Ebola is a nasty virus. Nobody wants it, so I certainly understand the concern. But here’s the deal: October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and we are much more likely to fall victim to hackers than we are to contract Ebola. Someday the hacking threat may extend to implanted medical devices and e-health records, but hopefully that’s just science fiction. For now.
In this pre-cyborg age, we as individuals must prioritize cybersecurity. If you’re a celebrity with a nude photo you could’ve sworn you deleted, or a Christmas shopper with a credit card, or if you own an electronic device of any kind, you’re at risk.
As with infectious disease prevention, a little knowledge goes a long way.
Here are three things about cybersecurity we can learn from Ebola:
Nobody is safe. The 80-100 people who came into contact with our Dallas Ebola patient had NO IDEA they were near a deadly, contagious virus from halfway across the world. Ebola wasn’t even on their radars. Likewise, you might think there’s nothing worth stealing on your computer, or that hackers wouldn’t go through all that trouble for your credit card information. You’re wrong. Anyone can be a hacking victim.
Points-of-contact matter. Ebola is a public health emergency. The CDC is tracking down everyone who may have been in contact with the patient, probably down to the people who touched affected doorknobs. Same goes for cybersecurity. So you deleted the obscene picture. Great. Where was it stored? Who else saw it? Could it be on their device? Did you save it to a cloud-based program? Celebrities are learning the hard way that nothing in the cloud goes away. Ever.
Get help from the experts. Ebola isn’t the common cold. Granted, some patients might slip through the cracks. You might wander into the hospital feeling icky, fail to mention international travel, and leave undiagnosed. But if you truly have Ebola, you’ll go back to the hospital in an ambulance, the CDC will show up in hazmat suits, and your entire family will be quarantined. The same goes for cybersecurity. Do your homework, understand what’s at stake, and invest in quality products for virus and spyware protection. Don’t assume your computer is safe because you bought a virus protection program four years ago. Stay up-to-date.
Infectious disease experts aren’t the least bit surprised that Ebola came to the United States. They say it wasn’t a matter of if, but when. Hacking is the same kind of risk: it can happen to anyone, at any time.
(Special thanks to Lisa Margetis from SingleHop, who provided information that inspired this post.)