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updated 3/14/2011 2:14:10 PM ET 2011-03-14T18:14:10

Do you know what your kids are doing on Facebook? Are you aware of whom (and what) they might be texting?

Do you turn off your computer at night?

Do you remember the last time you updated your antivirus software or downloaded the latest security patches?

If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, you and your family members could be at risk for all kinds of trouble, ranging from identity theft to getting turned down for jobs.

As family members of all ages use computers and carry smartphones, it’s best to consider developing a home security policy to keep everybody safe online.

According to Sarah Carter of FaceTime Communications, a Belmont, Calif.-based maker of communications security software, teens and young adults have grown up in a collaborative environment.

They’re much more willing to share information publicly -- much more so than people a few years older.

“Sharing what they do, where they have been, where they’re going, who they’re seeing is common nature to them,” Carter said. “Doing that online is a natural extension of who they are.

A home cybersecurity policy should focus on what everyone in the household can do to keep information from being stolen and to keep computers safe from viruses and other attacks. It’s also about understanding risky behaviors and their consequences.

The policy should be simple enough for every member of the family to understand – and should include a parent’s right to know what his or her children are doing.

What should be included in a home cybersecurity policy? Some suggestions:

  • Don’t share any information that you wouldn’t want your mother or grandmother to know.
  • Befriend only people you know personally on any site where you’re exchanging information about your family and personal life. Use privacy settings.
  • Designate someone as the family cybersecurity director. He or she will be responsible for updating antivirus software, downloading patches and running virus scans.
  • Make sure everyone in the family knows basic cybersecurity rules. Carter said adults have learned not to click on unknown attachments or links, but added we can’t expect children to automatically know that.
  • Develop safe-practice rules for smartphones and laptops used in public hot spots.
  • Password-protect computer log-ins and put away any papers containing sensitive information, such as bank account numbers.

Armed with such information, you’ll be well-equipped to protect yourself, your home and your family from identity thieves and other cybercriminals.

 

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