Self defense in the digital age

Gone are the days when the most commonly feared petty crime in day to day living was plain chain snatching or burglary. With the rise of the Internet of Things, web 3 and machine learning/artificial intelligence, we have a lot more to protect ourselves from. Today, just ensuring personal protection requires a deeper understanding of technology. If not for our careers, for a safe existence, we need to upskill ourselves.

Self defense has a whole new meaning in this new phy-digital world. A strong physique and ability to run fast, will not work in the online universe. We need to learn about cookies. Not the chewy choco-chips variety but the small text files of information created/updated when we visit a website and gets stored on our web browser to help websites remember us and track our activities to provide us a personalised experience. We need to learn about password protection. About when deleting browser histories is useful and how to do it. About discerning the callers and emailers who are out to scam you from the ones who want to help you. About what makes our accounts vulnerable to hackers. About photoshopped images designed to mislead, doctored videos aimed at deceit and about how to use fact checking tools to know what to trust and what not to.  Things are getting very complex but not impossible to understand.

There was a time when pick-pockets were a big menace. Today, the skill of pickpocketing has been rendered largely useless in the world of crime, thanks to people having adopted all kinds of techniques to avoid falling prey to them.  I remember seeing ‘beware of pick-pockets’ sign-boards at crowded places, when I was a little girl. Similarly, with enough awareness drives and inclination it is possible to prevent cyber criminals from getting the better of us, maybe not 100 percent but to some extent. Despite the increasing sophistication of crimes keeping us in an eternal tug of war.

Digital technologies aid and amplify our work. It does the same for organised crime. As instances of victims of financial theft, job loss, identity theft etc rise, people are getting more and more wary and suspicious of the world in general – both offline and online. This is a new facet of consumer reality that largely lies untapped by brands and businesses aiming to bond with them.

The four key threats are Hacking – gaining unauthorised access to a computer system or account, Phishing – impersonating legitimate companies or individuals to trick users into revealing sensitive information, Malware – spreading malicious software such as viruses, worms, trojans and ransomware and Identity theft – stealing personal data such as names, addresses, and social security numbers to fraudulently assume someone’s identity. But, the most insulting of them all are the crimes carried out via mere phone calls convincing uninformed victims to willingly give away personal data, scan barcodes and download malicious apps on their devices etc. There is little cyber police can do in cases where customers willingly give out their information, no matter the loss faced.

Can brand custodians connect better with their customers by helping them be in better charge of their own privacy and security? Brands need to consider how to be sensitive to  a customer’s need for assurance of safety. In this trust deficit world, brands that demonstrate care for a customer’s cyber safety are likely to win hearts.

In the days to come, as we learn to get a handle on working with generative AI, we need to simultaneously work on increasing our collective understanding of cyber security to protect ourselves from the implications of political, financial and other online crimes. Just as in real life, even in virtual life, complete privacy doesn’t exist, but there’s still plenty we can do to protect ourselves.  With new cyber threats continually emerging, there is a heightened opportunity for brands and individuals to champion the cause of self-defense in this big bad digitised world.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Pooja Nair
Pooja Nair has over 20 years of experience as a branding consultant across leading global Ad consultancies. Pooja is also known to be an ex theater performer, actress and model. Since September, 2022, she has focussed completely on her passion for the changing face of business, brand-building and reputation.

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