With summer break winding down and the start of school lurking right around the corner (It’s already August!), a monumental change is about to occur in our household: Our oldest child will fly-the-coop, transitioning from private Christian schooling to public middle school. I understand the magnitude of this change may seem minimal to some, but from the eyes of my son, this adjustment has been difficult to accept.
It seems human nature to resist change. We change our clocks twice a year, and it’s always inconvenient. I’d imagine that my wife may have also been kicking and screaming when reality set in that her previously short last name (only four characters) would be forever changed to mine with 11 characters (but she says I’m worth it!). On a professional level, after over five years, it was decided that our firm (Thirtyseven4) needed a fresh website design. I really dreaded the effort, time and energy involved in that change.
And how about a more difficult change: involving our selves, our very lives? Changing a hardened heart, bad habits, or a clouded and distracted mind? In life, dealing with change will be inevitable, and can certainly make us uneasy.
While change is difficult, it is usually for our good. This goes for technology as well. A quick glance on our favorite news sites will typically yield multiple weekly stories of major corporations getting hacked or breached by cybercriminals. I read a recent article on how Twitter reported a potential data compromise to its hundreds of millions of users. We’ve seen Facebook, Google and other social media Goliaths send out similar advisories. How can we best safeguard ourselves against such attacks? Change.
√ Change your password. I have reiterated the point of creating strong passwords many times. However, if Twitter or Facebook themselves are compromised, it doesn’t matter how long and strong your password, as your password has been exposed. Make it a practice to change your password (with strong passwords of course!) regularly, even if after five years you’ve just finally memorized it.
√ Exchange convenience for privacy. If you are like me, you do most of shopping online. Shopping online saves time over planning a dedicated trip to a retailer, it gives us flexibility, and even a perceived “privacy” while we shop, as opposed to being in a store with other customers milling around us. We’ve now gotten to the point in our rushed lives that we even like to save time while shopping online, don’t we? We configure/allow our browser settings to auto-populate shopping cart forms and sign-in account details, or we grant permission for the online site to save our credit card information to speed up future purchases. These time-savers can be very tempting, but they may not be the best idea. Saving your data means making it easily available for yourself down the line, but it’s also available to hackers as well. Sign in freshly each time.
√ Change your approach. A good baseball player will modify their approach at the plate depending on the pitcher, the inning, the score of the game or the number of players on base. You also must situationally change your approach to your social media habits. For example, logging into your personal accounts while on a public computer or while connected to an open Wi-Fi network is a strike against you, as opposed to connecting to your own secure wireless network at home. That’s a safer play. Additionally, may I also suggest taking the time to implement two-factor authentication.
√ Change your behavior. This might be the hardest one of all. Resist the urge of clicking on clickbait style headlines in your social media feeds. Avoid the “it is too good to be true” advertisements on Facebook. Yes, we all want to inherit a million dollars or receive a free $5,000 gift card to Costco but exercise common sense and change that kink-in-your-think that is telling you to click everywhere and on everything. This basic principle goes for opening attachments or clicking on socially engineered embedded phishing links within your email. Do you know that tricking you into opening well-crafted phishing links is the #1 method for cyber thieves to obtain your financial information? Strengthen your resolve to “know better” than these ads, and also exercise restraint on your clicks.
√ Change your mindset. This may hard for some to grasp but here I go, and I speak truth. You and your devices are not invincible. Macs get malware. Operating Systems and software by nature contain countless vulnerabilities. You need strong endpoint security protection, and to maintain routine updates. The sites you visit and the free apps you enjoy downloading can do more harm than good, and most likely will. There are thousands of hackers out there working feverishly to steal your data. Be smart and start practicing safe computing.
Just like my oldest is nervous about entering a new school and sad about not seeing his old school buddies regularly, he is also excited about the new possibilities that the change will bring and the new friends that await. Change is hard, but an openness to change can bring forth great things. Like his middle-school transition, our attitude to making positive changes in our daily tech routines can make a big difference; in fact, our attitude can possibly make all the difference. If we cling to old practices and passwords and stay in a “security rut” if you will, our odds of infection rise, the availability of our information and data opens up, simply because we refuse to take measures to shield it. However, if we are open to making changes (What if we embraced tighter security measures on our devices!), then somehow a positive attitude softens the blow of change, and when mixed with gratitude, the two are powerful forces in any situation, even security safety!
Our lives, days and hours are busy — I get it. Often one more thing is just one more thing too many. But let’s discern which things are necessary investments of time (a password — even strong ones — only takes seconds to type), and let’s make the investment to change for the better, for our best interest.
The thought of redesigning our entire Thirtyseven4 website completely overwhelmed and intimidated me. I am a tech guy so I knew what was involved: all of the coding, links, testing, photos and not to mention information. But I also knew this change would be for our company’s good, for my good and also for our Thirtyseven4 customers’ good. It was worth the investment of time and energy, and sometimes we just have to muscle through those areas in our lives. Plus, now I am so grateful that we invested the time to move forward and make changes. I encourage you to make your device security one of those areas in your life.
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9.
We have our ways and ideas, but in deferring to the Lord we can glimpse His plan for our days and lives.
Be open to change (in your security!). Changing your passwords regularly. Changing your approach, behaviors and mindset. The thought may be intimidating, but the actual process is not. Just as my son will put one foot in front of the other and walk into a new school, you too can proceed one step at a time and you will be just fine too. Actually, you will be safer (than before), your data and information more secure and your identity and peace will be more strongly guarded.