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bright.net Internet Safety Page

This page was created because bright.net wants to assure our customers that we're doing everything we can to stay on top of Internet security issues as well as pass along vital security information to the end-user.

Look for this page (and the bright.net site in general) to evolve as we find new ways of getting critical security information out to you. If you have ideas or suggestions for this page, please forward them to webmaster@bright.net

Hacking/Abuse
While the Internet is still fairly young, it's starting to be policed more and more, and laws are being written to control what goes on in what was once considered the on-line version of the Wild West. Unfortunately, the Internet still allows for hackers and enables new ways for people to be harrassed.

If you are the victim of a hack attempt or any type af abuse (via email, chat,etc.), the best thing to do is report the offender to his or her Internet Service Provider (ISP). Each ISP will deal with their customers differently, but bright.net will take appropriate action - even if it includes suspending the user's account.

Report any hack attempts or threatening emails to abuse@bright.net, and remember to include as much information as possible (date, time, IP address, etc.). In the case of email be sure to send the full Internet headers (click here for more info).


Identity Theft
Identity Theft is another major problem on the Internet. Since there's no real human interaction on the Internet, anyone can pose as you, plus the capability for someone to steal your credit card information (while still somewhat rare) does exist.

The first rule of thumb for protecting yourself from identity theft is that you should never respond to emails asking for your billing information. Real companies will never ask you for your credit card number over the Internet - but will ask you to call them, come talk to them in person, or at the very least make you log in to their secure site. Secure sites are usually designated by a small "lock" symbol on your Web browser. Also look for this lock symbol when you're shopping online -- the symbol should be there at time of checkout (when you're asked for the credit card number) and if it's not there, you should be wary!

Secondly, the old adage, "if something is too good to be true - it usually is", is probably the best rule to remember when travelling online. A recent email hoax went around from someone claiming to be an Ethiopian king who would reward you with millions if he could get an advance on a few thousand dollars. Many people have gotten scammed by stuff like this, so always remember that no one in life is just going to hand you cash! (Except maybe Ed McMahon, but anyone can pretend to be him online as well!)


Safety Tips for Kids
Keep your passwords private, even from your best friend! Your online service will never ask for them, so neither should anyone else.
Remember never to give out personal information such as your name, home address, school name, or telephone number in a chat room or on bulletin boards - instead use your log-in name or e-mail address.
Don't share photos of yourself, your family, or your home with people you meet online.
If a person writes something that is mean or makes you feel uncomfortable, don't respond. Just log off and tell your parents, who can report it to your online service provider.
Remember that nothing you write on the Web is completely private -- including e-mail. So be careful and think about what you type and who you tell.
Not everyone is as nice, cute, and funny as they may sound online. Never make plans to meet an online "friend" in person.
WHEN IN DOUBT -- always ask your parents for help -- and just LOG OFF if you're not sure! You can always go back online later.
Do not meet someone or have them visit you without the permission of your parents. People online may not be who they say they are. Someone who says that "she" is a "12-year-old girl" could really be an older man.

Other links:
http://www.ou.edu/oupd/inetmenu.htm
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/kidzprivacy/kidz.htm


Spam
Spam is unwanted or unsolicited email; basically junk mail. Spam seems to be getting worse and worse despite recent legal efforts to combat it.

"Spammers" get your email address from certain forms that you fill out online (ever enter to win something and put your email address down?) and can also purchase them from companies that sell your information. Places like Microsoft's Hotmail are notorious for this, so you should always read a companys Privacy Policy if you are concerned they might use your information in illicit ways (bright.net will not sell your email address - check out the policy here). For this reason, some people use one mail account just for filling out forms online - a "junk" account if you will. bright.net can set up extra mail accounts for you if you like, and some bright.net packages actually come with multiple free mailboxes (contact Customer Service for more info)

Also keep in mind that many spam emails have a link to click on to "take me off your list". Never, ever click this link!!! What spammers essentially do is mail-bomb thousands upon thousands of addresses, not knowing if they're valid email addresses (i.e. johndoe@bright.net, johndoe@aol.com). If you click the "remove me from your list" link, what you're doing is advertising the fact that you are a real live person at this email address ... and many more pieces of email will come in and your address may even be sold to other spammers.

My Mail is another great tool in the battle against spam. Free with most bright.net accounts, My Mail will filter your mail and eliminate up to 95% of the junk mail you would normally recieve.


Spyware/Adware
Many people don't know that they can get viruses and/or trojans just by browsing the Internet. While UNIX/Linux/Macintosh systems remain largely unaffected, Windows users can have malicious Spyware or Adware installed by a 3rd party without the user's consent!

By definition, any software application in which advertising banners are displayed while the program is running is called Adware. And any software that sends data back to a third party - WITHOUT ASKING the user - is Spyware. 

Not all Spyware/Adware is inherently malicious (some merely display banners) but others can infect your system with a trojan, or even use your computer as a "zombie", controlling it and using it as a pawn to issue attacks on other computers.

Enter Ad-aware. Ad-aware is a product that scans for Adware and Spyware that you may not know about. It's highly recommended that you install it today!

[Download Ad-aware Now]


Viruses/Trojans
Almost everyone has heard of a computer virus (or a trojan or a worm), but if you haven't you can find out more info here.

Viruses seem to be everywhere, and a computer running Windows can easily be infected - which is why it is imperative that anyone who uses a Microsoft Operating System install an antivirus program. You should also regularly keep the program's virus definition's up-to-date.

Secondly, email attachments can be bearers of viruses. For this reason, you should NEVER open an email attachment from someone you don't know. Even if you get an unexpected file from someone you know, it's best to have your anti-virus program scan your attachments, or ask your friend if they did mean to attach a file.

bright.net's My Mail (free with certain bright.net accounts) has a built-in virus filter that will scan your incoming email attachments and stop most of them before they even get to your computer. Make sure you have this feature enabled!

For more information on viruses and antivirus programs, visit bright.net's Virus Center.