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National Internet Safety Month: Caveat Lapsus (“surfer beware”)

National Internet Safety Month, June 2013
Caveat Lapsus (“surfer beware”)
by Stephen Montagna

June is National Internet Safety Month (, and with more and more of our lives moving online there is no time like the present to assess your use of the internet.

Safety may seem like a weird term to apply to virtual interactions. We usually think of safety in terms of bodily harm; if you’re embarking on some physical challenge, wear the appropriate protective gear, and so forth. Even if we think of safety in broader, technological terms, we usually think of the threats in the way of viruses and such. A well-crafted internet virus can wreak havoc on your computer’s speed, and compromise sensitive data.

But, those of us in the violence prevention movement understand that safety relates to how we feel, and that all violence lies on a continuum; what starts out in the virtual realm can lead to someone hurting us in the real world. What starts out as words can end up in a physical attack. With more interactions taking place online, the internet has opened up a Pandora’s Box of opportunities for those who wish to do harm.

This is not meant to instill you with fear, or persuade you to give up your laptop, smart phone, tablet, or – heaven forbid – stop posting on Facebook! As with anything the human race has created, the technology itself is benign; it’s the application that’s the problem.

So what’s a web junky to do? Well, become an informed consumer. Just as we warn “caveat emptor”, so too do we wish for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence to be aware and informed of how to use technology safely.

The most important word to remember: access. The safety of your data is dependent upon controlling access to it. This means not only controlling who gets access to your computer, but also who has the ability to access the user accounts of all the different sites you may have memberships in.

The single best thing you can do to control access is to use discrete passwords for all the different sites you access – ie: different password for Facebook than for your online banking than for your Pinterest account, etc. If you’re worried about trying to remember all those passwords, try getting your hands on 1Password [] or some other utility that can manage them for you and store them encrypted on your hard drive, or in Dropbox (cloud storage).

If you want to understand more about how to create and manage passwords, check out the WCASA Social Media Guide, which I created while I was on staff there as the Violence Prevention & Communications Coordinator. You can download it as a PDF, and access other resources and links from the Social Media page in the Media & Technology section of WCASA’s website:

You can also check out the NNEDV Safety Net Project’s array of resources. And, of course, you are still welcome to contact me for technical assistance on these topics in my new role as Safety Net Technical Assistance & Training Specialist with the National Network to End Domestic Violence at

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