The New Wild Frontier. . .

dangerIt’s not so new really, but it seems new to many people who are discovering for the first time that they aren’t as safe online as they thought they were.

PC World and other journalist magazines out there that chronicle what is happening in IT circles on and off the web, are more and more writing articles about security, or the lack of it, on the Internet, and on people’s computers. I’ve been sharing various such articles, most of them do to with safety.

After having seen enough of these warnings just in the last month or so, and after talking to some of my clients, friends and coworkers, I am starting to see the need to offer a course on basic security measures that a person can and should take when sitting down to their computer.

We have to face the fact that pretty much every computer is somehow connected to the Internet, for one reason or another. For some folks, they may not do much online themselves, but their PC or Mac needs to get its software updates via the ‘net, email connects to the ‘net to send and receive, and their home network lets other computers in the home or business connect to the ‘net to do those things as well. This means that even if a person never once opens a browser window, there are still safety measures they need to take to keep their computer and home/business network safe.

Once a person opens a browser window however, a whole slew of additional measures need to be taken. Some of those security and safety measures can only be processed in the person’s head and acted on with their fingers. It is this phase of security, this phase of safety, where most computers and home or business networks find themselves vulnerable.

Most people want to get to their desired location, get their desired download, complete their desired task, NOW, or even better, have it finished as in YESTERDAY already! Those who study the social behaviour of society refer to this generation as the NOW generation, or the “instant” generation. This apparently ingrained need to have things as quickly as possible is preyed on by cyber-criminals to achieve their goals. There are so many people with this ‘now now now, quickly, hurry, get it done yesterday’ mentality, that the job of infecting computers is relatively easy. The speed of life in other words, is a contributing factor to getting infected.

A second mindset among many users today, is the concept of immunity, and an outdated sense of common courtesy and respect. The thought that an email would show up from someone they don’t know, with the intent to scam the recipient, is somehow completely unheard of by many new computer users today, inspite of all the publicly posted warnings to the contrary. It is this group that thinks the email from the IRS stating under-reported income, is actually serious and that they should take action on it. It is this group that can’t understand why they are getting emails for male enhancement drugs. It’s as if, in these people’s minds, everyone on the ‘net is above-board, law-abiding, polite, respectful, etc. and to discover otherwise is apparently very rude. These people are easy prey for cyber-criminals as well, because their first assumption is one of complete innocence and anyone sending them anything must genuinely want their input.

Then there are those who rely on others to keep them safe. Such people get upset when their antivirus program that they paid big bucks for, lets a piece of spyware through. These people get upset when a song file they downloaded turns out to be a trojan and they wonder why their firewall didn’t block it. Generally speaking, such people fail to understand that anything they grant permission to, will get past these security measures, so if the person said “yes” to download a song, it will download. If they clicked on an advertisement that asked to play a video and they said “yes”, the spyware will be allowed through. These same people get upset when a virus they thought was removed, comes back because the authors rewrote it to get past the person’s antivirus software. The thought of people out there regularly improving their malware actually gets some of these people right fuming! They want them hauled into court and the whole nine yards! Some cyber-criminals do get caught, but that doesn’t stop the rest from carrying on the war between malware and the antivirus companies.

There is a huge gaping need to educate new computer users, aging computer users, and those who up to now have always dealt with the nicer side of life, to learn about, and learn to protect themselves from the cyber-criminal element out on the Internet. It doesn’t matter how good any software or hardware security measure is, if the user behaves in any of the ways mentioned here, its only a matter of time before they fall victim to malicious behaviour on the Internet.

Perhaps its time for computer sellers and resellers to consider mandatory introductory courses on two subjects: Basic Computer/Internet Usage, and Having a Secure Mindset on the Internet.

I might even consider writing those courses myself. I’ve got the first one already half-written(the computer usage part), just needs updating and quite a bit of tweeking.

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