You just couldn’t help it, could you? You had to click it, didn’t you?
Well, you’re not alone. Most of us do. It’s an example of social engineering, and social engineering is one of the primary ways hackers and virus writers find their way on to your computer.
In most cases, it’s harmless fun, like with Upworthy and other trusted sites like The Onion. However, the same marketing strategies are used to trick thousands, if not millions of people every day into divulging information about themselves, data-mining their habits, or even providing safe passage on their computer. As a Symantec executive (Norton Antivirus) said recently, “Antivirus is dead,” and that only about 45% of viruses are detected. The reason antivirus is “dead” is because of social engineering. (Note: You still want to have antivirus protection as a first line of defense. Forty-five percent is still forty-five percent.)
A common excuse is, “I have nothing to hide,” and that may be true, but besides rendering your computer slow or completely useless, do you really want your computer used as part of a network to hack a government website, or to steal personal information from other unsuspecting Americans, or by Iran to steal state secrets? These examples are some of the most egregious, but are primary examples of what happens every minute of every day – all made possible by a lack of understanding (and/or apathy) of the biology of why we make the choices we make.
Our caveman-evolved brains on auto-pilot make irrational choices in the modern world by default. This is a glitch in the human brain that evolved to survive in the stone age, trying to make sense of the flood of technology and information in the 21st Century.
Skepticism (not cynicism) is a healthy trait these days, if not in the real world, definitely on your computer and television. Before you act, ask yourself, “What do they already know about me that I don’t?” or better yet, “Why am I in their target market?”
And when you figure it out, you just might spit out your coffee.