7 Cybersecurity Tips from an English Major

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Cybersecurity: it's important. At least I think so; that is what I’ve been told. However, many of us choose to be willfully ignorant about our digital safety. We say ‘yes’ to cookies, use public wifi with reckless abandon, and open suspicious links sent to our Instagram pages. We assume we are alone on the internet, but we are not. There is someone there, in the weird backrooms of the web, waiting to sneak in. So I’ve taken it upon myself to give you, dear reader, tips for staying safe on the internet. I’m not a Computer Science (CS) major, and my solution to every computer problem is to turn my laptop on and off again. But I am an English major with a god complex, which means that if I don’t know something, I have the power to just make it up and it will become reality. So here are 7 Cybersecurity Tips To Keep You Safe Online: 

1. Two-Step Verification is not enough

While you may feel safe every time you have a message sent to your phone confirming a log into your account after you’ve put in your Google saved password, you’re not. While this will help you if you accidentally tell someone your password, or they find it in a data leak, it won’t help you against a malicious hacker who can break into your phone. If you really want to be protected you need 5-step verification. The steps include

  • 1. Have a strong and unique password like ‘!drowssap1’ or ‘1lovedanny!devito?’
  • 2. Set up verification to your phone or another email
  • 3. Set up a second verification to a burner phone used only for password verification 
  • 4. Recite a third password out loud– preferably the length of one Shakespearean sonnet. Your device will base your entry into your account on two scales: accuracy and performance quality
  • 5. Submit a vial of your DNA for review, to prove that it is you before you log in. 

2. Do not ignore spam email

People tell you to ignore spam emails all the time. And we ignore them, from the  obviously fake emails like “Please give me your bank details. I am a wealthy ambassador whose money has been stolen from me” and the less fake emails like “Your account has been restricted! Please follow the link to restore your account” and “Linda please come back to me. I love you Linda. All I want is your love. I don’t care about your bank details. Or your social security number. I only care about you. Please I made you this card on MS Paint just click the link and download it. It will show you how I feel about you.” But why should you ignore them? Spam emails wouldn’t be sent if no one fell for them. Someone out there does, so it is your civic duty to stop the scammer. Send them your own link back. Download malware on their computer. Steal their bank information. Say “I’ll open your link if you open mine.” 

Alternatively, send the scammer your resume. Finding a job is scary and you should shoot your shot anywhere you can find it. Who knows maybe they will admire the audacity and give you a job. 

3. You can get a VPN or scare the hacker

VPNs are great! Or so I've been told. I don’t know; I’ve never had one. I don’t believe I should have to pay to be protected on the web, not because I expect the web to do it for me. I just believe that the principle of paying for goods and services is ludicrous and we would be better off in a barter and trade society. So if you don’t have a VPN,  and you want to scare people away from hacking into your browser and stealing your precious data, keep a Wattpad tab open to whatever you think will scare away the most people. I do this, and I have never once been cyber attacked. Do I fear my internet history? Yes. Is my sanity waning? Yes. But I’m able to browse safely online.

4. Go back to paper 

Do we really need the internet? Why are you keeping your money on your phone? That’s crazy. I understand the environmental cost of returning to paper, but are phones and computers really any better? The metals inside of them cannot be replenished, unlike trees, which are an infinite supply of resources if we are responsible. People can’t have your credit card information if you keep all of your money in a special jar in your fridge. Going back to paper also eliminates the chance of your passwords and data being stolen.

  Need to send an email? Carrier pigeon. No one can hack your passwords if you’re using birds as messengers. 

“But Anne,” you may argue. “Birds can be shot out of the sky and then your messages will be stolen.” Yes, so be sure to encode all of your correspondence. 

We are too hasty when we communicate through the internet. We need to go back to a time when people think about their words. However, I know we live in a digital age, so use paper when you can, and remember to have several buried boxes of money hidden around the state, for when times get tough. 

5. Accept all cookies but for a price 

Websites are literally profiting off of you just by you using their site. And then they have the audacity to ask you to turn off your ad blocker. This will not do. When I’m asked to accept cookies, I say Mhmmm. Yes, delicious,’ but these internet cookies are not delicious, they are rancid. They take your data and they sell it to the highest bidder. They turn your life into a spreadsheet, a product to be bought and sold back to with targeted ads. And we accept cookies just so we can spy on our worst enemy from high school via social media. People are making money off of our private information and that’s not fair. So instead of accepting cookies, I propose entering into a contract negotiation with the website. Read their terms of service and information about their cookies, then email them with what you would like in return. Say “I will only accept your cookies if you give me actual real cookies.” Come to the digital table ready to negotiate. They don’t get to make money off of you without you getting something in return. And if you are forced to accept the cookies so you can fixate on stupid Derek’s Instagram, then have your local witch place a curse on the company. She’s very nice and works off of a barter and trade system. Everything’s above board with her.

6. Befriend a CS major

CS majors need friends. Not because they’re losers or particularly lonely, but because they are usually barely holding it together. And I can’t blame them for that. Every semester they are tossed into a Hunger Games-style arena to fight for their spot in major-required classes. Their homework assignments are literally “invent a new code,” “hack into the Pentagon, and “teach AI how to feel.” If I had to do all of that, I would be tired too. But I have a solution to one of their issues. Instead of going down to the battle pit every semester to gain entry into their classes, they could instead create an independent study where they deal with all their friends' computer problems, because they are asked to anyway. They get college credit and a friend who will comfort them in times of immense stress (which is every week). And in return, you are protected from the eldritch horrors that are data brokers.

7. Always have a backup plan. 

If somehow, someone still manages to steal your precious data, or lock you out of your Instagram, you need to have a backup plan. While this backup plan could be something as simple as calling your bank, resetting your password, or paying for a service to scrape your data off the dark web, I suggest revenge. No one should be allowed to steal your data. It’s yours. You should be allowed to do whatever you want with it. If someone steals your data without your permission, you have every right to steal their life partner and destroy their marriage. You have every right to defeat them in an epic boss battle to get your data back. You have every right to sue the pants off of them. Do not fret when your data is stolen. Take action.

 

Cybersecurity is important. The internet is not a private place. Make sure you are always doing what you can to stay safe. And if your safety is threatened, remember to follow these seven helpful steps, or if all the steps above fail, find a mystical being to barter with. At least with the magical creature you’ve chosen to bargain with has a tangible form and is not the vast, infinite abyss we call the internet.