Cybersecurity is becoming an increasing concern for businesses, individuals, and even governments. The average cost of a data breach is now $3.86 million, and with more of our personal lives being tied up in a digital format, the stakes for any cyber threat are incrementally growing higher.
Many consumers dream of a future where they have some one-size-fits-all form of high-tech protection, like a magic firewall that blocks all manner of attacks, or an antivirus program so robust nothing can get by it. But while we’re certainly going to spend more time improving these specific forms of defense, the future of cybersecurity is going to depend more on human beings.
Training Better Cybersecurity Experts
There are two sides to this story. The first exists on a professional level; we need to have better education for cyber security and more well-rounded experts in the field. These are the people who will design the tech products we use on a daily basis, and the ones proactively monitoring for potential weak points and threats.
We need better human experts for several reasons:
- Products will always have bugs and exploits. The most brilliant team of developers working in concert will still create products and devices that feature bugs, or possible exploits. For example, even some of the best navigation systems can be vulnerable to interference (unless they’re specifically protected against it). Even if there’s no current working knowledge to identify an exploit, a future point of entry may arise due to new features, new integrations, or new knowledge. Well-rounded cybersecurity experts, who are flexible enough to anticipate unique attacks like these, will be able to respond on the fly, and consistently update their work.
- Attacks come when and where you least expect them. The most obvious attacks are easy to prevent. The ones that are most devastating are the ones you never see coming. Experts who focus exclusively on creating better-automated defenses are only going to think about straightforward attacks; it takes more creativity and ingenuity to devise solutions that protect you from your less commonly recognized vulnerabilities.
- Innovation only comes through diverse interactions. The best ideas arise as a result of diverse interactions; sometimes that means getting multiple creative people to work together. Sometimes that means relying on data from many unique sources. In any case, hiring a staff of experts with experience in multiple fields, and allowing them to engage with each other, is the best way to come up with more innovative digital protections.
Turning Everyone Into a Cybersecurity Expert
On another level, we also have to consider increasing the knowledge and experience of every individual using a technological tool, whether it’s a smartphone or an eBay account. After all, it doesn’t matter how robust your firewall is if you’re still duped into giving out your personal password over the phone to someone who sounds trustworthy.
The responsibility partially falls on individuals. People need to take more responsibility for educating themselves on the latest types of attacks, and how to protect themselves from being exploited. There are many resources that provide a comprehensive list of online threats, but you still have to go out of your way to learn about them—and engage the best practices that can protect you from being taken advantage of by them.
The responsibility also partially falls on developers. If you’re creating an app or device that many people will use, you almost have to assume that they’re going to use it in the least secure possible way by default. It’s on you to force them into better security habits, such as mandating that your passwords have a specific length, or forcing your users to change their passwords every six months.
No matter what, we’ll never be able to have a population sufficiently educated to prevent the majority of cyber attacks, but every step toward greater knowledge (or at least more awareness of best practices) is a step in the right direction.
The Role of Technology
Does this mean we can stop thinking about high-tech defensive measures, like firewalls or antivirus software? Of course not. Without these tools, even the most educated cybersecurity expert may be unable to do much against an attack. The idea isn’t to limit our development of better software and more impregnable products, but to make sure those products are being used intelligently by flexible, trained people—and not just mindlessly wielded by someone who doesn’t understand the basics of cybersecurity.
If you’re interested in learning more about cyber threats, whether it’s as an individual looking to keep yourself safe or as a professional developer, there are many ways to get started. You can study up on best practices with a basic online search, learn about the different types of malware that exist, and start taking classes on the nature of cyber defense.