As I sat with my children tonight and watched Peter charge toward the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia, I was once again reminded of the importance of fighting the good fight. The Sons of Adam were vastly outnumbered, yet they went bravely into battle knowing that they were fighting for the principles taught by Aslan–they were fighting the good fight. And then comes the wonderful finale when Aslan comes to the battle…back from the dead…and defeats the White Witch.
There are so many parallels between this great story by C. S. Lewis and our own dear Savior, Jesus Christ. I always end up in tears when I watch this movie as I ponder the role of the Savior in my life. How he offered Himself as a sacrifice in my place–and how he continues to fight my battles standing beside me.
What a wonderful Plan of Salvation that enables us to live knowing God loves us and wants good things for us. All we have to do is accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and obey His commandments and he has promised us Eternal Life!
I’ve spent my entire career working with computers. Twenty-five years ago that meant using a desktop computer to write personnel evaluations, project reports, and budget spreadsheets. Our “computer network” at work was a bunch of isolated, self-built islands of connectivity based on incompatible technologies. Today, I get complaints when the wifi at home drops offline (though to be honest, I submit my fair share of complaints about the wifi).
When my wife and I were married, we had a personal computer in the house. I’m not sure what we used it for. At last count, we had 19 devices connected to our home wifi network (I’m still not sure what we use them all for). We’ve come a long way in 25 years!
Today I want to share three of the computer security challenges I see at work every day:
By now, I hope that everyone realizes their computer and other technology devices should be updated on a regular basis. There are only two reasons why updates are published for your computer or phone: 1) there’s a feature enhancement (in other words, they’ve changed something to make it work better) 2) there’s a weakness, flaw, or vulnerability (in other words, someone can break into your device).
Think of it like a house. By design, every house has certain features: windows, doors, a foundation, and walls. Sometimes though, a house will develop problems–a crack in the foundation for snakes to slither through, a hole in the soffit for bats to fly through, or even a simple hole in the window screen for bugs to fly through. Sometimes, you’ll even have a garage door spring that breaks, a sink that springs a lead, or a lock on the door that no longer works. Without regular maintenance, these problems will increase and grow until the house is no longer comfortable or safe to live in. Some of these problems will allow burglars into your home.
Computer vulnerabilities work the same way. When your computer was built and released, it had the latest available software. Over time, bad guys find new ways to break into your computer, unless you apply the security updates for your computer. I prefer to set up an automated schedule for updating my computer. This way it gets updated every month as soon as possible without the possibility of me forgetting (because that does happen every now and then).
Unfortunately, you can’t stay safe simply by keeping your systems up to date. Let’s go back to the house analogy. Even if you perform regular maintenance on your house, there’s still the very real possibility that a scammer will ring your doorbell. You may inadvertently invite someone bad into your home, thinking they are safe. I’m sure you’ve noticed that any service person with half a brain immediately offers you their company badge when you answer the door for them. Even at that, you’ve got to play it safe, be alert, and be careful who you invite in.
It works the same for your computer. As we surf the drivel of Facebook, we’re presented with so many tempting links. How easy it is to click on a seemingly safe link and end up at a site that just downloaded software to your computer to monitor where you surf. There are some sites that are worse and will download viruses, ransomware, or other malicious content.
The same thought applies to your e-mail. Hopefully everyone realizes there are no Princesses in Nigeria who need your help…you won’t be notified of a surprise inheritance through an e-mail…and certainly there are better places to find a bride than from a Russian website! The worst though, are the e-mails that look legitimate. Things like “You’re package has been delayed, click here to confirm your address.” Or “Your account has been compromised, click here to reset your password.” The bad guys are so good today that I only get account compromised e-mails from companies I actually do business with!
So how do you protect yourself? First, don’t click on links that look suspicious. In fact, don’t click on links that you aren’t expecting. If you get something from your bank that asks you to confirm information, call your bank (using the number you already know, not the one in the email). Second, make sure you’ve got antivirus software running on your computer.
Perhaps the biggest problem I see in the corporate world is password management. It was relatively easy 25 years ago to remember the 1 or 2 passwords I had. Now, it is nearly impossible to remember all of the passwords I use each day. There are dozens of passwords for work-related sites. Then there are the passwords to get onto my home devices. And don’t forget that every website and app require a password.
It is tempting to use the same password everywhere so you can remember them. Let’s go back to the house analogy. Imagine that every lock you have uses the same key: your house, your cars, your padlock at the gym, your luggage, the Post Office Box, the key to your office, the key that opens your top right desk drawer at work, the fire safe at home where you keep your birth certificates, the storage shed down the road, the gate in your yard…you get the point. At first glance this seems very convenient…until someone manages to steal the key to your desk drawer. And now they have the key to everything you own.
