One thing that every human being longs for is safety. Even adrenaline junkies and extreme sports enthusiasts like to come home to a comfortable and secure house. Thanks to the technology that we have inherited from those who came before us, we are able to enjoy the peace that comes from knowing that we won’t starve or freeze during the winter. Transportation technology allows us to travel great distances quickly and in relative safety. Medical advances have significantly reduced the infant mortality rate and increased the average life expectancy in developed nations. It seems that wherever technology manifests itself, safety is sure to follow.
Or is it?
With every new advancement come new risks, and as technological breakthroughs begin to happen in quicker succession, society may find it difficult to keep up with the emerging hazards.
Take the internet, for example. Arguably the greatest technological innovation of the last century, the internet has changed almost every aspect of the modern life. However, long before anyone had ever considered the possibility of social networking or wireless communication, certain immoral—yet groundbreaking—individuals realized that networked computers could be taken advantage of to propagate malicious software without the consent of users. The first theories regarding self-replicating programs were originally put forth in 1949, with the first actual examples occurring in the early 1980s, before the word “internet” had even been coined. Ever since that time, internet security companies have been forced to fight a reactive battle, waiting for criminals to discover new weaknesses before any defense can be developed. Advanced threat protection, at best, can only protect you from current dangers. As new technologies emerge, so do new hazards, and our existing defenses are seldom equipped to cope.
We live in the era of total digital immersion. The modern world is completely open, with most information freely available to anyone with the desire to seek it out. And although this makes it easier to write school papers or research potential purchases, it also makes it much more difficult to protect confidential information and preserve personal privacy. And not only are criminals to blame for the cracks that are appearing in the protective wall of digital safety; as the recent NSA scandal proves, even trusted world governments are breaking the law in order to achieve better surveillance. It seems as though the only way to prevent personal data from being compromised is to keep it off of digital networks. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. And as more and more people embrace technology in their everyday lives, the potential weaknesses to be exploited grow exponentially.
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Other areas of possible attack are appearing every day. Major home automation providers such as Vivint offer smart home solutions at increasingly affordable rates. But, with the ability to control home security cameras, locks, and power distribution from anywhere in the world all with the push of a button, comes the threat of “house hacking.” Cyber criminals could conceivably take control of your home systems and use them for whatever purposes they want, from unlocking the doors so that your home can be invaded while you’re away, to remote activating surveillance cameras so that you can be spied on. There may even develop a market in “cracked” smart home codes that burglars are able to browse and purchase before attempting a robbery. Likewise, remote unlocking and activation of automobiles could make it easier for technologically minded criminals to steal expensive cars.
This doesn’t even take into account the proliferation of advancing weapon technologies, which entail their own obvious dangers.
As technology continues to surge forward, it is the duty of every member of society to responsibly assess the possible dangers that are sure to follow. It isn’t enough anymore to simply create wondrous new innovations; we need to build safety into those innovations as well. If we do not, we may find that our society has become a modern-day Prometheus, forever punished for embracing the fire of technology.