Archive for the ‘Self-defence in General’ Category

Have you assessed this situation critically? Is the short cut worth the risk? (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader with additions

Being assaulted, attacked, robbed etc… will always be a horrible, unwanted experience. Yet, at any given time, all over the world, it is happening to someone. For the purposes of keeping it simple I am only going to be discussing basic assaults (eg. muggings). This subject will, of course, become more complex with regard to domestic disputes, or when the assault involves close friends, relatives, or mentors; such situations are impossibly complicated, as they are interwoven with emotion, personal connection, betrayal, and often shame. Perhaps “domestic and close relationship violence” could be a topic for another time (likely requiring another series)

For our discussion, imagine you were attacked while walking home, or you were mugged at an ATM. These are terrible experiences, and yet they are often somewhat avoidable. If you still watch the news or follow trends, you may often hear the term “victim blaming.” Discussing fault is typically frowned upon as it is considered cruel to say the person who got attacked was (even partially) to blame. Particularly in cases where it may have seemed unavoidable, taking responsibility for what happened, for most people is a daunting and heart wrenching task.

Before you jump down my throat, know that no one has the “right” to attack you and that these attacks are inexcusable. In most countries there are laws against such things, some of which have been in place for thousands of years. Yet this has not stopped assault, robbery, rape, and other garbage behavior. The idea that laws will protect you outright is, in many cases, delusional. If someone is trying to rob you, will you be able to call the police? Probably not. Even if you are somehow able to call 911, the response times can range from 5 minutes to no response at all (especially in today’s anti-police climate); which means that, when it comes to your own personal safety, you are the only one who can prevent immediate physical harm or death.

Of course, size matters. And if you are underage, with less life experience, it matters even more. If your attacker is bigger than you and decides to target you, fighting may be considerably more difficult and risky.

So what do you do, and why may it be your fault that you got attacked?

Simple, the best self-defence is avoidance. Though Krav Maga teaches to fight with all you have, this is really meant for when running is not an option. The goal, however, should always be to take a step back, think critically, and try to make good decisions and assessments so that you do not even have to make a fight or flight decision.

Hearing or even thinking that being attacked was, in one way or another, your fault, is a difficult idea to swallow and yet, if you don’t want such things to happen in the future you will have to make some changes. (Again, we are not talking about assaults involving partners, friends, or relatives)

The concept of personal responsibility or “ownership,” (made more popular these days by Jocko Willink in his books “Extreme Ownership” and ‘The Dichotomy of Leadership,” and by others in various publications) is a difficult concept for many, even in the best of times. You see, we have this thing called an Ego, and it wants to protect us and shift blame elsewhere. So if someone did a bad thing to us, we rationalize that it must be completely their fault. Yet, when it comes to self-defence and protecting yourself, that may not be entirely true.

Were you walking in a way that made you seem like an victim? With your head low, shoulders rolled forward, for example, are physical indicators that will lead an attacker to believe you are an easy target. Or did you, as Jordon Peterson would say, “stand up straight, with your shoulders high.” It may seem silly, but this simple change will take you from “easy target” to “potential problem” in the eyes of the attacker.

I, myself, am not the largest person, being 1.6m tall and (in the past) around 65-68kg. Yet I managed, despite my big mouth and tendency to offend people, even when I was younger and did not know how to fight, to not get jumped, or attacked, or worse (much to my surprise). In my case, it’s an explainable confidence that probably kept people guessing whether it was a good idea to attack me or not. I managed because I talked big and looked the part. Of course, occasionally I would recognize that I said the wrong thing to the wrong person, and I was immediately aware of that instinctual feeling: “It’s time to leave.”

Knowing when you are about to get in over your head, in any situations, is difficult. But knowing when you must leave (early “flight” indicators) will save you great pain and hardship. Failing to recognize that you, A) just pissed off a bunch of people, B) are probably in over your head, and C) failed to avoid further conflict, means that you are largely responsible for the resulting hospital trip. You failed to manage a bad situation, you stayed in that bad situation, and you allowed it to get worse.

Another example is the classic “taking a short cut through a dark alley.” Didn’t your mother tell you not too?! You can say all you want that “the person who robbed you shouldn’t have!” And you are right, they shouldn’t have, but your attacker doesn’t care; they are operating on a different moral scale then you are. Even if they are just trying to survive, they don’t have the right to take from you. But it really doesn’t matter in the moment, because now you are in the situation, and they are doing it. Failing to recognize that you were making a bad decision, a decision that put you in the position of being an easy target, makes it your fault. Failing to maintain situational awareness, to know when to run when you must, might be your fault to.

