Most of us recognize the online risks, and as many as half of us have been hacked… and still we do nothing.

Nothing ever changes… right up to the point when it then does.

Yes, on one level, blindingly obvious. But less obvious or predictable is what it actually takes for change to occur? How do you get to the tipping point? Where the dam breaks. Where opinion and influence extends to the point of action on the part of one, that then ripples to ‘The Many’.

How do people change their behaviors? Just what does it take?

The plain and cold truth of it is that CHANGE (behavioural, social, cultural) can be tricky to bring about. Because none of us are huge fans of it. Instinctively, we perceive change as something unruly and precarious. Words like familiar and predictable make us feel safe and centred. They’re soothing to the ear. They may even slow our heart rate a touch. The familiar is a cosy blanket. Whereas ‘change’ is a groan and grimace.

Change implies hassle and inconvenience. And change’s bedfellow, ‘Uncertainty’, positively brings on palpitations. Uncertainty might be good for newspapers sales, but it’s the kind of cortisol spike most of us instinctively cross the street to avoid.

So what does it take to convince us all of the need for bona fide change? Perhaps it’s the presenting of unshakable facts, newly brought to light? Perhaps it’s personal, first-person experience? Whether first or third-person, it has to be a damning critique of today’s normal, in order for us all to embrace a New Normal.

My company recently commissioned a research study into online behaviors and perceptions of safety. Very simply, going into 2018, we wanted to take a temperature read on where people’s attitudes and behaviors are at.

  • How safe do people feel they are online, and how prone to cyber threats?
  • When it comes to email usage, for example, do people feel they can communicate safely?
  • Or do people, and indeed businesses, recognize the threats and are they starting to act differently?

Some of the key findings can be boiled down, as below, into 3 HEADLINES and 5 BULLETS:

AWARENESS OF THE RISKS IS NOT A PROBLEM

  1. 87% of the British public ACKNOWLEDGE that their personal and confidential information is at RISK when stored and communicated via UNSECURE WEBMAIL platforms like Gmail, Hotmail and Outlook.
  2. 73% of business owners and C-Suite’s RECOGNISE that using their clients’ personal email for sending and receiving personal and confidential information makes them cybercrime TARGETS.

THE PROBLEM IS PROMPTING PEOPLE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT

  1. 50% of people who’ve been hacked CONTINUE to send personal and confidential information via personal web based email accounts (such as Gmail, Hotmail and Outlook).

THE CURRENT CLIMATE IS ONE OF CONCERN BUT INACTION

  1. 1 in 3 businesses are WORRIED that cybercrime is becoming more of a threat to their business.
  2. 46% of businesses SUSPECT that they are likely to be a future victim of cybercrime.

(Source: Atomik Research Group. Research published: Q1 2018. Conducted: 2017. Research sample A: 2,006 UK adults. Interview sample B: 202 C-Suite & Company Founders.)

Sometimes the facts speak for themselves. And sometimes they still fall on deaf ears.

What’s fascinating is how the above 5 statistics reveal our human condition, our current inaction to online dangers, and the speed at which we begrudgingly consider changing our ways.

50% of people who have been hacked STILL continue to use unsafe, unencrypted webmail platforms. Three-quarters of business acknowledge the likes of Gmail isn’t safe, and STILL send emails to their client’s Gmail account. How burned do any of us have to get before we act differently?

Forbes recently reported the estimated cost of cybercrime at approximately $6 trillion per year (on average through 2021).

Accenture’s 2017 ‘Cost of Cybercrime’ study reported a 27.4% net increase in the “average annual number of security breaches”. It did however also report that companies are starting to respond, spending 23% more year-on-year on security technologies to counter the growing threats from hackers and malware.

Typically, something has to properly happen, to consequently drag us out of our default state of indifference and denial. “Implicit threat” is often not enough for us to act differently.

It’s not a criticism of the human condition, just a reality of it. We human beings can be a little bit recklessness and ‘chance our arm’. Not so much so that we made ourselves something else’s lunch, but it could certainly be argued that we’ve evolved to such an extent that we don’t now still recognise threat as well as we should. Our actions and inactions could even have something to do with how we’re cognitively wired.

The survival function in our brain is little different to the animals from which we evolved. Our Fight/Flight/Freeze mechanism originates in the amygdala (the bit shaped like an almond).

The moment we perceive a potential danger, our amygdala immediately flicks the switch. Whereas the ‘thinking part’ of our brain, responsible for judgment and values, has nothing to do with the amygdala. Reason and rational thought lives in the Prefrontal Cortex. When our amygdala talks to us, we act fast. When our Prefrontal Cortex does the talking, we do exactly as our ever-civilized selves would do. We tend to think about it some more, and weigh the pros and cons.

Something as seemingly simple as how we email exposes an ‘Old Brand-New Brain’ dilemma.

In just the same way that we shy from change, the case could be made that our ‘Modern World’ has dulled our survival instincts, and that the Online World is currently our major blind spot. We face the contradiction of being Apex Predators with Gmail accounts and a predilection for over-thinking the increasingly obvious.

Knowing what we know, the question remains.

When do we all start doing something about it?