Free seminar seeks to make surfing the Internet safer

LITTLE CURRENT—The Internet can be a scary place, but it doesn’t have to be. Former Internet security analyst Dave Patterson will be sharing his tips on how to surf safely in a free seminar being hosted by the Northeast Town and The Manitoulin Expositor at the recreation centre in Little Current.

“Every day I see people making the simplest of mistakes,” said Mr. Patterson. He pointed to a recent online scam that ran through Facebook, ‘Be Like Bob,’ as an example. “People would click on the link and give the people posting the link access to their Facebook page. Turns out some of it was malware.”

Mr. Patterson explains that malware (a broad term to describe intrusive software) is a program that is loaded onto your computer (or other electronic device) that does things you do not want it to do. But there are simple steps a person can take to prevent such invasions of your privacy and property.

“I was watching the media reports on Be Like Bob and frankly, I found myself very annoyed,” said Mr. Patterson. When such events make the national and global news agenda the media typically goes into a kind of feeding frenzy and focusses on announcements that the sky is falling, usually made by those with a vested interest in stoking anxiety (for instance sellers of antivirus software). “But news reports typically don’t tell you how to avoid falling victim,” he said. “They focus on the damage that has been done, not how to really prevent it in the first place. There is so much misinformation out there.”

Mr. Patterson, whose credits include numerous national and provincial awards for his webpage designs and whose previous experience involved nearly two decades working in computer technology in Australia, maintains that he does not have an anti-virus program on his personal computer. “I have never had a virus,” he said. “I take simple steps that involve some common sense.”

“Every day you hear about the dangers of the Internet and that causes a lot of anxiety for people, particularly the elderly, that is not necessary,” said Mr. Patterson. “I want to try and give people the simple tools, explain things in simple terms that people whose every day lives don’t revolve around technology can use to reduce that unnecessary fear.”

Mr. Patterson’s years of experience in helping to explain technology to a wide range of people with different degrees of computer literacy make him uniquely qualified to put on this sort of seminar. “I think this will be an opportunity for people to learn how to protect themselves online, and even when answering the telephone,” he said.

Asked what is in it for him, as Mr. Patterson is not charging a fee for his services, he admitted that it isn’t totally wanting to provide a public service. “I used to do a lot of speaking in public,” he noted, “and this will give me an opportunity to keep my skills sharp. But really, it just annoys the heck out of me that people are being made to fear the Internet, when there is so much out there that can enrich people’s lives no matter what their age. When something is broken it annoys me and that just makes me want to fix it.”

The Internet Security seminar will take place at the Northeast Town recreation centre in Little Current in the main hall on February 25 from 6 pm to 8 pm.