Only small business can protect the Internet

I am a trader.

Not in the Wolf of Wall-Street sense (hookers and blow really aren't my thing), but in the “I make about 3,000 trades a year against my house and my family’s future” kind of sense. I’m part of a growing segment of the population that sees things in the world- then immediately checks the volatility futures to see whether “the community” is freaking out over something that most of the world truly cares about (eg: are people selling this news?). 

The night of the 2016 election, my friends suggested they “stayed up all night waiting for the results”. If you follow anything around politics, you probably found yourself glued to the TV, wondering what was happening to your world at about 2105 EDT… that, was the market’s reaction to Florida. At 2115 EDT I looked at my wife and said “Trump just won”, closed my laptop and went straight to bed.

Why? After watching just about every tick of the S&P 500 futures (/ES) for the past 6 years, I had learned one thing: when you have skin in the game (eg: you’ve mortgaged your house to short the bond market), you learn what to listen what the market is telling you. You learn to trust the probabilities- you learn to ignore the noise of people who don’t really trade (eg: the kids on CNBC). You also learn to make your own decisions about your corner of the world, quickly- your livelihood depends on it. You care less about causes you can’t influence and more about things in life you can (eg: your family, local politics, other peoples kids, etc).

What does this have to do with “protecting the Internet” ? This is NOT a net neutrality rant. This has to do with the health of the overall system and protecting it from bad actors (nation-states and script kiddies alike). I used to have the mindset, as a group we could collectively organize and solve this problem. I spent years, literally running around the world trying to pitch the idea of common standards, protocols and ignorantly assuming we could actually measure the health of the ENTIRE ecosystem.

It should have been easy, right? WRONG.

Before I started trading, I thought the market was rigged. The market had these forces behind it, government, big traders, market manipulators that were letting you come in so they could take your hard earned money. You had no say- no inside information and no chance at moving the markets “like they could”, and you probably thought you needed to read all the news and have a spreadsheet with all the “earnings per share” BS just to find “the edge”. Wall-Street talks like they had a clue what was going to happen next, and so I believed them (we all thought HRC was a no brainer, and there's no way in hell, Brexit). In the crash of `87 people think the Fed coming out as the lender of last resort saved the day, did you ever stop to think what the traders were doing? The people whose livelihood actually depended on the market opening the next day? Did you ever stop and think "I wonder who bought the bottom that day?" and "Why?".

What does trading have to do with small businesses protecting the Internet?

As a small business- you ARE a trader. You’re buying goods and services, holding them, manipulating them, creating value around them and selling them back into the market. You have just enough capital resources to survive, but nowhere near enough to IGNORE WHAT THE MARKET IS TELLING YOU EVERY SINGLE DAY. You have a keen sense of what’s going on in your neighborhood, you know the flow of day to day traffic, generally which sections of town are safer than others and you have an idea when something odd is going on.

When a stranger comes into your store- you can almost immediately tell they’re an out of towner, if they’re on vacation, or looking to cause trouble. You probably have a decent relationship with your local law enforcement (you probably went to school together at some point), but have no idea where the nearest FBI office is or who the agents are (they don’t know you, or your town either). As a small business YOU know more about your corner of the world than any large institution (govt or otherwise) and your livelihood is dependent on you knowing that corner of the world in and out. Why would protecting the Internet be any different?

If i’ve learned anything from watching the market (and apparently trying to solicit the wrong groups of people over the years):

The Internet is not going to be protected from bad-actors by large institutions, or even large groups of industries coming together for the ‘common good’. While those more centralized groups are extremely useful as an insurance policy, helping to develop tools, BCPs and guidance, they’re not going to make a dent in the actual problem. Large semi-centralized groups is eventually start competing with each-other while losing a sense of what the market is really telling them. They start shedding small business customers for larger ones where the feature requests and bug reports have less to do with solving problems as “what’s the next big thing!?” They lose sight of who’s causing the most harm to the ecosystem as a whole and “who’s targeting my rather large client”. They start protecting a few large institutions while the backbone of the ecosystem is robbed out of existence.

Small business will generally have a better sense of the health of each of their ecosystems and generally know what to do about it. They sometimes just need someone to help them solve those problems more efficiently. Collectively- each locality solving their own sets of problems is what ends up creating a healthy and resilient ecosystem, not the other way around.

That’s the mission, to help small businesses protect THEIR Internet. Not MY Internet, not OUR Internet, but YOUR Internet. Not by trying to tell you how you should do it- or selling you something you don’t have time to install, figure out and use.. but being there for you. Helping you develop better tools so YOU can solve YOUR ACTUAL REAL WORLD problems. The Internet is not a single thing. It never was, it most certainly never will be. It cannot be measured or protected by a single entity or even a small group of entities.

I don’t need an index or a fear gauge to tell me what’s broken- I just need to listen to the people whose livelihoods depend on it being operational day in and day out. The Internet isn’t broken if Twitter or Netflix or Facebook aren’t accessible. The Internet is broken if my customers can’t reach me, or the bad-guys do.

How can I help YOU protect YOUR Internet?

Did you learn something new?