Internet security

What I heard.

Posted on Updated on

On my way to a client today I was listening to the radio – usual stuff, a DJ and his team making jokes to lighten the traffic.  Suddenly the radio started broadcasting flight instructions from a national airline in South Africa, authorizing them to land.  It was only about 10 seconds, but I could hear the pilot talking to the tower.  I thought it was an advert, but the break was in the middle of a song and when the ‘chat’ was over, the same song was still playing.  It was one of the strangest things that happened to me this year.  Purely a fluke and nothing more.  I don’t know how it happened and why it happened, I cannot even contemplate how it works technically but it happened.

I thought “Wow!” It was interesting and scary at the same time.  In light of the recent theft of the LinkedIn passwords, I was wondering if it could just happen that I suddenly get someone’s profile when I login into an internet site?  Is this not the concern with cloud technology?  I realize that the internet is totally different to a radio broadcast in technology terms but imagine if you were sitting doing internet banking and the next minute you had access to someone’s account.  What would you do?  What should you do?  If there is a failure in the technology and someone transferred funds from my bank account to another person’s can I blame the bank?  Probably, but surely there has to responsibility on each of us to be good internet citizens and behave in a way where we don’t take advantage because of a failure in technology?

I previously did business with a guy who has a motto that goes like this.  He said to me “I will always try to screw you over, it is up to you to stop me.  It is your responsibility to set the boundaries, not mine and I will take as much as I can and if that means everything, that is your fault not mine.”  This is not a philosophy I live by and I think his moral compass is wrong – if you believe in karma, well need I say more.  But here is my concern; what if he had access to my account by accident.  He will not hesitate to transfer funds out of my account without even blinking an eye.

The point is that we live in a world where we either trust or distrust people we meet all the time.  When you meet someone face-to-face have a sixth sense about whether you like the person, whether they are genuine, if they have agendas they don’t disclose to you, if they are friendly.  You get the picture.  You will decide whether you want an association with that person after meeting them.  When it comes to technology, we don’t know the designer or the people behind building the technology.  We work on an element of faith that the people who build the internet sites we access really know what they are doing.  We have an affinity to them by default. But do they really know what they are doing?  It is difficult to think that every single internet site has the same level of access and security.  Everyone tells you how secure it is, but it cannot possibly be.  So this brings me back to LinkedIn and Sony; both have had security breaches that have been highly publicised.  These are massive organisations that make their money through the internet and they did not get their security right.  How about a business where the internet is not their main revenue driver – would they be as invested in security as one which only makes their revenue through the internet?  Yet we still have blind faith that it is so, maybe we just want to feel the comfort that our choice is in fact secure.  Is this a reflection of our own need to feel that we make right choices when we do something? Is it a blow to our ego if we choose a company that gets hacked – ‘how could we possibly have made a mistake of choosing that company?’ we ask ourselves.

In the harsh light of day, we make choices about what we use and when we use – meat food products (our meat would never come from a cruel factory farm we say. We believe we all only eat meat from organic happy farms – yet more than 90% of our meat comes from a factory farm. Someone is supporting an industry that lacks humanity and it is probably you), our cars are built to safety standards and tested to the nth degree (yet many people bought a Lexus and it crashed! And if Lexus got it wrong how about the car you are driving?) and we use the internet (passwords are stolen and sites are hacked).  We do all of this without knowing the actual person who is behind all of it.

We assume the good and never the bad. It has a sense of religion about it doesn’t it? We all have faith in the technology, but maybe we should start asking tougher questions? Just maybe we should hold those accountable before it goes wrong? If we don’t ask questions before it goes wrong, who is to blame?  Myself for using the technology and not setting the boundaries early on? The person who builds the technology to make money?  The person who runs it, like your bank? If you don’t ask the tough questions then maybe we are to blame. Maybe we should ask the questions of our neighbours, our friends, our avatars?  Just then, maybe we could really trust everyone.  Maybe I am wishful?