It was a blissful three or four days off to celebrate July 4th, but the sad truth is … you're back at work.
And as you go about your day you're finding the oddest things happening: you can't remember the password you use to log into your files.
You have to type in more than once the code the access your voice mail. And that time you decided to call your spouse from a nearby office phone and had to punch in the number from memory? Let's not go there.
The good news is this is perfectly normal.
The bad news is, this is perfectly normal — and a permanent part of our digital lives. It's only noticeable today because you have been out of the office for a few days.
Kaspersky Lab calls the phenomenon of forgetting information that you trust a digital device to store and remember for you Digital Amnesia.
It has found that almost all — 91 percent — of people it surveyed agreed that they use the Internet as an online extension of their brain.
In addition, almost half (44 percent) concede their smartphone holds almost everything they need to know or recall.
That's not a terrible thing. It is, in fact, perfectly normal, especially as people have to remember more and more security codes, phone numbers, access codes, log-in credentials and who knows what else.
"We are beautifully adaptive creatures and we don’t remember everything because it is not to our advantage to do so," Kathryn Mills, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in London, said.
"Forgetting becomes unhelpful when it involves losing information that we need to remember."
That is why a person might not panic when she realizes she can no longer rattle off her mother's telephone number in her sleep — her smart phone has it saved in her list of favorites. That is also why, as Mills said, "having access to the Internet feels as stable as having access to electricity or running water."
What Will You Do?
But when you lose your device that safety net, that ultimate security blanket — your window to the world! — is gone. It can take a lot of work trying to reconstruct it, especially if your business contacts are also stored on the device.
That is why Chris Doggett, managing director of Kaspersky Lab North America, said the electronic mishaps that are no doubt occurring all over the US. today is a good field test for what someone might do if the real event — a lost or stolen or wiped device — were to occur.
"Days like today, when we get back from a long holiday weekend, are symptomatic of life in the 21st century," he told CMSWire. "It is the perfect illustration as to how dependent we have become on our devices and the Internet in general."
There are plenty of free tools to store this data in the cloud, he said, including that archaic practice of keeping a paper copy of one's contacts in a little bundle once known as an address book.
A Dangerous World
Conversely just as people rely more on their devices, hackers are targeting smartphones precisely because that is where the goodies are.
"We estimate that more than two-thirds of smartphone users' devices have no protection on them," Doggett said. "Only about 30 percent of people have additional security on their phones."
Hackers are getting more creative too, structuring their attacks around holidays or other events, in the hopes of tricking someone into clicking on a link or downloading a file that in the ordinary workday, might be spotted as a fraudulent attempt.
"People will go to sites on their mobile phones looking for July 4th-related information and get caught that way — maybe they are at the beach or sitting on their patio relaxing and just don’t have their guard up," Doggett said.
Then, when the worst happens — the phone is attacked, possibly wiped or at least thrown out of commission while it is being debugged that the victim realizes he can't remember his most vital phone numbers.
Don’t be this person, Doggett said.
Don't be the person who clicks on a link while lazing away a holiday weekend for starters. But if you are, definitely don't be the person who can't call her relatives the next day to tell them her phone is out of commission.
Title image by janepaludanus.