You might say, “Wait a second, for some people their body will cause them to have paralytic fear, causing them to freeze up and prevent any decision making that will be beneficial. So how can it possibly be their fault?”

Well, why did you go into the dark alley in the first place? Even if you knew it was a bad idea? Failure to recognize that decision as your fault may cause you to make it again and further compound any psychological trauma you may have experienced from the results of the first bad decision.

Furthermore, what did you do to prepare for violent situations? For most the answer is “Nothing.” Which would then be your fault. You assumed it would never happen to you and when it did you may have found yourself asking yourself, “why didn’t I do more?”

Prevention is the number one way to stay happy and healthy, which includes the ability to defend yourself. If you never learned even the basics of defending yourself, and you didn’t keep your body in good health so that you can run, it is again your fault.

We can say all we want that “people shouldn’t attack people” (which they shouldn’t) and “it’s their fault,” but we cannot control other people, we can only control ourselves, which means our personal safety is on us and us alone.

This, of course, doesn’t apply to small children, but as a parent you can teach and inform your children, in age appropriate ways, to give them the best possible chance of survival in any situation.

So, do you want to be the victim? Or do you want to take a proactive approach to self-defence, taking full personal responsibility. Learn to make good decisions, avoid people who might be problematic in your life, and learn to defend yourself.

Remember, it’s your life and your responsibility. While others contribute to who you are and why you are the way you are, when it comes to assault, in that single moment of time, all the blame on society, your parents, your significant other, are completely irrelevant. In that moment it is only you and them.

Did you do everything you could to avoid that horrible situation, or did you do nothing and wait to be the victim?

Written: by Jonathan Fader

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Audio By Jonathan Fader

During the Covid-19 lockdowns many people have found a lot of time to do a variety of things they might not normally had the time to focus on. For me, as many of the things I would like to do are not available or are sold out, I decided to reacquaint myself with one of my childhood passions.

POKÉMON!

Don’t lie, if you are under the age of, let’s say 40, there is a good chance that you too, at one time, wanted to be a “pokémon trainer” when you grew up.

Unfortunately, like many childhood dreams, this is one of those aspirations that is impossible in real life. Sigh, I can still dream.

Aside from the many cute pokémon, like Pikachu and Togepi, and the addictive nature of trying to achieve that lofty goal of “catching them all,” coupled with a brilliant cross platform global strategy, there are numerous reasons that Pokémon was, and is still, great.

While I did not think much of this as a kid, as I re-watch the original seasons, as well as the many, many, many seasons I missed (and they are still making new ones!), one of the great lessons the show teaches is that it is, in fact, OK to loose.

Even as a child I often thought the lead protagonist, Ash Ketchum, was a terrible pokémon trainer. This is mainly due to the fact that, in the original few seasons, he didn’t actually earn many of the gym badges by winning battles, but rather by foiling the plans of the “evil” Team Rocket. This means he probably didn’t actually deserve much of his respect as a trainer. So what did make him such a good trainer?

I think it’s the fact that win, loose, or draw, he would always keep going; he stayed consistent and kept a reasonably good attitude. Compare this to so many other cookie cutter kids shows or superhero series, where the protagonists always win in the end. I think Pokemon was a refreshing change, as it was far more based in reality than most other shows in regard to “winning.”

In most cases, these kids’ shows always result with the protagonist winning, which shelters young kids from one of the most important life skills; learning to fail. Pokémon, in contrast, showed you could win, loose, or draw, and still come out stronger.

For it is only in your losses that you can learn to improve. Only through adversity do you realize you need to change. If you only ever win, and only ever achieve the best, then you may not know how to truly assess and improve yourself.

A good, real life example of someone who clearly can’t handle loss would be Jon Jones. An amazing fighter who is one of the very best, yet is chronically having issues with the drugs and the law. Perhaps, had he faced a loss, or true adversity, he might have learned to be a better person as well as a better fighter. Maybe, had he been a pokémon trainer, this is a lesson he might have been forced to learn.

