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Security as a lifestyle, not a single event

“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.” (Arthur Schopenhauer). This is a strong sentiment that does not naturally evoke a positive response, true however it remains.

Our modern world is truly the information age and this is no more evident than when we are entrenched in the multitude of social platforms. We share pictures, facts, opinions and a plethora of other content. Do we stop to consider the value of this information or the stark possibility of someone compromising and then masquerading under our digital persona?

Security as a lifestyle

As a recent example (and numerous examples exist), one of my friends had their social identity (account) compromised. The perpetrator started post-haste on a campaign to target other friends and connected individuals with unsolicited content (in an attempt to further the malicious intent). Who knows where it could end – identity theft, financial compromise and fraud, the list is endless…

Naturally their first reaction was one of fear, anxiety and disbelief, followed quickly by anger and the urgency of needing to take action to reclaim that which had been so rudely taken. This incident fortunately did not result (this time) in any major damage to their reputation or finances, and their identity could be recovered.

Consider now the extent of damage to reputation, financial, logistical and other high value areas if this scenario had occurred within a corporate environment. We may be quick to say “well aren’t we well protected?” or “It won’t happen… easily… will it?”

If we analyse this position by reviewing the information provided in the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report the findings do not support those statements, and on the contrary they point in the other direction: a landscape of compromise, un-authorised data exfiltration and identity theft. Unfortunately, by default we aren’t well protected and compromise happens all too easily.

Pondering this the other day, I was reminded of a sentiment that was shared with me many years ago: security is a lifestyle and not a single event. This still remains true today.

There are many different ways to protect personal identities. One of the most interesting is the use of multiple authentication factors. Some services use authenticator apps (which generate unique, time-based codes that can be used in addition to, or replacing, passwords). Other services send unique codes via email or SMS to positively identify users. Some services use big data and machine learning to create a user's profile and require additional authentication only if some activity falls outside the ‘normal’. You can see if your favourite service supports MFA by looking at your profile settings or checking the website https://twofactorauth.org/.

This is just one, but effective, way to protect yourself against online threats. The threat landscape is aggressive and constantly evolving so we need to respond accordingly and make cyber security a lifestyle.

Posted by: Gavin van Niekerk, Principal Consultant | 13 March 2018

Tags: Privacy, Security

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