WASHINGTON – The scariness of cyber attacks seems like something straight out of the Twilight Zone. Think about it: The world revolves around computers and personal information can be stolen with one click of a mouse. The problem is that most people do not think about cyber threats.
Dr. Marshini Chetty, an assistant professor of Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Maryland, said that people don’t tend to think about cybersecurity unless they are actually in the industry or in some situation where they have to be aware of security.
“We find that if they haven’t heard about it in some big news story or someone hasn’t informed them that there’s been like a big credit card breach or something like that,” Chetty said, “They aren’t really aware of security on a daily basis.”
Chetty said that the media plays a huge role to raise awareness about cybersecurity issues to the general public. “The more educated the public is, the better it is for everyone,” she said.
She noted that the U.S. government is taking great measures to educate people about their online safety. Her government-funded research, which focuses on evaluating people’s behaviors when it comes to completing software updates, is required to have a component that makes educational materials available to the public.
Antoinette Isama, a 23-year-old student from Silver Spring, Md., knows that security threats loom. “I definitely take it seriously, even in regards to online shopping. I don’t save my credit card information. I think it should be taken more serious because it’s easier and easier for someone to steal your information.”
Although individuals can take measures to protect themselves from hackers, there is only so much that can be done. “If you’ve entrusted your data to a third party….it’s up to them to make sure their systems are secure.” Chetty said. She warned of a possible cyber attack that could be targeted at the network system of a company that is not properly protected or equipped to handle a large-scale breach, which could possibly put millions of people’s personal data at risk of being stolen.
“Generally when people are not aware of privacy and security issues they can easily get themselves into trouble,” Chetty said, “Whether that’s sharing information that they didn’t intend to share or having machines that are not protected.”
According to Chetty, individuals can take steps to keep their personal information safe in cyberspace. Making sure personal machines are always up to date, securing passwords and not staying logged in to public computers are all measures that can be taken to protect against a cyber attack.
Isama said that worrying about cyber attacks is wasting time.
“I don’t [worry] because attempts are already happening. It’s a reality now. Now it’s about being preventative.”