Whether you love Pokémon or hate Pokémon, the fact remains that it was and still is a worldwide phenomenon, one that experiences a resurgence in mass popularity every few years with some new version of the game. If you pay attention, you may realize that it’s a much better TV show for your child to watch than so many of the other cookie cutter junk out there; as it portrays the challenges of life (though in a fictional setting) in a much more realistic way.

So, whether it’s for your child, or yourself revisiting your childhood love, perhaps it’s time to look at Pokémon for some of it’s deeper lessons. Then learn to internalize the truth that it’s okay to lose, so long as you learn from it, and use that lesson to move forward and grow.

No matter what your endeavors are, keep going, stay consistent, and perhaps you too will metaphorically “catch them all,” as you will have built yourself up to the very best that you could be, a little bit at a time.

By: Jonathan Fader

This is the third part in a series titled Self-Defence is Not Just Physical.

Many interconnected factors contribute to a mental health breakdown. Defend yourself by taking action!
Audio by Jonathan Fader with additions

Out of all the topics covered in this series, this is the one I have the most formal education in. While my experience isn’t enough for me to claim to be an “expert,” it does provide me with insight on the topic of mental health. What I can say for certain is that in the area of mental health there is often a lot of “noise;” there are good studies and there are bad studies, and then there is everything in between.

One thing I learned early in the Psychology field is that, what is considered acceptable in a study isn’t necessarily appropriate to apply directly to the general population or to inform understandings across multiple cultures. I also learned that there are massive divides running through the world of psychology, as various schools of thought and areas of focus often do not get a long.

“…[T]here are also deep uncertainties in the field itself. Psychiatrists have no blood tests or brain scans to diagnose mental disorders. They have to make judgments, based on interviews and checklists of symptoms.” (Benedict Carey, “What’s Wrong With a Child? Psychiatrists Often Disagree,” The Washington Post, Nov. 11, 2006)

Ultimately, Psychology, while it is considered the science of the mind and behaviour, is not an exact science. The often referenced checklists of symptoms are typically based on the information provided in the much debated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

More often than not, these complications make finding good advice for mental health difficult, especially if you are in the “thick brown soup” (so called by Safi Bahcall on the Tim Ferris Show) that can be a mental health episode.

So let’s forget any formal training or education I’ve have had, but rather focus on the fact that I have personally dealt with mental health issues; in the form of Clinical Depression, from both nature (family genetics) and nurture (learned behaviors and crappy adolescence) components. Of which I feel I have mostly cured myself, with little help or support from the few close people I had in my life (which makes it even harder). So trust me when I say I understand, even if you get the impression that I am insensitive to your mental health plight.

Throughout my life I have also had friends and acquaintances who have experienced various states of a variety of mental health issues, such as Severe Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Manic and Clinical Depression, PTSD, and much more. I have been exposed to such individuals simply by virtue of not living a sheltered life, and by recognizing that, perhaps, the saying “birds of a feather flock together” has some truth to it. For those who had both decent genetics and stable upbringings with good role models, in my experience, these people often struggle to deal with those who have mental health issues; often due to prevalent social stigma causing those with mental health issues to perhaps be naturally drawn (pushed?) to each other. This, of course, results in a history of rather interesting, albeit difficult, personal relations.

Merely two paragraphs ago I mentioned that I often come off as insensitive to those who have mental health issues, but, really it’s about my understanding of a simple fact:

If you, with all of the mental burdens you are feeling, want to get better, there is only one person who can truly help you get better…

You!

It’s a harsh reality to accept, especially if you are struggling. Medication (which I took for a few years and it did help me) or counselling (which I also dabbled with) will do nothing for you if you don’t do the work to change how you think and how you live your life. (Outside intervention may even be re-enforcing the way you think and feel.)

Much like addicts, the story we like to tell ourselves is that no one understands. Even when we meet other people with similar problems, if not identical, we still like to say things like; “But you don’t really understand,” “My situation is worse,” “You can change, I can’t.” A topic by the way recently discussed by Doctor Drew on the Podcast The Fighter and the Kid, so don’t just take it from me, take it from an addictions expert.

While, yes, there are extreme cases, most of the time you are no different than that other person experiencing the same thing. The cause or specifics may be different, but the feeling is the same. There is a reason after all, those people experiencing the same mental health problems often have very similar brain scans. Because, fundamentally, in your brain it’s the same problem.

