Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Awareness for the Next Generation

"Now may I suggest some of the things we must do if we are to make the American dream a reality. First, I think all of us must develop a world perspective if we are to survive. The American dream will not become a reality devoid of the larger dream of brotherhood and peace and goodwill. The world in which we live is a world of geographical oneness…" – Dr. Martin Luther King, from a speech delivered at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, June 6, 1961

If Dr. King had still been alive today to see the wonders of the global connectivity of the Internet, he would probably consider the quoted portion of his speech as a "statement before its time."

Today the current global Internet penetration rate stands at approximately 24%. With a global population of 6.7 billion, that equates to roughly 1.6 billion users on the Internet across the globe. At the current penetration rate, cybercrime has become pervasive, pandemic and increasingly connected with other parts of the criminal ecosystem. It ranges from the theft of an individual’s identity to the complete disruption of a country’s Internet connectivity due to a massive distributed attack against its networking and computing resources.

With the remaining 5 billion users to connect to the Internet, there are significant challenges – one of which is cybercrime (via its many methods). There are technological preventative measures that help mitigate cybercrime attacks, but technology alone is not the answer.

The next one billion users on the Internet will not come from developed countries, but rather mostly from developing countries. Awareness, even simple levels of awareness, of various types of risks and cybercrime attacks can yield positive results. This is primarily due to the fact that the weakest link in the “security chain” is, correctly, always quoted as being the end user. The additional one billion users on the Internet will be considered “fresh targets” by the cybercriminals.

The target of cybercrime centers on information – the data that is electronically stored for retrieval and subsequent use. For instance, even with varying levels of per-capita income, the amount of money that stands to be lost to a cybercrime called “phishing” (one of the most common online attacks where a person is socially engineered to provide personally identifiable information by someone posing to be a trusted source) has the potential to be quite significant due to the sheer number of users at risk (unaware).

A real-world example of the scope of the threat: cybercrimes, like phishing and data breaches, are a scalable threat to the United States. These threats are so severe they are detailed as national security threats in the 2009 Annual Threat Assessment Intelligence Briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee. This representes the scope of one cybercrime problem in a single country, whose users have had several years of exposure to the Internet. New Internet users will face the same difficulties – but from cybercriminals that have had also years of experience and that have optimized their attack and evasion techniques. 

Infrastructure build-out, deployment and subsequent end-user connectivity should be coupled with effective cybersecurity awareness training – in addition to application usage training. It is the ignorance of on-line risks that poses the greatest threat to the new generation of global Internet citizens. Coordinated global efforts in effective awareness training will transform these new Internet citizens from potential victims to increasingly aware, and less vulnerable, people as a whole.

Jeff Debrosse
Senior Research Director

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