Not too long ago, Troy Hunt, a cyber security researcher, discovered an online document containing well over 773 million hacked user login credentials. This serves to reinforce an important point about the online environment in general; once information is digitized, not a single person can vouch for its safety.
There’s no foolproof way to guarantee online safety
So how can we assure it? To put it bluntly, we can’t. We can, however, lessen the chances of hackers sticking their noses where they don’t belong by using the best VPN out there as well as other cyber security tools in our collective arsenal. Couple this with some common sense, and it’s fair for one to expect to stay safe.
Our inability to be 100% safe when dealing with digital assets can be proven by looking at real-life scenarios and examples. Remember November 2018 when 52 million users at Google suffered the dire consequences of a breach and had their accounts compromised? Rewind back the time a couple of months more, and you may recall that a similar thing happened with Facebook. The question presents itself: if these two internet giants can’t stay safe from hackers, who can?
The path in front of us is hard to see
The entire cyber security industry has lost its focus. Since we don’t have a clear idea of how to go about protecting the data we generate, we cannot asses what actions are called for. With the best VPN and firewall software, it’s possible to mitigate the risks, but that’s about it. As great as the widely-embraced extensive connectivity of almost every item on the planet may be, it’s also the root of our collective woes. The IoT is a broad term; from smart light bulbs and all the way to toilets and refrigerators, nowadays, finding a product without some form of connectivity is becoming increasingly more challenging.
Nothing has ever been so rapidly embraced as the internet
Historically speaking, it’s hard to find a phenomenon that spread so rapidly as the internet. Although telephones were invented about 150 years ago, it took an entire century before they became mainstream. According to Cisco, it seems the wildfire of internet adoption hasn’t reached its peak yet. With a growth rate of 25%, we will most likely see a total of 27.1 billion connected devices by 2021.
Without paying attention to the pace at which we embrace this new technology, things could get out of control before we know it. The teachings of economics warn us about the kind of markets that reward fast arrivals above all else; in such scenarios, this tends to be at the expense of quality and security. We need laws to hold it all back, albeit for a little bit, just to preserve the security of the software that gets released. It’s for the benefit of all.
We must all play a role in making the digital environment secure
However, the lawmakers aren’t the only ones with the task of regaining control over our cyber security environment. Some of it lies on the shoulders of individuals as well. While the latter can learn to adopt the recommended practices and never forget using the best VPN, antivirus, and firewall software, the former should come up with a law that forces systems with connectivity either to have updates or expire at some point. This is to avoid the problem of seeing devices that can’t be updated even after a long list of cyber security flaws has long hit the web.
Connected devices aren’t secure by nature
If we fail to address the issue of unpatchable devices, the bad guys are going to have an easy job taking over them. Allowing that to happen could lead to another disaster similar to the infamous Mirai botnet from 2016. To refresh your memory, it was the same botnet that was responsible for temporarily incapacitating a large portion of the world wide web as we know it. For best effect, releasing unpatchable devices should be made illegal, otherwise, it’s going to be hard to get the manufacturers to listen.
Companies should heed the warning as well. If a given device can’t be updated, does it truly deserve a place in the organization? As for the software developers, we need to introduce some kind of accountability. In other words, if they don’t make the steps necessary to release safer code, they should be held responsible for it in one way or another. Right now, all the society seems to be doing is penalizing individual organizations that have attempted to sweep a breach under the rug.
The legacy technologies still have their fair share of uses
In conclusion, we must also strive to preserve the legacy analog technologies; their digital counterparts tend to fail once one part of the chain bites the dust, whereas analog services do not. Coming up with a backup plan should be a priority to reduce our dependence on digital devices. This is not to hint at the old times being better as a whole or anything of the like, it’s just that certain aspects were objectively better back in the day. In the end, we need to ask ourselves the following question: is convenience worth the price of security?