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Media Kit

Why Interview Simon?

Simon has more than a decade of Internet experience and an extensive background in IT security. He has considerable media experience and has been featured on television, radio and extensively in the print media. Simon has also held workshops and conducted seminars in the areas of IT security.

Everyone who knows Simon is aware that he isn't afraid of telling you what he thinks. Journalists can rely on Simon to provide a no-holds-barred opinion and to sort out the marketing fluff from the facts.

While Simon's technical background is also impressive, he is one of that rare breed of people in the industry who can speak in plain English. While this has served him well in communicating to senior management in large corporations, it also enables him to relate to many other groups of people, especially parents.

If you are looking for someone fresh, who has something interesting to say, and if you want to come away having learned something valuable, then contact Simon now.

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Story Ideas

Here are some ideas for a news story:

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Questions and Answers

1. Tell us about your background. How did you get started?

I have a Bachelor of Computing from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where I studied Information Security and Cryptography. My internet experience starts in 1989, before the web was even invented. Back then the Internet was highly technical (there was no point and click anything).

To be honest, I found computing very boring. It just wasn't a challenge. Much to the disgust of my University I managed to schedule all my classes into one day a week. I spent the remaining 4 days working. During this time I started one of Australia's first Internet Service Providers (ISPs) located in Melbourne. I later co-founded SecuritySearch.Net, a search engine and portal that provided information to companies world-wide on how to protect themselves from hackers.

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2. What made you leave a big salary and the corporate life to start a web site on protecting children?

We just had our first child Amelie, and I was sending some pictures of her to my family via e-mail. At that stage I was receiving approximately 100 spam e-mail messages a day. Even though I used spam filtering programs, I still had to sort through a lot of inappropriate material. I remember looking at Amelie playing on the floor and thinking how I wouldn't like her to be exposed to this rubbish.

After searching the Internet for some parent friendly resources I literally came up with nothing. The only things I could find were technical studies that were out of date and a few generic sites that had no real substance to them. After talking with friends and relatives it seemed that everyone was in the same situation. There were no up to date resources for parents to turn to for help. I thought to myself, well companies hire me to protect their employees from this type of content and I have a background in IT security spanning more than a decade, so why shouldn't I do something to help?

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3. How serious are Internet related threats? We read about pedophiles, hackers and security risks in the media almost every week. Putting aside the hype, is the average child really at risk?

There is no question that the average child is at risk. Its almost certain that the average family's computer has been exposed to spyware and their activities have been tracked on the Internet. If a firewall hasn't been installed then it's highly likely that their computer has already been compromised and they won't even know about it.

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4. Do you think the average parent understands the real risks associated with the Internet?

Unfortunately, the average parent is unaware of how vulnerable their children are. Many parents see their children playing games or chatting on the computer and think that they are safe. This couldn't be further from the truth. With web cameras, microphones and software that's on most computers, a paedophile can hear and see what children are doing.

Some parents know about the risks but think that "it won't happen to my children". Other parents just don't want to know what their children get up to online, for fear that its worse than they thought. The problem here is that if its left unchecked, the end result could be more devestating. For example, let's say that your child is talking to a pedophile, posing as another child. If you are aware that your child is taking to "someone online" then you can take immediate action. If you don't check what your children are doing and the child arranges to physically meet this person, it's too late.

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5. Are we doing enough as parents to protect our children?

There is a lot of room for improvement. In particular, parents need to understand the risks behind using the Internet, so that they can take adequate measures to protect their children. Education is the key. Software from your local computer store may block access to a few chat rooms, but your child needs to understand that "people are not always who they say they are" and that there are "people on the Internet that might hurt them". It's this understanding that can make a real difference.

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6. Where do you see the role of schools and teachers in all of this?

Schools and teachers are in a unique position to educate students about the dangers of using the Internet. However, parents should not solely depend on schools and teachers to educate their children about Internet dangers. Unfortunately, with new technology comes new risks, and it's almost impossible for schools and teachers to stay up to date with the latest risks. This is why I believe that schools should educate students about the basic risks and then move to a reinforcement role. At the end of the day, it should be up to parents to determine what is and isn't acceptable for their children.

Apart from a basic education on Internet risks, students should be educated in Internet etiquette as a part of IT (computer) classes. This will not only educate children as to what is and isn't acceptable, but will enable them to react in an appropriate manner to anything untoward (such as a request to physically meet, by a paedophile).

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7. What are some of the most common mistakes that parents make when purchasing products such as firewalls, antivirus and content filtering programs?

A big mistake is to go down to the local computer shop and buy whatever the sales person recommends. Why? Many sales people earn commission and will sell you the product that earns them the most $$$. Some software manufacturers use a points system that rewards sales staff for selling as many products as possible in a certain period of time, for example, the sales person who sells the most antivirus software gets a free computer game console or a free holiday for two. To some people, this may seem extreme, but it really is how the IT industry operates.

A second mistake is to buy software "because it sounds good", even though you don't know what it means and it doesn't solve your particular problem. For example, the computer geek at the local store might tell you that his antivirus software can "detect unknown computer viruses due to its advanced heuristic detection capability". This might sound good - who wouldn't want a program that detects unknown viruses? - but it is also rubbish; no program can conclusively detect unknown viruses.

A third mistake is to rely on product reviews in magazines. Some magazines just copy and paste software reviews directly from marketing material, which is sent to them by the software manufacturer. A good friend of a mine worked for a major PC magazine a few years ago. He told me that when the magazine reviewed software, more often than not they wouldn't even take it out of the box! In fact, in order to guarantee a "good review", many IT manufacturers and distributors would take the reviewers away on business trips (holidays) to various exotic locations to "brief them on the products". A few weeks later a glowing review would appear on the front page of the magazine.

These dodgy practices have led to many misconceptions in the marketplace as to the quality of various products. This is why I've provided free, independent reviews of software on my web site at http://www.keepyourkidssafe.net. Parents can see exactly what each product offers and which one is right for their needs, based on a thorough, technical review of each product.

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8. Do you have to be computer geek to understand this stuff? Can the average parent understand all of this?

The information on my web site at http://www.keepyourkidssafe.com is written in "plain English" so that any parent can understand it. The independent reviews show each product and explain why particular features are useful or just "nice to have". There is also a glossary for parents who are not that familiar with computers or the Internet.

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9. Will children be able to bypass these safeguards? It seems that children always have "one up" on their parents.

If you follow the instructions and password protect the software then it's highly unlikely that your children will be able to get around these safeguards. More to the point, you shouldn't be in a situation where your children will want to try to get around these safeguards. Why? Because your children should be educated and understand that these safeguards are in place to protect them from various threats on the Internet.

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10. How can people contact you for more information?

Visit http://www.keepyourkidssafe.com or e-mail simon@keepyourkidssafe.com

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