Oranges and Lemons

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at various aspects of online security. It’s a big topic, and it’s often difficult to be clear about what’s happening, and what’s at stake. This week we’ll try to provide a few basic ideas about how to judge what makes us safer and what doesn’t.

We rely exclusively on our senses to assess the presence or absence of threats in the world around us. When we get up in the morning, we check the bread we eat for mould, sniff the milk before adding it to the tea, and touch the edge of the mug with our lips before drinking, to make sure it’s not too hot. We look both ways before crossing the road and we listen for oncoming traffic. We hesitate to get into a bus that doesn’t look safe. We cover our mouth and nose if there’s too much dust or smoke.

We employ our senses in a multitude of ways without any conscious thought. All the while, in the background, the brain is taking everything in and deciding from one moment to the next how to react to each new situation. For most of us, a typical computer gives us exactly nothing to react to. All we see is a pretty background, a few flashing icons or blinking lights and the Solitaire game in front of us.

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