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(2010-08-12) The ever changing world...

The security landscape is changing, and it is the soft issues that are in motion. When I started growing passionate about IT-security many years ago, I thought it was all about the technology. I fondly remember the time people connected their systems directly to the Internet without firewalls and still seldom got hacked. I remember the first trickle of spam and the network attacks with fancy names like “smurf” and “teardrop”.

Technology matters, but I feel that the main issues of today in IT-security are politics, social connections and feelings. After many years of being subjected to a mix of rational analysis and large doses of fear mongering, society is rapidly changing around the ubiquity of “always on” communication. EU is enacting laws in a steady stream, the debate here in Sweden right now revolves around the question if some Manga cartoons are to be considered child porn and off course we have the Wikileaks discussion. The overlying question: must we strive for freedom, safety or a mix of the two?

For me, the answer is clear: freedom does not mix well with too much "safety". I mean, safety is a state that you want to be in. Controlling risk is the road to safety. The problem is that total safety and freedom are mutual exclusives. And paranoid governments want to sell safety for the price of your freedom. That is: civil liberties take a hit. If you think this is fine, let me ask you this: do you trust your government to watch your back all the time to keep you safe? And, do you believe your government is impervious to corruption? In a perfect world, the government is setup primarily to protect itself. Protecting you is second to it protecting itself, since it sees itself as equivalent to all its people. This includes, but this not limited to just you. And that's as right as it gets. It has to work this way, but it's a sobering though for anyone who believes that the best of intentions are good enough.

Am I paranoid? Well, you tell me, I'm only living here. I don't think the government is out to get me. My neighbors are much more likely to do something like that. But it's all about keeping government intrusions to a minimum. Police and security services must function, but do they really need to preempt us? I think great Britain is a good example of what happens when well-meaning people go too far.

So what, should criminals just roam freely? No, that's not my message. Laws are not setup to protect people. They're setup to punish those that hurt others. Deterrence may work, but only for people that are undecided. Real criminals do not expect to get caught. That's why capital punishment does not work! The deterrent effect of most laws works, but only for honest people and often even for those undetermined. So let's keep it there and let the police go no further than keeping those suspected of a crime under surveillance.

Now is probably a good time to get interested in politics. Safety, security and privacy issues are all up in the air and what happens now will for better and worse define our society for years to come. If you live here in Sweden, don’t forget to vote!

Posted: 2010-08-12 by Erik Zalitis
Changed: 2010-08-12 by Erik Zalitis

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