So what do you do? No normal person can remember all of their passwords. You’ve got to use a password manager or other system to keep track of your passwords. There are free solutions you can download to your phone that keeps track of your passwords. Yes, there are dangers with using these as well, but it’s better than writing them on a sticky note and putting them under the keyboard!
Here’s the bottom line (did you catch the pun…see the line): being a responsible user of technology requires effort. To go through life without paying attention to vulnerabilities, malicious content, or password management is like the ostrich who puts their head in the sand whenever they sense danger, effectively hiding their noggin, but leaving their big caboose flapping in the wind.
This month at Scouts, we’re talking about Wilderness Survival. Now, I’m not a prepper by any means, but I do believe it is important to know how to take care of yourself just in case you find yourself facing an emergency. It is important to remember that there isn’t a single-fit survival kit. My survival kit changes based on where I’m going and what I’m doing. A day hike to the top of a 14er in Colorado requires a different survival kit than a week-long trip in the Smoky Mountains. Both of these are much different than a car trip to see family. In general though, here’s what I try to keep in my survival kit
Flint and steel: everyone should know how to start a fire with flint and steel. It is difficult at first, but with a little practice (and the right materials), you can get a fire started with one strike of the flint.
Water purifyer: a person can go 3 weeks without food, but only 3 days without water. My absolute favorite water puryfier is a Sawyer Mini filter. It was amazing to drink cool mountain water right from the stream while watching everyone else drink iodine-flavored warm water 30 minutes later!
Shelter: by this I mean something that will protect you against the weather. I try to carry a simple poncho and a bit of rope.
Communication: In the event you get lost or need to attract attention, you need some way to attract attention. This might be a cell phone if you’re somewhere with service, ot it might be a whistle if you’re in a more remote environment. It may even be a signal mirror. In any case, make sure you know how to use whatever it is you have.
Scriptures: Sometimes getting your mind off of the immediate situation gives you a chance to refocus. The Word of God is the perfect option for this.
Knife: You don’t need a huge machete, just a simple 4″ blade that is nice and sharp.
Multi-tool: I try to carry both a knife and a multi-tool because the blades on most multi-tools aren’t nearly as good as a real knife…but I really enjoy having the pliers, can openers, screwdrivers, etc.
First Aid Kit: This is highly dependent upon where you are and what you’re doing. At a minimum, it’s a baggy with some bandaids, Tylenol, Motrin, and Benedryl. When certain family members join me, it’s bottled Oxygen, a stethoscope, and the pulse oximeter. For a hike, it usually includes an anti-chafing product.
Dry clothes: even on short day hikes, I like to pack a pair of dry socks. The longer or more remote the trip, the more clothes go in my survival kit.My go-to material is Merino wool–nothing beats a nice pair of SmartWool socks or a light-weight Merino wool sweater.
Hat: It may have been proven that we don’t lose most of our body heat through our head, but I feel so much better if I can keep my noggin warm.
Personal protection: It’s always a good idea to have some way to protect yourself. On hikes, this is often a walking stick (yes, I have thought about how I can beat an attacker with my walking stick). Other times this is a knife, pepper spray, or a gun–it all depends on where I’m going and what I’m doing.
Food: Nothing lifts the spirits quite like being able to nibble on someting tasty when you’re tired.
Duct Tape: there’s a reason it’s called “500 mile an hour tape.” Duct tape can prevent blisters, close cuts, fix fips…the uses are nearly endless!
Along with the need to have a physical survival kit, it is even more important to have a spiritual survival kit. Most of these items aren’t things you can buy in the store.
Testimony: Everyone has a testimony. The difference is the strength of the testimony and the content of the testimony. I believe our goal is to base our testimony on Jesus Christ and work every day to build that testimony stronger.Helaman taught his sons Nephi and Lehi “…that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).
Word of God: ok, this is something you can buy in the store…at the same time, you have to do more than possess the word of God. You must read it, ponder, it, internalize it, and live it.
Charity: Also known as the Pure Love of Christ. Paul taught, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
Ordinances: While it is vital to have faith, it is also important to receive the ordinances of salvation for those who are accountable before God for their actions.
Friends: Gordan B. Hinckley once taught that every new member of the church needs 3 things: 1) a friend 2) a responsibility 3) nurishing by the good word of God. I truly believe that if we have any hope of surviving this world, it will be with a friend. My first and best friend is my wife.
Prayer: Just as your physical surival kit includes a communication method, so should your spiritual survival kit. Prayer is our lifeline to Heavenly Father. He is there and he does hear our prayers. It is up to us to take that first step in establishing communication with God through prayer.