Behaving Like a Scientist can Mean Greater Online Safety

by on ‎10-05-2011 10:39 AM

The recent announcements of Nobel Prize winners for medicine, chemistry and physics remind me of the importance and significance of scientific thinking, even for those of us who aren’t conducting research because such thinking and discipline can help us navigate our world better. I will never win an award such as a Nobel but I get a thrill seeing normally stoic and disciplined men and women of research being rewarded, recognized and sometimes crying with emotion at the event. I always enjoy reading about their work, the further implications and advances their research has given society, even if I don’t fully understand the details.

These scientists and the multitudes who labor without such lofty rewards and attention push the boundaries of knowledge by adhering to principles of scientific investigation. They review historical findings, observe their subject, consider data and test and retest when unusual information or results are observed.

Recently, the Norton Cybercrime Report found global cybercrime victimization rates have increased to 69% of adults. Additionally, and the point I wish to make here, victims of online crimes are twice likely to also be victims of real world crimes.

One doesn’t cause the other (causation vs. correlation) but behaviors such as recognizing risk, modifying behavior, being suspicious, checking things out, and limiting exposure to untested areas or services are hallmarks of the non-cybercrime victim. Real world behaviors that are similarly protective are avoiding dangerous and high crime neighborhoods, keeping aware of your surroundings, securing your property and so on.

When you receive an email from a friend about a new threat or previously unrecognized urban crime, do you immediately forward to your email address book or do you conduct an internet search or visit or other hoax review sites to see if this new issue is credible or debunked? When searching online to purchase goods and services, tickets to events or travel, do you respond immediately to lowest prices or limited time offers from unknown vendors? Do you visit sites containing adult material or gambling sites? Ask yourself if at the same time you have clicked unknown links, visited dicey websites or seen your computer get infected with malware.

Try to adopt some scientific rigor to your use of the Internet. Be careful, cautious and diligent in your research before using a new website, service or online game. Use services such as Norton Safe Web to rate search results and help you avoid dangerous clicks. Adopt the terminology of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and “Stop. Think. Connect.” (Read the President’s proclamation here.) Check by use of internet searches to see if people have been tricked, infected or victimized by the site or service you are considering. There’s never been more readily available consumer information to keep you safe, so use it. I can’t promise Nobel prizes for your new care online but keeping safe and protecting your wallet and information should be reward enough.

Congratulations to Nobel Prize Winners of 2011!

Chemistry: Dan Schechtman “Discovery of Quasicrystals”

Physics:  Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, Adam G. Reiss, "Discovery of the Accelerating Expansion of the Universe Through Observations of Distant Supernovae"

Physiology or Medicine: was divided, one half jointly to Bruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffman, "Discoveries Concerning the Activation of Innate Immunity" and the other half to Ralph M. Steinman "Discover of the Dendritic Cell and its Role in Adaptive Immunity".