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On Security in the Media, and Falling Skies

July 1, 2013

When a new acquaintance asks me what I do professionally, and I cite Internet security and privacy in reply, it’s been almost universal that the next round in the conversation will contain one or more of the following elements, to paraphrase: “that’s really important”, “that must keep you busy”, and/or “I’m glad someone’s trying to do that job”, each of which reflect public interest and encouragement.  I usually respond that it’s a field that may be unique in IT for the extent to which news stories consistently inform and reinforce general awareness and interest.  Perhaps inevitably, however, most coverage concerns security or privacy failures; there’s less motivating news value in reporting about attacks that were successfully prevented without incident.  This contributes to a perception that security practice is imperfect (which it is) and therefore failing (a judgment which may or may not follow from the premise), rather than successfully providing protection that valuably reduces at least some aspects of risk (which, I believe, it does). Technologies and practices need to evolve as threats do, but it seems important to remain mindful of the fact that at least some of the sky is not falling.

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