Friday, January 23, 2009

Safe, But Also Sorry

Safe, But Also Sorry
01/23/09 - by Katherine Mangu-Ward
The tradoff between security and restrictions.

She interviews security/encryption expert Bruce Schneier

[edited] I consider myself a realist. Most people who say that are pessimists, but I'm not. Most people are honest and trustworthy; otherwise society would fall apart. Attacks are rare. Ten times as many people die each year in car crashes than did on 9/11, and the most dangerous part of an airplane journey is still the taxi ride to the airport.

Security is designed to protect us from the dishonest minority. It's important to remember that. I remember being told as a child: "Never talk to strangers." That's actually stupid advice.

If a child is lost, scared, or alone, the smartest thing he can do is find a kindly looking stranger to talk to. The real advice is: "Don't answer strangers who talk to you first." The difference is important.

In the first case, the child selects the stranger. The odds of him selecting a bad person are pretty negligible. In the second case, the stranger selects the child; that's more dangerous. I don't think that it is optimism to point out that most people are honest, or pessimism to figure out how to best secure ourselves from the dishonest minority. It is analytical realism.

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