Awareness of Information Security

Awareness of a problem is always one of the first prerequisites to finding a solution. In everyday life, many people are grossly unaware of many threats around them. Technology always amplifies things and that happens without discrimination or moral clauses. It amplifies both good and bad. It can make our information more safe and less safe at the same time. The hinge point that determines which way this goes is mostly determined by the awareness of the threats we face.

First read this short post on being in a state of low awareness:

Condition White: Unaware and Unprepared – []

Having too high a percentage of a group in CONDITION WHITE raises the risk level of the entire group and invites unethical users and predators to take advantage of the group or even directly attack the group. Criminals, bullies, and dictators seem to thrive on taking advantage of people in CONDITION WHITE, learning that they are mostly defenseless against their aggression.

Then watch (and/or read the transcript) this long but excellent video about the nature of the threat presented today in the digital landscape:

The Threat – A Conversation With Ross Anderson – []

I began to realize this in 1996 when I first played with AltaVista, the first proper search engine. I was in the process of helping some lobbying of the government on privacy. We wanted to investigate some companies who appeared to be misbehaving. At the end of an afternoon when I’d figured out, using AltaVista, how to find out everything about these companies, about their accounts, their directors, their directors’ hobbies and interests, I realized that with a search engine I had the same kind of power at my fingertips that last year only the Prime Minister had with the security and intelligence agencies to do his bidding.

Since then, we’ve seen more of the same. People who are able to live digitally enhanced lives, in the sense that they can use all the available tools to the fullest extent, are very much more productive and capable and powerful than those who are still stuck in meatspace. It’s as if you had a forest where all the animals could see only in black and white, and suddenly, along comes a mutation in one of the predators allowing it to see in color. All of a sudden it gets to eat all the other animals, at least those who can’t see in color, and the other animals have got no idea what’s going on. They have no idea why their camouflage doesn’t work anymore. They have no idea where the new threat is coming from. That’s the kind of change that happens once people get access to really powerful online services.

So long as it was the case that everybody who could be bothered to learn had access to AltaVista, or Google, or Facebook, or whatever, then that was okay. The problem we’re facing now is that more and more of the really capable systems are no longer open to all. They’re open to the government, they’re open to big business, and they’re open to powerful advertising networks.

Twenty years ago, I could find everything about you that was on the World Wide Web, and you could do the same to me, so there was mutuality. Now, if you’re prepared to pay the money and buy into the advertising networks, you can buy all sorts of stuff about my clickstream, and find out where I’ve been staying, and what I’ve been spending my money on, and so on. If you’re within the tent of the intelligence agencies, as Snowden taught us, then there is very much more still. There’s my location history, browsing history, there’s just about everything.

This is the threat. This was a threat before Mr. Trump got elected president. Now that Mr. Trump has been elected, it must be clear to all that government having very intrusive powers of surveillance is not something that necessarily sits well with a healthy democratic sustainable society.

Comments are closed.