3 simple steps for talking about security at the holiday table, without it getting awkward

You're sitting around the holiday table - tired of hearing about Dad's new snowblower or the big-box store being built down the road - and you want to bravely steer the conversation to information security.

Make sense, because that's what you do for a living, and you care about your family staying protected online. (Well, at least most of them).

But you're not quite sure how to connect with them on this subject - beyond when your aunt asks for help because her printer won't print. If executed poorly, you could insult them, bore them or end up so frustrated that you find yourself gulping egg nog at an unhealthy pace.

Think of this as a practice session for the next time you're in your CEO's office, lobbying for more budget. Here's your plan of attack, in three-ish steps.


Speak in understandable terms

Cyber security is sexy. People have seen it talked about on the news, and chances are, they notice it more and more in their daily activities. But while drive-by downloads, 0-days, buffer overflows and trojan executables are your vernacular, for the rest of the world, you might as well be speaking Swahili.

When describing your job to the masses, it's best to consider yourself like James Bond: You fight bad guys and keep people safe. You just happen to do it online. But your job is cool. Own it.

Then, explain - in easy-to-understand terms - how most security incidents happen. Someone clicked on a link or attachment that looked legitimate. Or, they accidentally left their work laptop unlocked in their car. It can happen to anyone.


Come armed with stats about data exposure

People like numbers. Make it easy for them to understand how extensive the threat of malware and data loss is. For example, did you know that the expected increase in global data by 2020 is 2,000 percent? Or did you know that 705 million (and rising) personal records have been exposed in 2013, more than any year in recent memory? Or did you know that 93 percent of U.K. businesses reported being breached this year.

Want more stats? Turn to 2013 Trustwave Global Security Report.


Listen, be patient and offer something tangible

Your family may feel doltish in your presence and may be nervous to ask a question or admit something bone-headed they did while online. Remind them how good hackers are at tricking people - even security practitioners can be duped - and reassure them that everybody makes mistakes. Offer up an example of that one time when you misconfigured an adapter and it practically brought down the whole corporate network. They'll laugh. Hey, misery loves company.

Now that they feel more relaxed, they may inquire more about your job - allowing you to win points with Mom and Dad, who no longer have to describe your career to their friends as: "Oh, he works in computers."

Your work is almost done. To conclude, it's always helpful to provide a takeaway. You probably were offering security awareness advice throughout, but recommending free protection technology that they can easily install, such as the Trustwave SecureBrowsing tool, can't hurt.

Happy Holidays!

Dan Kaplan is manager of online content at Trustwave.

 



Trustwave reserves the right to review all comments in the discussion below. Please note that for security and other reasons, we may not approve comments containing links.