Thursday, November 29, 2012

Simplicity and Security!

Everyday I am thankful for my simple, downsized, frugal lifestyle. It boggles my mind to see the Black Friday and Cyber Monday feeding frenzies. It sets me back on my heals when I see how lives are decimated when a natural (albeit, once in forever) weather event devastates cities, towns, communities taking homes, businesses and infrastructures. And, of course, the complexity of sorting it all out, fixing, rebuilding, replacing and so on. I was there. I fully understand. The crazy thing for me is that I knew my life was complex and I wanted it to be simple. It just required an entire change of mindset, a lot of stress (with some emotional/psychological pain) and, probably, more determination then I'd ever mustered before.

So, my life is simpler. My footprint is much smaller. My monthly overhead is about 20% of what it was just a few short years ago. But, I'll be darned if my life still isn't more complicated than I really want it to be. Some people think I should probably just go live in a one room cabin with a dirt floor in the back woods somewhere getting my water from a nearby stream and reading by lantern light. Okay, that's too extreme for me. I don't want to give up every aspect of our modern society. I just don't want my life controlled by the stuff I own and the space I need to store it and the expense of maintaining it all. It's like my original dream of a 38-40 foot diesel pusher motor coach as my full-time condo on wheels. After a lot of contemplation and research I realized that I was only trading one form of complexity and expensive lifestyle for another.

So, as I do most days, early in the morning I scan the New York Times and Washington Post, a number of newsletters I receive from various organizations and many of the blogs I do my best to keep up with for interesting articles that are either of interest to me about many of the current issues of society or about specific topics of interest to me. This morning, I saw an article by my Las Vegas friend and the evening news anchor on KLAS-TV, Dave Courvoisier. It was published in an online voice-over trade magazine, VoiceOverXtra and was about scams, hackers, passwords and cyber security. Gees! Just what I needed. I thought I had been doing pretty good at maintaining my Internet security. Dave's article was short, but he included a link to a five page article on the subject in Wired Magazine, a respected IT journal.

Okay, the topic intrigued me, so I bit and went to the link. It was a long article. It took quite a while to read and absorb it. And, darn, Dave and that article opened my eyes and my mind to an entire new aspect of simplifying my life. If you're interested in preventing a cyber security "storm" from devasting your life and decimating everything you've worked for, financially, for your entire life, you may want to read the article, too. Here's the link - Kill the Password: Why a String of Characters Can't Protect Us Anymore.

The bottom line for me is that I have a new simplification initiative. I know I have accounts open that I never use and haven't for years. I see them on my credit report every time I check it. So, I have to close all accounts that are or even appear to be open. As strong as I believe my passwords are, I need to rethink them and change them on every account vulnerable for a hacker to get into and decimate me. I need to rethink the answer to all my "security questions" on sites that require them. I need to rethink and rechannel any resources I have that are not used for day to day transactions and secure them as best I can, preferably without Internet vulnerability. I need to rethink what information and how much information I have accessible about myself on the Internet. In other words, I need to downsize and simplify my cyber footprint and make my financial resources, limited as they may be, as secure as possible (maybe even tucking some in my mattress and some in a money belt I should probably wear).

Okay, I may be allowing myself to become a bit facetious here. And, I don't want to come across as being totally paranoid. But, I simply suggest that you ask yourself these questions. One, how secure would you feel walking into a known high-crime area carrying every dime and valuable possession you have? Two, what would your life be like if you had to experience an event like the recent Sandy super storm, Katrina, Camille, Andrew and a myriad of other natural events like floods, earthquakes and wild fires and lose your home, vehicles and everything in it? Three, how would you feel if someone (probably a 14 year old kid and/or cyber crime gangs from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union) hacked your identity and your accounts and cleared you out?

Well, the answer to number one is simple, most of us are smart enough not to carry all our wealth into such a known, crime ridden place. The answer to number two is that, while you might lose many irreplaceable things, you might have insurance to compensate you for some or much of it. The answer for number three, unfortunately, is that it's likely you may never be able to recover from a cyber hacking attack and if you do recover to some degree it will be a long, complicated and expensive road to recovery. And, here's the worse part, you can't see it coming and may not even know it's happened until after the fact and it's too late.

Simplify and downsize your cyber exposure. Hacking, scams and all forms of cyber crime are exponentially increasing. We're not talking about millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars. We're talking multiple billions of dollars each year and ever growing. This is now a priority and a significant part of my downsizing and simplifying strategy for living free. 

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