Security Awareness and Why Things Aren’t Improving

Earlier this week news broke of Google’s interruption of a large-scale phishing expedition, which alluded to some state involvement of China. This inspired a host of experts to write about it and J Oquendo’s article on InfoSecIsland inspired me to write mine. In his article mr. Oquendo asserts that its remarkable (read: stupid) that US officials still seem to be using commercial email services such as GMail for exchange of security sensitive and sometimes mission-critical information, instead of using the available high-security services offered by the US Government that they should be using. In this day and age, with a nearly constant barrage of security breaches in the news, people don’t seem to be getting any more aware of security issues.

In the area of User Security Awareness, things aren’t improving at the pace they should. The Internet (and related technology) is not New anymore. While the usage of internet technology has grown exponentially over the last decade, its users have not grown much wiser in terms of security. Largely this is because the common online populace simply does not see the danger in having their online identities compromised; its too abstract a notion for most people. Until the very real and practical downside of getting compromised hits them on the nose, they won’t care. There is a whole industry revolving around protecting you and recovering you from identity theft, and that is both a blessing and a warning. The many problems a person can experience from being a victim of Identity Fraud can take years to resolve. Years during which you are most likely to have bad credit (even when the bank knows you’ve been victimized!) or even be in debt for thousands of dollars for purchases you have never made. Living through such an experience is probably a real eye-opener, but we can hardly put everyone through such an ordeal just for security’s sake.

Provided all your friends would actually listen to sage advice, what would you even tell them? (more…)