How not to get tricked: Your favorite online safety tips

Whether it’s defending yourself from identity thieves or removing bad software from your family’s computer, it’s important to know how to stay safe online. Over the course of the past few months, we’ve explored the simple steps you can take to help keep yourself, your family and the web safer. And in celebration of October's National Cyber Security Awareness Month, for the past 30 days we’ve posted a daily tip on how to #staysafe online.

Even though our favorite month of the year is about to end, it’s good to know how to stay safe all year round. Here are the top five most popular tips from the month:

Security and privacy are important and Google provides tools to help you protect yourself and your information. For example, 2-Step Verification adds another layer of security to your Google Account. Google+ Circles and YouTube settings help you control what you share and keep your information private if you want to keep it to yourself. Verify Apps helps protect your phone from malware, and Android Device Manager will ring your phone and locate it on a map to help you find your device if you lose it (and remotely delete your information from the device if you can’t get it back).

For more information on how to stay safe and improve your online security and privacy, visit our Good to Know site, which has more information and details about Google’s tools and helpful advice on staying safe.

A few easy tools the whole family will love

This summer we’re posting regularly with privacy and security tips. Knowing how to stay safe and secure online is important, which is why we created our Good to Know site with advice and tips for safe and savvy Internet use. -Ed.

Summer is here, and with kids out of school it is a great time for families to explore the web together—from learning what makes fireflies glow to playing online games together. But while there is a lot of entertaining, educational content online, there are also materials I’d rather not see when I’m surfing the web with my family. Google has built a number of tools that parents can use to help keep content they would rather not see from popping up on the family computer. It takes less than five minutes to turn them on, so follow the steps below to help make your search results more family-friendly this summer.

1. Turn on SafeSearch in Google Search
Turning on SafeSearch is an easy way to help you hide images, search results and videos intended just for adults. It’s especially helpful if you’re concerned about the content that might pop up on your family computer, and it’s easy to turn on. Just visit the Google Search Settings page, go to the "SafeSearch filters" section, and check the box to filter mature content from Google Search result pages. These preferences will apply for any searches done using that browser on your computer. If you have multiple browsers on your family computer, you might want to turn SafeSearch on for each one.

You can turn SafeSearch on or off from the Search Settings page

2. Save and lock your preferences
Once you’ve set your preferences, make sure to click the Save button at the bottom of the page. And if you're signed in to your Google Account, you can also lock the SafeSearch filter so others can’t change your preferences—just click “Lock SafeSearch.” Now the setting is protected with your Google Account password. While no filter is 100 percent perfect, with SafeSearch on you can feel more confident browsing the web with your family.

3. Turn on YouTube Safety Mode
YouTube Safety Mode helps you and your family avoid videos that might be OK with our Community Guidelines, but you might not want popping up on your family computer. Turning on Safety Mode in YouTube takes just one step. Scroll down to the bottom of any YouTube page and click on the button that says “Safety” at the bottom of the page—now you can choose your preferences for Safety Mode.

Click the button that says “Safety” at the bottom of any YouTube page, and then choose your preferences

4. Lock your Safety Mode preferences
Just like with Safe Search, you can also log in with your Google Account and lock YouTube Safety Mode on each one of your computer’s browsers. It will filter videos with mature content, so they won’t show up in video search results, related videos, playlists, shows or films. YouTube Safety Mode will also help hide objectionable comments.

5. Turn on SafeSearch on mobile
SafeSearch is available on your phone or other mobile device, as well as the web. You can turn on SafeSearch for Google on your mobile device by opening your phone’s browser and visiting Scroll to the SafeSearch Filters section to select what level of filtering you would like to enable. Be sure to tap “Save Preferences” after you’ve made your selection.

To enable SafeSearch on YouTube’s mobile app, first open your settings, then press “Search.” From there, select “SafeSearch Filtering” and select moderate or strict filtering.

Helping your family have a positive and safe experience with Google is important to you, and it’s important to us, too. That’s why we’ve partnered with parents and experts on free and easy to use tools and resources to help your family stay safe and secure when browsing online. If you’re interested in even more of our tools and tips, please see our Good to Know site, and stay tuned for more security tips throughout the summer.

Safe Browsing—protecting web users for five years and counting

In this post, we've collected some highlights from the past five years of our Safe Browsing efforts, aimed at keeping people safe online. See the Security Blog for the full details and more visuals. -Ed.

Five years ago, we launched Safe Browsing, an initiative designed to keep people safe from malicious content online. Our primary goal was to safeguard Google's search results against malware (software capable of taking control of your computer) and phishing (fraudulent websites that entice users to give up their personal information). We also wanted to help educate webmasters on how to protect their own sites.

