Data Security, Digital Literacy and then some…



Alright, so to begin, this is not some trailer of the just published article. I will go through the essentials and cover the findings of the piece, ending with how to get access to it (unofficially, of course).

Firstly, it’s titled ‘Data Security: The Misuse of Technology and Points of Vulnerability in Everyday Information Systems’ and was included in the International Journal of Digital Literacy & Digital Competence. The whole point was to highlight scenarios where regular everyday technology can be/is misused in various environments (think; businesses, places of study/play). Digital literacy and its role in this context were also addressed. Digital literacy refers to skills required to effectively participate in a world were communication, creation and collaboration increasingly require an electronic device of some sort which can also connect to the internet. Data security on the other hand refers to how information on these devices are kept safe for long periods and without unwanted manipulation.

So, when you get a new smartphone or laptop or you are introduced to a new software at work or wherever, the first move is usually to learn the basic functions of the ‘thing’. “How can I do A?”, “Does It do B?”, “Oh, it can do C?!, nice!” …you know, the usual. We rarely think, “What If D happens?”, this is the main problem, we are rarely prepared even on a basic level for scenario D, where someone peeps over your shoulder while you input your password, or sends you that convincing marketing email for perfume that makes you speak 3 new languages of your choice. The point is, these devices are vulnerable in many ways by design and also unfortunately, we humans are as well…many of us are gullible, some of us do not go farther than the basics in most situations of our lives, others could not care less about tech. All this is fine, perfection is an illusion.

Generally, as we make use of these devices and systems, we WILL face threats that are either of a technical or non-technical nature *meaning what? You say…* Well, think of technical threats as malicious software that causes your phones, laptops, printers et al. to act unexpectedly, they have been designed with the aim of causing damage to the targeted machine. On the other hand, non-technical threats could be careless or vindictive individuals, ‘acts-of-god’, natural disasters and so on… (think of the many ways mother nature can ruin your stuff). For context, a 2016 report by PandaLabs -a cybersecurity outfit- showed that an average of 230,000 new malware were created daily and in 2017, a particularly nasty malware called ‘WannaCry’ was designed to lock all files on an infected computer thereby denying access to the owner. Also, people will straight up steal information with a flash drive, steal the devices completely or purposely sabotage them as revenge or something.

Data misuse is another serious issue that was addressed in the published piece, but what does this mean? As the phrase states, this is basically the abuse of personal or work-related information technology resources. Did you copy those files you weren’t meant to? did someone trick you into installing a virus on your computer? Oh, your phone’s memory card was stolen? well, sorry these are examples of data misuse. But a stark example of data misuse at a corporate level was in 2014 involving Uber…good ‘ol Uber, where about 10 of its employees abused one of the company’s internal app features called “God View”, the feature can track customers and drivers in real-time without their knowledge or express consent.

So, how does all this concern us…how does knowledge of these concepts of data security and misuse affect us. Well, first of all in reading to this point, digital literacy in already in play, because simply knowing a bit about this aspect of information technology has the potential to change attitudes towards the devices and machines that play an increasingly important role in our personal lives and businesses. The next question becomes, how can I take action to protect my data and/or device? And this is as easy as searching the internet for SIMPLE tips with phrases such as; ‘easy ways to protect my smartphone data’ or ‘how can I avoid email scams’. As sure as daylight, you’d come across easy to understand advice on how to better preserve your phone, laptop or tablet. The truth is that with the access most of us now have to the internet, one does not need to be buried in technical jargon or expertise in order to know basic data security practises. Also, other articles on this very website may have some gems…

Finally, concerning access to the paper itself, you could check out a summary on my Kudos profile (bless me with that traffic *wink, wink*), or view the abstract on IGI-global and if you want to reference it in your own work, I could provide a PDF copy no hassle.


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