A Safer Internet Starts With Us All: Three Things I Pledge to Do

This past weekend, my seven-year-old told me that her homework was to research and learn a poem. While I was clearing away from breakfast, I was also thinking about what poem we might choose. Twenty minutes later, I went up to her room, where she was cozy in her top bunk with her iPad open beside her, beautifully writing out the words to “A Wintry Night.”

She was in her element and enjoying the task, but I didn’t understand how she knew how to do this. “Mummy, it’s easy,” she said. “I just got the iPad, went to Google and put in ‘poems for kids with words.’ I liked this one, so I am copying it.” Impressed, I asked her how she knew what to do. She said she knew to include “kids” in her search, otherwise she wouldn’t get poems that were right for her.

While I was cuddling her really hard for being so creative and smart, I was also a little worried that she knew just what to do. I realized that I needed to have a conversation with my daughter about internet safety.

Building a Safer Internet, One Step at a Time

Today, the U.K. celebrates Safer Internet Day, which is about getting involved to help promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people. One in three internet users is a child, and online safety is now in the front of my mind.

The campaign slogan is “Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you,” which made me think, how can I play a bigger part in making the internet a safer place? Below are three things that I plan to do, and I hope you will join in too.

1. Volunteer My Knowledge

I’ve been working in cybersecurity for 3 1/2 years now, and I’ve learned a huge amount. While I don’t always grasp the technical side of things, I fully understand the importance of internet safety and how easy it is to be one click away from danger.

SkillsBuild, which is part of IBM Volunteers, is a call to action for IBM employees and retirees to reach 5 million students in five years — or 1 million students per year — starting in 2018. The initiative includes an activity kit designed to help raise cybersecurity awareness among students. Now is a great time to connect to the program and share helpful tips for staying safe online.

2. Immunize My Computer

It’s not just me and my husband logging on to the internet anymore. I need to think about a more private and safer internet browsing experience, especially for the little eyes in our household.

By 2025, there will be 80 billion internet-connected devices in homes and offices, according to Forbes. It’s time to get smart and provide my family with a more secure gateway to accessing the internet from our home devices. That’s where Quad9 comes in.

This free service routes the domain names you type into a browser through a secure network of servers around the globe. The system uses real-time threat intelligence from more than a dozen of the industry’s leading cybersecurity companies to help you determine which websites are safe and which ones are known to include malware or other threats. It only takes about four minutes to follow four simple steps to immunize your PC.

3. Report Suspicious Communications

I’m sure that, like me, you receive plenty of phishing emails, but do you delete them? Let’s think about this for a moment: Every time we delete a suspicious email, we lose the opportunity to share what happened, and that intelligence can no longer be acted upon.

By sharing information related to phishing attempts, we can help security teams and law enforcement better understand the underlying cybercriminal activity. In the U.K., users can help disrupt fraudsters by reporting attempted scams to Action Fraud.

A Better Internet Starts With Us All

Safer Internet Day is a great way to raise awareness about cybersecurity, but it’s important to follow these best practices year-round to ensure a more secure online experience for all and, more importantly, help our children develop safe browsing habits. That’s why, on this cold, wintry night, I pledge to help build a safer internet, because a better internet starts with us all.

Nilima Patwardhan

External Relations, IBM UK and Ireland

Nilima is the External Relations lead for Security and GDPR across IBM UK and Ireland. She works closely with the IBM...