“Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19.” —Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General
Imagine for a moment as you idly sit at your desk, that you are safe. Safe from the dangers of the outside world as we ride the pandemic together to the end. At that very moment, there is another type of pandemic going on. One that is traversing through the internet in search for a new victim. The victim, it hopes, is willfully ignorant in leaving doors open to welcome itself in and disrupt a very delicate system. As millions of people work from home, the underlying pandemic of exposed security grows. Despite being nearly a quarter into the new century, people have simply not adopted to the new world of the internet. Where, as people from the 1800s discovered about the American West, is lawless and full of dangers alongside an infinite sea of possibilities.
The most effective attack of 2020 was malware. But why is that? According to IEEE, up to 75% of remote workers simply do not have basic protections against malware itself! Now imagine what other threats would pose a danger to remote workers. And amplify it by ten. We have a cyber pandemic on our hands, and no one realizes it.
In April of 2021, Iran is attacked through a form of cyberwarfare. Their nuclear enrichment facility goes offline, preventing them from produce enriched uranium.
This same attack could also render the United States infrastructure paralyzed, leaving millions without electricity, water, or other necessities for living. If we do not teach people how to better protect themselves, then how are we going to protect a country from an attack? Teaching them is half the battle when the technology itself can be overwhelming.
To quote Frank Herbert from his classic science fiction novel Dune, “Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.”
It is easy to accept fear, but it is far harder to work through our fear to find a solution to the problem we face. While malware or a computer virus sounds benign, we should take it far more seriously than in any decade previously. Our lives are now entangled with technology. The risk is great, and our society hangs by several threads thanks to computers. We must reinforce it; we must teach people how to protect themselves. We should not be so willing to accept at face value that a piece of malware will never harm us physical, because it might one day. One day, a virus, a trojan horse or malware will enter the computer systems of our power grid and knock out the power. Suddenly, the attack goes from benign to real. Let us avoid making these attacks occur on our daily lives and reduce them as much as humanly possible.
Not everyone is familiar with the internet beyond Tik-Tok and Facebook. The internet is the new wild west, where threats lurk behind every email, behind every link. Education is critical to show and teach people about these threats. Starting them young is the best approach possible. We already teach children how to use the computer, now we should teach them to be cyber defenders. From there, the next generation will grow into understanding the importance of cyber security and protecting our society from outside threats who wish to do us harm.