The human population in 2023 has the luxury of controlling almost all aspects of their life from the palm of their hand. In the past, a number of activities related to communication, education, trade, health, finance, and work had to be done face-to-face or on-premise. There was no option of making any activity remotely. Today, people work, order food and clothes, facetime, track their heart rate, pay their bills from their bedroom, etc. All of it is enabled by using nothing but their mobile phone and an internet connection. Not everyone has this luxury at hand, but it is there, and it helps make the world a better place.
Mobile phone is a single (simple) example, but technology, in general, is pushing the world forward. It enables everyone to be healthier, happier, and to generally live a better, more sustainable life. From a less philosophical point of view, technology can drive the business forward when applied accordingly. It has the capacity to assure business and growth for any industry out there. With proper new features developed with the help of technology, a specific offering can become available globally instead of locally. It can become much more convenient or affordable than before - reaching a global footprint while helping the entire Earth's population.
Additionally, when talking about sustainability, technology is the one thing that can connect all the dots. In different forms, technology is used in farming and agriculture, the health industry, government, the financial sector, the transport industry, manufacturing – the list goes on. If technology is used at its best, every aspect of human life could improve. It could make life easier while achieving sustainability goals to keep life, in the long run, possible in the first place. Utilizing technology is crucial if mankind wants to persevere life on Earth as we know it.
However, with great power comes great responsibility. It is vital to understand that technology can do tons of good. However, if used for malicious purposes, it can also drive the world in the other direction. Therefore, understanding the technology and its impacts, as well as protecting it from malicious use, is just as important as developing the technology to start with. The power of making the world a better place has a threat from the perspective of individuals who would want to use this power for their own personal benefit. Cybercrime is on the rise, and that cannot be neglected. Statistics show that:
But what are the actual threats, what could go wrong, and more importantly – how would it impact everyday life?
The easiest and cleanest example of how life could change is to describe a trivial but fundamental case of technology misuse in the health industry. If someone has diabetes, technology offers a solution for the automatic injection of insulin from a device strapped onto someone's arm. That's a great example of technology aiding the health industry and contributing to a more carefree lifestyle. But what if that device gets compromised? A hacker gains control of the insulin device. Malicious insulin manipulation could cause severe health issues for the person having the device strapped to their hand. An exaggerated scenario of hacking a pacemaker connected to someone's heart would pose an even greater threat. Further growth in technology usage in the healthcare can be achieved only if technology stays protected from being compromised. All while being utilized in activities that were supposed to make life, in general, easier and better.
Agriculture should also be discussed, as it is one of the most important industries. That is, if reaching sustainable growth is the main goal on a global scale. Technology can help in the automation of soil cultivation and basal dressing, irrigation, tracking air/soil quality, producing seeds, controlling temperature/humidity, and other relevant activities. But again, if this automation process becomes corrupt, the consequences could be devastating. Excessive flooding, drainage, temperature, or humidity manipulation could lead to the loss of any crop. If there is no crop, there is no food, so instead of prosperity, there is devastation on a global scale.
Autonomous driving as a part of the transportation industry is for sure a hot topic. Having a car "smart" enough to drive on its own is fantastic. It shows how far the car industry has developed in recent years. There is no doubt that this technological breakthrough is one for the books. But, technology that enables the car to drive on its own needs to be heavily secured from possible manipulation. Otherwise, a malicious actor could hack it, gain control over the vehicle, and quite possibly endanger the lives of the driver and unsuspecting passengers.
And what about Smart homes? The perfect solution for the future (and present in some parts of the world already) of modern housing. There is a camera at the front door alerting the homeowner that someone is at the door. But, what if someone takes control of the video surveillance system? They know precisely when a homeowner is at home and when they are not. That leaves a wide range of malicious activities to be done based on information gathered from the smart home camera.
IoT/wearable devices are a real trend these days. A lot of people have a smartwatch that tracks their jogging capabilities or simply tracks their steps and heart rate. Some even give the smartwatch to their kids to track them on their way to school. Again, if someone hacks the technology which enables the smartwatch to do its thing, then your exact GPS location can be tracked. Or even worse, the exact location of your child.
Any of the industries mentioned above is growing with huge potential to become one of the flagships for sustainable future development. But, to achieve further growth, a strong and healthy foundation needs to be implemented within them. Technology needs to be the front-runner of progress and growth, regardless of the industry where it is used.
If a breach of any kind happens, the compromised product or service, from whatever industry it is coming from, will be under strong hit by the public, their end users, and even regulators. This will demand the product or service provider switch focus from their products and services to defending themselves and struggling to survive. The world we live in today can be quite cruel, and companies can get dismantled quite easily if something goes south. With that in mind, most of the resources will stop looking at how to improve the product or service- prolonging the period when their offering could get even more useful and helpful in achieving global sustainability from their small part. If that happens on a global scale, in case technology misuse becomes a harsh reality, then prosperity is in question, and the same would apply to global sustainability as well.
An additional opportunity cost would be related to buying back the data, offering availability, or simply paying so that the stolen/compromised data would not be published as stolen (ransomware). This scenario is mostly feared by the representatives of financial and government industries, but every industry can be affected by it as well. And the problem here is again the fact that resources (bitcoin, EUR, USD, gold bars, whatever the currency) are spent on this instead of using them to further invest in developing an even better offering, and it's back to square one.
For any action, there is a reaction. As threats in the form of technology misuse appeared, providers started working on securing the technology more than ever before. Those efforts resulted in developing safety, encryption, authentication, and various other security mechanisms. All of which are created to protect the technology and allow it to improve and secure any industry out there without the fear of it going the wrong way or ending up in the wrong hands.
There is a reason why logging into any system or application relevant to any industry should be done using multifactor authentication. Sensitive data and sensitive activities which can be done within these systems need to be protected from unauthorized access. One of the safest ways is to implement a login mechanism that requires multiple (at least two) authentication factors to avoid a lost username/password becoming a real issue.
When talking about mobile applications, security mechanisms should be implemented within them to protect both the application owners and the end users who use the application.
When these mechanisms are implemented into the technology we all use, then we can look forward to further growth, which will eventually lead to a world we all want to live in - a healthy, safe, and sustainable environment for all of us and generations to come.
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