Did you ever wonder why we do not protect our information enough, what the potential consequences of neglecting security could be, and what actions we might take to avoid becoming a victim of a security breach? Let us consider these questions together.
If you grew up in the olden days and, for instance, you were an avid reader or collected comics, each time you moved, you had a number of very, very heavy boxes just containing paper. Nowadays, the amount of paper we need to transport has shrunk dramatically, and if you have access to a scanner, the volume you have to move around has become almost negligible: our lives are steadily turning digital. This not only means that we now have access to the latest gadgets, smart devices and home automation systems, it also means that where our information used to be kept has changed.
In this context, it is quite amazing that we would go to any lengths to secure our homes, lock our cars, pay for all kinds of insurance and otherwise protect our physical assets, but we do not apply the same level of care to our intangible assets. Why, with most of our information having become digital, do we blatantly ignore what is corporately labelled as information security, but domestically boils down to self-education and common sense?
Since the transition to digital is somewhat recent, most people have not yet gone through the time needed for a change in understanding or behaviour to take root. Perhaps thinking information does not need as much protection as our more tangible property is related to the fact that many people believe that if you can’t touch it, it is not real.
There is also a general attitude that security breaches will not happen to us. Just as famine and war is something that we see daily in the news, but most of us cannot truly relate to, we tend to believe IT disasters only happen to large corporations. The amazing progress in usability and reliability of our IT infrastructure has, unfortunately, further contributed to this belief.
Protecting our information requires more understanding of the underlying technology than most users have, so if no one forces us to do it, we probably will not make the effort needed to figure out how to do it. To make things worse, due to the large amounts of information we handle, creating back-up copies usually involves money. This might also be one of the reasons why some people defer the decision to take steps toward securing information.
Not everybody understands the worth of their own digital information. Consequences can be very serious, even in the case of a loss due to carelessness; but, when it comes to a targeted theft of your data and your identity, they are truly devastating. Rebuilding your good standing could cost you thousands of dollars and require countless hours to restore, not to mention that you could have your credit rating negatively affected and suffer emotional distress. And the ramifications go on and on.
Companies and individuals are both at risk of cyberattacks. Professionals such as translators are arguably part of the most vulnerable group, because they handle a considerable amount of client information and might not have the strictest security measures in place.
While freelancers usually do not have the budget needed to hire third parties to handle their security, a lack of funds must not be a deterrent to protecting the data contained in their devices.
In the same way that we need to know nutrition basics if we decide to eat healthier and change our lifestyle, we also need some basic knowledge of IT security if we do not have the resources to outsource the job.
There are thousands of articles, free tutorials and cost-effective solutions you can use to increase security. Some of them address topics such as creating strong passwords, protecting your network, tracking computer activity and developing good security habits, while others go deeper into more technical issues.
As a professional, you are responsible for the security of the information you deal with. And part of that responsibility is to be aware of the risks you are facing and to learn how to minimize them.
Peter Meierhold graduated as a mechanical and industrial engineer from the Instituto Tecnológico Buenos Aires and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. He held various executive positions in large multinational companies both in Germany and in Argentina until he decided to start his own business, Suryan, a managed service provider with over 3,000 users.