Malware and phishing are still big problems online, but our Safe Browsing team has labored continuously to adapt to the rising challenges of new threats. We've also developed an infrastructure that automatically detects harmful content around the globe.

Here’s a look at the highlights from our efforts over the past five years:
  • We protect 600 million users through built-in protection for Chrome, Firefox and Safari, where we show several million security warnings every day to Internet users. When we detect malware or phishing, we trigger a red warning screen that discourages clicking through to the website. Our free and public Safe Browsing API allows other organizations to keep their users safe by using the data we’ve compiled.
  • We find about 9,500 new malicious websites every day and show warnings to protect users. These are either innocent websites that have been compromised by malware authors, or others that are built specifically for malware distribution or phishing. Our detection techniques are highly accurate—we have had only a handful of false positives.
  • Approximately 12-14 million Google Search queries per day warn users about current malware threats, and we provide malware warnings for about 300 thousand downloads per day through our download protection service for Chrome.
  • We send thousands of notifications daily to webmasters. When webmasters sign up for Webmaster Tools we give them the option to receive warning notices if we find something malicious on their site.
Malware and phishing aren’t completely solvable problems because threats continue to evolve, but our technologies and processes do, too.

Phishing and malware trends
Online commerce sites are still favorite phishing targets because phishers are motivated by money. Some tried-and-true phishing methods are still used, but attacks are also getting more creative and sophisticated. Attacks are faster, with phishers sometimes remaining online for less than an hour to try to avoid detection. They’re also more geographically dispersed and are getting more targeted.

Malware authors often compromise legitimate sites to deliver content from a malicious attack site or to redirect to an attack site. These attack sites will often deliver "drive-by downloads" to visitors, which launch and run malware programs on their computers without their knowledge. To try to avoid detection, these attack sites adopt several techniques, such as rapidly changing their Internet location with free web hosting services and auto-generated domain names. Although less common than drive-by downloads, we’re also seeing more malware authors bypassing software vulnerabilities altogether and instead employing methods to try to trick users into installing malicious software—for example, fake anti-virus software.

How you can help prevent malware and phishing
Our system is designed to protect users at high volumes, but people still need to take steps to keep their computers safe. Ignoring a malware problem is never a good idea—if one of our warnings pop up, you should never click through to the suspicious site. Webmasters can help protect their visitors by signing up for malware warnings at Google Webmaster Tools. These warnings are free and will help us inform them if we find suspicious code on their sites. Finally, everyone can help make our system better. You can opt-in to send additional data to our team that helps us expand the coverage of Safe Browsing.

Looking forward
Some of our recent work to counter new forms of abuse includes:
It’s a good feeling to know that we’re making the web more secure and directly protecting people from harm—whether they’re our users or not. We continue to invest heavily in the Safe Browsing team so we can defend against current and future security threats.

Tech tips that are Good to Know

Does this person sound familiar? He can’t be bothered to type a password into his phone every time he wants to play a game of Angry Birds. When he does need a password, maybe for his email or bank website, he chooses one that’s easy to remember like his sister’s name—and he uses the same one for each website he visits. For him, cookies come from the bakery, IP addresses are the locations of Intellectual Property and a correct Google search result is basically magic.

Most of us know someone like this. Technology can be confusing, and the industry often fails to explain clearly enough why digital literacy matters. So today in the U.S. we’re kicking off Good to Know, our biggest-ever consumer education campaign focused on making the web a safer, more comfortable place. Our ad campaign, which we introduced in the U.K. and Germany last fall, offers privacy and security tips: Use 2-step verification! Remember to lock your computer when you step away! Make sure your connection to a website is secure! It also explains some of the building blocks of the web like cookies and IP addresses. Keep an eye out for the ads in newspapers and magazines, online and in New York and Washington, D.C. subway stations.

The campaign and Good to Know website build on our commitment to keeping people safe online. We’ve created resources like privacy videos, the Google Security Center, the Family Safety Center and Teach Parents Tech to help you develop strong privacy and security habits. We design for privacy, building tools like Google Dashboard, Me on the Web, the Ads Preferences Manager and Google+ Circles—with more on the way.

We encourage you to take a few minutes to check out the Good to Know site, watch some of the videos, and be on the lookout for ads in your favorite newspaper or website. We hope you’ll learn something new about how to protect yourself online—tips that are always good to know!

Update Jan 17: Updated to include more background about Good to Know.

Ensuring your information is safe online

The Internet has been an amazing force for good in the world—opening up communications, boosting economic growth and promoting free expression. But like all technologies, it can also be used for bad things. Today, despite the efforts of Internet companies and the security community, identity theft, fraud and the hijacking of people’s email accounts are common problems online.

