U.S. Plans Cybershield for Utilities & Companies

July 8, 2010

The Wall Street Journal broke the story today, starting off with “The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed ‘Perfect Citizen’ to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.”

Perfect Citizen! Don’t you just love it. “I wanna be a perfect citizen.” A perfect cyber citizen.

Johnny, if you don’t clean up your cyber citizen behavior you’re grounded.

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That aside, what intrigues me about the report is that last week’s The Economist had a compelling briefing on the threat of cyberwar (the story is not yet behind its cyber firewall). Because I’d read the Economist editorial and article before today’s announcement, I’m not alarmed by the “big brother” angle that predictably has so many fulminating (already over 500 Google links to “cyber ‘perfect citizen’ ‘big brother’”). So was The Economist put up to the story? Or did U.S. government officials realize that after The Economist has already sold the threat to 90% of key U.S. (and international) decision-makers, it would be an opportune moment to leak the story?

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Privacy, Facebook and the Future of Publishing

May 15, 2010

The issue of privacy, confidentiality, identity theft and…what else am I forgetting…has been haunting the public since long before the web. The web’s capacity to amass truly vast amounts of identifiable personal information, both on a voluntary basis and on a surreptitious one, has greatly heightened concern about these issues. A number of stupid, careless and sometimes greedy folks have managed between them to make the public angry. And so the public now demands action, and Facebook has become the lightning rod galvanizing the energy surrounding some serious, legitimate concerns. (There’s lots of coverage of Facebook’s security faux pas around the web. A recent summary appeared on Huffington Post.) In a blog entry last October I described a recent report revealing that our collective disdain for vendor privacy abuses had stretched the limit. Most people no longer favor tailored advertising, once thought to be the web’s golden goose.

Last week Canada’s Globe & Mail surveyed its online readers with the question “Are you considering quitting Facebook?” (The Globe & Mail is a mainstream newspaper, “Canada’s New York Times,” so the poll reached a broad public, rather than a swarm of social mediaphiles.

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Leaving out the 43% who are not Facebook users (confirming my assessment of the Globe & Mail reader demographic), 65% of those polled who are Facebook members currently are thinking about or definitely planning to quit. Well done Facebook!

And now The Canadian Press news service reports a new site that viscerally demonstrates how vulnerable Facebook’s users are to having potential indiscretions uncovered. Called openbook, the tagline for the site is “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life. Whether you want to or not.” Openbook even suggests embarrassing words and phrases you might want to search on, such as “cheated test, “don’t tell anyone,” “rectal exam,” and “HIV test.”

A search under “HIV test” reveals a user (nameless here) who graphically reported seven hours ago “And another thing I just a blood test done Im HIV+ so thanks who ever gave me that shit asshole.” Perhaps this user doesn’t care if the whole world knows. Most people would.

Yes, the stupid, the careless and the greedy are threatening the future of publishing via the web. Once the legislators are goaded into action we’ll all face publishing restrictions that should be reserved for the few.

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Jessica Biel Overtakes Brad Pitt as the Most Dangerous Celebrity to Search in Cyberspace

August 30, 2009

A little bit of a levity as befits a Sunday blog entry, albeit about a serious issue, computer security. On August 25th McAfee released its third annual report on the most dangerous celebrities to search for online. (McAfee, Inc. “is the world’s largest dedicated security technology company.”)

The big problem is that if you follow the search results for top celebrities there’s a high risk that you’ll be ”landing at a Web site that’s tested positive for online threats, such as spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses and other malware. Searching for the latest celebrity news and downloads can cause serious damage to one’s personal computer,” according to McAfee.

As noted, Jessica Biel is the riskiest. According to the report “Major buzz about her figure and high-profile relationship with Justin Timberlake makes Jessica Biel an easy target for spammers and hackers. When “Jessica Biel screensavers” was searched, almost half of the sites were identified as containing malicious downloads with spyware, adware and potential viruses.” Jennifer Aniston, “Hollywood’s favorite leading lady, should be searched with caution. More than 40% of the Google search results for ‘Jennifer Aniston screensavers’ contained nasty viruses, including one called the ‘FunLove virus.’”

The good news: “Surprisingly, the U.S. President and First Lady are not among the most risky public figures to search; Barack and Michelle Obama ranked in the bottom-third of this year’s results, at #34 and #39, respectively.”

Let’s be careful out there!

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