On a slow-news day, Wired.com has lead with a story that, on the face of it
might send a chill down your spine as you listen to the long list of
security flaws in the technology from which the Net is assembled.
It would be easy to jump on the bandwagon and agree and, on many occasions this
column has also lamented the sorry state of the Net from the perspective
of security and robustness -- but today I'm playing devil's advocate.
Yes, sure, there are security problems on the Net. As Wired quite rightly
points out, crackers have been having a field-day and the rapid spread of
viruses and trojans raises the chances that your computer will become the
victim of a cyber-break-in.
However, as I've pointed out before -- the Internet is increasingly growing
to reflect the "real world" so cyber-vandalism, theft and break-ins should
not be considered an unusual part of human behaviour.
Just recently we saw a number of local business websites (including
Microsoft NZ and Epson NZ) get hit by a gang of crackers. They left their
calling card by replacing the company's front page with their own little
taunting prose. My question must be -- during that same period, how many
NZ businesses were broken into or had their buildings "tagged" by vandals?
Then there was the news that Bind, one of the most critical pieces of software
controlling the Internet had a significant security flaw in it which could
be exploited by suitably aware crackers. One can't help but wonder at the same
time how many executives left their briefcases, packed with valuable documents,
in the boot of their car in a public place without stopping to think that a
skilled thief could easily steal it in less than 20 seconds due to the lax
security mechanisms in some vehicles.
But what about this new
that might see copies of your important
email messages covertly sent to some third party? Well let me ask you -- do
you have a padlock on the mailbox at the top of your driveway? Not many people
do, and if you don't then your correspondence is available for anyone to read
if they want to carry those letters away.
What about those viruses though?
Well do you take sensible precautions around your home to prevent infection
from bacterial and viral diseases? Do you wash your hands after you go to
the toilet? Store cooked and uncooked foods separately in the refrigerator?
Avoid kissing or rubbing noses (note the culturally sensitive, treaty-conformant
inclusion there) with people who are obviously suffering from a cold or the flu?
Yes, it's true -- life on the Net is very much an analog of real life and, just
like the real thing, there will always be some level of risk when you connect
your computer to the Internet.
Don't get paranoid -- get sensible.
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