Bad actors take advantage of the fact that most people aren’t that tech savvy—hijacking accounts by using malware and phishing scams that trick users into sharing their passwords, or by using passwords obtained by hacking other websites. Most account hijackings are not very targeted; they are designed to steal identities, acquire financial data or send spam. But some attacks are targeted at specific individuals.

Through the strength of our cloud-based security and abuse detection systems*, we recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing. This campaign, which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affected what seem to be the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users including, among others, senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists.

The goal of this effort seems to have been to monitor the contents of these users’ emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples’ forwarding and delegation settings. (Gmail enables you to forward your emails automatically, as well as grant others access to your account.)

Google detected and has disrupted this campaign to take users’ passwords and monitor their emails. We have notified victims and secured their accounts. In addition, we have notified relevant government authorities.

It’s important to stress that our internal systems have not been affected—these account hijackings were not the result of a security problem with Gmail itself. But we believe that being open about these security issues helps users better protect their information online.

Here are some ways to improve your security when using Google products:
  • Enable 2-step verification. This Gmail feature uses a phone and second password on sign-in, and it protected some accounts from this attack. So check out this video on setting up 2-step verification.
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Please spend ten minutes today taking steps to improve your online security so that you can experience all that the Internet offers—while also protecting your data.

*We also relied on user reports and this external report to uncover the campaign described.

Announcing our new Family Safety Center

(Cross-posted to the Google Public Policy Blog)

Helping your children use the Internet safely is similar to teaching them to navigate the offline world. There are parts of the real world that you wouldn’t let your children explore unsupervised—and that goes for the online world as well. But while most of us remember being taught to cross the road and not talk to strangers, we probably weren’t taught how much personal information we should share online or how to handle cyberbullies.

Therefore, it’s no surprise when parents and teachers tell us they want to learn more about how to help their kids use the Internet safely and responsibly.

Today, we’re launching our new Family Safety Center; a one-stop shop about staying safe online. We’ve included advice from leading child safety organizations around the world, tips and ideas from parents here at Google, as well as information on how to use the safety tools and controls built into Google products.

For day-to-day practical tips we asked some of our parents at Google to share their own ideas. Tactics they use range from limiting screen time and preventing computers in kids’ bedrooms to ad hoc checks on their browser history and social networking profiles. Everyone has different ideas and there’s no right or wrong answer, but hopefully some of these will resonate and inspire you. See more videos and let us know your own thoughts on our YouTube channel.

To answer some of the toughest questions most important to parents, such as accessing inappropriate content and meeting strangers online, we went straight to the people that know best; the organizations that advocate and promote child safety and digital literacy. Organizations that we’ve partnered with around the world include the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s OnGuard Online initiative, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, U.K.’s ChildNet, and New Zealand’s NetSafe.

The new Safety Center also provides information on the safety tools built into Google products. SafeSearch and YouTube Safety Mode can help you control what content your children stumble across. Sharing controls in YouTube, Picasa, Blogger and others ensure your videos, photos and blogs are shared only with the right people. And in response to popular requests, we’ve added a section on managing geolocation features on mobiles.

With kids growing up in an age where digital know-how is essential, it’s increasingly important to ensure that they’re developing healthy, safe and responsible online habits. And we’re thinking every day about how we can help parents and teachers to do just that.

Blazing the online safety trail

When I was in middle school, computer class was spent learning the basics of “keyboarding” and rushing to finish the lesson so I could get back to my journey on the Oregon Trail. My main goal was to survive the river crossings, maintain enough buffalo meat to sustain my family and arrive safely in California with my entire fake family still alive.

Today, many schools are teaching their first graders the basic computer skills I was learning at 13. Teens have always been the quickest adopters of new technology, as parents and teachers struggle to keep up and equip teens to make good decisions online.

When I visited Dunne Technology Academy in South Chicago earlier this week, most of the students were getting ready for their summer break, but we paused for a bit to talk about what they’re doing online. The majority of these tech-savvy teens had all encountered cyberbullying at some point, had seen pictures and information on profiles they thought were inappropriate, and had had someone try to trick them through a phishing scam.

We spent the day discussing ways to avoid being scammed, how to create an online profile that can be an asset rather than a liability, and actions you can take if you’re being bullied, harassed or see inappropriate content. Most students seemed to understand that their online identity and their “real world” self were one and the same, and that they have choices in managing their content and reputation online. We agreed that by applying the rules of good citizenship online, the Internet would be a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone.

