Hackers, Criminals, NSA and Your Security

A friend and I started this blog several years ago to help the average person with cyber security issues. At that time, I had observed that almost no...

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A friend and I started this blog several years ago to help the average person with cyber security issues. At that time, I had observed that almost no one outside of the professional IT world had any notion of cyber security. Those in big enterprises had IT departments full of professionals to take care of things so the average worker bee could go about their day doing something that was hopefully profitable for the company. Home users, and those in small or medium-sized businesses, without IT departments, however were almost always uninformed about the issues and often completely wide open!

Most average people I would talk with on the subject of cyber security had no idea that they were even at risk by using Internet! Even if they had a basic notion that they were at risk, very few of them could articulate any specific steps that could mitigate their risks of data loss or theft. In short, what I saw were average people (and even some really smart ones!) that were simply overwhelmed by a subject that they didn’t understand. As a result, they just stuck their head in the sand and continued on, with the hope that somehow they would magically be ok without doing anything.

One of the first missions of Security Beacon therefore was to try to build awareness of cyber security. Through articles on this blog and relays through our Twitter feed (Digital Fortitute @securitybeacon) we have tried to highlight news and information showing how critical cyber security has become to everyone. Since it was started, we’ve seen over 100,000 page views on this site. We now have nearly 10,000 followers on Twitter. Both of these figures are a insignificant compared to the number of people at risk. Now however, we are seeing a veritable explosion of articles on major news services about cyber security issues. We’ve seen data breaches at major corporations, state and federal governments, and people famous and not, all carried out by teenage hackers, professional hacker groups, and even government sponsored cyber warriors. You’d have to be living under a rock the past few weeks not to know at least something about the Edward Snowden / NSA issue. Now it seems, everyone should  at least be aware of the idea of cyber security.

Unfortunately,  I’m seeing anecdotal evidence that the average person is probably caring less and less about the issue! The problem is that we are now so saturated with cyber security news that average people are overwhelmed and resigning themselves that there is nothing they can do. Just as before there was any awareness, people are reverting to a “head in the sand” approach.

I think the average Joe is looking at the Snowden / NSA thing and thinking to himself that there is no way in hell that he can protect himself from NSA! Worse, even the NSA can’t protect itself from the likes of a Snowden! What does that say about the whole enterprise? If NSA can hack anyone, yet NSA secrets are being leaked all over the world, then we’re all in a #$%& load of trouble! This thinking leads a lot of people to simply give up and find a convenient pile of sand…

Hopefully, if you’re reading this you won’t just  give up and do nothing! I wouldn’t blame you if you completely cut the cord the digital world and holed up in a remote mountain cabin, but I suggest that a more practical approach might be simply finding ways to be just a bit smarter than the average bird whose head is in the sand.

When I stared this site, I never envisioned trying to help keep anyone safe from the likes of NSA.  Indeed, if you’re on the NSA radar, there is precious little I or anyone else can do to help you!

On the other hand, there are still a lot of criminals and hackers out there that might want to do things to you that you’re probably rather not have done. In spite of the NSA debacle, I believe you can still take positive steps to protect yourself from most hackers and criminals. Sure, we all know that it is extremely difficult to defend yourself from a determined adversary, but how many of you have such enemies? Our goal is simply to help you weed out the petty thieves and make it just hard enough for the determined ones that they decide to move on to someone else! Who knows? In the process of protecting yourself from the hackers and criminals, you might even make life just a bit more difficult for the likes of NSA or GCHQ!

Now, on that Snowden thing:

I’m not a big believer in the idea that people should go around betraying their county by disclosing classified information. On the other hand, much of what Mr. Snowden has revealed to date appears to fall into the the category of “disturbing”.  I’m going to shrink from declaring opinion one way or another until we see how all this plays out. In the mean while, if you are at all concerned about your rights as a citizen of the interconnected world, I would  urge you to read and familiarize yourself with the issues even though they may seem abstract and difficult to comprehend. I also warn you to avoid taking the cop-out approach by deluding yourself into thinking that you have nothing to hide! I’m confident that even a world driven by social media that there are still some things that we’d like to know are private and that can be kept that way. Think about this and act accordingly next time you go to the ballot box. Thanks for reading!


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