‘STOP. THINK. CONNECT.’ Campaign Encourages Families to Take Online Security Precautions Together


NCSA stop think connectThe benefits of being online far outweigh the risks, yet we also know that scams, hacks, and breaches lurk around every corner. How can we possibly sidestep all those digital pitfalls?

One approach is to become really aware of the potential consequences before we – and our children – connect. That’s no easy feat in a home that perhaps has two laptops, a few iPhones, an iPad, maybe even a PlayStation or Xbox Live, too.

We recently chatted with Michael Kaiser, the executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), to learn more ways that families can really work together to keep everyone safe at home.

He says one analogy he often uses is that online safety is like looking both ways before you cross the street. It’s also a philosophy he espouses as part of the successful STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign that is the cornerstone of his work with the NCSA. Kaiser, who spent 25 years in the field of victim’s services and related programs, sees STOP. THINK. CONNECT. as akin to the old ‘Smokey Bear’ campaign. The overriding concept is that families just need to take a few security precautions so everyone can connect with more confidence on the Internet. That philosophy is also one that PRIVATE WiFi recommends — and why we’re so excited to be a new partner with this campaign to teach families to do the following:

  • STOP: Before you use the Internet, take time to understand the risks and learn how to spot potential problems.
  • THINK: Take a moment to be certain the path ahead is clear. Watch for warning signs and consider how your actions online could impact your safety, or your family’s.
  • CONNECT: Enjoy the Internet with greater confidence, knowing you’ve taken the right steps to safeguard yourself and your computer.

The campaign was originally created in 2009 by 25 companies and seven federal agencies with the goal of creating harmonized messaging, with leadership provided by the NCSA as well as the Anti-Phishing Working Group. The program officially launched in October 2010, with President Obama declaring STOP. THINK. CONNECT. the national cybersecurity awareness campaign during his Presidential Proclamation of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Cyber-Savvy Kids

With young people growing up more in the digital world, Kaiser and his team want kids to be very cyber-savvy. As Kaiser says, “Knowing how to use the technology and knowing how to use it safely are two very different issues. Kids don’t always have the cognitive skills around these safety issues and they do need this training. We want their online intuition to become second nature.”

Safety and security online mean we can safely do more online, not less, he points out.

“Navigating in a way with precautions that protect you gives you the ability to do more. If you have more security settings, you feel more confident sharing. Another example is if you add a layer of security like a personal VPN that creates a layer of security, then you have more trust that, yes, in fact I am dealing with my bank and more confidence in the transaction. Security helps build that trust and confidence,” he adds.

The team at NCSA has produced an amazing collection of safety videos, and they also graciously shared even more STOP. THINK. CONNECT. tips to share here:

  • Keep a clean machine: Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
  • Own your online presence: When applicable, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s ok to limit how you share information.
  • Make passwords long and strong: Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password.
  • Unique account, unique password: Separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals.
  • When in doubt, throw it out: Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.
  • Be kind: Post only about others as you have them post about you.


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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.