Let’s discuss the ugly truth of cyber security. Right now, many business leaders and our government view cyber security as an inconvenience rather than a necessity. In order for leaders in the public and private sector to view cyber security as a necessity, a devastating or drastic cyber security event has to occur first. In other words, a cyber security event must be severe enough to cause actual harm to human life before we will truly and fully embrace the widespread adoption of cyber security.
It’s our human nature to see how far we can push the envelope. This is no different in business or in government. The leadership in the public and private sector must find an acceptable level risk. Taking on risk can be quite a challenge for leadership. Even with all the major breaches that have occurred recently, cyber security remains an afterthought. Why? Because breaches and other cyber security events are viewed only as temporary setbacks or simply a nuisance. Consumers and businesses alike know that they will recover from the cyber security event and life will go on. The pain experienced is only temporary and short-lived and because of that, we will continue to dip our toes when addressing the challenges of cyber security instead of fully jumping right in and addressing the challenges head on.
Now let’s discuss a few hypothetical scenarios that could cause our mindset to fully change towards embracing cyber security as a true top priority rather than an afterthought.
Cyberattack against our critical infrastructure – A successful cyberattack against our critical infrastructure could be devastating enough to cause major physical harm or even loss of life. Let’s think about this for a moment. After the United States was attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001, we responded forcefully. We responded by sending our troops into a war to fight the terrorists that were responsible for the devastating and tragic event. Americans suffered mass injury and loss of life. The pain was and still is unbearable.
Since 9/11, we have spent billions of dollars on national security. We have spent trillions of dollars fighting the war against terrorism with a hope that we will never see another attack on our soil. In the past decade, the countless money that we have spent on national security goes unquestioned or unchallenged. We now champion the motto “Do what ever it takes” or “Our nation shall remain protected at all costs”.
Yes, my dear friends, this tragic event has forever changed our mindset on national security. The ugly truth is the same will happen when the next war unfolds in cyberspace.
Our critical infrastructure – is so far behind when it comes to security that it is just a matter of time before something more serious and drastic happens. For example, our nation continues to embrace new concepts like smart-grid technology. This means we become even more reliant on technology. As such, we become even more susceptible to virtual cyber attacks, which in return could inflict mass harm and loss of life. If a scenario like this were to play out where our critical infrastructure comes under a cyber attack, the moment one life is lost or seriously hurt, cyber security would become our number one focus and priority. Our mindset would change because of this ugly truth.
Internet of Things (IoT) – Threats to cyber security will increase drastically as we continue to embrace IoT. The more “things” we connect to the Internet and networks, the greater the risk of experiencing a major cyber threat that could cause mass injury or loss of life.
Think about it for a moment. Imagine a world where smart cars become the new norm. How about airplanes and other mass-transit systems that are becoming more reliant on automation? Now picture what a cyberattack would look like if attackers took control over our highly-connected mass transit system and caused all sorts of chaos. An event like this would cause mass injury and quite possibly loss of life. Again, if this type of scenario were to play out and humans are severely harmed or killed, cyber security would then be our top number one priority. Our mindset would change.
It is sad and unfortunate that things have to become so bad before we change our mindset and jump into action. You would think that cyber security would be our top number one priority, especially given how vulnerable our nation is.
As we continue to embrace the rapid adoption of technological innovation, please keep in mind these seemingly wonderful innovations will likely cost us dearly in the near future. Most of the “things” in IoT are not designed with security in mind.
As our society becomes more connected and reliant on technology, the risk of cyberwar increases substantially. The very ugly truth is; cyber security will remain an afterthought in most cases and less of a priority until it’s too late. Only until something so drastic or devastating occurs will we begin to embrace cyber security with the same mindset that we have today about protecting our nation from physical attacks.
This is the sad and ugly truth staring us right in the face whether you are willing to admit it or not.