Maybe they already have and you don’t even know it. Nope, this isn’t the tagline for Hollywood’s next psychological thriller. It’s the day-to-day world of corporate computing, a global economy and infrastructure built on silicon. I’m talking about the 'digital you,' here. You know, the collection of ones and zeroes stored across databases, the ubiquitous cloud, and every square inch of virtual real estate. In the physical world, or ‘meat space’ as I affectionately like to think of it, the digital you takes the form of credit cards, social security numbers, medical records, and countless other embodiments.
A single individual accumulates a huge cyber target over the course of their lifetime. However, the average Joe is rarely singled out as a direct target. Rather, the bad people are going after the corporations that hold the digital you.
They’re not just after you. Or me. They’re after all of us…
Reading this back to myself, I don’t hear it in my own voice. Instead, I hear that of Elliot Alderson, the protagonist of television’s Mr. Robot. Hollywood isn’t far from the truth sometimes.
Although digital crime isn’t as dramatic or sexy as Hollywood makes it out to be, it’s something worth being paranoid about. Somebody, no—somebodies—are out to get you. And they won’t be easily deterred. As a software security consultant, this is a paranoia I wish every software developer, project manager, and CEO comes to understand sooner rather than later. It’s unfortunate that my great aunt can’t write software. I mean, she won’t even get an email address because she’s afraid that that’s how hackers will invade her brain.
In contrast to the conventional wisdom of ‘fearing what we don’t understand,’ perhaps we tend not to fear what we don’t understand in the cyber world. Maybe we should.