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  • Tovit Neizer

The Cyber Attacks on the TPL and Zoo Might Be a Good Thing

Toronto Public Libraries have been under a cyber attack since October.

Recently, they were notoriously joined by Toronto Zoo who’s under a similar attack.

Upon reading this I was sure it was a piece of news waiting for a punchline. What could these digital attackers gain out of stealing the details of my reading history or data on Torontonians’ late returns?

Similar reactions were expressed after reading that the city’s wildlife is under attack. Is Alex the lion, Madagascar’s hero, about to save the day?

Joking aside, cyber attacks are a serious matter, one that is getting more complex and dangerous with technological advancements. Individuals’ details and identities find their way into the wrong hands and soon enough they’re part of the dark web. In the age of AI (artificial intelligence) it is hard and at times impossible to tell the difference between real and fake, and sometimes the only missing piece to form a duplicated identity is a SIN number. At that point, goodluck proving a negative.

Still, and without disparaging the damage and discomfort caused to the employees whose details have been stolen, this is not a colossal event in which a medical institution’s computers have been penetrated or a lucrative database of a financial institution has been breached.

Therefore, both institutions could use this ongoing event to promote their brand and offering.

Here are three things they can do to turn this incident into a positive occasion

  1. Own the narrative and choose the perspective that serves you. Both the libraries and the zoo should tell the story in their own special voice through which they regularly communicate with their audience.Remember there’s no bad publicity (as long as their name is spelled correctly) and look at it as a positive exposure to enhance their brand awareness.The fact that they are still functioning under a cyberattack is an advantage. It means they are immune. And this resilience is a reminder that their audience’s mental resilience would improve if they visit the library and zoo more often and hang out less in the digital space where doppelgangers try to steal their identity 

  2. Highlight your UVP (unique value proposition). Turning this lemon creates an opportunity to exhibit what they’re good at and what they’re offering - free events in the library, a space to meet new people or quality time learning about different species. It is also a good time to display in what sense they are better than their competitors - television, the cinema, mobile games to name a few.A visit to the public libraries in the past 3 months shows that the livelihood is kept as before. The computers are off, but the silence is still there, as needed.True that librarians are writing borrowers' details using pen and paper, but in a way it’s a nice nostalgic reminder to how we used to correspond.As for the animals? They don’t need computers to teach us lessons on how to communicate with each other.Thankfully, in the cyber battlefield a good book lasts forever while the animals are outside, presenting a nature movie sans the screen

  3. Create content that corresponds with the event. The library can share a list of recommended books on the theme (novels by Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke, and many current nonfiction published on the advantages, threats and risks of technology). They can also invite relevant speakers to address the issue through both literal as well as practical lenses. And wouldn’t it be great to hear what Margaret Atwood has to say on this?The zoo can host talks on technological advancement in animal treatment and saving endangered species. A screening of Jurassic Park on their premises could be an interesting approach.

After all, there might be a positive lesson here on what’s important in life and our priorities. And maybe this attack came to tell us where it’s worth hanging out and spending our time?

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