Ah, the world of the Internet. Instant communications, facts at your fingertips.
And the world’s greatest prowling ground for fakes, liars, thieves and worse.
When you go to the Internet, what do you get? Words, images, and sounds. The closest you can come to actual face-to-face interaction with another human being is via videoconferencing (such as Skype). Otherwise, what you are seeing and hearing is at second-hand – and anonymous. Not only that, but there are things going on under the surface as your computer communicates with the other computers on the Net.
What better place for someone to fleece a sucker, launch an attack (viruses, Trojan horses or worse) or spread a falsehood?
That’s not to say there are no honest people or reliable sites – far from it. What it DOES say is that you must always be on your guard in cyberspace.
1) Be sure you have a good, reliable antivirus / security program on your computer – use it and keep it up to date.
2) Don’t accept everything you read – double-check your facts. (A good source for tracking down online rumors is snopes.com.)
3) Remember some basic rules of life: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true – and there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
4) Keep in mind that when you enter cyberspace, you are no longer in your home town. You may live in Smalltown, Ontario, but on the Internet you are plunged into the crossroads of the entire planet, and amid the anonymous crowds are pickpockets, cutthroats and conmen looking for a likely victim.
5) Don’t take people on the Internet at face value. Remember, you’re not seeing their face – you’re seeing the words/images/sounds that someone has chosen to put up on the screen.
To sum up: be honest, be good, be kind – but also be paranoid.