Learning to embrace Net without fear

Like some others out there, I was terrified of the dark and avoided watching horror flicks growing up.But, as I matured and my adult mind learnt reason and rationale, I realized my fear of the dark was baseless and that those screaming bloodied actors were actually covered in prop blood and latex...

Like some others out there, I was terrified of the dark and avoided watching horror flicks growing up.

But, as I matured and my adult mind learnt reason and rationale, I realized my fear of the dark was baseless and that those screaming bloodied actors were actually covered in prop blood and latex...though I'm still horrified each time I look into the mirror.

My own reflection aside, over the years, as I picked up facts and figures about life, logic gradually prevailed and my childhood fears dissipated. There's little I fear today because my now-rational mind won't let me and as I mentioned previously in this blog, death doesn't terrify me either. Letting go of such fears have enabled me to more fully embrace life, and to live it with a mind that's more open and unafraid to seek new experiences.

But, a conversation this week with a senior executive from a security vendor, made me realize I may have let another form of fear cripple the way I would otherwise behave, in cyberspace.

I'd asked the executive how working in an IT security firm changed the way she shopped online, and she replied that it hasn't at all. She does most, if not all, of her shopping on the Web. She explained that she refuses to let "fear" of hackers and data breaches affect her choices.

And it dawned on me then that I had, in a way, let that happen when I made the decision to minimize my transactions on the Internet because that would mitigate my security risks.

Thanks to my line of work, I've read countless articles that highlight the increasing ingenuity of malicious hackers as well as the growing number of data breaches businesses have to deal with on a daily basis. And we're reminded that this remains the Web reality today, despite the wider array of high-tech security tools we can deploy to combat online fraud and data breaches.

These newsfeeds drove me to minimize the number of sites I'm willing to do my online shopping with to no more than a handful. So there've been instances where I'd liked an item that's only available online, but would choose not to get it because I wasn't sure if I could trust the site to handle my credit card details.

I'd figured that's just my own way of protecting my online identity, but I realize now that to a small extent, I've unwittingly allowed this "fear" of malicious attacks influence how I would otherwise live life, albeit, my cyber life.

And while this anxiety about potential online risks isn't unfounded, going by the constantly evolving IT security landscape, there's really little reason to fear if I understand the risks and take the necessary steps and precaution to mitigate the risks.

All of my personal computers have the necessary firewall and antivirus tools, and I regularly update security patches and back up my critical data. I use the same one credit card for online transactions so I can more quickly terminate the card and minimize the financial damage if there's a data breach. And because I'm involved in the industry, I have constant access to tips and know-hows on spotting phishing sites, steering clear of social network scams, and explaining why we shouldn't open an attachment that reads "how to enlarge your...", you get the picture.

So, I'm fully aware of the risks and know the necessary precaution to take to safeguard my online identity. By all accounts, I've done enough such that this fear that's prevented me from fully embracing the Internet seems somewhat unnecessary.

Florence Nightingale said: "How very little can be done under the spirit of fear." And her views are echoed by 20th century social historian Dorothy Thompson, who urged: "Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live."

I shall take heed, and try to let my cyber life live a little more each day.

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