Viral Doesn’t Equal Valid

The recent “Momo Challenge” and the “Blue Whale Challenge” as referenced in this article, have brought to light a disturbing trend in the age of social media. That is, the wide variety of stories, trends, etc., that “go viral.” The great thing about social media is if you want to share information, it is very easy to do so. The bad thing about social media is the information that is being shared is often not valid, not true, and ranges from mildly annoying to downright dangerous.

Another recent trend on Facebook was the “I got a second friend request from you. If you get a friend request from me, please ignore it!” I posted on my personal page, that while this may have been legitimate in its initial iteration, that it had since become another viral post with no validity whatsoever. It did no good, as shortly after posting it I got three more of my “friends” sending me the same message.

There are many other examples of this, but several of the points made in the Naked Security by Sophos article stand out as great advice, regardless of what the flavor of the day is that is spreading on social media. The best way to handle it? Ignore it. Sharing it, even with the best of intentions as a warning to friends and family, only perpetuates the problem.

Unless the warning comes from a reputable computer security organization, I would not give it much credence. And even in the case of legitimate concerns, rather than focusing on one specific issue, such as the Momo Challenge, everyone should be practicing sound security practices. This takes on even greater significance when it comes to our kids. Many leaders in the technology field did not allow their children access to mobile devices, including Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., and Bill Gates, former CEO at Microsoft.

While this is not always feasible or perhaps necessary, there are definite guidelines that should be followed when it comes to kids and technology. The suggestions made in the article, such as enabling parental controls on devices, vetting videos your children watch, and having a parent in the room while accessing the internet, are all valid security principles.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, adults need to have some level of security knowledge themselves, or have access to a reliable security advisor. I am that person for my family and some of my friends, and I am OK with that. If I can clear up a rumor, or calm a worried parent, I am happy to do so. Conversely, if there is valid cause for concern, I can also provide that information along with the proper precautions to take.

The bottom line is that rather than focusing on the urban legend, or worrying about the newest story circulating on social media, make solid security practices part of your everyday life. Instill the importance of cybersecurity into your kids. Remind your parents and grandparents of basic security principles. Then, you’ll be prepared when the next “Momo Challenge” comes along, because it will.

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