Every year, I publish an annual guide to the best and worst gifts, based on two and only two criteria: privacy and security. But I decided that I wanted to actually create a gift that people could give to others that would help them protect their devices and data.
Virtual Seat Belts & Sunscreen
We’ve come to understand that there are some mildly costly and inconvenient things we need to do in the physical world in order to be more safe. We wear seat belts when we drive and we put on sunscreen when we go out on a sunny day. We didn’t always do these things. Most cars didn’t even have seat belts until the government mandated them in the late 1960s. Over time, we’ve adopted other safety measures, like installing smoke alarms in our homes and using child-resistant tops on our prescription bottles. These things reduced convenience and added cost, but today we take them for granted.
The world of always-connected computing devices is still relatively new, historically speaking. We’re just now starting to understand that there are several simple, cheap and mildly inconvenient things that we should all be doing to protect our devices and data. We should be using a password manager. We need to set up two-factor authentication on our most important accounts. We should use a privacy-respecting VPN when connecting to untrusted WiFi networks. Unlike some of the real-world examples above, however, many of the precautions in the virtual world require a little know-how to use properly and more than a little patience to set up.
We’re All in This Together
The more of us that implement some of these basic security and privacy protections, the better off we will all be. If your devices are compromised by malware, they may be used to compromise other devices on whatever network you’re connected to. If your accounts are taken over by criminals, they can be used to phish your friends and family and really anyone else in your contact lists. When you share photos and daily life updates on social media, you are probably sharing personal information of other people, as well. Your security and privacy overlap my security and privacy. So, the more people we can protect, the better off everyone will be.
The goal of my book, my blog, my newsletter and my podcast is to help as many people as possible to implement basic cybersecurity and online privacy protections. My reach of these communication methods is limited. But if I can convince my audience to take this knowledge and help others, then maybe I can indirectly improve the security and privacy of a much larger number of people.
How to Give the Gift of Safety & Privacy
To that end, I’ve created a series of security and privacy coupons that you can download, print off and give to your friends and family. These coupons cover several top-tier security and privacy tips that we should all be doing, like using a password manager, setting up two-factor authentication, and keeping our software up to date. Here’s a sample coupon:
With each coupon, I include a set of tasks that should complete. Of course, you can go off script if you like – do more or less than I recommend, use different products, etc. But I wanted to lay out my suggested actions for each coupon.
Furthermore, if you happen to have a copy of my book, I include references to the Tips there where you will find complete step-by-step instructions with screenshots, if you need help.
I’ll be adding more coupons over time, so check back periodically. If you have suggestions for more coupon ideas, please feel free to send them to me (there’s an email address in the PDF workbook). I may not respond to all suggestions, but I promise I will read them.
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