The electronic security industry is letting the online market down

It is frightening how little people and companies can do regarding their online privacy and security. People are certainly worried about this, and time and time again surveys point this out.

The industry has provided us with dazzling electronic devices, online services and communications applications, but that same industry is miserably failing to provide customers with adequate tools to enable them to better protect themselves while online. The e-security industry must take its share of the responsibility, but the social media industry is perhaps even more to blame, as they are actually exploiting this lack of security to intrude deeply into people’s online behaviour. For them this is for commercial reasons, but we now know that intelligence services can simply tap into the heart of these services – bypassing the social media companies and the security protection they provide to their customers – and use private customer data for their own purposes. If they can get to that information than hackers can also get to it.

The reality is that, both socially and economically, we depend on the new technologies that have been given to us over the last 10 to 25 years. There is no way back and while people protest against this the fact is that they simply have to accept the privacy intrusion and all the other problems that this brings with it and hope that they will not fall victim to the lack of available privacy or the results of intelligence intrusion. One only has to think of Russia, China, Nazi Germany and other countries that are regularly in the news for all the wrong reasons to see what can go wrong if the wrong governments have unfettered access to people’s private information.

But so far the benefits of being online far outweigh the negatives and so it is highly unlikely that people’s behaviour will change. Technology should be able to help people to better protect themselves. Users have basically thrown up their hands and said that they rely on their service and applications providers to provide at least a basic level of security around the services they are offering.

At the same time it is also clear that the majority of users don’t trust their governments to become the security providers; government initiatives such as compulsory national filtering have been comprehensively rejected. The only solution is for the industry to provide their customers with tools that they can apply according to their needs and circumstances.

After 25 years of online business it is simply appalling that the security industry has not been able to come up with a workable solution to avoid people having to remember a dozen or so intentionally jumbled passwords, and to change them monthly with the stipulation that they are not allowed to write them down. Such requirements are a big cop-out for the industry.

It is great to have education and information campaigns regarding privacy and security; however those who initiate these campaigns do not provide any acceptable tools for the consumers to use. During those same 25 years we have heard about biometrics, fingerprint recognition, eye and face recognition, but there has been no progress – nor is there any hope of any of these new technologies progressing any time soon. Perhaps something can be done with voice recognition but here also commercial solutions are years away at least.

So people are left at the mercy of fraudulent organisations and very intrusive social media companies and intelligence agents, without any real control over their own lives, a significant part of which takes place online.

Paul Budde

Please check out the new Paul Budde Consultancy website.

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