Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Be Careful When Posting Personal Information On The Internet

Some 15 million Malaysians or 50 per cent of the population has access to the Internet. The fact that this number is increasing by the day indicates that our society is becoming increasingly reliant on this electronic medium.
Malaysians especially the young, regularly go online to access social networking web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Friendster, MySpace, and blogspot to communicate and socialise.

According to Dapat Vista (M) Sdn Bhd's Deputy Executive Director Azli Paat, 80 per cent of the 8 million Facebook users in Malaysia represent the younger age bracket.
"Nowadays, it is a trend and a must for young people to communicate, socialise and keep abreast via Facebook.
"Young people of today prefer the Internet over other medium of communication. The Internet has become an indispensible part of their daily life," Azli said in an exclusive interview with Bernama.

Disclosing personal information on the Internet - whether done willfully or otherwise, is risky.
"Therefore, it is vital that we guard our privacy and not take the issue lightly.

"For instance, personal information posted on Facebook is frequently misused. Consequently, youngsters should be careful not to give away too much personal information on the Internet. Only disclose what is really necessary," he cautioned.
Many unsuspecting youngsters have unwittingly disclosed their full name, home address and telephone number on social networking web sites, oblivious to the fact that such information can be hijacked and misused by irresponsible third parties for malicious purposes.

Easy access to personal information not only makes the perpetration of criminal activities such as extortion and fraud much easier, it also leaves the personal computer vulnerable to the threat of virus attack, hacking, phishing, and spyware and malware threats.
Consequently, Internet users especially youngsters, should be cautious when filling in details about themselves on any web site, email, sms, chat room or message board on the Internet.

According to Azli there are several ways in which personal information posted on the Internet may be accessed and subsequently misused.
Forgetting to log out from a web site after an Internet session leaves the door open to unauthorised access to personal details on the web site concerned.

Using a WiFi system that is not password protected is another window of opportunity for others to gain unauthorised access to personal information.
"Exercise caution whenever you use the Internet. Use different passwords for the different web sites that you subscribe to and make sure you log off from these web sites at the end of your session. Preferably, you should compose your own password question, the answer to which only you are privy to, instead of relying on what is provided by the web site," Azli recommended.

By using an Internet search engine such as Google, the user is able to gain access to a vast amount of information as compared with reading a book or going to the library.
"However, you must be careful with the information you glean from the Internet and should not unquestioningly accept everything at face value.

"To avoid being misled, do your research thoroughly, crosscheck and compare information on the same subject matter obtained from other web sites, and observe the feedback and comments posted by other users on these web sites, so that you get a clearer picture," Azizi advised Internet users.

Many youngsters now use the Internet to generate income. Due to the encouraging response, numerous web sites have been created to entice more youths to sign up and subscribe to online businesses on the Internet.

Many web sites promise lucrative income just by doing simple tasks like clicking on banners or advertisements that appear on Internet websites. The Internet user is promised a certain sum for each click.

Azli feels that this is not the proper way to do business on the Internet.
"It is similar to a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme. These web sites usually ask those who wish to participate in the scheme to either purchase products like eBooks or register for professional or motivational courses offered on the web site concerned. To earn more money, participants are encouraged to recruit other Internet users into the scheme," Azli explained.

Youngsters should know how to assess and determine the validity of any offer put up on the Internet.
Some web sites may promise a good return but users might not realise that this come with strings attached, usually in the form of obscured charges. Inevitably, participants realise that they are at the losing end only after entering into such Internet transaction.

Malaysia upholds the principle that there should not be any censorship on the Internet.
The government is of the view that Internet censorship has negative repercussions on the development of the telecommunication and multimedia technologies.

While the government endeavours to provide Internet access to the larger section of the population, the responsibility of ensuring that this sophisticated electronic multimedia network is utilised for their best advantage, rests on the Internet users themselves especially the young.
In this respect, Azli pointed out,the media can play a crucial role by providing guidelines to educate the younger generation on how to make full use of the Internet in a responsible and safe manner.

"A good example would be to have a special column in the print media or a session on the broadcasting media, in which an expert in multimedia technology provides guidelines on how to use the Internet to the best advantage," he added.

By Norhafizan Zulkifli


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