During the Cold War, the enemy was known. Communism was spreading (or so we thought) and its very existence jeopardized the way of life we’d come to enjoy in America in the 80s. The threat of nuclear war kept our military sharp and our patriotism high. The next great unifying battle against a tangible “bad guy” came with the threat of terrorism in the mid- and late-90s, culminating in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. For a while, America galvanized around the idea of stopping radical extremists from killing Americans ever again.
Now that we approach the end of the 2nd decade of this millennium, we’re faced with a very deadly series of threats. Unfortunately, they’re not as centralized or tangible as the threats of the Cold War or the anti-terrorism era. The new threats are nameless, faceless, and deeply embedded on the very devices we use daily. The growing cyber-threats are everywhere, and there’s very little we, as American citizens, can do about them.
As such, this sense of helplessness has lulled many Americans into a “digital complacency” in which we all have a set of precautions we take with various degrees of success, but for the most part we go about our daily digital business hoping that nothing terrible happens to us. We’re so accustomed to the threats of every link in our emails, every social profile we keep, and every app we download that we’ve become completely reliant on our technological safeguards to keep us from harm.
Is the nation ready to revive the American Conservative Movement?
Anti-virus programs, long passwords, biometrics, and private browsers often account for the full extent of our digital safety protocols. Still, millions of Americans don’t even take these basic precautions. It’s no wonder the various cyber-threats are so abundant. There are enough digitally complacent Americans to keep them happily in business.
There may be nothing we can do about cyber-terrorists who may be attempting to take down the power grid or corporate hackers trying to steal big data, but we can be digitally responsible for our own information.
For years, I’ve been somewhat of a nerd when it comes to safeguarding my digital profiles. I dumped Facebook and Instagram a long time ago and finally dumped Twitter last month. I only surf using a VPN when possible. My password is over 20-characters long when possible, and if there’s a service I need that requires a shorter password, I search for alternatives. But even with all the precautions I take, it’s still not enough to be 100% sure. Nothing short of being a digital hermit could be 100% certain, and I love my technology too much to go down that road.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans have social media accounts, aren’t using a VPN to surf, and have a single password they use for pretty much everything the do. This is how they’ll get us. This is how they’ll win. The digital complacency that has engulfed most Americans is the reason North Korea can easily hack Sony’s emails. It’s how every week we hear about companies that allowed our personal data to be stolen. It’s why the thought that someone could hack into parts of our infrastructure in the future is a false notion because they’ve almost certainly done it already. They’re just waiting.
When the time comes for the nefarious actors capable of engaging in their cyber-threats to take action, we’ll be able to blame it on digital complacency. You see, it isn’t some Stuxnet-like code that’s breaking into all of these servers. They get there because some VP of Operations connected his iPad using a connection named “Holiday Inn Guest Service” not realizing it was a hacker camped out in room 228. They get into the power grid because a maintenance worker decided to set his password as “[email protected]” They found backdoors into government servers because Huma Abedin decided to check her email on her creepy husband’s laptop.
There are far too many Americans who prefer to stick their heads in the digital sand instead of taking the necessary precautions to keep the bad guys out. These are the people who will be responsible for the next big breach.