The rate at which humanity has advanced technologically over the past couple of decades is astounding.
The rise of the internet specifically has opened doors and possibilities that had only been theorized before, but as applicability has surged, it’s become an integral part of many of our daily lives. The problem is that it’s so new, it’s wildly insecure. Much like San Francisco before the Great Quake of 1906, the infrastructure has been built in a naive fashion, and it’s beginning to show.
Following a state-sponsored hack on OPM that saw the theft of 5.6 million fingerprints of U.S. citizens, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with US President Barack Obama to discuss cybercrime and establish a truce between the two nations. While some see this as a good first step toward cyber peace, others see the meeting of the two officials as a mere dog and pony show–not only because of statements from President Xi that with 1.3 billion people he “can’t guarantee the behavior of every single person on Chinese soil”, but also because the U.S. simply isn’t equipped to handle the threat.
With the explosive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), more and more people are ‘networked’ than ever have been before. GPS in our phones means companies know where you live, where you like to shop, and how long your commute to work is. Facebook means that they know who your friends are, and what movies, books, and TV shows you like. Browser history means they know what websites you visit, blogs you read, and types of things you search for. To top it off, new technology means that they can store this information forever–and guess what? There’s basically nothing you can do about it.
The real kicker is that the information they mine from you and store in the cloud is accessible to anybody that wants it bad enough. While there are some seriously top-notch cyber-security firms out there, the IT world is facing a serious skill gap. Approximately 80% of IT professionals believe that there is a shortage of skilled workers in the industry, while about one third of the believe that their organizations currently have the in-house skills to address their needs. So if China’s hackers are able to beat the U.S. Federal Government’s security measures, it’s clear that they possess the ability to run rampant in an economy that is about one third as effective as it should be.
Unfortunately, China isn’t the only problem. From high-profile attacks such as the Ashley Madison hack to smaller attacks on private firms and individuals via new methods such as spear phishing, the state of not only the IT world’s cybersecurity is dire, but the state of the average user’s cybersecurity is on the line too–especially as we move toward more “advanced” methods of securing our data, and tie biometric security such as fingerprint and optical scanners to our accounts. You can change a password if somebody steals it. Biometrics, not so much.
All of us need technology to operate in today’s society, but our reliance on tech is the very thing that puts us at risk. The conundrum is that we’ve integrated tech into our lives so absolutely, but in such a way that doesn’t put security first. This absolutely needs to change, and it starts with how we perceive the situation; if your bank started putting your money into vaults with sub-par security–vaults that have been broken into multiple times and are proven to be insecure–would you bank with them? Of course not. So why are we okay with handing over our personal and private data to companies that are unable to secure them?
There’s no easy answer to this problem. Most of us can’t just “stop giving out our data” because that would essentially mean going off the grid. No cellphones, no computers, and no online banking. What we can do, however, is demand that the business we deal with on a daily basis create better cyber security measures to protect us. Beyond that, it’s up to us to raise awareness and educate ourselves and our youth on just how important cybersecurity is–before a national disaster does it for us.
Author Bio: Andy (@andyo_thehammer) is a writer who likes to explore social issues, artistry, technology and the future of our little blue marble and all of its inhabitants. He also really enjoys Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs cereal.