Of Football, Phishing and Freeloaders – The Thanksgiving/Cyber Security Connection

Thanksgiving Day is almost here and with it comes memories of the scent of pumpkin pie wafting through the crisp fall air, football games in played in cable-knit sweaters and, of course, cyber security.

Okay, maybe cyber security isn’t exactly the first thing that come to mind when you think of Thanksgiving but when you think about it, it actually makes sense. After all, so much of our lives are lived online nowadays that without cyber security the world would actually be a scarier place. And that’s a frightening thought.

And the truth is that cyber security really is woven right into some of our most basic Thanksgiving Day traditions – you just need to know where to look. Don’t know where? We’ll show you!

Turkeys

What would Thanksgiving Day be without turkey? Unless you’re vegan, not very much.

But in terms of your cyber security, you would be better off without them. Turkeys are the mistakes and missteps that people make, because they are well, people. In fact, according to a study conducted by IBM, a whopping “95 percent of all security incidents involve human error.”

We have all been turkeys at one time or another. These are the times when your neurotransmitters go all rapid-fire and compel your fingers to click that link on an email even though the frontal lobe of your brain is screaming to stay away from it as loud as it can. Or the time you left your Smartphone on a table in Starbucks on your way to work and only realized it had been out of your sight after a few hours had passed. Or the time you responded to a phishing email from “Amazon” asking you to reenter your password because they “need this information for their records”. All those time, guess what – you were indeed a turkey.

We all know that links in emails can harbor malware and other nasties (and if you didn’t know before, well now you do) And very few among us can boast of never misplacing devices. And well, what would you do if Amazon told you that they needed your information?

To err is human. We all make mistakes but some are more costly than others. When it comes to cyber security, each mistake can cost you and your organization dearly. According to a study conducted by the Ponemon institute, in 2014 data breaches cost American companies more than $ 6.5 million and a large portion of that cost was directly linked to human-generated factors.

Uninvited Guests

No festive Thanksgiving Day gathering would be complete without guests. We invite people whose company we enjoy and who remind us of all the bounty we have in our lives.

As you raise your glass in a toast to friendship, you peer over the frosty rim of your beer stein or champagne flute and think “Hey….. who is that dude over there?” He almost looks like he is supposed to be there, like maybe he is your Aunt Erma’s new (old) boyfriend… but maybe not. Your heart starts to race, sweat beads glisten on your forehead and you want to shout “HEY! Doesn’t anybody know who that guy is ????????”

Regardless of whether or not Mr. Slightly Creepy Guy was on the invite list or not, malware works in the same way as uninvited guests do. It sneaks in when no one is looking and does its best to blend in. And it can do all sorts of undesired things once it’s on the inside. And just like that uninvited guest, malware tries to evade notice for as long as it can while it hijacks your files or deletes your data. So whether you’ve got a trojan that’s stealing your banking credentials, your computer has become a zombie as part of a Botnet, or you’re being hit with a zero day attack, friend, you’ve got trouble.

Fruit Cake

(True, true fruit cake doesn’t usually rear its bejeweled little head for another few weeks but there is so much creative licensing going on here that it can’t really hurt)

What gets more repeat gifting than a ring of fruit cake? Nothing! What changed from the last time this rock-solid “cake” made its rounds? Nothing! Does anyone actually think that fruit cake is any good ? No way! And is anyone going to be bold enough to actually throw the darn thing out? Not a chance, because this is how we have always done it.

There are habits we have grown accustom to and almost feel an attachment to, even though they are really hurting us. They aren’t logical and we can’t even say why we are unable to make the necessary changes. All we know is that the way we are doing things is easy and comfortable. Take your passwords for example. Surely you have heard countless times that weak, repeated passwords are one of hackers favorite starting point in any hack. But you still use the same ones because they work for you and, hey, you’ve been okay until now, so why change? Or like your penchant for shopping on your lunch break using public Wifi. You know it’s asking for trouble, but ‘hey no harm done so far’.

The thing is that eventually these repeated, foolhardy habits do catch up with us whether we like it or not, just like that ring of fruit cake, that same one that has been gifted and regifted hundreds of time over since 1995.

Pumpkin Pie

Ahhh, what could be better than a sweet, creamy, flaky pumpkin pie after you’ve stuffed your face full of other root vegetables in all states of cooked-ness, plus turkey and something that looked like jello with stuff floating in it. You even held back a little on the mashed potatoes in anticipation of dessert. Though it comes at the end of the meal, we have been patiently waiting and planning for this defining moment. The pumpkin pie moment.

Pumpkin pie comes to round out the meal and remind us about what really matters the most, the one thing that’s holding all the other aspects in place. And so too with your security habits, on a home level and workplace level as well. Don’t think of your security as an appendage to your digital identity. Rather, think of the security of your devices as being one of the most important aspects of your digital life, if not the defining factor in all your other digital activities.

You wouldn’t go sky-diving without a parachute and other relevant supplies right? Your parachute is one of the first things you think about when you plan your expedition and if fact, it’s at the very core of being able to make that jump. Similarly, your security shouldn’t be an afterthought, something you duct-tape on after everything else. It should be right up there on the very top of your priority list ahead of playing League of Legends or updating your Facebook status. All your other digital activities should be done taking security into account.

Thanksgiving football

Football is the quintessential Thanksgiving Day pastime (aside from the aforementioned face-stuffing). And as they say in Astroturf-land “The best defense is a strong offense”.

In cyber security, the best way to keep secure is to create a strong atmosphere of defense ahead of time and to stay one step beyond potential attackers. Hackers and scammers are always churning out new ways to breach networks and devices. You need to beat them at their game and equip your computer and devices with the proper tools to actively repel them. Old style AV’s wait for threats to enter and then attempt to throw them out once they have recognized them. But attackers have become more stealthy and their methods more forceful. You need a full suite malware solution that will keep nasties from entering in the first place like Reason Core Security. It restricts entry to hackers and keeps the ball in your possesion.

So hut hut hike! and pass the pumpkin pie. Have a Happy thanksgiving from your friends at RCS.

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