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Computer Security: Why the Internet is not Christmas


Maybe this is a bit far-fetched, but have you ever thought about the differences between the Internet and Christmas? The distinction between hyperlinks and presents? The contrast between clicking and unwrapping? Basically, in one word, it is trust.

Western-style Christmas has turned into a commercialized religious festival. Presents all over the place. Wrapped boxes. We are not discussing here whether this is good or not, we’re just talking about the love and affection that comes with being given a present. Because usually, the gifts presented to you come with goodwill and the goal of making you happier (apart from some nasty family members who never get it right and just want to annoy you). And in a spirit of trust, curiosity and fun, you open the wrapping in the expectation of more happiness being just around the corner.

Enter the Internet. Isn’t the Internet also a bit like Christmas? Behind every strange webpage, behind every newly received e-mail and attachment, behind every new post, might lurk more pleasure. Funny cat pictures. New music videos. Lovely Instagram stories. And we curiously click our way through post after post, photo after photo, swiping left and swiping right, scrolling, scrolling and scrolling even further down. Because what we get, what we see, can be funny and interesting, enriching and satisfying. Again and again. With our curiosity as a motivator. Hence, we click and click. Unfortunately, this is where the big difference comes in…

While at Christmas the gifts and presents (usually) come from people you like and love, respect and trust, the Internet is not necessarily like that. Trust is the key when opening up gifts and the same is true of browsing the Internet. But the Internet is anonymous. As a famous proverb says, “On the Internet, nobody knows that you are a dog”... And how can you trust a dog, or any other stranger presenting you with an unsolicited post, link, URL, webpage, e-mail or attachment? Instead of increasing your happiness, the malicious dogs of the Internet might want to try to bring you grief and pain: infect your computer, delete your data, steal your money, make fun of your photos, compromise your digital life and that of your family. On the Internet, you must be vigilant and careful when being presented with links, posts, URLs, e-mails, webpages or attachments. The Internet is not Christmas…

So, continue unwrapping your gifts, tear the wrapping into pieces, open your presents innocently and with curiosity, but hold back when it comes to the digital world. STOP – THINK – DON’T CLICK next time you receive an e-mail, next time you are about to open an attachment, next time you plan to download and install software, next time you want to click on that new link. Can you trust its originator? Can you trust its provenance? Can you trust that what you believe you’ll get is harmless and will make you happier? If so, go ahead. If you have a doubt, maybe just skip it this time. Or check your suspicious e-mail, attachment, link or webpage with us at Computer.Security@cern.ch.

With those words, we wish you a calm and stress-free holiday season and a happy and cyber-secure 2020. Relax and, maybe, discuss with your friends and family why Christmas is much better than the Internet…


Do you want to learn more about computer security incidents and issues at CERN? Follow our Monthly Report. For further information, questions or help, check our website or contact us at Computer.Security@cern.ch.