There are over 2,200 cyberattacks a day, computer security company Norton estimates, which means there is a cyberattack somewhere on the internet about every 40 seconds. With cyberattacks on the rise, it’s only a matter of time before it happens to you.
It was my turn last year, when my bank account was hacked after my wife had bought an item online from, of all places, the TV3 website. I remember my panic when she told me that over a thousand euros in purchases had been made, from video games to pay-per-view sports.
This is it, I remember thinking, starvation had finally caught up with us. I rang the bank wondering if there would be anything left in our account by the time someone answered the phone.
“Oh, don’t worry about it. It happens all the time,” was the response. Silly me! All we had to do was report it to the police and then we could claim the money back. Sure enough, a few weeks later the money reappeared in our bank account.
Yet rather than using the experience to dismiss the fear of hacking as overblown, I prefer to see it as a warning to get my data privacy act together. As you can see in our feature on page 12, how our personal data are used and abused is no trivial matter.
The only problem with managing your online activity and the devices you use to access the internet is that it’s all so overwhelming. Do I need a VPN service? If so, which one? Which options on my phone should I disable? Can I use Google or should I find an alternative? What am I to do with the 48 passwords I no longer remember? Do I really have to read this 5,000-word contract before I download that app I thought I’d try out?
I understand that the answers to all of these questions are readily available and that there is some great advice out there, but I’m in my fifties now and I only have so much time left! Do I really have to become an expert in data privacy just so I can use my smartphone safely? What I don’t understand is why they don’t make it as easy to do the right thing online as they do to make the wrong choice. If I can hand over my life’s savings with one injudicious click, why can’t I protect them just as easily as I can protect my car with a single press of a button?
In fact, the whole car comparison is a valid one I think. In order to drive my car safely there is a series of actions that it is my responsibility to know about and manage. I need to keep the tyres correctly inflated, make sure there’s windscreen wiper fluid, I have to know how to change a bulb or check the oil and how to change a wheel if I have a puncture.
However, I don’t need to know how to strip the engine down or swap out the exhaust pipe. Some people do know how to do these things because they take an interest in cars, and good luck to them. I’m not one of those people and that’s why I have a mechanic who takes care of these more complicated operations.
Like my car, my smartphone is complex and requires maintenance to make sure it works well and safely. So why haven’t I got someone who does that? I can install an update or clear a cache, but for more complex operations that require specialist knowledge, why haven’t I got an expert who for a reasonable price will ensure my privacy is protected and my device safe to use without me having to put in hours of research as if I was doing a degree? I don’t know about you, but I need a mobile mechanic!