Cybersecurity: Outrunning the digital bear


In cybersecurity, there is a concept that can be likened to a saying often used to describe survival scenarios in the wild: “You don't have to outrun the bear. You just have to be faster than the slowest guy.” This principle applies to a surprisingly broad range of situations, but its relevance to the realm of cybersecurity is particularly enlightening.

Let's first understand the “bear” in this context to understand the concept better. The “bear” is a metaphor for the multitude of cyber threats in the digital space, such as hackers, malware, phishing attempts, and ransomware. These threats are perpetually on the prowl, looking for their next victim in the vast expanse of the digital forest.

However, like a bear, cyber threats usually go for the easiest prey. Hackers, for instance, prefer targets that offer the least resistance – systems that are inadequately protected, outdated, or managed by individuals or organizations with limited cybersecurity knowledge. They're in the game for quick wins, and spending time trying to breach a well-fortified system is often not worth the effort when plenty of vulnerable targets are available.

In this scenario, being the “slowest guy” means having the weakest security measures among the potential targets within a hacker's reach. This doesn't mean that the most secure systems are invulnerable, but they are significantly less likely to be attacked because the effort required to compromise them is often not worth the potential gain.

So, what does it mean to "outrun the bear" in cybersecurity? Essentially, it's about ensuring that your cybersecurity measures are stronger than the weakest among your friends. It's about taking a proactive stance toward security threats and continually improving your defenses to stay ahead of the curve.

Here are a few key steps to ensure you're not the “slowest guy” in the digital forest:

Regular updates and patches: Keep your software, operating systems, and applications up-to-date. Developers constantly release patches and updates to fix vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit.
Use strong passwords and 2FA: Follow the best practices in creating strong passwords and use 2FA as a second layer of protection.

Do not use public Wi-Fi when doing financial transactions: Public Wi-Fi can be compromised, and hackers might read everything you do online.

Employee training: Humans are often the weakest link in cybersecurity. Regular training on recognizing phishing attempts, safe internet practices, and secure password creation can significantly bolster your security.
Use of security tools: Deploy robust security tools like firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems. Moreover, consider employing encryption for sensitive data and using multi-factor authentication for added security.

Monitor your accounts: Regular monitoring of your online accounts can help identify if you have been a victim of cybercrime. If you suspect your account is compromised, immediately report it to your online platform.

Remember, the goal isn't to be impenetrable to attacks — that's a near-impossible task given the evolving nature of cyber threats. The goal is to be a less attractive target than others, to “outrun the slowest guy.” Adopting a proactive approach to cybersecurity and continually enhancing your defenses can ensure you're not the easiest prey for the cyber “bear.” This way, you may never have to actually outrun the bear, as it will likely be too busy chasing slower, more vulnerable targets.

(Art Samaniego, Jr. is the head of Manila Bulletin IT Department and is the editor of Technews.)