Friday, September 5, 2014

Are individuals becoming hard cyber targets?

Last week I made some changes to my home wireless network, including changing the password.  When I booted up the laptop to type (and re-type) the crazy long password in, I noticed something.  Two years ago, one third of the networks in my neighborhood were not password protected.  Now they all are.  All of them.

Every week the news has a story about a data breach at some huge company, with Home Depot the latest example.  Surely the cyber security of a major corporation is better than the average home user, right? In some ways, yes.  But as individual citizens become more tech savvy, I think they’re becoming harder targets for criminal activity.

More people are now aware of the value of strong passwords.  And services like Gmail now often two-stage authentication, which makes it more difficult for someone else to use your email.  The box you get from your cable company has a built-in firewall, and you can adjust the settings for increased security.  And how many people fall for the Nigerian banking scam on email anymore?

The other factor is time versus reward.  Hacking an individual might not result in much loot for a criminal.  Whereas hacking a company may be more difficult, but the result could be a treasure trove of financial data.  I think we’re at the point where it’s more likely for your data to be stolen as part of a huge cyber heist, rather than an attack on an individual.

Still, there are points of vulnerability we need to watch.  I’m not convinced that banking via smartphone is as secure as banking from your desktop at home.  And in public, people are quick to jump on public Wi-Fi and conduct their business without considering that someone nearby could be scanning their activity.  Or hosting the free Wi-Fi network they’re using.

So there are security areas that we, as individuals, need to work on.  On the other side, it would help if criminals saw us as fellow human beings instead of account numbers.  Stealing from those who have little to begin with is particularly heartless.

Author's Note:  If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting Chimp With Pencil by buying one of my books.  Thank you.

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