Cyber threats risk our progression as a society

This is a guest post by Jason Baden, regional vice-president for multicloud application services and security company, F5

A shadow of doubt has been cast over the preparedness of Australian organisations in the face of continuing cyber attacks. The frequency and severity of attacks prompts two burning questions: Are organisations enacting substantial changes in response to the looming threats, and what will happen if they don’t?

Australia, like much of the world, has suffered the relentless surge in cyber attacks targeting not only individuals and businesses, but government organisations and critical infrastructure. The fact the landscape is evolving so rapidly means it’s more necessary than ever to enact comprehensive transformations in how organisations perceive and approach cyber security. While some have certainly shown progress, it seems the changes are not being felt across the board.

On one hand, it is clear many organisations have taken tangible steps to bolster their cyber security posture. There has been a surge in investments in technological advancements, the training of personnel, and strategic partnerships that demonstrate a genuine commitment to tackling cyber threats.

However, on the other hand, the sheer scale of the changing cyber crime landscape presents as the most formidable adversary. And as we’ve learned, these criminals are accessing better weapons that allow greater for greater scale and sophistication with attacks – such as AI-enabled generative tools and deepfakes.

Aside from the obvious financial and reputational damage that follow cyber attacks, there is something important to consider that could have a tremendous impact on us all: the potential for the increasing onslaught of attacks to seriously hinder our progress as a society.

Stunted progress

What impact will the increasing number of cyber attacks have on our technological advancement? The question is a complex one, perhaps best answered by assessing the impact of conflict on advancement throughout our history.

Take, for example, the Library of Alexandria which was considered to be the most renowned centre of human learning and knowledge of the ancient world. Located in Hellenistic Egypt, it housed the largest collection of literature, scrolls, and manuscripts containing scientific, philosophical, and artistic works. The library played a critical role in the advancement of human knowledge, as scholars and researchers of the time would gather, collaborate, and build on the work of others.

The exact circumstances of the library’s demise are still hotly debated; however, it is widely understood that a combination of conflict, warfare, political instability, and neglect led to its destruction. The incredible loss of the vast knowledge repository was an unimaginable setback for human progress as it dramatically impeded the sharing of knowledge, slowing down intellectual advancement.

The increasing number of cyber attacks and threats to digital infrastructure can be viewed as analogous to those challenges that eventually led to the downfall of the Library of Alexandria. Just as warfare and conflict disrupted the exchange of ideas and advancement of knowledge in the past, cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, research institutions, governments, and businesses, has the potential to disrupt the flow of information, slow down the pace of innovation, and hinder our advancement.

Can we stop history from repeating itself?

A common concern is the reactive nature of responses. Too often, a response is triggered only once a breach has occurred, highlighting the continuing lack of proactive planning. Additionally, the problem is exacerbated by the shortage of skilled cyber security professionals under Australia’s ongoing skills crisis.

Unfortunately, there is the lingering misconception that the responsibility for cyber security protection remains solely within the ‘IT crowd’. This must be dispelled. Effective cyber security demands an all-hands approach. While there are promising instances of a change in attitude on this front, it’s an area that requires further development.

Another crucial element is the support from governments. The Australian federal government has been working to evolve frameworks and regulations in response to the changing landscape, and has introduced several cyber security initiatives as well as notable appointments. However, the effectiveness of these initiatives largely hinges on active enforcement and regular management to address evolving threats, all at a time when government has many competing priorities ranging from defence to inflation.

The government’s role in fostering an environment of information sharing and collaboration between the public and private sectors, and across all levels of government, cannot be overstated.

Thanks to the leaps and bounds in our understanding and grip of the digital realm, human progress has never been at a more exciting precipice. We have a responsibility to our future generations to ensure we’re doing everything possible to strengthen our stance and our resolve. Australia’s commitment to this cause will be determined by our ability to adapt, innovate, and stay ahead of the ever-changing cyber landscape.

Undeniable progress towards cyber security resilience has been made, but the challenge remains immense, and the path to keep progressing as a society is not without significant obstacles.

Data Center
Data Management