The recent cyber attack on Twitter, Paypal, Netflix, the New York Times and other major businesses — all on the same day — demonstrated how incredibly vulnerable we are to cyber exploitation. These are businesses that I tend to think of as very secure. Of course, what online business is totally secure, really? I learned this first hand when my own website was hacked, a while back. Naturally, I was concerned that this could affect the reputation of The Language Lab, as the hack immediately damaged our search results. And, as I found out, it can take quite some time for Google to confirm that a website no longer has malicious content.

Unfortunately, the trickery of hackers affects each of us, everyday. I’m sure you get daily emails inviting you to click on a URL to make sure that your bank account is working correctly. Others ask you to verify a recent purchase, which, of course, you didn’t make. There are countless numbers of ruses to lure you into exposing your computer and your personal information. Typically, I don’t pay attention to these ploys and just delete emails of this kind.

In business, we need to think very hard about online security and how we protect ourselves from cyber exploitation. One of the big challenges for experts in cyber security is to provide information that is easily understood, by the average person. I recently led some workshops for a team of cyber security experts. They tend to speak and write in cyber security lingo — technical terms that are not accessible to most people. I worked with them to help them see that there is a way they can communicate technical jargon more effectively — through Plain Language.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, Plain Language, Cheryl Stephens sums it up nicely, in a guest post she did for the Language Lab. “Material written in Plain Language is clear, well structured, and plainly laid-out on the page, making it easier to follow.” Cheryl’s words can readily be applied to help the average person better understand cyber security lingo and the impact of cyber crime. Here are 5 ways that Plain Language can help.

How Plain Language Can Improve Cyber Security

1. Ask: What does the audience need to understand.

2. Focus: Communications should concentrate on essential information only.

3. Organize: Information must be presented in a logical, step-by-step manner.

4. Personalize: Address the user directly, with pronouns such as “you.”

5. Simplify: Use short sentences and common, everyday words.

Of course, it helps if the business or the individual seeking greater cyber security is also prepared to take the time to become more knowledgeable. The Canadian government has some good tips online they created for Cyber Security Awareness Month. U.S. Homeland Security has an annual campaign, “Stop. Think. Connect,” they created in 2014, to raise awareness about cyber security. It provides the following simple advice anyone can easily heed.

Stop: Make sure security measures are in place.

Think: Pay attention to the consequences of online life.

Connect: Safely enjoy the Internet.

Of course, as a businessperson, using the Internet is more than simply about “enjoyment.” It’s about doing business safely, and protecting the clients, with whom you work. Many professions have already begun to embrace Plain Language. In light of recent events, clearly it’s time for cyber security professionals to do the same.

Need advice on how to use Plain Language for business? Contact me at The Language Lab.



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