Our Say: Cyber attack a warning against web naivety, complacency​

The massive cyber attack that caused havoc at UK hospitals and hit businesses worldwide missed most of Australia, but it's not hard to imagine the impact it might have here.

Australian web users have welcomed the Internet into their daily lives with a naivety that makes them vulnerable to exploitation. 

Considering the reach the web has into our lives - from checking Facebook at breakfast to watching a YouTube clip before sleep - the average Internet user navigates the online world with a profound ignorance of the technology. 

The devastating spread of the ransomware attack was stopped by two web users who knew enough about malicious software to flick its "kill switch", but conceivably, more users could have the skills to pull off a similar feat.

Many web users have the tech literacy to know which emails not to open, and what links not to click on, but enough lacked this knowledge for the "WannaCry" attack to jump international borders. 

Fewer still think through the personal information they pour into the online world. 

How many know the security safeguards of the organisations they give their data to … whether Facebook, online shopping websites or charities?

Parts of the government can be accused of being lax when it comes to cyber security. Australia's national auditor recently rebuked the Immigration Department and the Australian Taxation Office - mass holders of personal data - for their vulnerabilities.

Only the Human Services Department passed muster. The government needs to take the threat to personal data from cyber attack more seriously. Web users subscribe to these services with a level of trust in many instances not justified by the safety measures these organisations have enacted. 

A healthier level of scepticism from web users might go some way to preventing the world's cyber criminals and vandals from notching more wins. It might put greater consumer demand on organisations to clarify and strictly enforce their data protection policy. If web users vote with their feet, or mouses, then companies will pay better attention to their safeguards.

Meanwhile government- and industry-backed web literacy programs could minimise the harm of malware by giving people the knowledge to avoid certain websites, like the street smarts that tell a city dweller which alleys not to cut through at night.