Media, or using QR codes on adverts – you have no idea where the destination site is.

  3. If in doubt about the origins or ownership of a website check use a WHOIS checker (such as which will tell you about the organisation behind the website.  Our minds are very good at telling us what we should see rather than what we are actually seeing.  So a “1” instead of an “i” or “l”, a “5” instead of an “s”.  Look for tell-tale counterfeiting clues such as recently registered domain names, registrant addresses that are either masked by privacy agreements or doesn’t fit in terms of geography (UK brand names being registered in Russia or Romania).

Whilst the concepts behind Safer Internet Day are well meaning, it should actually be for all organisations that have a presence online to educate their audiences all day, every day and thus creating a Safer Internet World.