Every day is cyber security awareness month

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, or NCSAM as us cool kids like to call it. 

Delivering effective cyber security awareness is an ongoing process, and not one that can be solved in one month a year. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. 

Staying safe online has many similarities with staying safe on the line aka tightrope walking. It involves a delicate mix of courage, foolhardiness, balance, poise, and the threat of falling to a horrible death.

There are many lists that detail the extensive do’s and don’ts on staying safe online, so I won’t repeat them. Rather, I’ve distilled what I believe to be the most important information as captured through events and conversations in my daily life. 

If it’s too good to be true

Most of the time, my children make a mess in their room and despite repeated requests, I end up having to do most of the cleaning myself. One weekend, I made a deal with them, that if they cleaned their rooms properly, I’d give them each five pounds, take them to a movie, pizza, let them have sweets and stay up late. After an hour, their room looked cleaner than it had ever been. I laughed at them and told them that if something sounds too good to be true it usually is.

This is good parenting, as it demonstrated to them that they are perfectly capable of cleaning their room, and that they should be careful as to what they believe in real life, or online and are less likely to click on a link in an email or pop-up. 

Keeping software up to date

My daughter wanted a cat. Despite being allergic to cats, I agreed on the condition that I would buy the cat, but would not spend any money on buying it any cat food. “You’re so cruel! The cat would get weak and die,” said my daughter.

Operating systems, browsers, security software, and apps, like cats, need to be kept up to date and ‘fed’ the latest updates and patches. Neglecting to do so can cause them to grow frail and eventually die. 

I hope my daughter remembers this lesson when she grows up, and once she gets over not having a cat. 

Backup

While watching Superman with my older son, he said that he wished Superman was his dad, that way he would be strong, and could fly, and have lasers shoot from his eyes. I flexed my arm, pointed to my bicep and told him that “dad is strong”, to which he merely replied, “but you’re not Superman.”

In my mind, I immediately scrapped plans to pay for his education or buy him a nice car. It kind of works out for the best because it means I will be able to spend all that extra money on my younger son. 

This is why backups are important, because you never know when the first one will fail you.

Passwords

One day, I decided it would be easier if I called my wife and four children as Bob. It was the ultimate in convenience. If I needed something I only needed to ask for Bob. Birthday cards could be recycled. I could even get bulk discounts on items such as personalised keyrings. 

The day started off well, I asked Bob if she wanted a cup of tea and yelled at Bob for being late for school. Bob was very confused about this and asked what was going on. But I didn’t have time to explain because Bob needed his feed. In the end, all the Bobs had enough and stopped talking to me, saying that using the same name for everyone was a stupid idea. A bit like reusing the same password I guess. 

Sharing

While on holiday, a friend posted a few family photos on Facebook that not only included my children, but caught me before I had a chance to suck my gut in and smile properly. As a result, I came across looking like a constipated Jabba the Hut.  

Wanting to avoid direct conflict, I thought the best way to make my point to him was to sneak into his room one night, and take a short video of him while he was sleeping half-naked, and snoring loudly and post it on Facebook. 

The disadvantage of this approach is that I’m now avoiding him and am too scared to confront him directly. Although he will think twice before sharing things on social media from now on, so, from an educational point, I’ll chalk this one up as a win. 

Parting Wisdom

Cybersecurity awareness need not be restricted to one month a year. It’s something you can build into your daily interactions with family, friends, and loved ones. In doing so, you too can become the light that your social circle all gravitates to for warmth and inspiration.