One of the best comedic routines I’ve ever had the opportunity to hear is Louis C.K.’s “Everything’s Amazing, Nobody’s Happy” piece. He makes some very clear if not painful points about how we as human beings in a modern society take things for granted. For example, we complain when the WiFi on the airplane goes out. But we never take a second to consider the technological marvel that it takes to deliver that WiFi experience to passengers in a metal tube shooting through the sky.
Enter today’s consumer-driven techno-economy. Let’s be real – if you’re in at least your forties you’ve seen the evolution of computer technology from the very start. You may remember 300 baud dial-up. You may have had a cassette-based storage drive on your personal computer. Holy cow, you had a personal computer? If you were lucky you played Pong, or programmed your own games using BASIC on MS-DOS. Yeah, back in those days we fought for the rights to use the telephone with siblings, so that we could gopher our way through networks searching for things we didn’t know about. The world wide web was a game changer. Then Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) and cable modems. Now – we connect to the Internet at blistering speeds to send massive PowerPoint documents then lose our minds when the WiFi isn’t available.
So here’s the point. With all this amazing technology floating around us from watches that don’t need a phone to place calls, to digital assistants that respond to our voices, to all manner of widgets that make our lives easier and more connected – we’re far less secure than we ever have been. This should be no surprise, right? I forget who this idea is attributed to, but the thought is that it takes society about 10 years to fully understand the ramifications of any major technological advancement. For example, it’s taken us over ten years to comprehend the impact the cellular phone had on our lives. The issue is, we develop technology at a pace that is at least 10x this speed.
Truth told, in today’s society we’ve prototyped, tested, developed, released, and sunset a technology or widget 8 years before we ever understand it’s societal impact. If that doesn’t concern you, you don’t understand technology. Security is critical to our lives since tech impacts every single crevice of everyday life. Yet, security isn’t something that’s commonly written into product requirements! When the people behind ‘smart TVs’ were designing their products – do you think there was much thought given to how secure they would be? What about the company that makes your Internet-connected smart fridge? Or the one that makes the Internet-connected door lock on your home? Or the company that develops the little widget that allows an HVAC company to control the temperature for a hospital from 1,000 miles away?
The sad truth is, it’s likely they all get the same amount of security consideration. And that’s the problem. We as a society feel comfortable adopting ever-increasing measures of technology into our everyday lives without asking whether the proper precautions have been taken to keep the tech from literally killing us. We trust the vendors. The same vendors who put features and functions over safety nine out of ten times. If you think this is hyperbole, you don’t read enough news or blogs. It’s a terrifying world out there if you start to think about it.
So yes, the world we live in is infused with technological marvels that we couldn’t have dreamed of twenty years ago. But at the same time, we’re orders of magnitude less secure, and in some cases even less safe, as a result. If you’re reading this, odds are good you have a role to play in the security and safety of technology that’s deployed throughout our lives. Whether your company makes medical widgets, or you work for a bank, or process credit cards – it’s all the same game. Balance new features, with their safe and secure (enough) implementation.
So you have a duty. All of you. Everyone out there. Think about what all these technological advancements mean – and how they can impact people’s lives. Think of how we can balance the drive for cool new things, with security and safety. Because everything today is more amazing than it’s ever been in history – but we’re much less safe and secure because of all the technology. And fixing that is your job.