Fun fact: in 2019, many experts on international diseases warned the world that a global pandemic was on the horizon and that we were significantly unprepared. Not many listened (in fairness, it was a strange time – so who would?) and, well, two years later, we know how that played out…

Many kids who are forced to study History often wonder why. The past is over, they say, so what benefit is it to go back in time learning about it? Well, those who aren’t wise enough to learn from past mistakes are destined to repeat them and, sadly, it looks like we’re on the verge of making a similar error – only this time with a completely different yet equally dangerous pandemic.

Yup, the industry leaders are warning us about Cyber Security, and failure to listen is surely failure to learn from not too long ago.

It’s astounding to look around and realise how the world has completely transformed into an interconnected, largely digital universe (or Metaverse, if things continue to progress at this rate). So much so, in fact, that experts are even discussing amending Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to now include Wi-Fi. The PC and Smartphone (to many, at least) easily rank besides food, sleep, oxygen, and water as vital components of human survival. The pandemic certainly accelerated this process, with everything from transactions to dating to workspaces embracing the digital revolution – but in the process, this left us vulnerable, as many of us became so caught up by progression, we negated to ensure adequate protection or remotely consider a failsafe.

Today, sadly, anything connected to the Internet is compromisable, targetable, and, sadly, exploitable by a wide array of predators.

It seems like every day we see another Cyber Hacking scandal – from Sony Pictures to the Irish Healthcare System, to Virgin Active and even world leaders. The raw Data, in fact, is startling, as 36 BILLION private records were breached and reported (making them a fraction of the total number) in the first half of 2020 alone.

For the last two years, the response to every cough or new variant has been drastic, including lockdowns, vaccine rollouts, amendments to constitutional processes and the implementation of a worldwide, unified State of Disaster. In contrast, the response to this perpetual spate of Cyber Crimes has been minimal – and barely a whimper in comparison to the more physical, ‘real-world’ threats which we deemed higher priority. Even when the US Government itself was prone to digital attacks, its response was nowhere near as severe as its approach to Covid-19.

The world effectively constructed an entire digital universe yet negated to install even the most basic security gate.

By interconnecting our entire way of being, we’ve opened ourselves up to previously unforeseen (and often unfathomable) means of vulnerability. Seemingly overnight, crucial governmental secrets are at the mercy of non-allied countries. It’s entirely possible for Russia to impact an election on US shores, for hackers in Israel to compromise the South African President’s cellphone, for any one of a million countries to suddenly have their resources attacked, infiltrated, and exploited. Such is the risk we faced when running head-first into a new, digital remote world without adequate protection – and this has the potential to have lasting, ground shaking repercussions not just to you and me, but the entire political landscape of the world as we know it.

Sure, the Average Joe has a lot to fear if their browser history is compromised, their Identity Stolen or their assets suddenly wiped completely. But what happens when more advanced, more sinister hackers start infiltrating platforms meant to be impenetrable? We’ve seen it happen in healthcare systems, credit bureaus and even entire branches of Government – so why is it that Cyber Threats and Security is not taken as seriously as an admittedly dangerous disease, which, as we’ve seen, we’ve still managed to overcome relatively quickly?

It’s a Brave New World, but also a frightening one if you step back and consider the bigger picture. Every workplace, every child, almost every individual on the planet has heaps of confidential Data and resources at their disposal, at both a corporate and personal level. Without the adequate protection, all of it is at risk, all of it can be stolen and, most importantly, all of it can be used for nefarious means.

All things considered, Cyber Security isn’t just fear mongering, or the digital equivalent of building a bomb shelter in anticipation of WW3. On the contrary, it’s merely an indication that as society’s digital needs have progressed, so too has its understanding that important information needs significant protection, and those with the foresight to understand that prevention is better than cure will, ultimately, be those who were glad they did so in the long run.

We, as individuals, have a responsibility and a duty to place as much emphasis on Cyber Security (and education around it) as humanly possible. Just type the term into Google for a full understanding of all the ways you’re unknowingly compromised, or how many organisations are brought to their knees daily because they failed to do the same. We need to not just talk about, but accept, the reality that everything connected to the Internet (which is, in itself, pretty much everything) is up for grabs – meaning protection is not just an option, but a necessity.

The world has a Cyber Security problem, that much is clear. The only question is whether we’ll be willing to gear up with the correct solutions or be cursing ourselves for doing so long after it’s too late.