...especially if you don't know when to be fearful!
Humans are naturally curious. Curiosity is an essential part of our development and growth. Before they can be taught, babies learn through their curiosity, by using their senses to explore their surroundings. And our scientific discoveries are driven by our curiosity about the world – and the universe – we live in. Walt Disney said ‘We keep moving forward, opening new doors, because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths’.
But on the other hand, curiosity is not without risk - it did, of course, ‘kill the cat’. The exact circumstances of this particular feline fatality are not recorded, but presumably the cat in question allowed its curiosity to override consideration of the potential adverse consequences of further exploration, resulting in its untimely demise. As the Irish writer James Stephens wrote ‘Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will’. But in dangerous situations, it’s a good thing to be fearful. And it’s a good thing to be aware of the possible dangers, so that you know how brave you want to be.
This is every bit as true in today’s digital world as in real life. The internet, social media, connectivity, all are wonderful inventions and can help enrich our lives, but they nevertheless contain many dangers into which the overly curious and insufficiently cautious can easily stumble. Just as in the real world, there are people online who see opportunities for their own advantage by causing mischief and harm to others. Some of these people are highly skilled in the art of manipulation, and fully understand the power of curiosity. So they lay traps that will attract the curious. And many of us may be insufficiently fearful, because we aren’t adequately aware of the dangers. So often the traps don’t need to be particularly sophisticated. Something as simple as an email inviting us to ‘look at this, this is an interesting/ amusing/exciting link’ is often enough to persuade us to perform the fateful click -which then downloads the malware or the virus which infects our computer, and possibly the wider network to which it may be connected.
What’s more, the bad guys know that they only need our curiosity to conquer our fear (or ignorance) just once. They can have multiple attempts, with lots of different individuals, and they only need one click for them to be successful. And so the odds are stacked in their favour – and even more so if people aren’t aware of the threats, and don’t know what to look out for. And all the evidence shows that most of us are not as aware as we could and should be – for example, in a recent survey conducted by Proofpoint, 64% of respondents did not know what Ransomware was, 33% were unable to define Phishing, and 32% were unable to explain what was meant by the term Malware.