Well-functioning governments and authorities know that threats can arise from both domestic and international sources.  As a result, the government develops strategies that not only identify these threats but minimize consequences for the public.  When it comes to cybersecurity this may not be occurring. However, most Americans are under the false impression that the U.S. Government has an effective cyber strategy for everyone including small businesses and individuals.  

In the current programming, the holistic approaches to cyber resilience and effective protections do not exist. It is a fact that on numerous occasions the U.S. Government has failed to protect its institutions from cybercriminals.  The OPM breach is the best example as the U.S. Government lost records for over 21 million employees and contractors. Hackers have also managed to penetrate top secret facilities and have stolen sensitive information on military weapon maintenance.

In addition to this, cybercriminals have even managed to disrupt the most sacred pillar of the democratic system, the U.S. elections.  The 2016 U.S. elections were shrouded in controversy because of the potential fraud and breaches occurred. The hacks created a narrative to carry forward and promote doubt in our systems.  There were both social media manipulation and attacks on local election systems This is the definition of “effective hacking.”

What Are They Doing to Me?

Most important in the election hacking was that not only computer systems were exploited, but also the feelings of potential voters.  Meaning, adversaries successfully moved digital manipulation into a manifestation of human agents who promoted distrust in the very systems that makes them “free.”

If we were talking biology, this would be equivalent to “killer genes.”  Hackers planted seeds through cyber exploits that caused people to undermine their own lives.  And even after all of the facts and the continuous chatter since the elections, citizens are still oblivious to the true intentions of these cyber-attacks.  In fact, none of us may ever know whether these Russian agents were trying to alter the political outcome of the election or just targeting the essence of American identity; trust in our governmental systems.  

If we review the prevalence of social media sites or the growth in connectivity to them, we can see how attacks that undermine belief in systems can grow in the future.  This type of attack could be more effective than an actual disruption of networks and destruction of devices. National and civic systems are only as strong as the user’s belief in them.  Their credibility depends on the entity’s assumed integrity.

Who Are You Digitally?

As technology, devices and gadgets continue to be an essential part of our daily existence.  They will always appear to offer a tremendous amount of convenience and comfort in our personal and professional lives.  But they are also adversely affecting our identities. Most individuals associate themselves with their social media accounts that have practically replaced real-life social interaction for many who feel that these platforms complete their persona.

Individuals run the risk of forgetting their very identities as a result of this prevalence of social media; some people have become someone or something else.  Two very specific effects of full-time connectivity make us very vulnerable. First, many people have come to depend on external sources for self-assurance, all in an effort to satisfy their sense of worth.  Additionally, the work day has extended to 24 hours as individuals are constantly connected with their bosses.

This connectivity and connection with information coming across the screen are beginning to trump person to person interaction.  The platform owners are gaining power held by a few governments. Not only are social media sites are facilitating communication but are taking ownership of lives.  

Who is Watching Out for Us?

The prevailing belief is that the government monitors and manages our protection from social media companies as they would for say a drug company.  However, these networks are monitored our online activities 24/7 and actively compromising the privacy of their customer base at will. No entity is officially regulating their activities as most officials don’t understand the mechanics or motivations of the provider.  It is hard to disrupt or manage a rule set of concepts beyond your scope of reason.

Therefore, the owners of social media sites are now an appendage of each person using them; much like a hand or leg.  The social media sites help users touch the world and walk differently. And although they provide value, these sites also influence user behaviour and impact user thinking.  This can’t be good for people or the nation they live in.

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