The internet, the net, the information superhighway, the web, www, the virtual world, cyberspace. What is it really, and why does it seem that our lives now depend upon it?
The transmission of digital information worldwide (mainly for military purposes) used to be an arduous task as there was no standard protocol for the transfer of data between different computer systems used by the various agencies globally. Engineers and scientists from DARPA developed a standard protocol to enable communications is a post-nuclear war, which later formed the bedrock of modern-day Internet services.
But it wasn't until 1990 when British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (hence the term 'www') as we know it today. It uses the base TCP/IP protocol of the internet to send pages to a browser. The web was very basic in the early days; it wasn't until 1993 that tables were introduced for better formatting. Video and audio abilities came much later.
So, what's happened in the past twenty years that has changed all our lives, not only in the real world, but also in the virtual world too? We have gone from making phone calls and sending faxes to all-out 'cyber' communications. We have emails, Facebook messenger, Instagram messaging, WhatsApp, Twitter DMs, LinkedIn InMail and Google Hangouts.
We now ave landline phone systems that only require an Internet connection (Fibre-based circuits are the minimum standard now), and most of all, from the early days of just hosting static websites as digital brochures, we have a full suite of dynamic, application-based services all hosted on cloud-based mega computers, processing billions of pieces of information, every second of every minute of every hour of every day, with companies making millions and losing millions at the stroke of a key!
People without any formal education (and in some cases zero personality) can become millionaires just based on their looks and going to the gym or just going on holiday. Influencers are not doing anything tangible for the human race, yet we subscribe to their channels like they were almost deities!
We have stuck our lives on servers in the cloud to access that information from anywhere in the world. If we are in an airport, hotel lobby, café or by the swimming pool, we look for a free WiFi signal to check the latest football results and our lottery results.
Our credit card details are on shopping sites, with passwords stored via Chrome or Microsoft Edge browsers on our PCs, Laptops, Tablets and most of all, on our smartphones that we carry like a spare bag of blood we can't live without.
And now Quantum computers are being developed to process information in the hope that we will have lighting speed answers to our Google searches on Chrome (other search engines and browsers are available).
Our memories are lapsing as we don't have to remember anything. Some would say, "But we can look it up with ease, so why waste our brain power unnecessarily?" It seems that we are so dependant on our phones, we use the map functions to direct us to the same shop, day in, day out ... or so it seems.
So, we have the good impact to businesses where consumers can access online shops, 24hours a day, 7 days a week, make purchases and get them delivered straight to our door. We have business to business services where, for example, an IT department for a large company can buy security licences (let's say antivirus software), from a specialist IT reseller, pay online and download the entire service onto the organisation without leaving their chairs.
Well, two words ... cybercriminals. At the end of 2016, it was estimated that just in the UK alone, the financial loss to consumers was a staggering £8 billion! And that was just in the financial sector. Between 2015 and 2020, an estimated £87 billion has been defrauded by online criminals sending fake emails, texts, automated calls and in some cases, letters asking people to log on to spoof websites and 'sign in' to check their details. Not everyone reports these crimes either.
Systems are getting tighter, with the likes of Captcha and Two Factor Authentication, but criminals are getting smarter. Whilst writing this, criminals were sending out what looked like a legitimate Google Captcha form (usually to prove you are not a robot) and stealing the credentials of Microsoft Office 365 accounts (with a view of gaining access to a company's details and logins to Servers (holding customer information, no doubt).
We make it too easy sometimes with our memorable passwords that are easily hacked. How many of your friends have you received a message from via Facebook Messenger, asking you to click the link to watch a video that the messages say is you (hint: it's not). Then an hour later you see a post from said friend, exclaiming in horror that their account has been hacked and begging you not to click the links they just sent to you and another thousand people.
Remember though, business cybersecurity and email security are specialist services that are totally different from desktop antivirus, antispam and antimalware, and you need to get advice from a suitably qualified 'Managed Service Provider' (MSP) rather than your run of the mill IT geek. . We are all being watched all of the time, so be careful out there in the virtual world, you could find yourself with a doppelganger posing as you and ordering tens of £1000's worth of goods every year, using your credit card which you stored in your browser, ready for the next time you log in to Amazon.
Don't get caught out ... it is far too easy these days.
If you feel inspired to find out more then do call me on 07555 807700 or leave a comment below and I'll be in touch as soon as I can.