This means that once you can get over yourself, and realize you want to get better, you are likely already halfway down the path to a happier life. The next step is getting off the couch and doing something about it.

Medication

I figured starting here is a good place since its probably one of the more controversial topics. Generally I operate on the “bell curve” model for most things. Some people who have mental health issues serious enough to need help may need to be on medication indefinitely, lets say 5-10%, some people may never need medication, lets also say 5-10% and then everyone else falls into some kind of spectrum (dependent on many factors).

Let’s start with something very important first. For most people, the first thing you do in a mental health episode/crisis is to contact a doctor, whether they be a General Practitioner (GP) or a walk-in clinic. Therefore, it is likely that the first person you will interact with only understands mental health in a general sense. Furthermore, they may not be able to consider the larger context of your life or specifics of your particular situation.

In general most GP’s and the like only have one tool: Medication. In my opinion, pills are often over-prescribed and should rarely be the first course of action. It is, however, the easy route, even though it is really not the best place to start. A reminder though; some people do require medication, even if its only for a short time. But, in general, long term use is not advised in most cases (again, in my opinion).

The reason I say this is a simple one: Sometimes the factors causing a mental illness or episode are very much environmental factors, such as a horrible job, terrible home life, a death in the family, or lack of social skills. Doctors rarely have the time to truly dive into your life to figure out if it’s a non-biological factor that is causing your distress. You may not even know! People like to lie to themselves about the situation they are in, and it can take weeks or months for people to open up and be honest.

Questions you should ask yourself are; “Can a find a different job,” “am I able to change my living conditions,” or “is there a family history of this issue” (even an undiagnosed one). This should always be the place to start.

Often this means deep and difficult discussions with yourself, which may result in requiring serious, and also difficult, life changes. This is why medication is often the route people take. Because it’s easier.

For the record, I was on Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for about two years, and for me it was a great help because I finally started to understand what people were talking about when they said “just be happy.” My mind literally had no frame of reference, internally, for this notion, and I simply couldn’t understand. This is why, in my case, where there is clearly a family history, it was hard for me. Being on medication really helped me gain the basic framework from which to start building the internal/external skills to cope and change how my mind worked. But I knew being on SSRIs long term wasn’t great, as they do have drawbacks; I was lucky they only made me feel fatigued and robotic. Weirdly enough, the latter helped me socially, as I was “more likable” because I was less emotional or reactive. People liked the toned down version, but for me it really wasn’t a long term option, so I slowly weened myself off SSRIs after about 2 years (which was it’s own struggle).

Anyway, it can’t be overstated that a doctor whose first response is to give medication, without proper follow ups and a significant look into your life and context, in my opinion, should not be a doctor anymore; they are just being lazy and dishonest. For me, the decision to go on medication was only after I had done everything else (from therapy to moving to another country). Even then, it was only after a serious manic depressive episode that it occur to me that there was actually something seriously wrong.

So, should you go on medication? Which type should you go on if you do? For how long? Should you go on something meant for short term relief or a long term regime?

These are all good questions that really need to be deeply considered, with yourself, your doctor, and any consulting mental health professionals you have access to.

I generally believe that if you have not done anything to improve your situation, then you should try other strategies first. If after several life adjustments things still haven’t changed, then medication, even for a short time to get you moving, may simply be what your brain needed to rest and heal.

A word of warning: To my knowledge they don’t really have a good way of knowing which medication and at what dose to give to start people on. It’s often guesswork based on feedback from the patient. The thing is most people give very dishonest feed back, for whatever reason. I remember going on one type of SSRI at 5mg, nothing changed. Then 10. Nothing changed. My doctor said “let’s do 20mg and if it doesn’t work we will try a different type.” I casually asked the pharmacist how to know if it works. They said “If it’s working you will know.” The pharmacist was correct! For me, that particular brand, at 20mg, was like a ray of sunshine in the darkness. It immediately kicked in. Later, when I was going off the meds, I was only on 10mg, and eventually none. If you are honest, you will know if it is working or not. Do not just say it is if there is no real change.

Therapy

This may be a better place to start once you have identified that there is an issue. Here’s the thing, therapy, if not covered by medical insurance, can be very expensive indeed. One thing that drives me nuts is when mental health professionals try to tell a person who is broke and already struggling that they can find a way to afford counselling sessions, at $100 dollars an hour, at least once a week, because “it’s worth it.” While it may very well be, it might also be more of a financial burden than the individual can handle.

