It was sobering to talk to people about cybersecurity this week after reading articles about towns being attacked by ransomware that encrypts your data. It was distressing to listen to an NPR story and other stories about the financial costs to municipalities, hospitals, school districts and businesses large and small who are hit by crypto criminals.
Computer system users are tricked into clicking on links or attachments that invade and encrypt their data as well as that of other people using the same network. That data remains encrypted and unusable until a ransom is paid. Riviera Beach, FL, a town of 35,000, paid almost $600,000 to get the password to decrypt its data.
And paying the ransom is no guarantee that the data will be decrypted and be salvageable.
While towns carry insurance for these types of attacks, not all businesses and individuals do. And those who work in the industry report that we’re always going to be under attack and that there is no way to protect ourselves with 100 percent security. That’s hard to fathom and hard to accept.
We have to worry about our computers getting attacked. We have to worry about our identities being stolen, our bank accounts getting hacked, our personal data getting stolen in large-scale hacks of airlines, our credit card companies, Target, Home Depot and the list goes on and on.
Our cellphones are either spying on us all the time or part of the time along with the NSA monitoring us via our phones. The digital era we live in makes so many things easier, faster and more convenient. It really does. Information travels at the speed of light. There’s nothing we can’t look up and discover anymore. Encyclopedias are a thing of the past – along with our privacy.
It’s hard to find the right balance between being overly paranoid about the perils of being encrypted, hacked, stolen and spied on and being properly cautious. No one is going back to the pre-digital era. Even Luddites aren’t going back.
Aldous Huxley wasn’t kidding when he titled his 1931 novel “Brave New World,” inspired by a phrase (“O brave new world”) that he borrowed from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”