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As broadband grows, state needs tough cybersecurity effort

Now with the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act signed, sealed and delivered, the state can rest on digital cloud nine, assured its citizens and businesses will be rolling on the internet superhighway. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it? Yes, Gov.

Bill Haslam held the ceremonial signing Tuesday of the legislation that will expand internet connections to Tennessee’s unserved and underserved citizens and businesses. That’s terrific as far as it goes. There’s another shoe waiting to drop, though.

Every time a new user hooks up to the internet, that’s one more opportunity for cybercriminals. It’s not just the little guy at risk. Four days before the state gave broadband accessibility a boost, a new round of cyberattacks circled the globe.

Businesses, along with governments, hospitals, universities, nongovernment organizations and individuals were victimized by a new malware scheme. “WannaCry” ransomware attacked computer operating systems in 150 countries, blocking files and demanding ransom. It was the United States government that discovered the Microsoft security hole and “stockpiled” the hacking tools that were leaked to the internet where the cybercrooks pounced like rats looking for a byte of easy cheese. “WannaCry” reminds us that every broadband user is vulnerable.

It’s a brave new world for beginners. A mom-and-pop store or service is not likely to have the expertise to establish and maintain a secure internet system. All those major organizations whose systems were hacked, no doubt they thought they were protected.

Concerned yet? Consider this: It is being reported that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says six out of 10 small businesses hit by cyberattacks will go out of business within six months as a result.

It turns out that latest report stems from 2015 testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Small Business by the CEO of a college-based cybersecurity institute. Apparently that testimony was based on a 2012 study by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

So the data is a little dated. Besides, it’s a study. What’s that prove, really?

Well, check out broader reports on how many new businesses fail. Conclusions vary: Sixty-six percent last two years. Seventy-five percent of venture-backed firms go belly up, period.

Half of all new businesses last five years; one-third make it to 10. All data released by respected organizations, government and academic. Successful business managers rely on numbers, that’s their bottom line.

But they don’t need studies to know that keeping a businesses going is a challenge. Today, most know that without reliable broadband service, their business will be limited to the equivalent of a lemonade stand. Now that the state is championing broadband access, it should double down to ensure reliable internet access is sustained.

Among other things, that means tracking down cyberperps and putting them away. Government and business are destined to work in partnership to fight cybercrime. It has to happen.

Go ahead and commit to it as a sound investment.

Do it sooner rather than later, or it will be too late for targeted businesses hacked to death.

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