So while teens have more difficult choices online today than to ford or to ferry the river in Oregon Trail, we can prepare them to make smart decisions online. Check out the educational materials from our Digital Literacy Tour in our Google For Educators site at

Locking SafeSearch

When you're searching on Google, we think you should have the choice to keep adult content out of your search results. That's why we developed SafeSearch, a feature that lets you filter sexually explicit web sites and images from your search results. While no filter is 100% accurate, SafeSearch helps you avoid content you may prefer not to see or would rather your children did not stumble across. We think it works pretty well, but we're always looking for ways to improve the feature.

Today we're launching a feature that lets you lock your SafeSearch setting to the Strict level of filtering. When you lock SafeSearch, two things will change. First, you'll need to enter your password to change the setting. Second, the Google search results page will be visibly different to indicate that SafeSearch is locked:

Even from across the room, the colored balls give parents and teachers a clear visual cue that SafeSearch is still locked. And if you don't see them, it's quick and easy to verify and re-lock SafeSearch.

To use SafeSearch lock, go to the "Search Settings" page on Google. For detailed instructions, check out this video.

We hope you and your family find exactly what you’re looking for in Google search results — and nothing more.

Helping create responsible digital citizens

With more and more kids going online, whether to connect over social networking sites, mingle in chat rooms or play games, it's become increasingly important for families, schools and service providers to work together to ensure that the younger generation understands their responsibilities while they explore the virtual world.

A few weeks ago, Google participated in the 21st Annual Crimes Against Children Conference in Dallas, where over 3,500 members of law enforcement, child advocacy groups, the tech industry and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) convened to share ideas, discuss strategies and explore new technologies designed to combat the many and varied forms of crimes against children. We had the opportunity to describe some of the positive steps Google is taking to educate and safeguard minors who use our products and services, as well as the unique ways we support the individuals on our staff who do child exploitation-related work.

According to a recent NCMEC study in patterns and trends in online child victimization, the past few years have seen a 6% increase in reports of kids providing images and videos of themselves when asked by online acquaintances; sending naked photos of themselves through text messages ("sexting"); and cyber-bullying. This new trend underscores the need to educate our younger users, their families and teachers on ways to create and enjoy safe online experiences.

We're doing our part by working with child safety organizations and law enforcement around the globe to spread positive messages about life online. For example, in mid-September, we're launching a global training program on YouTube to help teens teach other teens about these issues. This is just one step among many that we're taking to help create a generation of responsible digital citizens.

Building software tools to find child victims

Since it was founded in 1984, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has reported more than 570,000 child exploitation leads to law enforcement agencies and assisted with more than 140,900 missing child cases, resulting in the recovery of more than 124,500 children.

The advent of the Internet has unfortunately provided child predators with a new avenue to exploit children. In August 2006, we joined NCMEC's Technology Coalition Against Child Pornography, teaming up with other tech industry companies to develop solutions that hinder predators' ability to use the Internet to exploit children or traffic in child pornography.

In an outshoot of that industry initiative, I discovered some other areas where I thought Google could help the staff at NCMEC. For instance, to date, NCMEC analysts have reviewed more than 13 million child pornography images and videos to assist law enforcement agencies working to identify and rescue children. This task has been time-consuming, and NCMEC analysts were simply getting overwhelmed by all of the data they had to sift through.

One of our core strengths here at Google is our ability to manage and organize immense amounts of information -- whether it's text, image, audio, or video -- and make it more useful and accessible for users. As a member of Google's research group, I realized that NCMEC had an immediate need for some of our research-stage technology. They needed help organizing and making sense of the enormous number of images and videos sent to them every week through their CyberTipline and from law enforcement officers nationwide.

So we went into overdrive. I recruited some fellow engineers to help me build tools that NCMEC might find useful. Throughout 2007, using our 20% time, we created innovative software tools to help NCMEC track down child predators through video and image search. With these tools, analysts will be able to more quickly and easily search NCMEC's large information systems to sort and identify files that contain images of child pornography. In addition, a new video tool we built streamlines analysts' review of video snippets.

The keys here were organization, scalability, and search. In particular, the tools we provided will aid in organizing and indexing NCMEC's information so that analysts can both deal with new images and videos more efficiently and also reference historical material more effectively. We hope the tools we've built for NCMEC will help its analysts make the important and often time-sensitive work of investigating child predators faster and more efficient.

For me, working with NCMEC provided an incredible opportunity. It allowed us to immediately deploy some of our latest research in image and video analysis in a real-world setting. On a personal note, I've been truly inspired by the entire NCMEC team's dedication and diligence in completing such a heart-wrenching mission.

You always hope that your work will eventually be used do some good in the world, and this was an amazing chance to make that hope real by creating tools that have the potential to aid investigations of child predators, find child victims and reduce the flow of child pornography on the Internet.