Monday, 25 February 2013

The Sky Falling, NOT!

FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.  It seems to drive the product segment of the security market, and it really annoys me.  The sky is falling.  Cybercrime is rampant.  And on, and on, and on...

Let's dial the emotion down, and look at the underlying premise.  How safe online are we really?

As I look out my window, the sky is not falling, it is a beautiful blue.  However there are a few clouds and it may rain tomorrow.  If the doomsayers were in the weather industry instead, they would be telling us all the carry umbrellas at all times, wear raincoats just in case, and take out lightning protection insurance.  I don't see anyone on the street taking these sort of precautions, because they are all able to make a sensible assessment of the likelihood of rain.  Unfortunately they are not able to make a similar sensible assessment on the likelihood of a security compromise, so they worry.  And worry is the marketing tool of choice.

Cybercrime is certainly a problem, but the main problem is the "cyber" prefix.  Cybercrime is just crime.  We don't talk about transport-crime when a thief uses a car as a getaway vehicle.  We don't call it powertool-crime when a safe is cracked.  So why make such a big deal about the enabling technology?  Everything is online now, so everything is "cyber", so let's stop using the word.  People have been stealing from each other since they first decided to pile rocks up in a cave, and it is not much different today.  The majority of crime is theft and fraud, and this is a very rare event in everyday life.  It does happen.  It will continue to happen.  It may be a large absolute value, as much as hundreds of millions of dollars, but the world economy is in the hundreds of trillions, and if we've got crime down to below 0.0001% then we should be pleased about it, not worried by it.

I grew up in a small country town, where everyone knew everyone, and people didn't lock their doors.  Today the same town is much larger, unknown people are the majority, and everyone locks their doors.  In the online world, we are now in the large town, but still acting like we are in the small one.  We need to take sensible precautions against the bad guys, but not spend all our days worrying about them.  And at least know where your umbrella is!

Phil Kernick Chief Technology Officer