The other thing is, just like doctors or any other professional, there is a reason there is always a “best in the field.” Many therapists, whether they are a psychiatrist, private therapist, or public therapist, will be better at their job than others. This means that the chances of finding someone who is effective, who you connect with, and who you can afford, is very difficult.

However, especially if you don’t have a support network, someone is better than no one. What I will say is, don’t just stick with the first person who could see you. If you don’t click, you don’t click.

I would also caution that, in most cases, if you have to see them for more than 6 months or a year, other than maintenance checkups, they may just be taking your money. A decent therapist can often give you want you need in far less sessions than you think. That is, of course, if they are decent and they are not trying to take advantage of you.

For some, several sessions may be required at regular intervals at the beginning to assess and build a framework, others may only need one. It really depends.

I would like to stand up for therapists, though, and say that, often the reason things haven’t gotten better for a person regularly seeing a therapist is that the person is using the therapist as a crutch and hasn’t actually done anything to improve their life outside of therapy.

Remember, the responsibility for getting better is on you, not the therapist. They can only guide and advise, they are not supposed to tell you what to do. Which means that if they keep saying the same thing to you for years, the fault is on you. I know, people don’t like to take responsibility, even in normal times let alone mental health situations, but, sorry, it’s the truth

There is a reason, after all, that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), still tends to be the most effective type of therapy for treating a variety of mental health issues. As the onus is on you to do the work, on a consistent, daily basis, and re-shape how you think about the world and yourself.

So, pick your therapist wisely, and remember that you need to want to get better, no matter who you talk to.

Support Network

They say having a strong support network helps. That is, if you have one. Some people are lucky enough to have a strong group of supportive friends they built from high-school, or have strong family support on all levels. Though to be honest, if you have severe mental health problems there’s a good chance you did not have a very strong support network from the start. If you do, than that’s awesome, you have a leg up and I am very happy for you.

In my case though, I had few, very consistent, people in my life who did offer support. The reality is for me, they did not have the skills, knowledge, or time to really help me in a more meaningful way. I suspect that for many this is a familiar experience. This is why, no matter how hard it seems, it may be on you, and you alone, to get help and get better. (Notice a theme?)

The reason it can be difficult to have a strong support network is because those in your life who have their shit together more than you often are too busy with their own lives. Or they don’t have the energy to deal with what, to them, seems like a difficult friend.

I can say that for me, someone who has always struggled to have strong connections with other people (partially due to mental illness, but also the fact I am a strong-willed person at the best of times), the majority of the people I thought were my friends essentially bailed on me because I was too difficult to deal with. You can look at this a few ways:

  1. You are just too much – This may not be a popular thing to say, but dealing with people suffering from mental illness is tough. Unless those around you really have their shit together and have the right temperament, you may actually be just too much for them to deal with at that time. It’s very unfortunate, but it’s an all too common scenario. It’s not that they don’t care, they just can’t make you a priority in their life. It’s okay, everyone has their own lives. These are the people you should forgive, as it is more an indication of their life than yours.
  2. They were not very good friends in the first place – To be honest, though I admit I am a difficult person, I would say that this is the category into which the majority of the “friends” I had before my major episode fall. I say this because the vast majority of people didn’t even try. They just saw I was being difficult and bailed on me outright. If this is the case, then be happy that they are out of your life. They clearly didn’t care enough to ask if everything was alright when the signs are clear as day that it is not. Don’t feel bad, just know that when things get better you will find new friends and you will be happier for it.
  3. It really is your fault because you aren’t even trying to get better – This applies to those people who have an active support network who are always trying to help, yet years later nothing is better. There is a point, whether you realize it or not, that eventually people will give up on you. I am sorry, but you may be just too much, in general, and you aren’t taking responsibility. Either you may need to seek different professional help, or realize that, if you don’t change, everyone in your life who matters will be gone. If you don’t want to change so that you can be happier, then there is nothing anyone else can do for you. It is ultimately on you. They tried, you didn’t. After a long enough timeline, don’t be surprised when people walk away.

The trick is to know which category you fall into. If you have an amazing support network from the past, or a new one you have discovered, whether it be a new friend, a support group for your mental illness, or a therapist, then that is awesome. But, if not, do you fall into one of the three scenarios mentioned above, or is there another one? The truth is you probably won’t actually know until later, when your mind has calmed down and you can think clearly. It may even be years later that you finally it out. But know, though, it is easier with a support network. So make building or finding one a priority in your first steps. You can get better without one if you really want to, yes, it is a lot harder, but it can be done.

In a country like Canada there is little reason why you should not be able to find something, as there are many government funded resources and groups you can access. Even if they are not for you, they can often start you on a path to healing, one way or another.

Conclusion

Mental health it can be a difficult topic to talk about objectively, as there is so much emotion and ego involved. One thing to remember is that you are not alone. In this world there is someone else who is feeling the same as you are. This is actually, in a weird way, good news, because when enough people have the same issue it means there are resources and solutions available. You just have to start looking.

The first step is identifying that there is a problem, and which problem there is. Once you do that, you will be able to find the path that allows you to get better, so you can live a happier, more productive life.

I have met people who have had all sorts of mental health issues, some, at times, were quite serious, but they managed to get it sorted out so they too could be happier and healthier. Others struggle with the same problem for years and years because, despite being given the same advice from everyone around them, choose to stay in the shitty mental state they claim to want to move on from.

The latter probably do want to get better, but they have found all sorts of reasons not to.

The choice is always yours. I know that if you are reading this you want it to get better. You want the pain to go away or at least lessen. And, yes, it is pain, just like breaking a leg or bumping your head, but this one is not so simple to fix; it will require hard work and change.

This post is not meant as a comprehensive mental health guide, it obviously can’t be. Rather, it is meant to offer a perspective in thinking about mental health.

This series has been about the fact that self-defence is not just physical, which means I wanted you to consider other areas of your life that could take a little bit of self-defence. Our lives have become ever more complicated; more so that our nervous systems are adapted for.

If you are able to take care of yourself physically but not mentally, and your whole world seems chaotic and painful, then what good is physical self-defence if you still are struggling to see the light?

The answers are all interconnected. Whether the concern is physical, mental, digital, or financial, they are all aspects of your life. You need to live a balanced life, and seek to better yourself a little bit every day. Build one and it can build the others.

So what are you waiting for? Make your life happier, healthier, and better today, even if only a little bit.

By: Jonathan Fader

This is the first of three sections expanding on the original piece titled, Self-defense is Not Just Physical.

As much as you may try to resist, myself included, the future of humanity is looking more and more digital. I am a member of the “bridge generation;” I was born before the wide spread use of the internet, but was also fortunate to have it in my home early. Though I am not a tech wiz, I am fairly comfortable with technology (to a degree). For some tasks I prefer the old ways, like taking notes by hand (who am I kidding? I won’t read them either way), for others I prefer the new ways, like listening to audio books rather than reading (It’s more efficient since I can’t read and drive, but I can listen and drive!)

No matter your preference, it is here and it is not going anywhere; so you need to adapt or proverbially die. While it is easy to simply think of self-defence as responding to a physical attack, don’t forget that there are many ways you need to protect yourself in the 21st century; which now includes our digital self.

While your data and information is more secure, there are alos more ways to attack it. Additionally, many companies, like Google or Apple, are selling your information to the highest bidder. Remember, their “free” services are not the real product, you are. The thought of which, as a human being who prefers some level of privacy, can be quite disturbing. So how do you protect yourself in the increasingly digital world?

First off, get educated. If you are one of those people who refuses to learn how to use technology, I am sorry, but you will find yourself in the dust as you become more and more reliant on those around you who do understand it. If you are a parent, this often means your children. Consider also that, trust me, if they know how to use technology better than you, there is very little you will be able to do to protect them from all the internet has to offer; they will find a path to it. When it comes to technology and how to use it, your kids may actually be smarter than you.

So now is the time Start learning!

When it comes to protecting your online data, something to remember is that criminals are always looking for new ways to steal from you. So, learning a few ways to protect yourself will help stop them, as cyber-criminals generally do not want to waste their time on difficult targets. Like on the street, predators attack the weak.

Passwords

There is a reason that passwords are no longer the only way to protect digital content. Most people choose garbage ones. If your password is a standard one that anyone might use, or is easy to guess by perusing your Facebook page, then you may find yourself getting hacked; especially if all your information is public.

