OK boomer, time to fix the internet once and for all

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The annual arrival of Computer Security Day, otherwise known as Saturday, November 30th, is upon us once again. As welcome as this and all the other days devoted to raising awareness of cybersecurity, the fact of the matter most people are well aware of the risks they face.

A global index of consumer concerns created by Unisys finds nearly two-thirds (63%) of global consumers report they are seriously concerned about the threat of viruses/hacking and well more than half (57%) seriously concerned about the risks of being hacked or having their security compromised while online.

Within the U.S., almost two-thirds (63%) of Americans are seriously concerned that their identity could be stolen and/or misused.

Study: 57% of global consumers are srsly concerned about the risks of having their security compromised while online. 63% of US consumers srsly concerned about #identitytheft ~@MVizard Click To Tweet

The issue the average person is grappling with is a general feeling of being powerless to protect themselves online. Not surprisingly, 70% of Americans concurred that given the growing amount of data, apps, and devices, it’s high time to create a new, more secure and controlled Internet. A full third of respondents said they strongly support this idea.

Of course, very few of the survey respondents have any idea how that might be accomplished, much less be accomplished. However, with a national election on the horizon may the time has come to consider the next great “moonshot.” Losses caused by cybersecurity breaches are already being measured in the trillions. The core cybersecurity issue with the Internet is the underlying protocols assumed all the systems connected could be trusted. Even Tim Berners-Lee, one of the technology figures that helped build the foundation for the Internet and co-founder of the Worldwide Web Foundation, says it’s time for a change.

Study: 70% of Americans concurred that given the growing amount of data, apps, and devices, it’s time to create a new, more secure and controlled Internet. ~@MVizard #InfoSec Click To Tweet

Berners-Lee this week reiterated his call for a Contract for the Web, which is based on nine core principles for securing the Internet that address everything from hate speech, data privacy, political manipulation to the centralization of online power among a small number of companies.  More than 160 companies are now backing that proposal, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Google.

Many seasoned and perhaps jaundiced cybersecurity professionals might scoff at such idealistic notions. The Internet as we know it today in their eyes is broken beyond all repair. The truth is many governments around the world like it that way. However, hope springs eternal. The same idealism that inspires the younger members of our society to rally for a way to address climate change can also be marshaled to drive a reinvention of the Internet. Rather than accepting the status quo, many of the younger members of society are now greeting recalcitrance against change with a derisive “OK Boomer” response.

It’s too early to say whether anything will come of this. However, don’t be surprised to see one or more presidential candidates seizing on cybersecurity as a campaign issue. The more exposed people become to and on the Internet, the more aware they become that something is fundamentally amiss. Committing to fund a multiyear effort to “take back the Internet” by 2025 is just the kind of thing that might get people who are otherwise disinclined to participate in an election to finally pay a visit to their local voting booth.

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