Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Dark Side of Keeping up with the News

Dan Whitworth, Technology Reporter for the BBC Radio 1 program Newsbeat, filed a nice little story about the link between the evangelized vision of the Internet as the ultimate source of information and the reality of malware.  It basically accounted for a variety of current techniques by which such malware is being spread through stories that purport to offer new information about the death of Osama bin Laden.  The real punch line, however, came from an interview with Rik Ferguson, Director of Security Research at Trend Micro, who was quoted as saying the following:

The fact that this is related to Osama Bin Laden is almost academic.

Whenever anything newsworthy happens, anything at all, that is taken advantage of by criminals in order to make their attack more interesting, more credible.

In other words the evangelists have seen their vision come to reality.  When a major news story breaks, people turn to the Internet, convinced that they will be better informed more rapidly than they would be through the “old-fashioned” media.  The idea that such a quest for information should entail vulnerability just does not fit into the equation.

Perhaps the best analogy would be Typhoid Mary, back in an age in which health standards for restaurants barely existed.  Hardly any were stipulated;  and, for all practical purposes, none were enforced.  One of the great advances in reform was the recognition of government responsibility for the physical health of its citizens, a responsibility that has been placed in serious jeopardy by current conservative ideologues.  When it comes to “digital health,” the Internet has emerged as a Deadwood-like culture, which not only avoids efforts to discuss issues of government but overtly scorns them.  In such a culture only the brutes survive, and their survival is predicated by their success in preying on those weaker.  Since this is a culture in which neither the brutes nor the weaklings have ever heard of Thomas Hobbes, it is unlikely that conditions will change in the foreseeable future.

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