Terrible passwords are still shockingly common, for example “password,” “123456,” or “QWERTY.” You are not clever, you are being lazy if these are what you are using. Also, using anything related to your birthday, your children, or your pet’s name can be very easy for hackers to figure out.

Modern standards recommend passwords that are comprised of long strings of randomly generated numbers and symbols. These are not only impossible to guess, they are also impossible to remember. Example: dtN6Vn-X@2yqGhe^

While these are very strong passwords, as it would take forever to decrypt one, you will likely rely on Google or Apple to remember them for you, making it unlikely you will remember it in an emergency.

Though not as strong as a random string, a “Passphrase” is a good option. This is a string of unconnected words, with both caps and lower case, maybe even 1 or 2 numbers or symbols added in, that are much easier to remember. Example: PurpleMonkeyHeart1(

No these are not passwords I use so don’t bother trying.

By being random and having unconnected words, passphrases make it much harder for even the best hacker to “brute force” through.

With that being said, if they really want to they can probably get in, that is why they started adding multi-factor authentication to most systems. The most common of these being two-factor authentication (2FA) or two-step verification, confirming you identity via a code sent to your e-mail or phone number. Though, as I recently found out, there are scams that can even get around this!

The best two-step verification is actually to have a verification program on your phone that randomly generates a verification code when you log in, which changes every minute or so. These are very, very, very difficult to get around, but, if you lose the device it is on you may end up getting locked out in the end (it happened with a lot of crypto-currency accounts that required such security).

No matter what password you use, just make sure you don’t use the same one for everything, that you change them periodically, and that you ensure they are strong and something you can remember with out help.

IP Protection

Before looking at Internet Protocol (IP) protection, let’s talk about what an IP is.

An IP is essentially your digital address. Every device connected to the internet has one.

They look like this 45.85.91.20

While it’s a bit more complicated than that, for the sake of this article let’s keep it to that.

Why should you protect your IP? Easy, it is another way to help prevent people easily getting into your computer and data. This includes both malicious hackers, data-mining companies, and the government.

Where it once took high level tech, knowledge, and skills to mask your IP address, now you can purchase and set up what is called a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Essentially, a VPN sets up a second IP to mask your actual one. You can even set your false IP to indicate that you are in another country, making it hard for people to figure out where exactly you are. Yes, this includes the government. Generally, unlike the movies, most government agencies will have a hard time tracking you if you have a VPN, or multiple VPNs, set up. While eventually they could track you, it will take time and resources; which, in most cases, is not worth their time.

Outside of protecting yourself from “Big Brother” it really just makes it harder for hackers to break into your computer or network, encouraging them to seek easier prey.

Consider also, if you regularly use public wifi and do not have a VPN set up on your computer, phone, or tablet you may not be as protected as you think. Public networks, such as those at Starbucks, are easy targets for criminals looking to get into your computer. And trust me, you will not even know they are there in your device until it is to late.

So what are you waiting for? Mask your IP and protect your devices today!

Various Scams

Last but not least, Scammers. These are, generally, the main threats that you have to protect yourself from. Once someone is able to get into your system they can steal all your information. While there are numerous ongoing scams out there, I am only going to cover a few to give you an idea of how people can bypass security. From least sophisticated to most sophisticated:

Send me money…

These scams are as old as, well, people and society (I think). The only difference is now, instead of getting a person at the door or a physical mail, you will get an email. These scams are easy to spot if you know how to look, and they usually target vulnerable groups like the elderly and immigrants. (To accomplish this, they are often written with poor grammar, as the sub-par writing eliminates people who are too educated or discerning to be viable targets.)

Actually, as a martial arts gym I regularly get these.

An email that starts with “Dear Sir or Madam” is usually a red flag, as it’s probably someone who paid to get your email and does not actually know who you are.

Common approaches are people pretending to be long lost relatives in need of money because of financial hardship, or someone stuck in another country.

In general, the best way to deal with them, other than learning to spot them right away, is to start asking questions. If they cannot give you detailed answers without you giving them information first, it might just be a scam.

The example I am going to use is the one I usually have to deal with:

It’s typically someone asking for private lessons for 2-3 kids. They state that they will send a private driver with a (fake) cashier’s check for much more than the agreed amount, asking that reimburse them for the difference and give the cash to the driver. Usually they want cash, or if they say “give the credit card to the driver” it means they want to copy it.

