ORLANDO — One of the top news stories today? Was Russia responsible for hacking leading Democrats’ emails during the 2016 presidential election.
U.S. intelligence has concluded that the hacks were part of an effort to discredit the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, using fake news on social media and releasing hacked emails through WikiLeaks.
Another big news story: Congress voted to nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules, which critics say will allow Internet service providers to sell your individual browsing history to third parties.
Both of these headlines illustrate the quirky, potentially dangerous world we all live in now, where cyperspace, social media and even news headlines can become weapons — and how our laptops, smartphones, and tablets have gone from vital tools to potentially ticking time bombs.
So in this age when so much of our lives — our personal information, our banking records, etc., is tied to our laptops, how do we protect ourselves?
Last January, the world celebrated Safer Internet Day, a time for everyone to unite around the idea of making the internet a safer and better place, especially for children and young people. It was also about promoting everything from being kinder on the internet and spreading the gift of kindness to one and all, to learning ways to protect your children from online predators.
But the concept applies throughout the entire year. We could all benefit by taking time to teach seniors how to use the internet when it can seem overwhelming to them, or learning about how to protect yourself from cyber criminals.
That last rule applies to individuals and businesses alike. Criminals are constantly looking for ways to get access to personal and company credit cards, online banking information, and the rest of your critical data. It’s never too late to start reflecting on whether your business is doing everything it needs to be doing to protect against digital theft.
There are some helpful tips to keep in mind, and, if you’re a business owners, to share with your employees. That includes using anti-virus software on all your computers, making sure you have a strong password with eight or more characters, using different passwords for different sites, and never doing any online banking on a public WiFi system.
It’s also worth reflected on how the internet has become one of the most critical tools for marketing professionals. Web advertising has become one a lucrative vehicle for businesses today to attract new customers, and it offers companies a platform for advertisements that have the potential to reach not hundreds, but millions, of viewers. In older days, a company was pleased to be able to place an ad on a highway billboard or in the local newspaper. Today you can place a banner or text ad on a popular website or on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and potentially reach millions.
The internet has also radically changed the world of sales. Sites like Amazon have given consumers options for finding products that are not available at their local retailers, and online sales are soaring to record heights. Today, the number of Americans who are more comfortable shopping at home in front of their laptop, rather than fighting for a parking space at the local mall, is growing exponentially.
The internet also allow marketing firms to conduct extensive research online, including gathering information about the preferences and habits of consumers. Today a company can easily gather consumer data through Web-based surveys, email surveys and online tools.
The internet also allows a business to improve its customer service by giving customers an increased number of channels for communicating with you. Businesses can also help their customers make more informed decisions about their purchases.
There are a lot of reasons to celebrate the growth of the internet, not least of which is the opportunities businesses have today as far as marketing goes. The rules of the game have been changed by online marketing. It’s worth remembering how important this tool has become to all of us, and why we all have a stake in keeping it safe for everyone.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Koby’s New Home”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.