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HCCSC spreads cyber awareness

MAPS:Cathie Bledsoe, Youth Educator with the Indiana State Police ICAC Task Force, was able to pull up a map that pinpointed the exact location of a device of a parent in the Huntington North Auditorium on Monday night. This was all part of a presentation on cyber awareness through HCCSC and ICAC.

by James Ehle - jehle@h-ponline.com

A youth educator with the Indiana State Police Internet Crimes Against Childen (ICAC) Task Force left many parents and children feeling unsettled after cybersecurity presentations this week.

Cathie Bledsoe, Youth Educator with the Indiana State Police ICAC Task Force, presented the many unknown dangers that children can experience on the internet.

The task force in Indiana was founded 25 years ago, and is among 61 task forces in the U.S. that deals with the issue of internet crimes affecting children.

“If you ask any of our investigators who have been around for a while, they say this thing has changed–only to get worse, not get better,” said Bledsoe. “We had to be more proactive and less reactive.”

The talks at Crestview, Riverview and Huntington North are among nearly 500 talks Bledsoe has presented in the last year alone on a mission to keep parents and children informed.

“If you think about it, how it works, you may make different choices for yourself and your child,” Bledsoe said.

The Huntington North auditorium had just more than a dozen parents in attendance at the Monday night presentation, but the auditorium was filled with students for two other presentations on Tuesday morning.

Jan Williams, Youth Services Bureau Executive Director, said students who attended the presentation at Crestview Middle School started off thinking they already knew how to be safe, but by the time Bledsoe finished her presentation on Monday, many had a new understanding of cyber threats.

“The reason why this room is not full is because people are sitting at home going ‘I’m so lucky I have a good kid, he’s making straight A’s, he’s busy at sports he doesn’t have time for this’,” Bledsoe said. “Really? That’s what you’re trusting to protect your child from online predators? From making choices that will ruin their futures?”

Her presentation detailed secret apps that are disguised as calculators where kids can hide photos, internet browsers, and messages among other things from parents. The apps will only show the hidden items by typing in a specific passcode.

“There is no need for them to download an additional calculator because they need a scientific calculator,” Bledsoe said. She demonstrated how turning a phone sideways opens up the scientific calculator function.

Bledsoe involved the parents in the room by using an app that located all of the Bluetooth capable devices. By clicking on the device’s name she could access information including the location.

“I can pinpoint where you are and track where you’re going,” Bledsoe said. “This app cost me 99 cents. Anybody in the world can buy this app, and there’s hundreds more just like it.”

Among the presentation, she touched on issues of parents sharing too much information which can allow criminals to track down their homes and even get to their kids.

The simple act of posting your cell phone number to social media can allow a predator to find your home.

“There’s a scam that goes around in schools and has been going around for years that says ‘your friend voted you number one on the hot list, click the link’,” Bledsoe said. “Clicking the link opens you up to all kinds of problems. A decent hacker could send you back a message with malware in it. Just by clicking the link you shared your cell phone number and I can open up any browser and knowing a little bit about browsers and how they work, I can find the address associated with your phone number. Now I got your address. All I have to do is go to Zillow or something like that and now I have a floorplan of your house.

“Those seven digits. Think about it. I get a floor plan to your house. I know where every window, every door, every room is.”

Cell phones children have are capable of doing all of the tasks a computer is cable of. Bledsoe warns parents to educate themselves on the devices their children have to avoid predators.

“We might have to change how we talk about it, this is not a phone. This is a computer. This computer accesses the world. You turn off location services that only helps a little bit. You might have to educate yourself a bit more too. That’s why rooms like this should be full.”

To learn more about the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and more tips about cyber safety visit: www.icactaskforce.org