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Great TV shows take deep inspiration from reality and use that insight to teach us and also show us things we might be unaware of amid the chaos of our daily lives.
As a tech company, one of our favorite examples of this is Mr. Robot, a show that follows troubled hacker and tech genius Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) on his mission to bring down a global corporation. Mr. Robot brilliantly and (mostly) accurately portrays the practice of cybersecurity, coding, and hacking, while also exploring how these things could impact a regular person's life.
Mr. Robot shows us that hackers with malicious intent can gain access to personal data or even steal identities with some very simple tricks, especially when people don't manage their passwords securely or practice basic social intelligence.
In the digital era, cybersecurity is a global concern for everyone as an insecure approach to your digital footprint can have disastrous results. Given the fact that Hackers are quite persistent, attacking every 39 seconds, on average 2,244 times a day, it's incredibly valuable to take another look at your approach to cybersecurity. Here are some basic tips for preventing personal cyber threats in your daily life.
Our world is full of digital systems and platforms that we use to interact with each other—it's virtually impossible to exist in today's society without some form of digital presence.
Whether it's digital fatigue, laziness, or a lack of awareness of the risks, most people use these platforms without taking the right measures to prevent cyber theft. Take passwords, for instance. How many of us use the same password for more than one website or app? Be honest—very few of us can really say we don't.
Once hackers get a hold of that one simple password you used for your email or social media platforms, they can use it as a crowbar, prizing open your various online accounts to learn more about you, eventually finding more passwords, more valuable information, and attacking more important things, like your personal finances.
The way to avoid these dangerous password leaks is so simple that you already know how to do it—use a different password for each platform or system that you interact with.
"But I have dozens, no, hundreds of accounts. How am I supposed to remember that many passwords?"
Again, quite simple: use a password manager. Password managers like 1Password, BitWarden, or Keeper allow you to store all your passwords in one place, securely protected by one single secure password and two-factor authentication. These tools allow you to create unique passwords for all your accounts, remember them, and even type them in for you when accessing websites, while dramatically reducing the risk of cyberattacks.
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If the password manager route is not for you, and you prefer to use your brain as a secure password storage device, there are simple methods for creating strong, memorable passwords that don't compromise your cybersecurity.
A mnemonic device is a way to recall complicated information from your memory using a simple, easy-to-remember sentence or phrase. Think of something you will never forget, then use the first letters or numbers in that phrase to form the password.
For example, "My wife and I got married on August 25th in 2020" becomes "Mw&igMo*A25i2k20*". Notice that we have replaced the word "and" with an ampersand and added an asterisk on either side of the date. These special characters make the password more unique and, therefore, much more secure.
You can also replace some characters with numbers. In this example, we use a person's name as a memorable link to the password: "Brandon Mandeville" becomes "Br4nd0n-M4nd3v1ll3". The important thing is to stick to whatever password creation rules you impose on yourself, as that will be the key to remembering different passwords.
If your memory is not up to the task, most internet browsers now come with a built-in password generator, password storage, and a password checker to validate logins, but only when using those browsers. While they are useful tools, they can make it difficult to use passwords in certain apps or other browsers as you're unlikely to remember the complicated passwords they generate.
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As Mr. Robot shows us, while it's tempting to share your lives with the world on social media, doing so at the wrong time or in the wrong place can lead to some pretty serious consequences. In the context of cybersecurity, social intelligence means to be mindful of how your online actions could lead to cyber threats.
Let's use an example. Doug is at a very expensive restaurant and wants to brag about it, so he checks-in on Facebook, revealing his exact real-time location to the world. Any hacker or criminal monitoring Doug's account immediately knows that he isn't home, so they ransack his apartment while they have the chance.
Doug was not socially intelligent, and he paid the price. What he should have done was wait until he got home to start bragging about his amazing meal, food pics 'n' all. He may have lost a few followers, but at least he would have prevented an easy robbery.
Other common mistakes include publicly confessing your love for a particular film, book, or pet, especially when your password is related to those things. Hackers will immediately try leveraging what is near and dear to you when attempting to crack passwords, so keep those "likes" out of the public eye wherever possible.
While there are plenty of other cybersecurity practices worth implementing, these tips are a great baseline for improving your security awareness and changing how you interact in the digital world. After all, if Mr. Robot is anything to go by, we never know who is waiting in the digital shadows to exploit our cyber weaknesses.