There is no doubt that our new world of technology is fraught with security breaches, cyber-spying and identity theft. What can you do about it and should you be afraid? Read on to find out.

Recent security breaches and cyber-attacks have showed everyone that nothing is ever totally 100% secure. This should not surprise you because the same crooks and criminals that populate the real world also live in our new cyber world.

When we were young we learned that we should lock our doors, watch our wallets, and stay out of dark alleys. Our parents helped us navigate the real world. We are now grown up and a part of the new digital world. For most of us, our parents aren’t there to help us anymore, we have to sort through and learn the necessary steps to take to keep us safe in that world on our own…. And that can be a somewhat daunting task.

Let’s take the analogy about the real and digital world one step farther. In the real world, there are many different cities and neighborhoods and some are safer than others. So the safety precautions you take can be different depending on where you happen to live and work. For instance, in a very safe neighborhood you might not lock your car every time you step out of it.  If, however, you happen to be on the South side of Chicago, you would never, ever think of leaving your car unlocked.

In the real world we have cities and neighborhoods. In the digital world, instead of neghborhoods, we have ecosystems that revolve around certain companies and operating systems. The main ecosystems right now would be PC and Windows (Microsoft), iPad, iPhone, and Mac (Apple), Kindle (Amazon), and Android (Google.) Each of these has its own degree of security and/or vulnerability.

As you know the Windows world is the largest and the most vulnerable. If you work on a Windows computer, your safety requires a good antivirus program and constant monitoring. In the Apple world, Mac computers don’t get as many viruses as Windows computers, but they still do get some. And as the number of Mac users increase, the number of viruses will also increase. Several of you have asked me if you need an antivirus program for your Mac. While not absolutely necessary at this time, I have seen enough Mac viruses to make me use one on my Mac. I use a free anti-virus from Sophos on my Mac.

As far as mobile devices go, again, Apple is the safest. This is because Apple runs an entirely closed system. They provide both the hardware and software that runs the device and the App store where you get apps. On mobile devices, the apps have the most vulnerability. Apple scrutinizes every app that they offer making the whole system safer. Amazon is the next safest neighborhood. The Kindle system is based on an Android system, but lies in a different category because Amazon has customized the Android operating system and controls their apps by providing their own Kindle app store.

Microsoft phones and tablets running Windows 8 RT (not the full version of Windows 8), are also fairly save because, Microsoft has their own app store. But since Microsoft doesn’t make all the hardware that runs Windows mobile devices, there are additional vulnerabilities.

Last, but not least, are the popular Android phones and tablets. Because Android is an open operating system and the Google Play Store where you get Android apps is not so closely scrutinized, this is actually the most vulnerable mobile neighborhood. Although, if you make sure that you use only tried-and-true apps, you will be fairly safe. I have been using Android phones and tablets for years without an anti-virus program, but we may be nearing the point where this will be needed.

No matter which ecosystem you reside in, you must perform updates to the software to keep the bad guys away. Microsoft has regular updates and Apple had an update recently that closed a major security hole in their mobile software. Also be sure to initiate good habits. Don’t click on links unless you know where they will lead you. Don’t think that the email telling you that you won the British lottery is real. Don’t even click on an email link and then give out any personal information, even if it looks like it is from your bank.

We are already smart enough to keep our wallets safe and to shred paper documents with personal information. Now we are all learning about how to take care of our own cyber security. But don’t let this scare you. I am sure that there are people who are too afraid of thieves, rapists, and other thugs to go out of the house. Don’t let that happen to you in the digital world. Learn what to do to protect yourself and go ahead and enjoy the high tech world. Just like in the real world, there is a lot more to love than there is to fear.