Mozilla Foundation working open practice lead Abigail Cabunoc Mayes was the keynote speaker at the 2019 FutureBiz conference, hosted by the City of Penticton’s economic development department. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)

Penticton FutureBiz 2019 explored all aspects of business safety

Internet safety a hot topic at second annual business conference

For the second year in a row, the City of Penticton’s economic development department hosted FutureBiz, an event filled with information on how businesses can succeed.

This year’s theme focused on how businesses can protect themselves from and manage the effects of a variety of crises and unexpected situations.

Today, almost everyone is online. Whether you browse the internet for personal use or business, all of us have the potential to be affected by those who choose to misuse the service.

This can affect us as individuals, as well as our businesses.

Mozilla Foundation working open practice lead, Abigail Cabunoc Mayes, is an expert when it comes to internet safety, and has worked for years to improve it.

She kicked off the conference on Wednesday morning by breaking down the history of internet, open source, and how to combat unhealthy online practices for the event audience at the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre, which was filled with community leaders.

READ MORE: FutureBiz Penticton announces tech leader and invited speakers for 2019 forum

Mayes currently works with a team of individuals dedicated to developing and enforcing the internet health movement; a set of initiatives put out by Mozilla to better improve the safety of everyone online.

Before this she worked as the lead developer of the Mozilla Science Lab, and prior to joining Mozilla she worked as a bioinformatics software developer at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and at Michigan State University, where she applied open source to research problems.

Cisco estimates that every 40 seconds, a business falls victim to ransomware attacks — a type of malware that threatens to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid.

Data, especially online, is seen as more valuable today than ever before.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) has opened up a world of possibilities for businesses to profit off of an individual’s predicted interests, using previous web searches and history online.

Algorithms, she explained, exist everywhere, and are present on many major websites such as YouTube, which aims to keep users on their site as long as possible. They do so by continuing to suggest more and more radical content to keep users clicking.

Mayes asked the question, “How healthy is the internet, is it safe, how do you create inclusive online environments, and who controls this?”

READ MORE: Is your business ready for when disaster strikes? Find out at FutureBiz Penticton 2019

To give an example of how reliant we are on the internet, Mayes referenced Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, which took out 88.3 per cent of cell sites in the area, leaving millions without cell service and power.

Mayes encourages individuals and business owners to read more into what Mozilla is doing to encourage a more positive, and safer online environment.

To do so, individuals and businesses can download and read their Internet Health Report, which combines research and stories in publications that explore what it means for the internet to be healthy.

“There’s these two narratives in our world, and I don’t want you just to passively think that technology will save us all, and we’ll be in the Jetson’s future, or just to give up hope and think that it’s going to take over our world, but to really keep fighting,” said Mayes.

“Really, this fight isn’t — it’s bigger than just one company.

“We can’t do it just on our own, just like we couldn’t build Firefox on our own.

“We do need a broad community of people doing this, we do need city’s like Penticton helping us out.”

Following Mayes’ talk was presentations by many individuals and community leaders including City of Penticton chief financial officer Jim Bauer, Allison Markin from All She Wrote, Penticton Fire Chief Larry Watkinson, Greg Perkins from Liahona Security, information security architect Garland Sharratt, and Nicole Clark from Community Futures.

To sum up the conference, the city invited guests to mull over plans for a lake-to-lake cycling route, the east end of Skaha Park, as well as the upcoming budget.

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City of Penticton CFO, Jim Bauer. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)

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