“Computer security”, has a dark and mysterious aura to it, evoking images of dark rooms with hackers and anti-hackers battling it out on keyboards, of struggle between the powerful and the people.
Maybe the narrative we’ve built up around computer security is actually preventing people from protecting themselves. To suggest that a friend may need computer security, they ask themselves if they are feeling locked in power struggle and conclude, “I don’t have anything to hide.” I’m an open book.
There’s a certain quaintness about this notion. “I don’t have anything to hide” is closely connected to “No one’s going to look, my life is boring”; it’s a bit like the luxury of leaving your front door unlocked in a small town. Unfortunately, the internet is much more like a dense urban center than a small town. Literally everyone in the world can walk by your digital front-door and try the lock. Not locking your door in an urban center is really asking for trouble. It’s a prudent and wise habit you get in so you don’t have to worry about whether some stranger is riffling through your personal things. We call it “street smarts”.
Computer security is the basic “internet smarts” we should be encouraging everyone to get in the habit of doing. Things like turning on two factor authentication and remote-wipe. We do these things not because we’re afraid, but because we’re smart, confident, and ready to engage the world.