I don’t mean to burst your filter bubble, but we’re now more vulnerable than ever. In the spring of 2017, the virulent WannaCry outbreak afflicted over 200,000 computers in over 150 countries. Since then, high profile ransomware attacks have caused extensive damage to a wide variety of tech-savvy organizations including motion picture companies, police departments, municipalities, automobile manufacturers, oil and gas distribution systems, logistics enterprises, the financial services industry, and healthcare providers throughout our world.
When government organizations and some of the most affluent companies on the planet are unable to protect themselves, what are weto do? Recently, I got a new phone. And, after transferring all the apps, photos, and information from my old one, I got a rather disturbing message. I was enabling facial recognition arguably a highly convenient feature unique to the most recent devices. Once your face is recognized, your login and password are then automatically provided for access to your wi-fi; together with your social media, email, and banking apps. To do this your phone, tablet, or other computer must have access to your password list. During this particular setup, I received notice on my phone that I had one hundred and forty-four compromised passwords.
Now many of these are in the category of who cares. I mean, am I really all that concerned if someone else get access to my news feed? But then I remembered that I recently got an email from my sister that said she needed help. When I reached out to her, she said she was ok but that her email had been hacked. Now in my case, if someone gets into my bank account, they may be able to buy enough gas to roll ten miles down the road or a bucket of fried chicken, but probably not both.
I built my first desktop computer, from a kit, two years before the IBM PC was introduced to the market in 1981. My computer smoked when I first turned it on, and not in a good way. I had learned, the hard way, that you really need to put the right little resistor in the right place before soldering it to the circuit board. A few years later I learned about the value of backing up your work. I had spent several hours word-crafting an important letter. And, when I got up from my desk I tripped over an extension cord, the screen went dark, and I had to rewrite the letter from scratch.
The point is, ignoring little things can cause really big problems. The first time I had a friend named Debbie was in elementary school. From that time as I was immersed in various schools and businesses, I’ve probably known a half dozen people named Debbie. So, the first time I ever received an email with “Hey! It’s Debbie” in the subject line, I opened it only to find out this particular Debbie did Dallas.
I can’t count the number of times my personal computer has been infected with various forms of malware. When you type a word and it seems to take an eternity to appear on the screen. – When you come back to your desk after making a sandwich and your computer is doing stuff as though there’s a ghost sitting in your chair, using your mouse and keyboard. – When you weren’t given the option of choosing where to save a downloaded file and then you look in your downloads folder only to find it’s not there. – When you think you’re downloading a zip file only to find out later, you really downloaded two.
The adware, spyware, trojans, worms, and viruses that are collectively known as malware can have their way with you. Made any enemies lately? What’s to prevent them from parking incriminating material on your network attached storage? How’s that patent application coming? Did you really mean to share it with a complete stranger? – And, just how did someone else beat you to the punch with a business plan that seems way too similar to be mere coincidence?
Anyone that can hijack your computer can exploit the information you have on it, add whatever they want to it, and either blackmail you or hold your professional life for ransom. If you’re living on or just adjacent to the web, you’re not in the kind of neighborhood where it’s ok to leave your doors unlocked.
In June of 1941, John Mauchly visited John Atanasoff in Ames, Iowa. During that time Atanasoff and Mauchly discussed the prototype Atanasoff Berry Computer also known as the ABC. Mauchly enjoyed unfettered access to it and also reviewed Atanasoff’s design manuscript. Just a few years later J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly were awarded electronic computing patents for the ENIAC that included elements from Atanasoff’s prior art.
If you want your career to smoke, in a good way, then you need to put all the little resistors in the right places. It’s one thing to share your ideas. It’s quite another to have them taken from you. Perhaps it’s time to think about using your personal untapped potential for your own purposes.