Cybersecurity Blog

How to navigate the tricky balance between security and convenience – 01/07/19


Every week I wade through a hundred news feeds. Two thirds of them containing  tales of horror detailing the latest methods criminals are using to separate us from our data.  The other one third are notices of privacy breaches by legitimate companies who knowingly misuse our data or are negligent in protecting it.  With all the good news that I filter through, no one would fault me if I decided not to turn on a computer or touch a smart phone for the rest of my life.  Yet I still manage to get up every morning, check my smartphone and work on a computer all day feeling at peace.

It isn’t denial that keeps panic at bay. It is being aware of what the risks are and mitigating them. Each time I interact with technology I look at what the real risks are, what the benefits of using it are and then determine whether the convenience outweighs the risk.  Ultimately, it comes down to quality of life. If a piece of technology is going to significantly enhance my quality of life, then I consider the risks and do everything I can to reduce them.

Lets look at a smart thermostat as an example.  I like to sleep in a really cold room. It would be awesome to be able to go to bed in a super cold room and wake up to a nice toasty one.  However, I wake up at the same time every morning. So having a thermostat programmed to cool down at night and warm up during the day is sufficient. I don’t really need to connect it to the internet so I can lay in bed and change the temperature.  It adds nothing to my quality of life. Sure it’s neat, but I won’t use that feature. It would however give criminals another access point to my network. For me, the risk of connecting the thermostat to the internet doesn’t merit the benefit.

Now lets look at my mom.  Her body hurts if it gets cold. She too likes to sleep in a cold room. She is retired and wakes up at a different time every morning. For her being able to change the thermostat from her bed adds considerably to her quality of life. Yes there is a risk associated with it, but I have set her thermostat to update regularly and have changed the default password so the risk is minimal. For her the benefits of connecting the thermostat to the internet definitely outweigh the risks.

The risk vs benefit analysis applies to securing data as well, not just devices. Lets use password managers as an example. There is a small risk that a password manager could be hacked. However, if you reuse passwords or write them down the chances of the passwords being compromised is much greater than the chances of the password manager being hacked.  In this case, the benefits of using a password manager far outweigh the small risk.

By keeping informed of what the technology risks are, how to mitigate them and using thoughtful analysis. You too can use technology and still sleep at night.


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