Sharks, Mosquitoes and Internet Safety
In celebration of Safer Internet Day, our Information Security Analyst uses sharks and mosquitoes to explain the risks of the internet and your role in making the internet a better, safer place.
Imagine you’re on a sunny beach. A gentle island breeze softly eases away the stress and anxiety of the world. You have a drink with a little paper umbrella in it and a novel, and you’re ready to take it easy. Pretty nice, right?
Then someone comes running out of the sea, eyes wide, limbs flailing frantically. “There’s a shark in the water!” he shouts.
“Well,” you say to yourself, “I’m certainly not going in there.”
Now imagine you’re having a lovely summer picnic. You have your blanket and a picnic basket full of goodies, and there’s not an ant in sight. You’re ready to lay back in the shade and take it easy. What could be better?
Then, out of nowhere, someone runs up – terrified – and says, “I just saw a mosquito, we have to get out of here!”
Are you going to leave? Probably not. And yet when it comes to a head-to-head contest on which creature is deadlier, the mosquito wins by knockout in the first round. Less than 10 people a year die from shark attacks, while diseases spread by mosquito bites kill more than half a million people a year. People are scared stiff of sharks yet mosquitoes are considered a minor annoyance at worst.
Why is that, and what does it have to do with being safe online? The human mind tends to put a lot of weight on exotic, rare risks while marginalizing common ones. Driving is very dangerous, nevertheless you’ve spent thousands of hours doing it without even thinking much about the risks. Skydiving, on the other hand, is relatively safe, but a lot of people would never consider doing it because they believe it’s too dangerous.
Unfortunately, the risks of the internet are like mosquitoes – ubiquitous, nearly invisible and a thousand times more dangerous than they seem.
Sharing on social media may not seem like a risk at all, yet recently a security professional was hacked solely using the information available on their social media. Maybe it’s a risk you’re willing to take, but you should think about it.
Downloading an app on your phone may not seem like a risk at all, yet many apps contain malware or spyware. In 2018, over one thousand commercially available apps were found to steal your data. Maybe it’s a risk you’re willing to take, but you should think about it.
The motto of the National Cyber Security Alliance is “Stop. Think. Connect.” This is the message I would like you to consider for Safer Internet Day. Don’t assume that an online activity is safe because lots of people are doing it. Don’t assume that an app is safe because it’s in the app store. Don’t assume anything when it comes to your own safety; make a conscious choice. Educate yourself and consider the risk before you take action.
And if you’re not sure what the risk is, ask yourself – is a filter you’re going to play with for 10 minutes worth any chance of your phone being hacked?
Worry less about sharks and more about mosquitoes.
© 2021 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.