• Justin Leary

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Why We All Need To Be More Cyber Aware


What’s the greatest achievement of all time? The Taj Mahal is pretty impressive. Penicillin? Regularly comes in handy. There’s definitely a case to be made for the internal combustion engine too. But if you ask me, there’s no question. It’s the internet.


The internet has become such an integral part of our lives, it’s easy to dismiss the complexity and resources it takes to make it possible. We’re now all seamlessly connected through an amazing engineering feat of countless miles of wires and submarine cables that’s practically seen as magic by most of the public today.


Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. It’s essential for us all to understand the risks that are involved with our digital society so we can stay safe.


How many of us realise just how much of our critical day to day services are reliant on the internet? Whether it’s your heating in the winter, water coming out of your taps, an emergency call for an ambulance or an incubator in the neonatal ward – all of these vital services need the internet to function.


This trend is definitely set to continue. A colleague of mine recently went to buy a fridge and was asked if he wanted the appliance to connect to the internet. He was baffled, he couldn’t see the point of smart gadgets in the kitchen, so opted for a simpler model. But in just a few years it will be as difficult to buy a fridge without connectivity as it is to buy a ‘dumb phone’ today.


At work, you’re just as reliant on the internet. What would happen to your business if you suddenly lost telephony and your documents stored in the cloud? What if your team came to work one day and every single laptop was frozen until a ransom was paid to some hackers you’d never even heard of? Do your business continuity plans account for the level of disruption that would cause? For many people, the answer is no.


In my perfect world, we would all start to take digital risk and cyber awareness much more seriously. How many people can summarise their company’s digital protection or cyber security policies? I’ll tell you right now – not enough. You could argue that outside the HR and Compliance teams most people don’t pay attention to corporate policies, but I don’t think it’s that simple. After all, I’m sure nearly everyone is very familiar with their company policies for annual leave and claiming expenses! It’s just a matter of making it real and relevant for everyone.


In my experience, if users don’t understand why they’re being asked to change their password every three months or why they can’t just download that free tool they found online to make their job easier, you’re going to see a lot of ‘password 1’, ‘password 2’ in your company’s login credentials and you’re going to find a ton of nasty malware in the downloads folder.


Ultimately, when it comes to making internet safer for you and your business, it only takes a few tweaks to your security processes and a different spin on how you communicate and raise cyber awareness internally.


When I worked in the police, we had standard advice we gave to people looking to avoid a burglary. You don’t need to be the most secure house in the world, you just need to look like you’ve taken more precautions than your neighbours. Burglars will always go for the easiest target! It’s a bit mercenary but it’s true. And the same rule applies when you’re looking to avoid a cyberattack. Taking the time to expand your visibility of your digital risks and close obvious vulnerabilities in your network is the best thing you can do to stay secure.


Still, there’s a long way to go before we get to my fully cyber aware utopia. A lot of us still need to learn how the internet really works, and how exposed we are in our day to day lives both at home and at work. Don’t believe me? You only need to look at the images used in the press to illustrate the latest news of a major data breach or hack. 9 times out of 10 the media uses a scary looking stock photo of a sinister man, hunched over his laptop in a hoody or a balaclava.


Unfortunately, that completely misses the point of just how widespread this issue is and just goes to show people don’t understand what the real risks are. While the rest of us catch up to what’s possible in this space, we’ve got 15 year old schoolkids causing chaos with their cyberattacks!


If you ask me, I’ve had enough of the spooky hacker in a hoody myth. It’s time for all of us to take responsibility for staying safe online and drag these idiots into the light!

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