Cybersecurity Complacency

cybersecurityIt is human nature that we do ourselves harm or neglect ways to keep ourselves healthy even when we know it is against our best interest. We fool ourselves by thinking “it won’t happen to me,” or “why bother.” We smoke, we text and drive, we consume mass quantities of alcohol—and we neglect our own digital security.

What does John Q. Public think about digital security?

A 2011 study conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance revealed a shocking lack of knowledge and a high level of complacency amongst educators when it pertains to their own protection and to that of their students. A staggering 76% reported that they have spent less than three hours in the past year on cyber protection training and that only 8% reported devoting six or more hours to the subject in the past year. 42% of adults believe that the individual is responsible for keeping the internet safe—40% of those people have not even taken the simple step of changing their passwords in more than a year—if ever.

Schools do a good job (90% of them) at shielding students from digital threats, but very few teach them anything about how to protect themselves. My son is in a dual-enrollment program in high school. One of his subjects is “Computing.” He spends a great deal of time learning Excel and Word, but not a second on security.

A Scout is Loyal, Brave, Reverent, Trustworthy—and in Danger

I had a similar problem as webmaster for several Boy Scout Troops. When asked to post photos with full names of Scouts, I would refuse. “Why not?” I would be asked. There have been cases in which child abductions have occurred because “bad parents” were able to find their kid’s info on Scout websites. It’s BSA policy not to publish full names. The response I often received was: “Ahh, just do it, what’s the big deal?”

The problem also exists on the other end of the age spectrum. Several months ago I was asked to conduct a seminar on smartphone use for seniors at the YMCA. My students were attentive, inquisitive, and surprisingly knowledgeable on many aspects of their devices. I concluded with a segment on security. There were many blank stares and a few asked me for a definition of “cybersecurity”—and still didn’t understand it.

It’s alarming to see the lack of concern exhibited by so many people in regard to their own safety. There are efforts being made and many resources for those who seek them out, such as the book, Cybersecurity and Cyberwar, by P.W. Singer and Allan Friedman, who make the subject approachable for average people. In 1980, Mothers Against Drunk Driving started a movement and has rallied Americans to take a stand against impaired drivers. Perhaps we now need a Mothers Against Complacent Cyber Victims.

References

Boy Scout Troop 626 Queen of All Saints Basilica Chicago, Illinois (n.d.)  Retrieved January 7, 2014 from http://bsatroop626.org/aboutus

Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo (2014, January 3). Cybersecurity Simplified: A Reality Check for the Digital Age.  Retrieved January 7, 2014 from http://mashable.com/2014/01/03/cybersecurity-book-singer-friedman/

National Cyber Security Alliance (2011). Retrieved January 7, 2014 from http://www.staysafeonline.org/download/datasets/2076/K-12 Study Fact Sheet Final _0.pdf

National Cyber Security Alliance (2011). Retrieved January 7, 2014 from http://www.staysafeonline.org/download/datasets/2068/NCSA_Mcafee_Online User Study_Final_11_15_11.pdf

Symantec Corporation (2012, October 15). New Survey Shows U.S. Small Business Owners Not Concerned About Cybersecurity; Majority Have No Policies or Contingency Plans [Press Release].  Retrieved January 7, 2014 from http://www.symantec.com/about/news/release/article.jsp?prid=20121015_01

This post was originally submitted in January 2014 as a discussion post in the MS-Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics program at Utica College.

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Jeff Macharyas is a graphics, marketing and publishing professional. Macharyas holds a BS in Communications and an MS in Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics. Macharyas holds the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ) and is a frequent contributor to Opensource.com where he writes on various open source-related topics.