Get off my cloud!

Do we need to know more to stay safer online?

“Oh, I’m useless with modern technology and the Internet. When I get a new phone or laptop, I leave setting it up to my partner/husband/wife/best friend/nine-year-old daughter/seventy-two-year-old dad.”

Choose any one of the above, or maybe you are one of the above, but that’s generally the way it is. The contemporary world means we can no longer fully function without technology and the Internet, but while some embrace every journey into cyberspace, regarding their chosen device as an essential extension of themselves, others are far more tentative and use their device only when essential.

And it’s no longer simply a generational thing, as it may have been when the Internet first arrived. Now it doesn’t matter if you were born in an age when typewriters and fountain pens were all the rage or if you’ve only ever known online – you either love it or you don’t. Just look at the computer and mobile phone section in our department stores.

While tech fans are drooling over the latest device, “wowing” at the spec and itching to get their fingers on the screen or keyboard, some are breezing by without so much as a backward glance.

Even when they are reluctantly forced to replace an ancient and outdated machine they’ve kept for far too long, rather than enjoy the increased speed and advances in technology the new device brings, they grumble that it’s “not the same as the old one.” And now there’s the commonly heard complaint, “And this Cloud thing! I mean, where is it? And what is it? I can’t see any cloud!”

There are of course hidden and mounting dangers swirling around out there on the Internet. But the perpetrators of these threats won’t be perched on some visible or invisible fluffy cloud.

They are sitting at screens creating algorithms designed to cause havoc and confusion, to penetrate the online security of the unwary. We all, by now, have experienced attempts by scammers to hack into our phone or computer by email or text message.

Some are crude and obvious, others skilled and highly sophisticated.  We know that most scammers are trying to steal our personal data to access our finances. They frequently attack disguised in familiar form – perhaps as our bank, building society, or email provider – even as a delivery company.

They may somehow have learned our name, so speak directly to us, urging us to act before it’s too late. They can pose as friends, or named relatives, asking us directly to save them from an imminent crisis by transferring money into a new account.

In the cold light of day these scams may seem easy to spot, but the evidence shows that even the online savvy can sometimes fall victim. Knowing more about technology doesn’t necessarily mean that we are immune to an expertly played confidence trick. And when a  cybercrime is posted to thousands, it only needs a few, or even one to succeed to make it a highly profitable day at the online office. 

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