In the history of our democracy, we have never had a more open, free, and unregulated system of information and communication than the internet. The industrial revolution pales in comparison to the global impact of technology on an unexpecting world. Like all world-changing advances, the internet and all its associated technology has created astonishing benefits and unmatched threats.
The advantage of having the power of technology at our fingertips has changed the way we see ourselves and our world. It has given us the most sophisticated knowledge base the world has ever known. It offers us immediacy, freedom, and adventure. On the flip side, it also exposes us daily to a world of crime, deception, and danger.
This leaves us faced with a number of questions: Where is the line? How do we utilize this incredible gift while protecting ourselves from the wolves outside our door? Do we rely on the government to protect us? Are corporations going to keep us safe? What can we do for ourselves?
Change often happens faster than humans can adapt. Chaos often replaces normalcy until the infrastructure that goes with change can be built. Today, we are in a transition period. A period where technology has more value than the user, and the user values the technology more than the risk associated with using it. The lines are blurred and will remain blurred until we begin to build a culture of security.
In an article for Wired®, David Gorodyansky, cofounder of AnchorFree®, sums up perfectly how our attitudes need to change. “Now more than ever, as our digital footprints grow exponentially, we need to take personal action to preserve our online freedoms,” he writes. “Why? The internet benefits and belongs to all of us—thus it is our joint responsibility to protect it.”
That’s worth repeating! “It is our joint responsibility to protect it!” Our individual rights, our rights as a community, and our rights as a nation are at risk. It’s up to each of us as individuals to take responsibility for our own protection and privacy. As we move to individual responsibility, we begin to create a culture of security.
Building a culture of security is a powerful method of policing corporations that are either unable or unwilling to implement security measures on their own. A culture of security also builds awareness to help move our government to adopt responsible legislation to protect the average consumer from breaches causing their personal information to be exposed or worse.
The only way to build a culture defensible against data breaches, hacks, and identity theft is to contain them within the realm of minor inconvenience and not allow them to be contributors to a mass assault—or a digital pandemic.
What does a digital pandemic look like, and what happens if we don’t begin to build a culture of security? We can only speculate, but the immediate impact of a digital pandemic would be disastrous. A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. In this case, the disease is like a digital influenza passing from one user to another until the integrity of all the data is infected.
Responsibility for cybersecurity starts with the user. Education is the key. We are living in a time where our education system must adapt to the reality of a digital world. We must begin to educate our children about the proper use of their digital assets so they can become responsible digital citizens. When we educate we begin to create a common knowledge that then translates to community awareness and responsibility.
When we consider that 84%* of all breaches are caused by human error, we begin to see where education can be a great differentiator. Education is a top-down/bottom-up solution. Users at all levels must be educated to avoid human error. Given the current damage that is being done by cybercriminals at all levels of our society and the growth projections in the cybercriminal arena, security awareness training should be mandatory from our elementary schools to the top of every corporation and government entity in the US.
Education is the inoculation for digital influenza. As Gorodyansky says in his article, “the more we do to inoculate ourselves against the digital flu, the less likely there will be a digital pandemic.”
As users of technology in the 21st century, we must arm ourselves against those that would do us harm. Arming ourselves means taking responsibility for our digital lives. It means using our collective intelligence as a weapon to defeat those that would take our freedom by stealing the information that makes up the fabric of our lives.
The responsibility is ours. It is the collective army of individuals and communities that will drive the digital security safety and awareness revolution.
* According to a survey of attendees at the 2017 Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas – from Computer Weekly 9/25/17
Rick Miller is COO and Partner of The Tek, an MSSP specializing in risk assessment, risk mitigation, protection, and education to SMBs. Rick is a long-term veteran in the IT industry. His success has been founded in propelling start-ups and turnarounds to success and profitability. His experience has helped to grow multiple companies from start-up to profitability.
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