3 Rural Rules for Internet Security

by Joanne Steele on December 14, 2010


First Wikileaks and now Gawker.

My greatest fear from these massively publicized internet hacks is that it will discourage already wary rural business people from using this amazing resource to market their business and their towns.

home computer user

The comfort of our favorite slippers and chair may lull us into thinking the internet is private. It isn't!!

My grandmother told me stories of neighbors in her little northern Arizona town who were reluctant to electrify their homes in the early 20th Century. “It starts fires and kills people!” they exclaimed.

The internet is transforming our world, the way we communicate, the way we get information and also, the way we make war. Hacking is a form of warfare.

We don’t stop using air travel because planes are used for warfare. Heck! How many people do you know who drive Humvees (or at least did)? That’s a recreational vehicle designed for war.

Use the internet. Embrace the internet for all the good it can bring rural communities and locally owned businesses. But be sensible….

Rural Rules For Internet Safety

1. Having the same password everywhere is like leaving your keys in your car.

Having the same password for every site is like leaving the keys in your car in the middle of Los Angeles. Even though you might store your keys in your car at home, you wouldn’t think of doing it in an urban center. The internet is like an urban center!

The unfortunate thing for all those Gawker users is that they didn’t pay attention to the safety suggestions on the Gawker sites! Lifehacker, has one of the best blog posts on how to create memorable but hard to hack passwords I’ve found on the net. Read it and spend Saturday morning applying it to all your websites.

2. There are no secrets.

Everyone from a small town knows that the best way to get the word out is to start a sentence, “be sure not to tell anyone.” Typing a URL into your computer or posting a “private email” to a friend is a whisper, “don’t tell.”

If you don’t want it to be known, don’t email it. If you don’t want Google to store that URL, don’t go there.

The fact that we sit in front of our computers in our own living rooms in our pajamas lulls us into thinking we’re alone. The internet is a giant cocktail party with no bouncer at the door!  If you don’t want everyone to know, don’t put it in your Facebook profile, or publish it on that Ning site!

3. If there’s money involved, someone is probably paying attention.

I’m not as concerned, personally, about my online banking and online commerce sites, as I am about online governmental activity. When there’s money to be lost, extra care is more likely being taken to create and maintain state of the art anti-hacking systems. Governmental secrets may not be as determinedly protected online, as Wikileaks has proven.

Trust but verify. Check with your bank and find out how they’re protecting your money and your identity.  Make certain your password is strong rather than convenient.

Here’s the reality of this present moment. If you ever use a credit card, if you have a bank account, if you have an email address, if you have ever filled out a survey or entered a contest online or offline, you have entered the digital world.

Embrace it. Learn about it. Use it. It can save your small town and your business. If you shy away from the internet because of these well publicized hacks, the hackers win!

Photo on Flickr by Debs (ò?ó)?

1 Joe December 15, 2010 at 9:29 am

Fear? that is exactly what it is. Don’t leave out naivety. The reality was explained very well in this article above. I feel it is up to each and every one of us who know the facts and understand the nature of cyber security to educate the masses. Educate in a friendly and non pompous way as this article presents it. Although there are times I just want to stand up and SHOUT, WAKE UP people. Wake up to the obvious but I forget, most did not grow up as computers came of age like I did . The machines and technology were already here for many young folks today. Thank you for this clear explanation of the issue.

2 Joanne Steele December 15, 2010 at 11:07 am

Thanks Joe. I think you hit the nail on the head. We “old folks” (older than 40) grew up in a time when our homes and everything in them provided us with information in an environment of complete privacy. Even our “private” mail came in plain brown wrappers. We’re not used to the idea that the box on the table in the family room is the equivalent of a great big eye, examining and storing everything we share with it. And again, that’s not a good reason to stop using it, just a reason to use it with greater care and respect for it’s power for good and… not so good.

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