Greatest Threat to Our Freedom

The billions of documents and records that have been stolen by hackers are just a storm warning of the massive hurricane on the horizon.  The year 2019 began with news that nearly 773 billion email accounts and passwords were leaked to potential buyers on hacker websites. This continues a disturbing pattern of  cyber theft of systems across the world that should have every person closing their digital hatches. This is a clear threat to powerful nations like the U.S. The greatest danger is that most people have no clue as to why stolen emails are a threat to them.  

No politician wants to offend a business entity or go to war with practices that have existed without noticeable incident for years.  Not one of them wants to seem extreme in calling for reforms and regulations. But that is the very essence of leadership. There is enough data at this point, and identifiable victims, to merit such a step outside the lines.  However, outside of a few champions this issue garners limited attention.

Where Are the Leaders

The opportunity to access people’s computers, disrupt businesses and steal top-secret data makes low skilled individuals powerful.  The growth of the industry supporting these hackers allows asymmetrical digital warfare against the most powerful nations in the world.  It creates capabilities for any enemy, disgruntled employee or talented – but bored hacker to impact the lives of millions of people.

Political leaders seem to relish us being blind to a problem they have few answers.  Look no further than the 2020 Presidential candidate pool to see how unconcerned potential national leaders are when it comes to our cyber conundrum.  The current President never speaks of the digital threat against us, or how building a stronger digital foundation secures our economic future. The candidates don’t even list cybersecurity in their priorities.

Standing Cyber Strong

You see, the solution starts with “you” the people.  This is also is where the problem persists. We use any new technology so long as it is popular.  If it appears to provide convenience for free, we are in. The data requested by the technology provider is never viewed through a long-term assessment of risks.  Maintaining digital freedom is never considered in our risk equation as we really don’t believe it can be taken.

Most importantly, we make few demands on critical systems manufacturers like medical device makers and smart city developers.  This is why they continue to deliver “code vulnerable” products to consumers. This is why political leaders avoid the very topic they should be focused on; YOU don’t care.

 

The voluntary trafficking of our digital selves, ambivalence towards the undermining of our democracy and ease of unauthorized access to critical systems may one day encumber our digital right to free passage.  This in essence is the recipe for digital slavery. Our futures could be defined by sets of data that can be used to exploit us, or simply keep us out of opportunities.

Software Defined

Just as DNA is a definition of each human life, software defines the capability and capacity for technology.  My fear is that technology is now starting to define our lives and may soon predict human posterity. Aside from using software to advance calculations solving vexing issue like gene expression to cure cancer, it will continue to move towards creating a new social system.  

We can’t digitize leadership, but we need it now.  Leaders emerge and none seem to be floating to the top.  Author, Dr. Mansur Hasib, former CISO and professor at the prestigious University of Maryland University College, has written award winning books on cybersecurity leadership.  He says that leadership is a frame of mind. It involves embracing values and integrity focusing on things we can control. If we take control over our actions, we can effect change.  If there is integrity, you will rise to levels that you could not have foreseen.

Few of the most visible politicians wants to be the driver of efforts that move us towards better security in this expanding digital world.  Not one of them wants to hurt the feelings of potential donors; especially as unenlightened voters are not demanding change. Demand change and make them afraid to hurt your feelings.     

There are several cybersecurity bills on the Hill right now. The proliferation of technology has aided us in countless ways, however, it also presents serious threats that are sometimes unanticipated.  We are glad to see that Congress is taking proactive actions to tackle the imminent risks associated with using technology for important national functions. Introducing bills on the House floor is only the beginning of this process.  We have seen this type of energy before. It is now time for Congress to actually “do something.” Talk is cheap and inaction effectively cheapens our democracy. So, to all of our elected officials “don’t continue to speak about how you love this country.”  Presidential candidates, if you love this country, Prove it!