Tuesday, October 4, 2011


The Conference Board of Canada was plain and clear in a message just a few days ago. It warned that North Americans are exposing themselves to serious unnecessary risks because we don't know enough about the technology we use every day.

The Conference Board says too frequently for most of us, cyber-calamity is just a click away. In a country where one-in-three kids under the age of 10 has a cell phone, while one-in-ten, ten years and under, has a social networking profile and e-mail address; it's perilously obvious that most of the modern technology is relatively easy to learn and to use. In a single phrase: That's the danger! You don't need to have a comprehensive level of knowledge in order to work it. Consider though that the "smart-phone" puts more technology in the palm of its user than all of the computing knowledge used to carry Neil Armstrong and his fellow space travellers to the Moon in 1969 (and bring em' back) and the result, in and of itself, can allow a person to get into cyber areas that are "difficult to manage," to be polite.

I am never at a loss for amusement, amazement and astonishment at the naivety of otherwise experienced, savvy, intelligent and educated contemporaries (as well as members of younger generations) who are victimized by the relative blanket of security we foolishly wrap ourselves with once seated behind the computer screen and keyboard. For instance the virus-like, fortunately harmless, moronic cyber "chain-letter" spread across Facebook less than 10 days ago about the network's plan to start charging a fee to its account holders...."it was even on the news" (So it must be true?) - Or - The more harmful: "Wow! I can't believe who's been viewing my profile." - A hacker application spread over Facebook which hijacks (clickjacks!) your profile and those of your friends to subject everyone to unwanted advertising.

That's just the "fun" stuff, or as someone put it recently: "The problem that exists between the chair and the keyboard." The warning from the Conference Board says our "knowledge gap" needs to close in order to protect individuals, organizations and governments from far more serious ever lurking cybercrimes. They say people use e-mail, social media and other Internet-based applications without taking sufficient time to consider the dangers of on-line crime, personal espionage and sabotage.

As for governments, including Canada's Treasury Board and the Department of Finance, they have been subject to unprecedented cyber attacks from unknown sources in recent months. As part of its national response the Federal Government will begin shortly a television advertising campaign aimed at the problem. Under Public Safety Canada's rubric "getcybersafe.ca" the TV ads and the website will offer a range of tips on security, updated threats and computer viruses and scams. The cause may be honourable, the response lukewarm; because the Conference Board study also found that most people... "ignore cyber safety campaigns."

Ultimately a cheaper and more effective solution may be just to take a break from the Internet and social media from time to time. That's the recommendation last week from Chris Hughes an early developer of Facebook. Hughes, who was among the group of Harvard students who worked with Mark Zuckerberg to develope the medium in 2004, says: "I want to continue to live in a world where people can sit through a meal without looking at a phone. I want to have days when I only spend a little bit of time in front of a screen." - Amen!

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