Better Safe (Online) Than Sorry

By Chris Worthington, Staff Writer; images by Joe Meyer, Staff Photographer
See caption for details.

Being careless on social media can have significant consequences. 

Online safety has never been more crucial than it is today. Hackers, identity thieves, and cyber bullies are continually improving their methods, and people can easily become unwitting victims, even when they do not think they are doing anything wrong.

Consider these alarming statistics from the Department of Health and Human Service’s CyberCARE initiative: 7 in 10 young people are victims of cyberbullying. One in five teenage internet users have received unwanted sexual solicitation online. And 31 percent of all identity theft complaints are filed by young adults. Meanwhile, seniors are twice as likely to be defrauded online as any other population segment.

On top of that, every NCI at Frederick employee must be cognizant of both site-specific rules as well as national security concerns when working on the NCI at Frederick campus inside the gates of Fort Detrick. For instance, only authorized personnel are allowed to take and post pictures of NCI at Frederick or Army buildings (inside or outside).

“While we are not DOD employees or contractors, we can certainly learn from them and consider advice they are giving to their staff, as it is sound and applies even if we are just protecting our privacy,” said Terri Bray, head of the Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) Directorate.

Therefore, everyone using a computer connected to the NIH network should know how to conduct themselves online. According to an e-mail from Bray, these basic tips will help mitigate potential harassment and the compromise of personal information:

  1. Think before you post anything. Always assume everyone in the world will be able to see what you are posting, even if the site limits who can view your posts.
  2. Limit who can view your social media sites, but do not trust these settings as absolute.
  3. Avoid posting your home or work address and phone numbers, and any government or military affiliation.
  4. Avoid providing detailed accounts of your day (e.g., when you leave for or return from work, if you are on vacation, or if you are attending an event that keeps you away from home for a few hours).
  5. Never allow smartphone applications to geo-locate you.

Of course, these tips merely scratch the surface of online safety. Here are a few additional do’s and don’ts from CyberCARE that you should follow any time you are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or other social networks:

  1. Only establish and maintain connections with people you know and trust. Review your connections often.
  2. Assume that anyone can see any information about your activities, personal life, or professional life that you post and share.
  3. Ensure that your family takes similar precautions with their accounts, as their privacy and sharing settings can expose your personal data.
  4. Avoid posting or tagging images of you or your family that clearly show your face. Select pictures taken at a distance, at an angle, or otherwise concealed. Never post smartphone photos, and do not use your face as a profile photo. Instead, use cartoons or avatars.
  5. Use secure browser settings when possible, and monitor your browsing history to ensure that you recognize all access points.

In the event that a piece of government IT equipment is lost or stolen, it is critically important that you know what to do. Within the first hour of your device being lost or stolen, you must:

  • Contact the NIH Center for Information Technology (CIT) at 301-496-4357 or toll-free at 866-319-4357.
  • If you suspect the device was stolen on campus, notify the NIH Police at 301-496-2387. If it is after hours, call 301-496-5685.
  • If you suspect the device was stolen off campus, notify the local police department and ask for a copy of the report.

There are contact cards given out at orientation. They are to call NIH police if lost or stolen on campus and then CIT at 301-496-4357. If it is lost or stolen off base it would be the local PD and CIT.

For more information about online safety and privacy protection, visit the HHS Intranet, follow @HHSCyberCARE on Twitter, or contact Terri Bray at 301-846-1740.