Security, Privacy and Confidentiality on the Internet

I sometimes get quite frustrated by the beliefs that some people have about the security and confidentiality on different websites on the internet.  Having been working in assorted roles relating to the Internet, servers and websites since 1997 (approximately 2 years after the Internet truly became something the public knew about), I have a lot of understanding about how things work.  Perhaps not the specifics of each website’s security protocols, but I do know the main items involved in securing data from inappropriate use.

There is a problem involved with security, and one part of it is technical, but the other part of it is ethical.

The technical half is a matter of roles. Like any power hierarchy, the security roles on any given website are essentially organized by what a particular role is capable of doing.  Your average “visitor” therefore is able to substantially less than a website administrator.  The roles usually are: visitor, user, author, editor, administrator.  The list can be made longer or shorter, based on the needs of the website.  Some websites only have visitor, user and administrator.  Other websites can have long lists of hierarchical roles.

Additionally, in our current technological levels, there are other problems that can show up.  There are internal problems (bugs in the original website itself); interactive problems (approved applications being disseminated that blur the particular security roles someone may or may not have) that allow a permission to do something where it should not be (which is a bug or set of bugs in the application or in the hardware of a particular device); and external sources of issues (your typical hacks or add-ons that may give permissions to do something where there should not be any permission).

This is why technical security is such a hot button issue, and why companies will spend billions of dollars on continuous work to keep their data secure.

Then, there is the ethical side of things.

Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it.

You CAN pirate software or any other digital content, but should you?  There are many reasons why you should not, with the biggest one being that the large conglomerates are not the ones you are hurting by pirating anything.  Who you are hurting are the small, independent groups or individuals who have put time and energy into the digital content you are pirating, not the conglomerates.  Why?  Because most people don’t research who the owner of the digital rights of that content are.  The image you love so much?  That’s the result of hours of hard work for someone, and you just steal it and use it willy-nilly.  The conglomerates just shrug their shoulders and push the price up higher so that it covers their losses – so you are also hurting other consumers of the digital content.  Some people have to have that software, and must license it legally to prevent an entirely new can of worms for them, simply because their “industry” considers that software a “must have.”

And what about making “innocent mistakes?”  Well, let’s look at our justice system for an answer to that.  If someone is driving, and accidentally (with no malicious intent) hits a pedestrian, and that pedestrian dies – the person who made the “innocent mistake” is still punished for it.  The justice system just calls it “manslaughter” rather than “murder.”  And there are different levels of punishment for manslaughter, based on the situation in which the “innocent mistake” was made.

It’s not about punishment, really.  It’s about accountability.  It’s about people taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions, regardless of whether their intent was innocent or malicious.

The good person says, “Yes, I did that.  And I deeply regret it.” and tries to make amends.  The bad person tries to hide it like a cat trying to hide it’s poop on a linoleum floor.

Every time I earned a punishment from my parents when I was growing up, the reason for the punishment were clearly communicated to me.  And more often than not, it wasn’t that I was being punished for just the activity, but also for the consequences that it had on the rest of the family.  It was about teaching me that I am not an island in the world, I am not disconnected.  It was teaching me that every little step I make, every choice I take, has a consequence in this world.  And thus, I need to assess whether the consequences of an action or choice are something I can deal with.

And if that makes me a cold, heartless, unsympathetic bitch, then I guess that’s what I am.

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Categories: General Contemplation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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