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BLOG: The social side of security

AvantiKumar | April 23, 2012
It’s our deepening obsession with technology and social media that has increased our vulnerabilities..

AvantiKumar, Editor, Computerworld Malaysia & Malaysia Country Correspondent for Fairfax Tech Channels


Has our love of technology and social media become our own worst enemy when it comes to security and privacy concerns? A growing proportion of security breaches are the result of human error, especially by internal staff.  Cybercrime gangs are professional; they want the money, while many governments want to openly vet our online communications in the interests of national security.

For instance, nomophobia ("no-mobile-phone phobia") is on the rise in the UK, with 66 percent of the population suffering from a fear of being without their mobile phones. The number of sufferers has risen from 53 percent in 2008 to the current two thirds mark, according to a recent survey from security firm SecurEnvoy. The thin dividing line between a mobile device as a tool to a body part, emotionally speaking, seems to have disappeared.

When we consider the nature of our rapid adoption of social media tools such as Twitter, for instance, we need to take into consideration how our brains and general behaviour interact with such tools. UK-based forensic psychologist Dr Jez Phillips who said our brains use a range of techniques to reduce data processing loads. These short cuts are known as heuristics, or to put it another way a process of least effort. " If we can do something as quickly and easily as possible we generally will because this way it limits processing requirements and just feels easier."

How does this fit into our use of tech tools, the internet and social media? Well, for example, Twitter's form of 'micro-blogging' is in fact a type of heuristic. The limits on message lengths that Twitter imposes means we have to communicate as briefly and succinctly as possible. "The small chunks of easily processed and shared information are just what the brain ordered!" opines Dr. Phillips.

Of course, there are many other factors to our growing attachment to daily technology, but the fact remains that in recent years, many ICT security solutions providers have told me they are reviewing "the management of human aspects" of their security recommendations. So the question that comes to increasingly haunt us is: Has our obsession with IT and especially social media become an open wound, one that is easily manipulated for different reasons by unscrupulous professionals, both in the criminal and government sectors, around the world?

- AvantiKumar, Editor, Computerworld Malaysia & Malaysia Country Correspondent for Fairfax Tech Channels


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