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Tech Savvy for June 11, 2009

Taking the Fight to the Thieves

by Dan Harper

For many the Internet has become a very scary place. Hackers, phishers, and scammers, oh my! How did the tool which started out as a venue for research and information exchange for academia and government become what it is today? How can we take it back? To answer these questions, we have to look at what has changed in us over the last couple of centuries.

    In the 19th century and before, users of technology either created what they used or became intimately familiar with its operation. By the 20th century, the tools were run by people who didn’t understand their basic operation, but cheerfully pushed buttons expecting results.  Over the

past 200 years, we have become less relevant than our tools in that the intelligence required to use technology has been “dumbed down”. Once created by an engineer, it became important for the designer to make an

object user friendly; so a child can figure it out without reading the directions.

    In the 21st century, cars are often driven by folks who don’t know the difference between a brake rotor and a crankshaft. Industrial processes are monitored by people who don’t understand what is being done beyond taking meter readings. Rocket science has become less science than procedure. Only a select few truly understand the mathematics behind it anymore. Tech support has devolved so that the “technician” is reading from a flip chart.  Most level one support techs today have no real computer knowledge.

    Lack of knowledge gives thieves opportunities. Preying on those with little mechanical knowledge, unscrupulous mechanics overcharge or perform labor that doesn’t need done.  It should come as no surprise that there are those who take advantage of a person’s lack of computer knowledge in the same way.

    Ironically, we sometimes create those opportunities ourselves. Ma Bell in the 60s and 70s made possible the abuse of their long distance telephone network. Information was intentionally  compartmentalized within the company to keep it safe from our enemies during the cold war.  This made it possible for outsiders to become more knowledgeable than the phone companies own employees.  Hacking was born.

    You don’t need to become a computer expert and give these miscreants a

cyber-thrashing, but education is the key to a long term fix.  Learning more about the things we do and use in our everyday lives makes the criminal’s job difficult.  Every little bit helps.  They have to adapt to a new environment requiring more effort and smarts.  This will cause the information they trade to become a higher priced commodity, and eventually the money and work involved will no longer justify the risks.

    Failure without comprehension is one of the saddest things, and we see

it constantly. The only solution is that preventative dose of knowledge.

Educational opportunities are all around us, sometimes even for free.

    All we need to do is to take advantage of these opportunities, and life gets hard for the thieves. The next Tech Savvy will cover educational opportunities for us in and around Huerfano County.  Stay tuned!