InfoSec Perception

Recently I responded to a journalist’s requests for top suggestions on what college students should know about information technology and security. Here are my responses. Pass them on to kids you know.

So you’re going to college in a month? Here are some brutal observations about your use of information technology.
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In 1986, I submitted my first essay to the magazine of INTEREX, the HP3000 user community. Perhaps it will interest readers to decide whether my suggestions are still useful more than 25 years later. I updated the article in 2004 and 2007 and now to correct modified (or disappeared) Web references. For more old essays, see “Computer Envy: Essays on Office Automation.”
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Starting around 300 BCE, the pharaohs of Egypt built a library at Alexandria, Egypt to house a growing collection of mostly Greek texts. By the time of its destruction in 391 CE by frenzied early Christians who, like the religious fanatics of today, felt threatened by anything other than their own narrow concepts of acceptable culture, it had become one of the greatest repository of human knowledge in the world. Its destruction was a significant milestone in the descent into the half-millennium-long dark ages of Europe, North Africa and the Middle-East. For an entertaining and moving fictional representation of the time of the destruction of the Library at Alexandria, see the 2009 movie “Agora,”, which tells the story of the famous scholar Hypatia.

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In 1993, I caused a stir in the world of information assurance by reviewing the applicability of well-established insights from social psychology to information assurance. Apparently no one up to that time had bothered to make explicit reference to social psychology for insights into the management of information security. The work was revised for inclusion in the fourth and then in the fifth edition of the Computer Security Handbook. As my colleagues and I prepare for the publication of the sixth edition, due in October 2013, all of us are updating our chapters. Here’s a paper that I am including in the social-psychology-and-infosec chapter in the next edition. As always, I am grateful to my dear father-in-law, Dr Percy Black, Emeritus Professor of Social Psychology, for his kindness in bringing this paper to my attention.

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Recently I was at a local shop and noticed a potential problem. See if you can identify it from the picture below showing part of the air conditioner on the outside of the building:

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I’ve always had complaints about Microsoft Outlook’s user interface. For example, I sent in a suggestion for Outlook 2007 years ago complaining about the user interface for e-mail rules: there was no way to select all the rules! Every time a user wanted to run rules, (s)he had to manually check all the rules one by one. There must have been enough identical complaints, because the 2010 version of Outlook includes SELECT ALL and UNSELECT ALL buttons in the RUN RULES pop-up box.

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In 2008 I wrote a glowing commentary about Charles Stross’s 2007 novel Halting State.

I’ve just finished reading an earlier work by Stross, Glasshouse, originally published in hardback by Ace and also available in paperback, Kindle and audiobook. I think readers with an interest in computing, information assurance, and nanotechnology will find it immense fun.

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Recently I got an e-mail message from a naïve young person who was excited about the riches available through part-time work at home posting links to products on the Web. I hope that the approach to spotting fraud will be useful to other potential victims; please feel free to circulate it among your colleagues at work as part of any security-awareness program.

From:––– Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 15:11 To: – a bunch of people who don’t necessarily know each other –

Subject: I am my own boss try it out for yourself

How to Get Rich using your PC

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In late May, I received the following e-mail message from someone in Guangdong, China using an English name:

Hi,we are manufacturer specialized in producing&designing OEM portable speakers for mp3/mp4/notebook/ipod and other mobile device.

It also has a Mp3 player function,but more than that.Play mp3 format music from TF card or U-disk.also there’s FM radio function,you can share the news even in your trip or travel.

I found your company name&email address in E-market place.

I know you are selling brands in this field.but if you can put our products on your shelves,it will enlarge your products’ range,and it will attract more new clients and give your old clients more services.

With its reasonable price and multi-function features, it will be a very good choice for gift or accessories for ipod/iphone,it’s portable, with external rechargeable battery, you can take it anywhere anytime.

and I’m sure of that it will be fashion soon in your local market.

Your each enquiry will be appreciated very much and will be taken care very seriously.We believe the customers are our only lifeblood.

For more details of us,please visit our website.and we are gold supplier on Alibaba,please check the page.

Looking forward to hear from you soon.

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My wife, Dr Deborah N. Black, MD, is an expert in neural feedback (NF) for improving the attention of patients with attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There’s an interesting news story about the technique on National Public Radio (NPR). This approach to retraining disorderly brains monitors electroencephalographic (EEG) data as the subjects learn to focus better by playing video games or controlling the visibility of a favourite movie being played on a special DVD player or computer. There are many sites in the United Kingdom which advertise NF treatments; try search string “neural feedback adhd uk” in a search engine. For example, “Learning with neural feedback” has useful information about the technique.

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