The trouble with progress
“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…”
― William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)
When Gibson wrote his bestseller, Neuromancer, there was no real internet. No email, no phones in our pockets and so many of our everyday technologies simply did not exist. I’m not going to drone on about Gibson’s amazing prescience; this little article is more about how our strange our shared reality has become, and how we should be careful in it.
When was the last time you actually sat back and realised just how bizarre this world is really becoming? Many of us spend days sat staring at a screen and manipulating data in some way before it goes off at speeds we can’t really fathom to be dealt with elsewhere. If you imagine back 40 years or so, then what do you think your average person would think if you described our world? TV programs available on demand, easy access to almost all the world’s knowledge from a small device in most people’s pockets, and the ability to communicate with each other in so many ways that new words had to be invented to describe them.
Yet we get up in the morning and accept it all without a second thought. We resume our virtual lives, perhaps making arrangements on WhatsApp for a Teams call with family / friends in the evening, maybe ordering some household thing that needs of topping up from Amazon or eBay, or perhaps just checking the weather forecast. We are so enabled, so confident and so clever.
However, our technological utopia comes at a cost. There have always been criminals: in the past they had usually be pretty close by to rob or manipulate us into doing something for their gain. In our wonderful advanced society however, the criminals can be anywhere in the world. Many of them are intelligent and well organised: the tools of their trade evolving at an ever-increasing rate, a perpetual arms race to try to overcome whatever security solutions we may put in place.
The run of the mill professional online criminal organisation does not aim at the well protected, well informed targets, unless they happen to represent a truly massive (everyone retires) payday, but they are few and far between. Your average online criminal has a fair few tools and works on the idea that if lots of targets are hit then some will be vulnerable enough to take on. These are the ones that are the bread and butter of your modern online criminal caper.
Of course, those of us with any sense want to avoid being in a vulnerable situation to begin with. How do we do that? Well it is not a one-size-fits-all unfortunately. For a small organisation, some KnowBe4 training and having Heimdal installed across your network would be a good start. Then once we get a bit bigger, we should be looking at utilising a Security Operations Centre (SOC). There are many answers to many puzzles, it really depends upon what the starting situation is.
The short version is this: if you live in the modern world and you want your organisation to be safe then don’t be a numpty and assume that you know how to deal with all this stuff yourself. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Brigantia on 020 3358 0090 to get put in touch with your local Brigantia Partner, an independent expert to help you dynamically safeguard your organisation.
Alternatively, you could always just reject all the technical advances since WWII, that would also keep you safe from online threats.