The first time I got this I took it seriously, now any time someone asks for private lessons involving a private driver and kids, I usually just ignore it. Remember, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Additionally, if it seems suspicious (and convoluted), it probably is.

Guard your information, particularly your credit card information, and never give money to someone who is supposed to pay you (that one should be a no-brainier)

Phishing Scams

What is a phising scam? Wikipedia says this:

Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.[1][2] Typically carried out by email spoofing[3] or instant messaging,[4] it often directs users to enter personal information at a fake website which matches the look and feel of the legitimate site.[5]

Phishing is an example of social engineering techniques being used to deceive users. Users are often lured by communications purporting to be from trusted parties such as social web sitesauction sites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators.[6]

These scams usually require you clicking on a link, and can come in email or text message form. These days they can even look like they are coming from a legitimate source, such as your phone provider or a Federal department.

In fact, this was the kind of scam used in the infamous Hillary Clinton emails scandal. While the focus was on her having a private server, the crucial fact was that intruders gained access because some fool clicked on a link disguised as an official-looking password reset. Except, the sucker victim never requested a password reset… but because it “looked legitimate” they clicked away.

Never click on a link you are not sure about, did not request, or is within a message containing spelling errors, incorrect logos, or odd URLS.

If you are not sure, always check online to find the appropriate contact information for the actual company or group involved, and double-check with them if it is legit or not.

By the way, these scams cause havoc for legitimate business entities as well, as real messages often get ignored because they appear fraudulent (eg. private lessons emails). When in doubt double-check and never click that link if you are not sure.

Though this type of scam is more sophisticated, as it requires actual computer and tech skills not just the gift of the gab like the previous one, it still requires the victim (you!) to actively do something for it to work.

Port Scams

This last one is the MOST sophisticated, as it is fairly recent and often by the time you have realized anything has happened all your money is gone, credit card is maxed out, Amazon and PayPal accounts racked up, and you are sitting there wondering why the hell the companies you were paying did nothing to stop it.

This is a scam that actually targets your cellphone information.

Remember how we said that many accounts now require a two-factor verification, which usually means sending a confirmation text to your phone for actions such as password resets? This scam targets that system.

It seems to have popped up in the last few years, but even with media coverage very little has been done about it; as what phone company wants to admit they have glaring holes in their client security.

How the Hackers get your phone and personal information, which often includes your email, I am not entirely sure. It is possible that they pay-off some low level employee at the phone companies (another reason why you should be nice to people), or perhaps they get one bit of your info and employ “social engineering” across a few services.

Once they acquire enough information they are able to contact the phone company and pretend to be you in order to “port” (transfer) your phone number over to another carrier on their device, which is most likely on a burner phone.

They will now receive all of the password reset texts.

Now all they have to do is go into your email, Amazon, PayPal, etc… follow the “forgot password” steps and, since they now receive the verification text, they change your password to one of their choosing and log into your accounts.

See, your phone carrier, email provider, Amazon, etc. just got duped and their entire sophisticated security network is now breached, and within less than 24 hours you are totally and utterly screwed. By the way, if you lose your email this will include any personal material you have stored there, such as x-rated photos or sensitive personal and work information.

Sometimes these hackers will even blackmail you, demanding money in exchange for not releasing this private material.

Insidious, I know.

You will now be on phone call after phone call, losing your sanity as every single person you call (usually low level, call-center people) probably don’t even know this is a real thing yet.

How do I know it is? It happened to someone very close to me!

So, no matter how good the security is, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Those pesky scammers and hackers will keep evolving, and they will find ways around the newest security. Be careful, and always, immediately follow up on any text or email that mentions your number being ported. Because if you get that, it probably is, and it will only take 10 minutes for them to do it.

How you can stop this? Call your phone provider and ask for port protection if its not already there. It means your number cannot be ported with out a lengthy process, which is too long for most scammers.

At this point I don’t know why this is not already automatic, but I suppose it means the phone companies would have to admit they are at risk, which they never do!

Conclusion

The best way to protect yourself is through education and due diligence. Avoiding technology because you do not like it or don’t understand it means you are actually an easy target. Don’t trust anything suspicious and follow up if you need to. Soon the world will be more digital than analog, and just like physical self-defence, you are responsible for yourself because no one else really cares, or if they do, you are the front-line and are able to react faster to stop potential data leaks or hacks. So, be educated, be proactive, and keep your wits about you.