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ONLINE SEARCHER: Information Discovery, Technology, Strategies

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We’re All in This Together (Except When We’re Not)
Volume 44, Number 4 - July/August 2020

The sentiment “We’re all in this together” is a positive approach to the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we self-isolated, sheltered in place, worked from home, lived in quarantine, homeschooled, and coped with the newest of the new normal, we were heartened by the realization that we were not entirely on our own. We shared these difficult times with those around us, even those in other parts of the world. The internet became our window, en abling a semblance of normal life. We went on line for research, meetings, courses, exercise, religious services, meal sharing, and simply hanging out. If it could be done remotely, it would be done via an internet connection.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that not everyone agreed we were all in this together, opting to use changed circumstances to en gage in criminal activities. CNBC reporter Saheli Roy Choudhury reported in mid-April 2020 that cybercriminals were having a field day playing on people’s fears of the pandemic to steal personal information (, and Google reported blocking more than 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 scams ( 20 20/ 4/16/21223800/google-malware-phishing- co vid- 19-coronavirus-scams). Additionally, several cities experienced physical break-ins at closed restaurants and retail shops. It turns out that these despicable, low-life scum find a pandemic the perfect time to prey on the vulnerable. And, under such abnormal circumstances, we may all be vulnerable.

The firewalls implemented at our libraries don’t exist at home. People are working on personal devices that may not have IT department security elements installed, and patching may fall by the wayside. These devices could be shared by other people in the household who just don’t get it about staying safe online. The sudden shift to remote working—I know peo ple who had only a few hours’ notice to leave their offices and they haven’t been back in 3 months—invites malfeasance.

I’d worry about emails purporting to be from a contact tracer, a bank, or credit card issuer, which are actually designed to steal personal information, along with people’s savings. In vitations to view a website with information about the virus too frequently exist to install malware on our computers. We’re info pros; we know not to click on links within an email. But in these troubled times, we may have a lapse in judgment. And what about our library users who may not be as au courant with security threats as we are? How do we help them avoid catastrophe?

Please, let’s more than just social distance ourselves from crooks, scammers, phishers, hackers, and fraudsters. If we’re all in this together, the “bad guys” need to be kicked out. They are not in this to help. We need to be pro active in keeping ourselves, our families and friends, and our library community safe. And by safe, I mean not just healthy, but also safe from the criminals. We who are proficient with online information and research must lead the way.

Marydee Ojala is Editor-in-Chief of Online Searcher (the successor journal to ONLINE) and writes its business research column ("The Dollar Sign"). She has contributed feature articles and news stories to Information TodayEContentComputers in LibrariesIntranetsCyberSkeptic's Guide to the InternetBusiness Information Review, and Information Today's NewsBreaks. A long-time observer of the information industry, she speaks frequently at conferences, such as WebSearch University, Internet Librarian, Online Information (London, UK), Internet Librarian International, and national library meetings outside the U.S. She has adjunct faculty status at the School of Library and Information Science at IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis). Her professional career began at BankAmerica Corporation, San Francisco, directing a worldwide program of research and information services. She established her independent information research business in 1987. Her undergraduate degree is from Brown University and her MLS was earned at the University of Pittsburgh.


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