I remember when all it took was a locked door to be secure. Those days are long gone. Now, with the electronic world enveloping you 24/7, all it takes is a weak password or lazy security practice to lay your personal life open to anyone evil enough to take advantage of it. I can barely remember all of my passwords that require “2 upper, 2 lower, 2 numbers, 2 special characters, 3 hieroglyphs, 1 color, and a 15-digit binary number.” Well, at least that's what it seems to take these days to be sure no one can peek at all of my cat pictures posted to my social media accounts. Or, maybe more importantly, my on-line banking data.
It seems like every day there are news reports about some security breach due to hackers or someone losing a laptop packed full of unencrypted personal data (WHO WOULD DO THAT????); major companies hacked for credit card information; banks releasing account information; our own government hacked by the bad guys – losing who knows what kind of information. Paying attention yet? You should be.
So, what can you do about it? Well, first go change your passwords. And seriously, make them hard to crack – not your kid's birth dates, or your favorite sports team, or your street address. Next, take a hard look at your personal habits. Are you glued to your smartphone, checking posts and videos and photos – installing apps without looking into just what they have access to? When was the last time you updated the security patches and anti-virus signatures on your computer? (If you have to ask “what's that?” then it's been toooooo long so get busy!) What about that really cute guy sitting behind you at the coffee house when you did some online banking? Think he was enamored with your winning smile? Or maybe, just maybe, was he writing down all of your personal information? I hate to tell you, but it's a scary scary world out there in cyberland.
If you want to get a handle on the latest virus or threat, just search the Internet and you'll find plenty of information. Look for online technical publications or companies, search for blogs, check out the news services. One blog that has great information is KrebsonSecurity by Brian Krebs, a former Washington Post reporter and self-taught computer and Internet security expert. His blog is full of informative and frightening stories on the latest cyber-threats and security issues. Just the other day he posted ‘Heartbleed’ Bug Exposes Passwords, Web Site Encryption Keys, an extremely critical vulnerability in recent versions of OpenSSL. OpenSSL – you know – the technology that puts the 'secure' in 'https://'. THAT OpenSSL. Scared yet? Changed your passwords yet? The answer to both questions should be a resounding “YES!”
If you want to be more than a passive observer to all this craziness, you should know that cybersecurity is one of the hottest and fasting growing job fields. Learn more about career paths at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm.
Of course, there are non-technical answers to the cyber-security problems out there. In fact, I think I've found one myself. So pardon me while I go find a nice cave to live in... with wifi of course.
For valuable education resources, check out the DANTES Web site http://www.dantes.doded.mil/index.html.
Nancy Hamilton, DANTES Editor