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FBI warns U.S. kids in e-mail pen pal program: 'Trust but verify'

December 20, 2001 

The White House is encouraging American students to exchange e-mails with young pen pals in Islamic countries – but the FBI has a warning for school kids because of fears about hackers and Internet security: "Trust but verify."

The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center warned teachers and parents on Thursday to make sure that American children in the program are following security practices such as using antivirus software and guarding against suspicious files sent by e-mail.

The FBI agreed that the program, which President Bush predicted will "enable boys and girls all across America to reach out to boys and girls all across the world," has "excellent potential" to bridge cultures between America and Bahrain, Pakistan and Egypt.

"It very important for us to combat evil with understanding," Bush said when he announced the program. "It's very important for us reinforce our message in all ways possible to the people in the Islamic world, that we don't hold you accountable for what took place. As a matter of fact, we want to be friends."

But the FBI cautioned Thursday that the Internet can be a dangerous neighborhood, urging school kids to "trust but verify" when it comes to receiving e-mail from strangers. President Reagan popularized the phrase in describing U.S. behavior toward the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

"We may have difficulty understanding the motivations or virus developers, but we must recognize that it is consistent with their methodology to exploit our curiosity," said the FBI warning, published on the Web site for the cyber-security unit.

Some of the FBI's tips for kids include:

–Close the "preview pane" of your e-mail software.

–Disable features on your Web browser that allow Java script and Active-X technology.

–Do not open files sent by e-mail from strangers.

–Verify suspicious e-mails.

by ASSOCIATED PRESS. Copyright © 2001 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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