Housewives’ Choice

Simple cyber security measures could become part of everyday domestic life

Over the Easter weekend I found myself in a second-hand bookshop and strangely transfixed by the August 1947 edition of ‘The Housewife’ magazine. Don’t judge!

This piece of print that ran to over a hundred pages was a wonderful window onto the domestic lives, lived out across this country a couple of generations ago. By today’s standards the tone is overwhelmingly condescending and is more akin to the recent crop of adult parodies from Ladybird that have been stalwarts of gift givers over the last couple of Christmases, as opposed to serious advice.

With adverts, whose words would cry out “Husbands don’t fall for rough hands and housemaids knee” (I’m not making this up) or would try tempting 1940s housewives to part with some of their ‘housekeeping’ budget on such questionable remedies as “California syrup of figs, because it’s the laxative that children like” started to make for quite compelling reading.

Not surprisingly in this edition there was no mention of cyber security, but nestling in amongst the features on garden bonnet making and creating cardigans for three year olds there was a message issued by the ‘Ministry of Fuel and Power’ urging us all to ‘save more gas and electricity’ – now that sounds familiar! The aim back then was to save over 2.5million tons of coal by the forthcoming winter and gave a few helpful suggestions on how this could be achieved.

“Iron all your clothes at one time”, was one such suggestion, as was reviewing you meter card to see if you could put in only three coins for every four that you put in last summer.

Fast forward to today and I’ve recently put in a smart IoT thermostat in my home, attempting to save on energy. Two generations apart and we are still adhering to the common cause of saving energy.

This isn’t an isolated case of course, we have all been flooded with safety advice in many areas of our life, from home, to travel, to work. These show no sign of abating and are gently morphing to encompass any activity we undertake where there is a potential risk.

Becoming green is another, a concept that came not from the mainstream but initially as a fringe movement, but whose tenacity and determination to get us all using less, recycling more and having a greater awareness of the effects our everyday actions has on our planet is now central to many government policies and lifestyle choices.

Could cyber security become the next domestic movement to enter the mainstream and be constantly reinforced for generations to come? I think so and in fact maybe if the cyber awareness campaigns were targeted to a more domestic setting, as opposed to the business to business and technology markets that that currently are, then we may see a greater adoption of some of their most basic recommendations.

Alongside putting the recycling out, or turning down the thermostat to save on some emissions, families would update all their passwords on a regular basis. Just before heading to bed and brushing their teeth a family would set all their devices to update their software and ensure that their anti-malware was running.

This may jar a little on initial thought, but so many other domestic routines felt unnatural at the time of adoption. I recall vividly how my maternal Grandmother could simply not get used to putting on her seat belt in a car. Whereas nowadays it’s more unnatural, not to say illegal, not to do that. The same for recycling, in the past cardboard boxes would be trashed without a second thought, but now they are separated from other domestic rubbish and placed in to the right wheelie bin to ensure recycling. Not taking this little environmentally aware step engenders a sense of guilt that we may not be doing our best to save the planet.

So, to all cyber awareness campaign creators, to all cyber security solution providers, maybe stop advertising where you currently are and get in touch with the modern interpretation of ‘The Housewife’ magazine and make simple cyber security a natural part of everyday life.

I think the message has gotten through that it’s a threat and a problem, what’s needed now is some easily accessible, easily digestible and not too complex advice. Advice that in a couple of generations time somebody will read in a dusty second hand book shop and with a wry smile will laugh at how old fashioned and simple cyber security was back then in the first quarter of the twenty first century.

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