As we look forward, a big question remains: if even now, with still about half of the world’s population without access to the internet, what happens as that approximately 3.6 billion users come online and with this transition, bring personal and financial data.
With their hands in everything from national security to fraud and identity theft, cyber criminals are thriving in a world where nearly every device sold has had major security vulnerabilities. There are a few reasons.
Today, companies are locked in an endless battle for survival thanks to good old capitalism. For some young companies, being first to market, or the first company to sell a particular product to the masses, is a surefire way to get publicity and steal sales from a potential competitor. A great example of this is Microsoft, which in its early days rushed software to customers it knew had bugs in order to secure market share. The brilliance of this move meant that Microsoft would later become one of the biggest software companies in the world. It turns out that customers didn’t mind the updates and in some ways, the updates made it seem like Microsoft cared about it’s customers. This would later come to haunt security professionals.
Though hackers were around since the early days of the internet, their tactics were largely overlooked as an inconvenience of the modernization of business. At the time, most people did not store highly sensitive information online and most sensitive information was still printed and handled personally by banks and other institutions.
However, now that we are accelerating to a state in which more and more of our content, personal finances, and intimate details of our lives are online, we must face the reality that with every post and financial transaction, we are creating more incentives for unethical hackers to wreak havoc on our lives.
Even as companies try to protect their customers and intellectual property, we read news seemingly everyday which detail hacks spanning from large scale security breaches and loss of sensitive customer data to ransomware taking over hospital databases. The saddest part is that the official government recommendation in many cases is to simply pay the fine and hope to recover the ransomed data since there is no guarantee that the data, if not backed up, can ever be recovered. All that needed to be done was backup patient data and ransomware looses its effectiveness.
When a systemic solution to this sort of hack is to simply give in and pay the ransom, this only motivates hackers to continue their attacks. Hackers are like water, they will flow in the path of lease resistance, and with many of todays hackers running bots and other sorts of automated attacks that will hit whatever system they can, no one is completely safe.
When it comes to security, ignorance is not the best policy. Those who are caught unaware often pay dearly. Ultimately, the security of the billions is the responsibility of the billions. Do not rely on Google sending you suspicious account activity before you change your password or inspect sign-ins yourself. Most services offer two-factor authentications and you should use it no matter how annoying it may seem.
Security needs to become your job otherwise there is a good likelihood that you will fall victim alongside the billions.