A few years ago, one of our kids mistakenly set the microwave to 40 minutes to cook a bag of popcorn. My wife and I arrived home to find the first floor of our house covered in smoke and the smoke detector wailing. Fortunately, there was no fire – just incinerated popcorn. Since then, we’ve kept a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Recently, I noticed the needle had moved from green to red, indicating the extinguisher needed to be recharged.
Your computer’s security software is like a fire extinguisher – it needs maintenance. It’s not enough to have anti-virus software on your PC; you need to regularly download updates to ensure you’re protected against the newest online threats. Likewise, your firewall has to be turned on to block hackers.
Today, I joined officials from the National Cyber Security Alliance, Microsoft, the Federal Trade Commission and One Economy Corporation during a press event to kick off National Cyber Security Awareness Month. According to a study by NCSA and McAfee, 22 percent of Seattle residents know of a person who has been a victim of identity theft and more people here are concerned about Internet crime than physical crimes such as robberies. The study found that 81 percent of computer users polled nationwide have a firewall installed on their computer, but only 64 percent had activated this protection. And while 70 percent of respondents said they have anti-spyware software, 55 percent actually did. Slightly more than half of consumers had updated their anti-virus software in the last month.
Our office has also been heavily involved in efforts to keep children safe online. Earlier this month, I joined Comcast Senior Vice President Mitch Bowling to discuss efforts to increase parental awareness of the tools available to keep their kids safe on the Internet. I recorded public service announcements with McGruff the Crime Dog about Internet safety for kids that will air in our state over the next couple of months.
You can find information on how to kid-proof your home computer and other Internet safety tips on our Web site.