Kaspersky Labs released a new report titled The Rise and Impact of Digital Amnesia: Why we need to protect what we no longer remember and I suggest that everyone reads it. This is a very interesting, fact filled, and an insight to people today have integrated technology to the point of over dependence of choosing to not remember or store important data. The paper uses the term ‘Digital Amnesia’ which in some cases through the report is accurate, amnesia by definition is losing the ability to recall previously stored memories/data. However, this paper is really talking about our over dependence on technology to the point of relying on it so heavily we no longer take responsibility as individuals to manage the data important to us.
After reading this report a few times you could see the angle of technology being under attack unfairly because it does not put the findings into context to the same age groups 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Today we have smartphones, Internet access almost anywhere, instant data lookups at our finger tips. 20 years ago we had none of that and we were just fine. They wrote things down, stored them in secure locations, took care of their physical data because there was no easy way to get it back if it were lost. In today’s world if your house burns down you save the computer and hard drives 20 years ago it was save the photo albums.
Here a few key findings in the report:
Across the United States, the study shows that an overwhelming number of consumers can easily admit their dependency on the Internet and devices as a tool for remembering. Almost all (91.2%) of those surveyed agreed that they use the Internet as an online extension of their brain. Almost half (44.0%) also admit that their smart phone serves as their memory–everything they need to recall and want to have easy access to is all on it.
Although dependence on devices appears high, when asked, most participants could phone the house they lived in at 15 (67.4%) as well as their partners (69.7%), children (34.5%), and place of work (45.4%). They could not however call their siblings (44.2%), friends (51.4%), or neighbors (70.0%) without first looking up the number.
The study shows that only one in three U.S. consumers always memorizes or notes down something they consider important. Also, most are happy to risk forgetting information they can easily find– or find again–online, reinforcing other studies that show how the Internet is transforming the way we search for and remember facts.
The study shows that only 26.3% of American consumers say they always memorize information they consider important, or that they note it down somewhere–typically a smart phone.
20 years ago or more everything in those findings could have been applied to reliance on printed out paper stored in a file cabinet, all the numbers and addresses of neighbors, friends, family were not stored digitally but in physical address books or Rolodexes. Don’t deny that your mothers and grandmothers pulled out their master phone book when you had to call a distant relative or neighbor down the street you didn’t talk to that often. Today everyone has everything at their fingertips and because of that instant connivence we are beginning to feel we don’t have to have a ‘hard copy’ or physical form of the important data we need. The report overall summarizes that there is an overall lack of security on those devices (the author is a security firm) but it could have gone farther to the other non-technical side of ‘Digital Amnesia’.
I bet if you looked hard enough there is a research report from the 90s that was the exact opposite and pushing the digital era to get away from our reliance on a paper world.
In reality what the real danger is not in the lack of security on the devices but individuals choosing to not create and store hard copies for when the technology is not there. Even in a temporary outage like in a natural disaster, storm or earthquake, a big blizzard or flood, or something as simple as a construction crew accident that cuts the main fiber lines and takes down your Internet access for a day or two. What then? If you have an emergency right now and you have no Internet access and your smart phone is gone, do you have the information accessible to survive? 911 is easy but what about Poison Control, Animal Control, your close neighbor, your family doctor, your siblings home number… What if your phone dies and you had no digital backups and the address and phone number of a long-lost friend was on there? Reliance on the technology in cases like that could be your downfall.
I am a technologist by trade, I work with it almost every minute of every day, I secure it, I know the workings of the backbones that put this whole system together… that’s why I don’t rely on it. It’s powerful but it’s more fragile than we admit. Backup, backup, backup. Always backup. If you don’t have enough time, don’t complain when it’s all gone. Take the extra time a few times a year and print off your complete contact list and put it in your safe. Don’t have a safe? Get one. Print off the irreplaceable photos, multiple copies, and put them in photo albums. For reference materials like medical books (which every house should have), outdoor survival books, anything that is a reference don’t buy the e-book buy the physical book. In time of need batteries only last so long, books have been read by candlelight for centuries.
A digital world is convenient but it can all be gone in an instant under the right conditions.
End of line.
Binary Blogger has spent 20 years in the Information Security space currently providing security solutions and evangelism to clients. From early web application programming, system administration, senior management to enterprise consulting I provide practical security analysis and solutions to help companies and individuals figure out HOW to be secure every day.