There’s no shortage of analogies of the human body and computers. I’m throwing one in the mix from a different angle. It's likely one you have not heard before. It is a concept that most people are unaware of regarding either side of the analogy.
Here goes. A computer is meant to have two levels to its immune system just like the human body does. It's the one major piece of computer security you may be missing. But, what does this mean?
Well, first of all, let’s talk about the immune system of a human being. We have the inner layer and the outer layer. Most people think of the white blood cells as their primary defense shield. White blood cells have long been given top billing when it comes to immune system awareness. That is not true, however. The front lines of your immune system is your skin. It’s actually the whole “outside” of your body.
More specifically, think of your body, very generally as the shape of a donut. Your skin is the outside of your body. But your mouth is the outside of your body too. In fact, from the mouth all the way to the anus is a tube, like a river that varies in size and width at different points.. And it’s the outside of the body. It’s the “hole” in the center of the donut. Just because the hole is in the center of the donut, that doesn’t mean we call the inside walls of that inner circle the inside of the donut. It’s the outside. It’s the same thing with the human body, from the mouth to anus.
With this awareness comes the understanding of immunity. Your skin (and mouth all the way through that whole tube) is the body’s first line of defense. If something gets through the skin or that first layer of defense, THEN the white blood cells are called into action. At that point, it could be attacking the heart, the liver, the kidneys or the immune system itself, depending on the intruder. The immune system needs to be highly intelligent and continually educated as to all the potential threats it can be facing, to stay prepared.
It’s the SAME way with computers. Computers have/need an immune system. Computers themselves, and all the applications we have on them. So for instance, you can have an ANTI-VIRUS program installed on your computer. Wouldn’t you want one of those in your body? An ANTI-VIRUS program? See, some people get the idea for the computer, but not the human body, or vice-versa. You could have a VPN service employed for your internet access. Something as simple as having a piece of tape over the camera on your computer could protect you from a whole array of things, spy related.
It’s all about preparation and protection. That’s what immunity is about. In your body and on your computer. Your computer needs an immune system. It doesn’t even come with one. You need to build it. Here are a couple key points to understand computer immunity:
- Like your body, your computer needs immunity from multiple angles. Just like your skin has multiple forms of immunity in the form of bacteria and hormones to protect from different things, your computer needs similar type protections. So you may have a password or passphrase to log into your computer. Then you may have anti-virus software installed. There are a whole number of different things you can have just to protect the computer itself.
- Then you have all the applications. These relate to the organs in the body. For example, do you share files online with a company like Dropbox? Well, there are vulnerabilities there. Loopholes have been found in Dropbox’s system that can put you and your information at risk. On the other hand, SpiderOak is a service that has a much tighter, more secure system. Think of it like this: Dropbox was grown with pesticides. SpiderOak is organic. So think of all the Apps on your computer and make sure they’re safe and secure.
- Think of your computer’s immunity as the immunity for the human body. It needs to be intact, prepared and strong. It needs to be fed and tended to on a regular basis. There is no “cold season” in the computer-hacking-security world. It’s open season year-round. Be prepared.
Now, it's up to you. You have to be proactive. The government's not coming to your aid on this one.
It’s one of those things- it’s simple. But you have to do it.
With tons of kids going back to school in the last week, we once again see a slew of pictures from proud parents. All over social sites we see little tikes getting on and off the bus, posing in their new clothes and all excited to get to school. It’s a very innocent and customary thing to do. I remember my mom doing it when I was younger.
Before the internet, you had to take pictures with an actual camera and then drive the camera to a store for the pictures to be developed. My mom kept those pictures, maybe sharing a set of doubles with my grandparents, right? Other than that, no one saw me getting on the bus the first day of kindergarten. The technology has changed so fast even though it wasn’t that long ago. Digital photography with a WiFi connection is a total game-changer. When they get posted on the internet, those images are given to that site and any third-party to which that site is affiliated.
As I’ve written previously, my wife and I have a young son. I’m inspired to learn how to best proceed when speaking about him or posting pictures or video of him online. To date, we’ve been very conservative about that. It’s encouraging to see the growing concern and discernment of parents in this regard. We are seeing a growing number of companies demanding one’s login information to certain sites when hiring. Is this the future? Will there be a section reserved for your Facebook login information on job applications? Will passwords for our email address be a permanent fixture on our resume? That is the direction we are heading.
Then there’s the very real concern of cyberstalking-pedophiles. Facebook, particularly has proven to be an effective tool for these monsters. Parents post their home address, pictures of their children, the school they attend, etc. That is a whole crazy topic of discussion itself.
We’re in a brand new world. Adults are learning as they go, intoxicated by the fun and seducing qualities of all the exciting technology. We’re slowly growing up, though. As in life, it’s not about saying “it’s time to grow up, no more fun.” It’s just time to realize that while we’ve been having fun the party got a little out of control. But I believe you gotta have fun in life. That doesn’t seem to be a common part of the conversation when talking about online privacy and the invasions of it.
That’s all Clear Your Tracks is about, though. It’s like when I explain to my son why it’s a good idea for him to wear a helmet when he rides his bike. We have the conversation; then he’s set. He can now spend the rest of his time having fun on his bike. He’s not consciously burdened with all the reasons running through his head on why to wear a helmet. You learn some tools and ideas that help you do a thing responsibly, and then you have fun doing it. We’re going to continue to learn all sorts of strange behaviors and programs currently in play on the internet. As of today, there are a countless number of them. And they’ll keep coming from all different directions. It’s just a part of life. That’s not the problem. We can handle that. By the fact that a problem has presented itself means that there is a solution to discover. We’ll continue to probe all these issues and find the best solutions.
Preventing your child’s digital footprint is a challenge. After careful thought, it’s also something you may decide is a necessary challenge. It’s clearing your tracks and your child’s tracks while also considering potential paths we may not want them on at all if we knew where it could lead.
Just food for thought from a concerned father.
Ever the consummate artisan, Ben Franklin designed the first American penny in 1787. It’s called the Fugio Cent. It contains the maxim “Mind Your Business.” Historians believe that he wanted this to be the national motto. Millions of people, in the public and private sectors, conducting business under the guiding principle of minding their merchant and personal business, i.e., you do your thing, and I'll do mine. We can work side by side, harmoniously, and as long as our moral compasses are in balance we will build a wonderful community. So, mind your business.
Fast forward a few hundred years to today. Minding one's own business is hardly a priority for many individuals, never mind governments. We have people trolling and stalking others on the Internet and hacking into their computers and phones. Email providers like Google are offering other companies in the marketplace valuable information extracted from our email so they can better target us as customers. According to Google, we accepted this if we opened a Gmail account. Whether we have a Gmail account or not, whether we care or not that an email provider is soliciting our private correspondence to third parties.