…for the first time in the history of the planet, a species has the technology to prevent its own extinction...The human thirst for excellence, knowledge; every step up the ladder of science; every adventurous reach into space; all of our combined modern technologies and imaginations; even the wars that we’ve fought have provided us the tools to wage this terrible battle.Armageddon, the movie
I was thinking about this quote from the movie this morning as I prepared to run slides for Sunday morning church. While I don’t believe that we’re in a battle for the survival of the species, we ARE in unprecedented times. There were a little over a dozen recessions in the 20th centuries. If you’ve looked at all the indicators and listened to the pundits, we are about to enter one again. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought all markets and business activities around the world to a screeching halt.
Blessings of Technology
Unlike the recessions of the 20th century, we now possess the technology to continue some semblance of normalcy. Many workers (including yours truly) have set up at home to continue normal business operations. Business meetings have been allowed to continue via video conferencing (using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Facebook and FaceTime to name a few). Schools and universities are continuing to educate using online resources and technology. Even churches have been able to deliver Sunday services, prayer groups and other activities online.
The technology of the 21st century has thus far allowed many businesses to continue with “business as usual”. Some industries however still require workers to report for duty–possibly putting themselves in harms way–to provide for the masses. Still others have been able to do combine a little of both–providing goods, services and food with slight modifications. For example, restaurants can limit their contact with the public and continue social distancing while still serving guests using take-out and a combination of Internet ordering with services like Door Dash.
Curse of Technology
Even with all of the advantages of our technology, it can sometimes be a curse–particularly where security is concerned. I am writing about this after reading this article from CNET. For most of us, these security issues don’t pose a huge risk because we aren’t sharing confidential information. For others though, there could be major problems by using a service with questionable security.
For those of us with FERPA or HIPAA privacy concerns (Universities, K-12 institutions, hospitals, doctors, etc), improper vetting of our vendors, could cost us dearly. This is the warning I wanted to share with friends, family and/or possible clients. During these difficult times, we should have our guard up more than ever. Just as we’ve seen people hoarding necessary goods and trying to turn a quick profit at the expense of their neighbors, hackers, spammers and scanners are also trying to make a quick buck. I try to think of it as “once on the ‘Net, always on the ‘Net”. (a few years ago, I found an internet archive of my very first website: scotthaines.net. The site had been taken “down”, deleted and forgotten almost 20 years ago, but the data still survived)
On the contrary, consider the book George Washington’s Secret Six. This book identifies a group of 6 spies that George Washington used during the Revolutionary War. After 225 years, ONE of those spies’ identity remains a mystery. There was no Internet in 1776. No 256-bit encryption. No VPNs, hardened servers or super secret government servers. George Washington hid these identities without technology. Pencil and paper was all he had. This documentation was accessible only to a select few. On the Internet today, a server is accessible or visible to the entire world–making it a target for the world.
Lesson: Stay Safe
The point of all of my rambling is to Stay Safe. Do your due diligence and make sure that the services you are using protect not just yourself, but your clients! While these services offer us ways to communicate during the quarantine, they could also open us up to even more security breaches, so keep the following in mind:
- Research the offerings – What do they do? How do they do it? What kind of security do they offer?
- Know your business – What kind of information are you protecting? What does the law say about your information and these services?
- Ask a security expert – Consult a lawyer, contact a security firm, etc.
- Be cautious – If in doubt, err on the side of caution. Pick up the phone. Set up small group meetings.