Scams, identity theft, and cyber-theft currently abound, all courtesy of the Internet. Is there anything that can be done to stop it and to protect us when we are online? What about the government; is it doing enough to protect us? Should it step up and provide us with more protection, or will the government just bog the Internet down with its senseless red tape? These and other questions need to be answered and, in my opinion, they need to be answered soon or take the risk of cyber-terrorism finding a way to hit our shores.
I know, and I agree, that to allow government any more control over our everyday existence is a thorn in our communal side, but sometimes its interference is a necessary evil. So think about the following facts and then decide for yourselves if this may be an instance when we need its control.
- We have allowed too much of our lives to be controlled by computers, including railroad crossing gates and prison doors.
- Today, the masses are dependent on the Internet for not just keeping informed, but also commerce, accessing health records, and much more.
- 400 million people are using Google email and 50 million are using Dropbox to store files.
- Millions of consumers around the world now use online banking accounts, pay bills online, trade stocks, and/or store some type of personal data in the cloud.
How Safe Are We Online?
I don’t believe that the online information companies are privy to is that safe at all. In fact, it is amazing to me just how many millions of accounts have been hacked into over the past decade. Access to these files is, for the most part, no one particular person’s fault but rather a leak in a company’s security system. That being the case, then we, too, must hold a measure of accountability in this leak of information since we have chosen to depend on companies to provide their own security measures to protect our data, information, and online storage. Unfortunately, the trust that we have placed in some of these companies has been misguided and the fact remains that millions of accounts have been hacked over the past decade. This hacking has, in turn, led to some people’s credit card information, identification, and/or other private information being compromised. Some of this information will fall into the hands of hackers who just want to see if they can break the code and prove that current security procedures are just a sieve that can be easily breached by outsiders. However, in other cases, the hackers want to do serious damage to corporations or government entities. So then the question becomes: If we can’t depend on companies to protect our private information, how do we protect ourselves?
What Can Be Done to Make the Internet a Safer Place?
There is currently a virtual tug-of-war going on in the halls of Congress between those who favor and those who do not favor a new cyber-security law. The anti-cyber-security folks claim that the government has no right to force companies to adhere to a set of guidelines while the pro-cyber-security folks suggest that it is the government’s responsibility to provide these protections in the name of our common defense.
However, I believe that the government could potentially put pressure on companies to comply with security standards without enacting any new laws. One such way is to go after the computer manufacturers and software developers’ bottom line. This would be relatively easy since the government is one of the largest purchasers of both computer hardware and software and, as such, it could put pressure on computer companies to improve the security measures sold with their products. These security measures could include demands that the government wouldn’t purchase any product from a company until its operating systems, server software, or other computer devices adhere to a set of standards meant to protect the system from hacking. Then, if a company didn’t wish to adhere to the guidelines, it could opt to forego a sale and would lose a rather large client. This alone would encourage a company’s compliance without instituting any new laws or penalties for non-compliance.
Unfortunately, like the current trend on Capitol Hill, cyber-security seems to be debated by a group of individuals who are determined to stand tough and to avoid any compromises even if it is for the good of the country. However, in this case, part of the problem is that neither private business nor the government have done anything to garner the other’s trust. To see this, one only has to look at the consistent lies and illegal activities that have surrounded the current economic crisis. That being said, it goes back to the same question: Whose responsibility is it to protect us against cyber-attacks and do we want any more governmental controls?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. So what do you think? Are more government controls warranted, or should we trust the business element to provide us with protections? Share your thoughts with us.
CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by DaveBleasdale