Skip to main content
Fancy a Cheap Pen?

How much does good information security cost? Rather less than a cheap pen by all accounts.



I’m putting the finishing touches to a thirty-page report on ‘Trustworthy Computing’ in time for next week’s InfoSecurity Europe Show in London and I see that the event organisers have been conducting research of their own, outside Waterloo Station, a short walk away from all manner of interesting buildings which line the South bank of the Thames.

The second annual InfoSecurity Europe survey reveals nine in ten (90%) of office workers questioned outside the station, are prepared to exchange their computer password for a cheap pen, compared with 65% in 2002. This rather begs the question of what these people would be prepared to reveal in exchange for a bottle of Scotch or a pair of cup final tickets? The latter because men, it appears, are rather more likely to volunteer their password with a 95% success rate, in contrast with the ladies who need a little more convincing and are 10% less likely to offer a total stranger their network password outside a London railway station.

Just as worrying for any business, is the apparent willingness of those surveyed (80%) to take confidential information with them when they leave a company and the admission by two thirds of the respondents that they emailed colleagues images and content – 91% of men and 40% of women – that could expose an employer to potential litigation. Remember Claire Swires?

Given that people invariably use the same password for everything, office, bank, email and so on, it becomes easier to understand why ‘identity theft’ is now a soaring problem and shouldn’t forget to mention, that the all time favourite, ‘password’ still remains, yes you guessed it, people’s favourite password, along with their football team or their birthday.

We can talk about the notion of ‘Trustworthy Computing’ until we are blue in the face but not all the security in the world, together with the arrival of perfect Microsoft software, is going to defeat the industry’s worst enemy, our own stupidity.

What I find most depressing about this survey is that after all the column inches and media comment that accompanied the worst twelve months in information security history; the problem appears to be growing at its weakest point, the human factor. It’s hardly credible that a little clever social engineering and the offer of a ballpoint pen risks compromising one of the many businesses and government departments that cluster around Waterloo Station.

It does rather make any real concept of information security sound like an impossible dream don’t you think?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …