We’ve seen the headlines. WannaCry Ransomware is wreaking havoc around the world. Every now-and-then these attacks happen.
We’ve heard the warnings. Backup! Install security software. Keep everything up to date. Don’t click untrusted links in emails.
And yet we fall victim to attacks like this.
It’s worth examining why, because if we can understand what is happening, we should be empowered to combat this human frailty.
There are several reasons, but the overriding principle, I’d argue, is that we are fallible humans who can’t be on top of everything in life. This plays out in several ways:
- We drift along in life.
We may be focused and driven in certain aspects of life — career and fitness perhaps, but there will be areas where we just drift along. This is understandable. There are so many tasks that need to be done each day. Flossing of teeth, a few moments of mindfulness, a friendly word for those we live with, a pet that has grooming needs, our own grooming…
We can drift along, knowing that internet security requires action from us, but we never get around to it. Or we do it, but not all that often. We don’t have a regular habit or we haven’t automated it.
Once we realize that internet security is a big deal, we can then consciously move it from the things that we know we should do, but don’t get around to, to the list that actually has to happen, and happen regularly.
Ah the old joke about needing A Round Tuit. Once we get that Round Tuit, so many more things can happen in our lives.
The word ‘stop’ appears several times below. We need that circuit breaker to interrupt our drifting and make us backup a little, think, and take some positive action on this issue. Even the best achievers can have areas where they aren’t so proactive.
Stop. Consciously move these jobs into top priority. Get a security system set up NOW and ensure that MAINTENANCE is also in place. This is up there with charging your phone, and way ahead of tooth flossing. (Only joking Mike, my dentist.)
There are variations on ‘drifting along’ that mean we have poor internet security.
One of the major ones is a ‘sharpen the saw’ thing.
2. I can’t stop to sharpen the saw, I’m way too busy sawing.
These machines drive us. They present our work to us. We can be busy, very busy. So how could we possibly be guilty of inaction? But we don’t sharpen the saw. We don’t look after the parts of our life that support the busyness.
So we work. We build up files and more files. The irony is that the more work we accumulate on our hard drives, the greater will be the loss if we can’t access it. But we keep choosing to create rather than to back up that work.
We have to consciously see backing up, updating and security measures as part of the work. A very vital part.
We need to stop. Sharpen the saw. In other words attend to internet security. Either automate it, or set reminders to do it regularly. These reminders are non-negotiable.
3. We are mesmerized.
These screens are very entertaining. Look at almost everyone on public transport.
They are magic. When we have access to a world of information, entertainment, games, news, gossip, social interaction… you know what technology can bring to us.
We begin to think that the machines will just … work. They work when we do our work, they sooth and entertain us. Why should that stop happening?
So while we are enjoying this false sense of security, inertia can be our default state.
4. It’s all too hard.
If we don’t understand something, there is the tendency to avoid it. If there is a process of self-education before the action is taken, that just adds another level of complexity and we can become world champion procrastinators.
Read, research. You’ll find it’s not as hard to master the basics as you think. Consult experts if necessary. We have a ‘Mike’ to look after our teeth. Engage a professional if necessary.
Security software is packaged to be user-friendly. Something is better than nothing.
5. Confirmation bias.
The past lends some confirmation bias to the way we are thinking, or not thinking. If it has been a while since we were proactive about internet security, and nothing went wrong, we may think that nothing will go wrong in the future. We have got this far with our old habits, so why wouldn’t that happy state continue to apply?
But nature abhors a vacuum. Wherever an environment exists, something arises to colonize that environment. When there is money moving around the internet, crime will arise to target that money.
Be realistic. Most ‘insurance’ doesn’t lead to claims. It’s money we have to pay so that we’ll be protected in a catastrophe. If the catastrophe doesn’t happen, we still win.
6. Lack of imagination.
We think it will all be okay.
The best ‘tough love’ lesson is to experience a loss of data or a malicious attack. It has a way of educating in what should have been done, very quickly. To avoid having to have this extreme lesson, we need to learn from the experiences of others. Imagination is needed to see that this could happen to us and it’s a real threat.
But we all have imaginations. What is needed is real, vivid imagination, perhaps to the point of paranoia. We need to really believe that it will happen to us and that we need to be vigilant with protection.
Think this through. These are real dangers and they can happen.
7. Many of us are better at new projects than we are at routine maintenance.
Ah, vigilance. Maintenance. Setting up internet security is a new project, even if it isn’t a very exciting one. Maintaining that security can be a task where our enthusiasm might wane.
We know there are malicious attacks on the internet. We know we are less than perfect when it is left to us to organize our own security schedule.
Automate. Or at least automate reminders.
Commit to the long-term maintenance (the boring, routine part) as well as charging in and setting up protection. It’s routine, but important.
And, as luck would have it, we have a machine inherent in this problem that is excellent at reminding us, and doing automated tasks.
The process of getting on top of internet security involves taking a few minutes to make the decision that this is something that is going to be done, and done properly, from now on. After that, the steps involved will be:
- Stop. Take the time to decide to get on top of this issue. A decision to get serious and implement a maintenance schedule will ensure that this issue doesn’t get forgotten or ignored.
- Research the software that is on the market. Consult an expert if you think this is appropriate for you.
- Install appropriate software and set it to update and run scans as often as it suggests.
- Do a full backup.
- Plan to repeat the backups regularly, and also after important work has been done. This is also a vital step. If maintenance issues are left unscheduled, they will be unlikely to be attended to.
- Stop. Actually do the backups and updates on a scheduled basis.
- Automate everything that is possible to automate. If any automated tasks have to be delayed for any reason, be sure to reinstate them as soon as possible.
- For anything that can’t be automated, set reminders on a calendar that is seen regularly. When a reminder comes up, act on it without fail.
- If anything comes along to disrupt the schedule, commit in advance to getting it back on track. This is not negotiable.
Internet security is something well worth committing to. It is needs to become something that is in our repertoire rather than something we will get around to. It has to happen.
The rewards — being safe when others are being attacked — is well worth any tedium involved in maintaining security.
There are some basic internet security tips and resources here.