By: Christian Bangerter
The other day I was reading an article and I scrolled past an ad section that was part of the webpage. I came across this clickbait advertisement. It read, Use this simple trick to protect your computer for free. As a cyber-security enthusiast, I find this extremely hilarious. It’s funny because it assumes I expect being safe on the internet and protecting my data is going to cost me money. Being safe on the internet does not cost you money. But it does cost you time, effort, and mostly purpose.
It saddens me when people use the phrase “I have nothing to hide” as an excuse to be apathetic about protecting their data. “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”(Snowden) Unfortunately, even if I were to convince you of your necessity for privacy or your duty to uphold privacy as a human right, by making uncalculated decisions on the internet, people automatically breach their line of defense when it comes to protecting their personal data. But why do we make these “uncalculated” decisions?
Because of a lack of material build up and face-to-face interaction, digital information is more and more abstractly referred to and abstractly worried about, that is to say, we treat digital information with much less concern than physical property. For example, If someone on the street came up to you and asked for your name, phone number, birthday, and family member’s names would you say yes? Because you may have given this very same information away on the internet. The only difference between this scenario and a scenario existing in the digital world is that the man on the street doesn’t even have to walk up to you.
And in our continued quest for more connectedness and Social Media followers, we have mindlessly decided to enter the digital realm in order to establish and maintain a social or personal level of acceptance and relevance. And for what? Idealized reality? Photos that display the highlights of others’ lives and convince us of the perfect lives they lead? And must we persuade ourselves that it is not somewhat fake?
And in this fake reality we must consider the ease in which others can fake their identities. It would take me five minutes to create a fake account and a few days to gain a substantial amount of followers in order to convince someone else to trust me. This is not me bragging of my abilities. This is you realizing that gaining trust in a digital world is easier than it should be. This is you realizing that trust has a different meaning than it did 20 years ago.
Now I can give you an hour long lecture on say, a Zeus trojan, and how it uses spam messages and drive-by downloads to steal banking credentials from a company and how one person improperly using Social Media could bring this risk to their company and their customers. But I’m not. Instead, I’m telling you to USE YOUR BRAIN. Alexandra Michel, in her article Psyber Security: Thwarting Hackers with Behavioral Science, argues, “Human behavior, just as much as technology, is at the crux of cybersecurity. Hackers and scammers target computer systems, but many of them also attack our biases and cognitive vulnerabilities.” Nowadays, it can even be argued that Cyber-security is becoming less and less about hardware and software exploits and more and more about exploits of our own human psychology.
There are even recent studies showing our brains are not designed to handle the amount of information and technology that is available to us. In an article Christopher Pierznik wrote, called Our brains Can’t Handle Technology, he retells the story of people being exposed to one of the first films from the 1800s, a train moving along a railroad track. People were so shocked when they saw it, they ran from the theater in terror. “While the story is almost certainly apocryphal, it does shine a light on to how humans interact with technology, not logically, but emotionally, even primordially.” So if we do not interact with technology on a logical level, how can we possibly seek to grasp and control something that appeals so much to the emotional side of our brains? We need to think of technology concretely.
Realize you should analyze digital decisions with your mind. Realise true trust can only come from a face-to-face interaction with someone. And most of all, actually think about the decisions you make online. Your safety is on the line.
Use this one simple trick to protect your computer for free.
- Image: Screenshot clickbait ad off of a website
- Pierznik, Christopher. “Our Brains Can’t Handle Technology.” Medium, The Passion of Christopher Pierznik, 13 Apr. 2018, medium.com/the-passion-of-christopher-pierznik-books-rhymes/our-brains-cant-handle-technology-8dfabe90505d.
- Michel, Alexandra. “Psyber Security: Thwarting Hackers with Behavioral Science.” Association for Psychological Science, http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/psyber-security-thwarting-hackers-with-behavioral-science.
- Contributors to Wikimedia. “American Whistleblower and Former National Security Agency Contractor.” Wikiquote, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 9 Apr. 2019, en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden.