As hackers disrupt, InfraGard may hold key to security online

Guarding oneself against the unknown is an ancient concept, and one that has likely contributed to the survival of a number of species throughout history.

The “unknowns” out there in this great world are plentiful, and many more than we’d ever expect are preying on the young, the old, the gullible. They’re preying on them for pleasure, for profit or for some other obscure motive.

The young, as some would say, don’t know any better, and the old are simply “too trusting,” while the gullible, well, they’re unfortunately just easily duped into believing some incredulous fabrication, or driven by their own hopeful prospects of future riches.

It may sound like the story of some distant dog-eat-dog jungle, or a winner-takes-all tale from long ago, but these are some of the unhappy aftereffects we see all too much of in this day and age, when the internet and social media are at the tips of so many fingers throughout the world.

Caution is urged so often about safe internet use, and again, we must stress that notion upon our readers.

Times are changing. Cross-country connections can be made instantaneously through the web, and a massive treasure trove of information is available to an ever-growing audience like never before in history. One can check bank accounts, transfer money or file his or her taxes online with the simple click of a mouse.

Meanwhile, social media has allowed us to stay in touch with friends and family in new ways, or follow trendy and “fashionable” things, if that’s what you’re into. Social media has contributed to greatly needed cultural shifts as well, such as the #MeToo movement, and has allowed people to connect with each other and rally behind ideas much larger than themselves.

But at the same time, the vast, complex and overwhelming exchange of information on the internet can be tangled with inaccuracies, falsehoods and half-truths. Lies and liars are just as common, if not more so, in the internet world and scams take on all shapes and forms.

Bullying is also an issue in cyberspace, and something many of us by now are hopefully aware of.

These were some of the topics discussed recently at a Michigan InfraGard event at Northern Michigan University.

The Michigan InfraGard is a public-private partnership with the FBI that’s dedicated to the protection of Americans, particularly infrastructure and resources, which might include something like information technology systems, energy grids or water systems, transportation networks, government facilities and banking and financial institutions.

Media reports have been widely circulated of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and there is talk of additional interference in upcoming elections. This adds another level to the idea of a safe internet, because not only are we personally susceptible to scams and bullying, but the government operations we rely on might be thrown into chaos if hacked by an outside force.

More of our personal information is out there in cyberspace than in past years, and there are people looking for it. Protecting ourselves from the unknowns, and potential threats, in the internet world requires diligence at all levels.

Some of these issues may not be under our direct control, but whether it’s a parent watching over a child’s social media use, or a national banking institution ensuring its clients’ personal information remains safe, we all have some responsibility to do what we can to make sure the internet is used appropriately.