Comic strip heroes are more than just entertainment. Behind every great comic strip, there’s a valuable lesson. Comic strips teach us that everyone has their own special superpower. With the upcoming release of Wonder Woman 1984, we took the opportunity to talk superheroes, superpowers and protecting data with Briana Butler, Engineering Services Manager at affiliate company, Webroot™.
Q: Wonder Woman got her powers from her divine mother, Queen Hippolyta. How did you get your data protection superpowers?
I had a reboot in life. I was actually in retail as a buyer and then I went back to school for computer science and ended up switching to the business school. I was hired to be a bridge between engineering and business – you have to have people that can speak both languages. That's exactly what I wanted to do and what I was trying to forge with my new career. So, here I am.
I first began as a data analyst, which meant working on privacy compliance, GDPR, CCPA, and data mapping, understanding where data is stored and processed, and who has access to it. My latest role is as an Engineering Services Manager, meaning I help engineering and product with personnel and hiring needs, ISO certification and making sure our development teams receive the training they need to stay up to date with the fast pace of tech.
Q: Wonder Woman had several superpowers, or super powerful gadgets, like indestructible bracelets and a lasso that forced people to tell the truth. Is cyber resilience a superpower?
Every superhero has different talents or powers. When we think of cyber resilience, it’s sort of our own personal toolbox of powers that we can use against malicious actors who want to take our data and make money off it.
It's our toolbox of resilience, and it includes those basic best practices, like knowing how to create a strong password, and not click every link that comes through without making sure it's something you're expecting or from somebody you know, and how to navigate and defend yourself online.
Q: What about our data? Does that give us any powers that we wouldn’t have without it?
I think it's more about understanding the power it has if we give it to others. When we give people access to our data, that's when it becomes powerful. Whether it's corporations or malicious actors, when we willingly hand out our data, that gives it power because then, they know things about us. I talk a lot about privacy and why everyone should be more critical and cognizant of the data they’re sharing. We share a lot more than we realize. It's time for all of us to understand what we're sharing and make sure that we really want to be sharing it.
Q: Wonder Woman encountered her fair share of comic strip villains, like the Duke of Deception, Doctor Psycho and Cheetah. Who are the villains in the digital world?
They’re the malicious actors and cybercriminals who would use your data and sell it on the open market. Or it could even be the person trying to get access to your Hulu account. There are also nation-state actors and the companies you buy things from. There's a huge spectrum of villains. Everyone wants data. There’s big money in data. So, it's important that you’re aware of what’s being shared.
I've started reading privacy policies – those long, convoluted legal documents – to see if I can understand where I’m going to be sharing my information and make a conscious decision.
For one large social platform, when I went through it, I started asking myself, am I really okay sharing this? Do I really need this service or platform? Is it necessary in exchange for what I'm about to share with them? In the end, I didn't sign up for it.
I've also gone through the frustrating and somewhat time-consuming act of cleaning up all my passwords and using a password manager. Most people say they have anywhere from 15 to 20 password-protected accounts. But when I actually went through all the places I’ve shared my password, it was upwards of 100.
One of my favorite topics is password strength. We recently did an analysis of password configurations with Maurice Schmidtler, our head data scientist, who created a Monte Carlo simulation. We took what you usually see when you're told to create a password – like using uppercase and lowercase letters or special symbols – and applied those within the simulation. What we found was that the more constraints you put on a password, the fewer viable options you have for a strong password, meaning it decreases the number of good password options. Whereas if you focus on creating a strong password, where length is more important than the various character-type constraints, you’ll end up with a much stronger password. Length is strength because it takes more computing power to break.
Q: Wonder Woman was a founding member of the Justice League. So, even she needed the help of a squad to defeat the villains. Do we need help from a squad to be more cyber resilient?
We all need assistance because we are fallible. Inevitably, someone might click on a malicious link, or something might happen where you need assistance or a backup that's going to allow you to reboot or recover so you don't lose anything.
When it comes to ransomware, or really any other attack you need awareness. That's why we do security awareness training, so people who are part of a company truly understand the threat landscape and how to identify these things.
Q: At one point in the story, Wonder Woman surrendered her superpowers and used fighting skills instead. In what ways do we surrender our powers when it comes to cyber resilience?
There are many ways you can give up your power. Oversharing content in general or data about yourself, your name or address. All these things that identify you and allow criminals to get information about you through social engineering.
You’re also surrendering power when you practice poor cyber hygiene, like repeating passwords across multiple logins. Once a cybercriminal gains access to one login, they can discover more details about you and use it elsewhere. For example, you may not be worried about a criminal getting access to your Netflix account, but if you use the same password there as you do with your bank, then the situation just became much more serious.
Do you patch your system? if you're not patching with the most up-to-date software, be it on your laptop, your phone or wherever you're using applications, you should because that's going to be one of your greatest vulnerabilities.
Q: Are you going to watch the new Wonder Woman movie?
Oh sure! I definitely will because I've seen all the other ones. I'm a big fan of Guardians of the Galaxy. And, of course, I love Iron Man. And I was a big fan of Black Panther, too. Doctor Strange is also one of my faves.
Q: If cybercriminals were villains from Wonder Woman, who would they be?
Definitely the Duke of Deception! Hackers, cybercriminals and nation-state actors are constant antagonists. That’s who we defend our users against.