Originally published in The Clarion | November 10, 2010
As more and more of us become dependent on the various communications technologies of the 21st Century, concerns of privacy and the protection of our personal information become increasingly important. Our society over the last few decades has seen a shift from one of trust to one of increased states of caution. With the introduction of Internet and Web technologies into our homes and businesses, never before has our personal information been more at risk. Similar to a student’s locker combination in high school, technology users must protect personal information from the ever-present cyber bullies.
Using the locker password analogy, we must consider content to see just how important security and confidentiality is in the Internet realm. If a bully were to get my locker password, he would have full access to the contents of my locker – my books, notebooks and backpack. Common sense tells us that the bully has no interest in my textbooks. He has his own, and of what interest are textbooks to a bully anyway? My notebooks on the other hand, may be of some interest to him. Since he spends most of his time harassing others, the bully sees my well-kept classroom notes would be of some value to him. They may contain just enough information that he could use to squeak by in his classes. A method to his end goal – escaping the restrictive confines of high school, it’s fair to say my notes are most definitely of value to him.
Let’s now consider the backpack that is hanging from a hook in my locker. For a bully, this is a potential goldmine. Any number of items could be in the backpack, including my car keys, money and any number of other valuable items. By securing a simple three-digit locker combination, the bully now owns me. My lunch and gas money are now his, as are whatever other personal articles I chose to keep there. If he is brave enough, he now also has my vehicle. Definitely not a good scenario for me.
Applying this example to Internet and Web technologies of today, it should be very clear how important securing our electronic belongings really is. By obtaining one simple key (locker combination) the bully instantly owned me. Electronic credentials are no different. Take a moment to consider all of the different electronic credentials you may have. A short list might include an email username and password, online banking account credentials and access information to your social networking account. Now consider how many different accounts you have on the Web. Many of us have more than one email address, maybe a couple banking accounts and a handful of websites where we purchase items from. Are your credentials for all of these accounts secure? Is your username and password combination for all of these accounts identical or somewhat similar? Consider this – and make a habit of changing your passwords regularly. If you’re like me, you simply cannot afford not to.