Ladies, Take Charge of Your Life Online

The economic impact of having the Internet at home and work is significant. I can be more productive at work; I have a wider network of colleagues using social, alumni and professional networks; I’m able to be a smarter consumer by researching purchases and investment opportunities; and potentially I can learn to be a better parent, simply by accessing the wealth of information available online.

Increasing the number of women online is a potential global economic game changer

There is still room for improvement; Internet access is not widely available in some of the developing countries, especially in rural areas, but all signs point to the inevitability and the economic benefit of pressuring governments and communities to embrace getting online. A new report from Intel and World Pulse describes both the current sad state of Internet access for women around the world (on average nearly 25 percent fewer women than men have access to the Internet) and an exciting proposed initiative to address it. We know getting women Internet access is a game changer. The ability to get online will give women access to information and resources beyond the limits of their immediate community: education programs; health and women’s reproductive information; parenting techniques and, most importantly, job and career information.

Cyber safety is a natural women’s issue
With the anticipated increase in these new Internet users, Internet safety education must be a key component. We know that the more time you spend online; the more varied the sites you visit, the higher at risk you are for online victimization. Women are at risk of being targets for dating scams, online stalking, and other serious online threats like credit card fraud during online shopping, malware and other cybercrimes.

According to Norton Cybercrime Report 2012, two out of three adults globally have experienced cybercrime in their lifetime. Malaysia has approximately 18 million internet users, equating it to an impressive 61% of our population online. With Malaysians spending an average of 20hours a week online, a chunk of that time, 33% is spent on social media. The changing nature of cybercrime on social platforms means women need to be extra careful to protect themselves from becoming a cybercrime victim2.

CyberSecurity Malaysia reported in 2012 that the number of Internet users coming forward to report cybercrimes has increased over the last four years3. Love scams and fraudulent online purchases ranked highest among the reported cases. The frequency of cybercrime cases rose from 6,586 reports in 2011 compared with 6,238 cases in 20104.

The importance of cyber-empowerment in the digital era As Internet access increases, there are simple steps women should take to protect themselves online: changing their password frequently, checking their online financial accounts regularly; ensuring that social media sites have the highest privacy settings and always being sure to logoff especially when using public Wi-Fi or shared computers, such as at hotels or Internet cafes. They should also be wary of being approached by strangers online and avoid making too much personal information readily available online.

Through cyber-empowerment, education and installing the necessary security solutions, we can arm ourselves against potential threats and ensure a positive change for women and their families.

By Marian Merritt, Norton's Internet Safety Advocate

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