Down the Rabbit Hole of Cyber Security

Book Review, Computers, General Interest, Privacy, Security, Technology

By Amy Steinbauer

This week, I will be diving into some interesting and current issues brought forth from my current read, “Cyberphobia” by Edward Lucas. It started as a simple book review, but there is so much pertinent information in this book that I think it would be best to share in multiple posts.

Every once in awhile I like to read some social science nonfiction, but when I was shelf reading the new nonfiction titles and saw the title “Cyberphobia” I knew I had to read it. It spoke to me.

CyberphobiaI think I am slightly more suspicious than the average online user, but I fail to update my computer or change my passwords, as I should. And, if I think too hard about all the data that I have to be accessed online, I want to chuck my computer out the window and run into the woods, living off the grid. But since, I am addicted to my smartphone and screens in general, I try to ignore my fears, and be as safe as I can in a digital world, and embrace the “ignorance is bliss” mantra. However, being a librarian, and a life-long learner, I can only ignore it for so long.

Ten minutes into “Cyberphobia”, I was pulling out little post-it tabs to mark the passages with crazy stats or eye-opening information until the book looked like a psychopaths notebook!

Who are you? Online Identity

In this book, Lucas discusses the problem with establishing a secure identity online. He uses an average, but fake couple Chip and Pin Hakhett to illuminate how complicated it can be for them to confirm their identity once it has been compromised. This fascinated me because of all the energy we put in creating our online selves. To solidify our identity, we trade our selves into online brands, we use filters to make our photos pop, we Photoshop our photos to take out what we don’t like, we keep up with the latest apps and social media connections, we use selfie sticks to get our best angles, etc. We spend hours on our online identities, that is the way that the world sees us, but, how much time do you spend worrying about your online identity in terms of safety?

One of the safest ways to ensure your safety online is to require a two-step security engagement with your email, banking, anything that you do that would be majorly infringed if someone had access to it. This was interesting to me because I have always been reluctant to link my online life to my phone number or other identifiers, I thought it would make my security weak by establishing a connection, but in actuality, it could help to keep me safer online. (Assuming that your phone has also not been compromised!)

Customer vs. Product

One of the main and recurring points that Lucas harps on is that in the online world, we think of ourselves as the customer or user of the things we use (products?), however, we are really the PRODUCTS. The free services we use, ahem: Google: has millions of customers that pay for our eyeballs. This is earth shattering as a librarian. We are always thinking about service, about what we provide to our patrons/customers. So when we use things, we naturally assume that since there is a use involved, we are USERS, and they are paying for us to use them.


Since I read this book, I happened to have two online Fraud problems. (Was it the author’s evil plan to make me take him seriously?) Online identity snuck up on me when I failed to be able to answer my security questions and passwords for my car loan, and then my online grocery order was deemed fraudulent and my bank cancelled the order as I slept, peacefully unaware that my drinks and deli meats would not arrive in the morning.

Next post will discuss some practical ways of beefing up your online security.


Amy Steinbauer is the Early Childhood Outreach Library at the Beaumont Library District in Southern CA. She drives a bookmobile and specializes in outreach and early literacy! She has her MLISc from University of Hawaii, and a B.A. in English from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. She won the 2015 Conable Scholarship to attend ALA Annual in San Francisco, and will be presenting at the 2016 Annual conference in Orlando, FL. She loves professional development, and is currently serving as a Board Member at Large for the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), is on ALA’s Public Awareness Committee, and on the SASCO Committee through NMRT. She loves mermaids, and advocating for libraries, and will one day combine them both to take over the world! Until then, follow her on twitter @merbrarian.

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