President Obama issued his much-anticipated cybersecurity executive order this month to slightly mixed reviews. It’s a hot topic, given the undeniable need to protect US critical infrastructure like electric grids, financial institutions, water supply systems, and air traffic control from cyber attacks. The executive order provides for the sharing of cyber threat information with companies that run those critical infrastructure networks.
Cyber threats made the news last week on a less threatening level, comparatively, when Burger King’s and Jeep’s Twitter accounts were hacked. Hackers falsely proclaimed these companies had been sold to competitors and proceeded to tweet all sorts of unsavory comments. National security wasn’t at risk, but online reputation management was definitely top of mind in the marketing world.
In fact, those incidents provided enormous PR opportunities for the victims with an avalanche of free publicity and new social media followers. It’s theirs to capitalize on or miss, depending on how they play their response.
These stories from Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street remind us that each of us on Main Street need to be vigilant with our personal infrastructure as well.
And that reminds me of one of my most embarrassing moments as a Dad.
The year was 2001 and we had just gotten broadband Internet service installed in our home. The Internet was still relatively new to our family and I was sitting at the computer with my then 8-year-old daughter, leisurely exploring this amazing cyber world.
We were discussing her interests, musing with each topic that “there’s probably a website for that.” We came to her musical interests, which at that time were dominated by squeaky clean pop group the A-Teens, which started as an ABBA tribute act. We decided to see if we could find them online.
Google was unknown in 2001 and we weren’t up to speed on the whole search engine thing, so I decided to just type in what I thought could be their URL and see what we could find. I didn’t realize omitting the hyphen in A-Teens would take us to a very different site. You can use your imagination.
Have you ever been so freaked out by something on your computer or TV screen that you panic, unable to figure out how to get it off? That’s what happened. I did NOT want my daughter to see this, but I basically lost my mind momentarily and couldn’t seem to find the red X or the minus sign to close the window or at least minimize it. I don’t remember what I finally did, but I may have just turned the monitor off until I could reclaim my wits.
Now I have to say something…
It probably only took a few seconds but it felt like an hour. And even in those few seconds I was sure she’d seen some of the images and now I had to say something. Something that would resonate with an 8-year-old without getting into too much detail. The conversation went something like this:
“Whoa, that wasn’t the right site! We don’t want to see that.”
“Why, what was wrong with it?”
“Well, those weren’t the A-Teens. It was some other site and they weren’t very nice people.”
To which my precious, innocent daughter replied, “but they were smiling.”
Not so coincidentally, those unsavory websites can be the source of some really nasty viruses and Trojans, which brings us right back to cybersecurity on a local level.
A good content filtering program would have prevented this moment. There are lots of good filtering systems available – some free, some available for a fee. A quick Google search will give you ample options. If you’re going online without one in place, you’re asking for your own A-Teens moment.
Have you had an A-Teens moment?