Digital Security: Life on the High Wire

Years ago, my mindset about all things online automatically defaulted to trust. After all, all these websites were “serious businesses” with professional standards. All my financial transactions appeared to be labeled as “secure.” Surely they will guard my personal information as if it were their own. It’s not like they would sell it to the highest bidder, or would they? I know it sounds naive, but I couldn’t imagine being vulnerable or valuable to cyber crooks or opportunistic capitalists. Today, it is quite a different story, and I’m finally taking control of my digital security.

In a 2017 article published by JStor Daily entitled Who Can You Trust Online? author Dr. Alexandra Samuel compared the act of trust online to that of a circus not only because of the “spectacle of trust made visceral” but the element of risk. Indeed, we take risks with our personal digital security every day. The steps we take to manage and mitigate those risks can mean the difference between being secure or becoming a statistic. There are three changes I am making that should help improve my digital security.

  • Update my apps and software as soon as they become available: I was a notorious foot dragger when it came to updating software. I think my trepidation probably developed during my years as a video editor when a small coding error could corrupt a whole project’s media or lose the functionality of external devices. I believed that any added bells and whistles weren’t worth the risk. But as Professor Dan Gillmor points out in his article for the Guardian, Protecting yourself online isn’t as easy as it used to be, but it can be done , “These new features aren’t just interesting or (potentially) useful, they may be helping to protect you.”
  • Utilize a Password Manager: I used to think of passwords as an inconvenience, occasionally bordering on nuisance that offered little in terms of security. As far as I was concerned, passwords existed to give users the illusion of protection. It seems that my lackadaisical attitude about passwords meant that they were not an effective first-line defense. As I became more serious about setting secure passwords, I still found that I was using similar patterns, and if one password were compromised, it would be pretty easy for a hacker to crack the code. I decided to get a password manager because, as was detailed in the Wired article, The Best Password Managers to Secure Your Digital Life, these apps are singularly focused on password security. They are much better than my clever attempts to block sophisticated digital adversaries.
  • Review App Permission and Privacy Settings: Like most people, I made many assumptions regarding my permissions and privacy settings. I believed that the default settings on websites I visited or the apps I used were secure and protected my privacy. If I wanted to “opt-in” to certain features, I would manually alter my settings to give permission. Sadly, I was mistaken. It appears on many websites I will have to opt-out since websites and apps are taking great liberties with my personal information. I wasn’t aware of this until I read the NY Times opinion piece, Why You Should Take a Close Look at What Tracks You.

The one thing all opportunistic companies and would-be hackers can count on? That many of us are careless online and never read the fine print. By not taking common-sense precautions, we are walking a tightrope, blindfolded and without a net. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take anymore.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *