I am reminded about an old early 80s song by the Kinks called Destroyer. The chorus of the song is simply “Paranoia May Destroy Ya”. We have many conversations with people over the course of each week about the need for security awareness training, and the concern that awareness training will make them overly paranoid. We have heard this from people who frequently travel to high risk places, and from every day citizens who are afraid we will ruin their utopian worldview and sense of safety. Their version of what they believe we teach is a version of the Kinks Destroyer song. In reality we teach something completely opposite this paradigm, and simply teach people to be aware of the baseline so that they can make informed decisions when they sense danger.
The way I explain being trained in awareness, is like having an antivirus running in the background while you work on your computer. When you are trained to be aware and to know what you are looking for, awareness allows you to operate without paranoia. It is simply part of what you do every day. I will admit that somewhere in my life I realized that there are people in the world who capitalize on and exploit innocent people. I also had to realize that those people surrounded me, to varying degrees, every day of my life. That is an unpleasant reality but I would argue that I can acknowledge that reality without being paranoid. I then had to learn to recognize what normal looked like so that when something wasn’t normal it would stand out to me. Perhaps the most difficult thing to learn is how to make a decision to deal with the threat, once recognized.
Do you pay attention of your surroundings? Have you taken note of who is in your neighborhood when you walk out the door in the morning? What cars were there? What did it sound like? What does normal look like on your street? Then repeat this process on your commute to work. Repeat the process at work, and on your way home from work. Repeat this process before you go to bed at night. After a few weeks of this exercise you will have developed security habits that are simply a part of who you are. Awareness is nothing like being paranoid and chasing a little green man in your head. Awareness is a state of mind, and simply running an antivirus in the background once you have developed a baseline understanding of what right looks, feels, sounds, and smells like. Like any good antivirus, you have to have parts of your program that deal with threats. Once you are trained, your antivirus software will work best after you have rehearsed the actions you need to take for the scenarios for which you need to be prepared. The training and the awareness will remain part of the habits you have, but not paranoia. They will simply be running in the background, waiting for a reason to act.
If you take additional measures that we often recommend such as running Find My Phone and giving someone the ability to track your phone, fit bit, and other devices will give you freedom as well. We often hear simple things such as”I don’t want the government to track me” or “I don’t want anyone to be able to hack me”. While I understand both statements I have to argue that for the everyday Joe or Jane, both of these statements can cause you to become paranoid. We recommend that someone have the ability to see where you are through multiple means of communications. The iPhone SOS feature and Find My Phone apps are both wonderful features. Several sports watches have emergency notifications systems which will send an emergency message if you are in a bad location. The reality is that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Allowing someone to know where you are does not create paranoia but instead allows you to focus on life.
The reality is that paranoia is what keeps people from getting trained. Paranoia of knowing how to have situational awareness, and the ability to react to things which may arise is what we call being an oblivion. Oblivions are generally afraid of life, and our goal is to help you not to be one. We want you to be able to run your personal safety antivirus in the background everyday, ready to survive.