When the cold reality of life and the internet collide!

To most of us, the internet is our plaything—and as with many toys, we have a flagrant disregard for what happens to it.  To others, the internet is one of the greatest communication devices ever invented.  Forget mobile phones—without the internet and the introduction of “smart devices,” we would all still only be talking and messaging each other.

One positive change the internet has brought about is allowing smaller, more agile businesses to punch well above their weight.  It has created niche markets that would not exist without it.  It has allowed the small business Davids to take on the Goliath in the huge mega-corporations, and win.  And at the very least, it allows us small businesses to eke out an existence where we couldn’t have before.

But the internet also poses dangers to smaller businesses.  For some reason (maybe the two reasons mentioned above), internet users have become too trusting.  The normal checks and balances that we use in everyday life have not translated to the cyber world.  We allow our quest for simple gratification and easy living to displace our natural human skepticism.

Thinking the internet is our toy, we take most of what we see at face value.  We disregard our own safety and imagine that someone else will protect us.  Whether it is the anti-virus vendor, the router-firewall vendor or the ISP, it doesn’t matter.

Most of us believe these things will protect us from viruses, malware and spam.  In most cases, they will not.  Read the fine print on your anti-virus software and it really comes down to “all care, no responsibility.”

My role in business is to come up with solutions and systems that will protect my clients’ businesses not only from outside forces, but also from themselves.  The newest and shiniest widget is not necessarily going to be the next big thing.  Yes, it could be, but for every successful widget there are ten or twenty total failures and hundreds of near misses.  Those total failures can lead you down technological cul-de-sacs where there is no escape.  Bleeding-edge technology is great, but it has to be approached with business intelligence, caution and reservation.

How do we know what will be the next revolution?  In most cases we do not, but by keeping abreast of change, we are normally in a better place than most.  Marketing hype and salesmanship abound on the internet, and any small or medium business or not-for-profit organisation needs someone who can differentiate between the hype and the technology.

Large organisations have a CIO (Chief Information Officer) or a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) whose job it is to understand the business and align its requirements with the newest technology.  SME’s (small and medium enterprises), in most cases, do not.  SME’s, on the other hand, have the ability to embrace new technology, test it, and, if it fails to achieve the required outcomes, move on to the next solution.  This agility and resilience is what keeps them going.

The only way for smaller businesses to succeed is to balance enthusiasm with caution.  To me, the internet can be a dark and unhealthy place.  To protect myself, I have a mantra.  My mantra is: Cyber security is MY problem.  This is something I say regularly whenever I am on the internet.  By making it my problem, I protect myself.  By using common sense and being paranoid, I protect myself.  Maybe you should have a mantra as well.  If you like, you can steal mine.

Roger Smith, is an educator. Teaching students at ADFA (UNSW) and showing them how vulnerable they are to cybercrime.

He is also CEO at R & I ICT Consulting Services Pty Ltd, an Amazon #1 author on Cybercrime and founder of the SME Security Framework. He is a Consultant who specialises in inexpensive and highly effective security strategies for small and medium businesses and not for profit organisations.

He has developed and authored the SME Security Framework and the Security Policy Training Course which are considered to be the definitive guides to helping SME's protect their organisation using the principles of Technology, Management, Adaptability and Compliance.