Open Your EyesYogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot by watching." And Holmes would agree. "But given our constant stream of sensory inputs, writes Konnikova, “we tend to see unthinkingly, absorbing countless elements from the world without necessarily processing what those elements might be. We may not even realize we’ve seen something that was right before our eyes." "But when we observe, we are forced to pay attention. You need to move from passive absorption to active awareness," Konnikova continues. "You need to engage. When you do, you’ll never be a victim of tailgating, leave sensitive information unattended on your desk, or fail to notice the suspicious behavior of a contractor."
Be Skeptical"One of the things that characterizes Holmes’s thinking," notes Konnikova, "is a natural skepticism and inquisitiveness toward the world. Nothing is taken at face value. Everything is scrutinized and considered, and only then accepted (or rejected, as the case may be)." That brand new USB drive still in its package left on a lunchroom table . . . you really think that’s safe? "Holmes’s trick is to treat every thought, every experience, and every perception the way he would a pink elephant," Konnikova writes. "In other words, begin with a healthy dose of skepticism instead of the credulity that is your 'mind’s natural state of being.' Don’t just assume anything is the way it is," she continues.
Think TwiceWhen we assume that we already understand that which comes our way, we tend to only see things in terms of our mental models. "First we believe," is how Konnikova puts it, "and only then do we question. Put differently, it’s like our brains initially see the world as a true/false exam where the default answer is always true. And while it takes no effort whatsoever to remain in true mode, a switch of answer to false requires vigilance, time, and energy." That phishy email? Cybercriminals are counting on your default answer.
PracticeHolmes-like intuition is "based on training, hours and hours of it. An expert may not always realize consciously where his intuition is coming from, but it comes from some habit, visible or not," Konnikova writes. "It’s what Anders Ericsson calls expert knowledge: an ability, born from extended and intense practice and not some innate genius," according to Konnikova. When you practice a mindful approach to the world, you will, over time, perfect it to the level of an art. You’ll immediately and accurately spot the tell-tale signs of social engineering or a sequence of events that suggest a possible breach.
Develop a Motivated MindsetSherlock Holmes-governed thinking takes mindfulness plus motivation—motivation in the sense of active engagement and desire. In security awareness, that motivation may be intrinsic or extrinsic. Ideally, it’s a little bit of both. As everyone knows, motivation waxes and wanes. It is often fleeting. It’s easily discouraged or defeated. But a mindset, on the other hand, is constant, reliable, and lasting. By instilling a mindset or attitude that values security awareness, you stand a better chance of attaining sustainable, effective competence. Without motivated mindfulness, the advantage goes to the attacker. So shed those lazy thought habits—the ones that come most naturally, the so-called paths of least resistance—that you’ve spent your whole life acquiring. Aspire instead to master Holmes-like thinking in all areas of your life—work and home. When you do, you’ll break once and for all the bad habits and inattentive mindlessness that threaten the security of your organization. All it takes is a little training and practice.