Helping Japan with our brains as well as hearts

By Anne Collier

It’s important for us to point out to our children that millions of people are looking for ways to help survivors of Japan’s earthquake-related disasters. This is the social norms approach that encourages everybody to take positive action. This is also an opportunity to teach media literacy, as we look at how people are helping via social-media tools and how they can be vulnerable in doing so – if they don’t use their critical-thinking skills as they research ways to help. In a blog post, TrendMicro’s Lynette Owens describes some of the methods criminals use to take advantage of Net users’ generosity and naivete: spam or phishing emails, fake Web sites, scam Facebook pages, and black hat SEO attacks or poisoned searches. If you’re wondering about that last one, it’s important. “Poisoned searches” or search-engine optimization (SEO) attacks are hacks that put fraudulent sites at the top of search-engine results. For example, “if you search for the term ‘most recent earthquake in Japan,’ you will see a number of deceptive links…. Once you click on these links, you will get pop-up messages saying something is wrong with your computer and you need to download and pay for an antivirus solution immediately to fix it,” according to Owens. Either don’t click on those links or ignore the pop-ups if you have. Don’t be socially engineered (or tricked into thinking you’re unprotected). Even better, get security software that alerts you to fraudulent sites, from TrendMicro or Norton. TrendMicro also found a FB page headlined “Japanese Tsunami RAW Tidal Wave Footage!” The video is actually a clickable image that takes people to a page requesting their mobile phone number. Malicious code behind the page also automatically “Likes” the page for them, apparently so their friends will go there too (and they’re basically showing everybody they’ve been scammed). TrendMicro also found phishing email circulating which claim to be UNICEF. My ConnectSafely co-directly Larry Magid has a blog post with ideas and links for people researching how to help (and how to help their kids and students give without getting taken!

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