NCSAM 2019

National Cyber Security Awareness Month Graphic

Black Mirror has many themes that relate to cyber-security, and you can use these themes to help learn how to protect yourself, your devices, and your online life from those that would exploit them.

Several mistakes lead the characters in this episode to disaster. To start with, crimes, even when we think they are committed in private can catch up with us. Second, basic computer hygiene is crucial: applying patches promptly after vendors such as Microsoft, Google and Apple release them can patch the bugs that allow viruses to infect your computer. Running effective anti-virus all the time can detect and remove viruses, and always be sure to only download reputable software. Often a web search for the name of the software and ‘malware’ or ‘problem’s will help you figure out if software is legit. You should also always be sure to only download software from the original vendor’s website – sometimes the hits that show up in search have been planted by the attackers to entice you into downloading fake or rigged software. The last tip is that there has been malware that is capable of activating the camera on your laptop and recording surreptitiously, and criminals have used the footage to blackmail the victims. Using a camera cover to block the camera when not using it is cheap insurance to prevent this.

Apps ran Frank and Amy’s lives, don’t let apps run (and ruin) your life. It can be really hard to totally free yourself from constantly being tracked and manipulated. Apps you install on your phone can abuse their privileges and access more data on your phone than they should. This data can be sent back to the app’s creators – or even third parties unrelated to the app, and used for any purpose they want. You’ll be lucky if they’re just used to target ads to you! Research apps before you install them to see if they honor your privacy, and remove apps you don’t use. If you can access a service through a webpage instead of an app, it still has ways to track you, but has much less access to your data.

Sometimes we have events in our past we’d rather not share with others. There are many bots and services that scrape social media websites, and could make available even posts that are deleted. It is wise to be very cautious about what you post online, and always be aware that sometimes you can’t erase old memories.