Using the Internet Safely, part 2

Internet benefits and dangers

1) Many people use the Internet in everyday life.

  • Family and friends keep in touch using the Internet.
  • We use computers and the internet to learn new information.
  • We also use computers for personal business like shopping or banking.

2) The Internet can be a dangerous place for everyone because cyber threats can attack your computer.

  • Thieves can steal your personal information stored on the computer or on websites.
  • Attackers can send software that will damage your computer.

3) Cyber threats can be a problem for people with aphasia and cognitive-communication disorders.

  • It may be hard to understand the words on a website.
  • It may be hard to know how to use the Internet safely.

4) Family members and clinicians may use computers and the Internet with survivors of stroke or traumatic brain injury

  • Families and professionals may not be aware of the dangers or know how to keep safe on the Internet.
  • Teaching family members or clients about computer safety is important.

Internet cyber threats

1) Cyber threats, also called cyber attacks, are computer programs that attack a computer.

  • Some cyber threats try to trick you into sharing personal information in order to steal your identity.
  • Other cyber threats come from attackers who spread malware which is short for “malicious software.”
  • Malware are software programs designed to damage your computer system.
  • The following table shows cyber threat words that you might see on the Internet
Cyber Threat Word Definition
Hacking Breaking into a computer system to gain information or change the system.
Phishing An e-mail fraud scam that pretends to be a reliable source in order to steal personal information. It may look like an e-mail from your bank or phone company that asks you for your password or your social security number.
Pop-up A software program that opens a new window on a computer screen without the computer user choosing to open the new window. Pop-ups are often ads from other websites.
Spoofing Hiding one’s identity or faking the identity of another user on the Internet. This happens on e-mail or in chat rooms when someone fakes an address or name. Spoofing tries to trick you into providing information.
Virus Malware designed to cause problems with your computer or software programs. Opening an infected e-mail attachment is the most common way to get a virus.
A virus can move or erase files, fill the computer’s memory, and cause the computer not to work well. Some viruses can copy themselves and travel to other computers.
Worm Malware designed to cause problems on many other computers. Your computer can get a worm when you open an infected email attachment or message. A worm can copy itself and then take over the memory in the computer.
Trojan Horse Malware that pretends to be a safe program, such as a game, but can damage your computer.
A Trojan horse might appear to be a computer game. But when you open it, the program starts erasing parts of your computer’s hard drive where you store important information.

The picture of a Trojan Horse was drawn by one of our aphasia group members.

2) Your risk of a cyber threat comes from two main sources: technical and social vulnerabilities.

  • Technical vulnerabilities happen to the electronic devices in our homes like computers, telephones, digital frames, or even the Internet.
  • Your computer protection may be outdated or a virus may have infected your computer.
  • Even well trained computer users may not be able to detect this type of cyber attack.

  • Social vulnerabilities relate to poor or unsafe decisions made by computer users.
  • Everyone can be careless, in a hurry, or lack information about the Internet and make mistakes.
  • Mistakes increase the risk of cyber attacks.

3) Individuals with aphasia or cognitive-communication disorders may be at high risk for cyber attacks.

  • The following table shows some communication challenges a person might have and how it could create a risk on the Internet.
Communication challenge Potential risk
Impaired visual, reading or auditory understanding May not understand information on a website
Reduced attention or memory May not find information on a screen
May not remember information from an earlier web page
May not remember how to use a website
Use of adaptive equipment May increase risk of personal information being viewed by others
Impaired judgment or self-monitoring May not use safety rules when on the computer
May make poor decisions when using the computer
Reduced ability to generalize May not use new safety skills when accessing a new or different website or program
Limited computer access May not have the opportunity to practice using the computer
May make more errors when using the computer

4) There may be challenges to avoiding cyber threats on the Internet, but there are many ways to stay safe.

  • Some recommendations may help everyone to be safer on the Internet.
  • Some strategies may be extra helpful to individuals with aphasia and cognitive-communication disorders.
  • Learning more about cyber safety is important for all of us.


The authors are indebted to members of the Aphasia Communication Enhancement Program at Western Michigan University for comments on the blog, and to all the members and student clinicians of the Aphasia Treatment Program (CSU), the Conversation Groups for Individuals Living with Aphasia and Cognitive-Communication Disorders (UP), and the Aphasia Communication Enhancement Program, from whom we have learned much about the Internet and cybersafety.

The content in this blog is the process of group interaction via the Internet; it is based on an article that appeared in the National Aphasia Association Newsletter (Fall 2011).

Photo credits

Pictures used in this blog are in the public domain. They were obtained from Google Images;; and Inspired Services (, an organization that creates accessible information for individuals with disabilities.

Part 1 of this post is also available: Using the Internet Safely, part 1

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