Educating the masses

I read an article by David Gewirtz about cyberterrorism. He says it’s not if, but when there will be a cyberwar. Our own computers could be taken over and become bots to be used against us. Here’s a link to his article:  http://www.computingunplugged.com/issues/issue200808/00002221001.html

The reason this resonated with me, so much so that I feel I should write about it here, is because the comics page has gotten into the act.  Normally I don’t read the weekday comics in my local paper (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) but since I’m not working yet, I have time to indulge a number of interests and vices.  The Mary Worth strip has been doing a story line on phishingschemes.  What a fantastic way to educate a ton of people, especially the demographic who reads Mary Worth – basically my parents.  People over 70.  These folks need help.  Many of them, like my dad, will get the “there’s something wrong here” vibe, and call a more knowledgeable person (me) but what if you don’t know someone who can advise you or you don’t have a natural skepticism?

So now I’m thinking about what I can do as an IT expert to reduce our exposure to the kinds of attacks David describes.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I should try to educate people about what you should do to protect your computer, and what you should never do.  I’m going to post things like that on this blog, and also pull together an article that I’ll try to post on writing sites.

David’s article mentions some things we can do on our own computers to protect them from becoming part of an attack.  Here they are:

  1. Installing anti-virus software and keeping it updated with new virus definitions
  2. Installing operating system updates
  3. Never opening e-mail attachments
  4. Educating yourself about threats

At the risk of repeating myself, the bottom line may just be having a healthy skepticism, and realizing that even if a message appears to be from someone you know, it could be faked quite easily.  So if something doesn’t feel right, send a new message to the person you think sent it, find out where they got the message and if you should open the attachment. You could save yourself a lot of grief, and prevent passing a damaging file to others.

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