This was the caption of Peter Steiner’s brilliant cartoon in the New Yorker in 1993. Roughly speaking that was the first year of the commercialisation of the Internet.

Fourteen years later, the caption resonates with every new report on risks associated with use of the Internet.

Online security wakeup call

"facebook-freddi" Speaking of risks, IT security company, Sophos this month reported on its survey of Facebook users.

Sophos created a fictional “person” in Facebook and asked 200 Facebook members to become its “friend”.

It reports 41% of them agreed. The problem was that they became a “friend” with a fictional person – Freddi Staur (an anagram of “ID Fraudster”). As pictured Freddi is a frog.

The point? Sophos states: “What’s worrying is how easy it was for Freddi to go about his business. He now has enough information to create phishing emails or malware specifically targeted at individual users or businesses, to guess users’ passwords, impersonate them or even stalk them.”

The Sophos Facebook Best Practice guide is useful for at least some of its many recommendations for privacy and identity protection. Our additional tips to manage your IT security and e-commerce legal risks:

Sounds like a good idea, but…

"leaning_tower_of_pisa" Technology is changing fast, human nature isn’t.  New technology always needs to be tested and assessed for potential risks. This is wonderfully captured by a cartoon, published last month. It is titled Telepathy by AT&T and was drawn by the appropriately named Jeremy Hitchcock.

Turning a bug into a feature

It is impossible to remove all risk, it is also not recommended. Little would be achieved if all risks are avoided.

Credit is due to companies which win by persisting with failed new technologies, inventions or offerings. That is reflected in the software industry expression “turning a bug into a feature”. It’s also reflected in what Pfizer did for Viagra and what tourist promoters have achieved for centuries with the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Noric Dilanchian