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Cyber Security Headwinds: It’s about Self Peservation

Cyber Attacks and Cyber Distrust Drives Older Technologies.

Network Access Authentication - Secure LetterI recently commented in my LinkedIn Smartcard Group to a posting about why The USPS was promoting their “snail mail over email. Some commentors argued that promoting older technologies like the post office is trying to capitalize on fear of new technologies or the inconveniences it brings. I disagree that inconvenience or fear of the unknown are the problems. Rather it’s a self-preservation reaction. With almost 20-years of smartcard support and being on the bleeding edge of technologies even longer, I think I have the credentials to somewhat support the USPS stance, but not for the reasons they give.

Ray Wizbowski from Gemalto wrote an insightful post about how “Strong Authentication, not ‘Snail Mail’ is the answer to cyber crimes“. In it Ray builds the case that the USPS is having a “Luddite” movement in its last-ditch attempt to convince consumers and businesses to ditch electronic communications in favor of snail mail. Ray makes the analogy to the regular occurrences of mail train robberies but the railroads survived.  Train travel did have its problems in the U.S. for safety concerns with Indian raids, robbers and derailment. In fact, the railroad barons almost went bankrupt if they didn’t solve these and other security/safety issues for their riders.  Most people put a higher valuation on personal safety that some new glitzy technology. It was because of the security efforts from groups like Pinkerton, Texas Ranger and U.S. Marshalls that made the price to pay for robbing a train too high for its rewards. The old West had few laws but the most recognised one was 45, that’s Colt 45.

When trying to make a security comparison between email vs. standard mail the first question has to be “from what security perspective?”. Sure a letter can be stolen from a box that has your banking or social security information it, but it is not going to infect everything you do, cause your house to crash and force you to buy a new house to get an updated mail box. In the comment, “…digitization is now so much a part of our everyday lives that the suggestion that we should regress seems preposterous.” This is  true but it seems that technology companies have put a higher valuation on profit and market share than on security. The devastation to individuals, businesses and governments that a hidden malware in spam, file attachments, pharming sites, electron ads and such is inexcusable today. And it only takes one careless click to propagate into a $7.2M data breach catastrophe or an identity theft nightmare.

  • So for individuals to revert back to snail mail – Understandable
  • For businesses to revert back to snail mail – Very understandable

I don’t buy from websites that don’t have https:// shopping carts. I don’t click the email links anymore from people I don’t know. I certainly don’t open any email attachments even from my credit card company or bank. I know it’s not because I’m a technophobe, but because I can’t trust the delivery and the cost of a mistake is too high for me to pay. It is also inexcusable for companies like Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Amazon, Facebook, etc., and the U.S. Government to treats security, privacy and trust as after thoughts or worst, not at all. Even recently, states are selling personal email information to presidential campaign organizations so the state can make money and so you can be bombarded with their evil hate ads. Microsoft should also be ashamed of themselves for having a day every month since 1998 named for their products insecurity: Patch Tuesday.

In conclusion, ask yourself if you have changed any of your computer, email or internet habits due to viruses, identity theft , malware, spam, etc.concerns? How much security add-ons do you have because you felt vulnerable with the original product? Are you longing for the good old days of pony express and covered wagons because they were so convenient. Finally, back to the train analogy, gun sales were at its highest for the times when so were train robbers. Maybe that is why there are so many technology security companies today. So for the USPS to try to capitalize on the cyber security fears is no different from cyber companies trying to capitalize on the USPS speed. What all technologies come down to is the convenience it offers the user until the fear of personal harm from that technology drives self-preservation.