onto our instincts and drilled into
our minds. It’s just a set of guerilla
tactics for the lawless byways and
ramshackle security of the Internet.
Consider the warning about giving
away our passwords. Are you “
giving it away” if the site that requests
it promises not to store it—as social
networking sites often do? Are we
even aware that we’re giving it away
if a Trojan (infected software) on our
computer pops up an apparently perfect but fake Web page for our online
banks? Other planks of cybersecurity
education are equally flimsy.
[ContinUEd From p. 120]
education often fails
because it doesn’t
can be grafted onto
Online privacy is another arena in
which human instinct is foundering.
Drawing a curtain over a window at
night offers a concrete, intuitive form
of privacy (and doesn’t require agree-
ment to a thousand-word privacy
policy). Online privacy is a different
matter. Suppose the average user—
or savvy one, for that matter—could
digest online privacy policies. Sup-
pose the policy was simply “you own
your data,” a widely favored nostrum.
It is still well beyond any person’s
mental capacity today to understand
what data this person owns and how
to go about controlling it. When, for
instance, photos of our face seep into
search engines, friends’ online con-
tent, archived Webcam images, and
digital photo albums of sightseers in
cities we’ve visited, what does owner-
ship or control mean?
The poster children for the future
of computer security are often intel-
CACM lifetime mem half page ad:Layout 1 2/3/10 2:21 PM Page 1
lectually flashy inventions, such as,
say, quantum cryptography. These
technological showpieces create
trustworthy connections between
machines (sometimes) but not trustworthy connections between people—
the source of the real challenge.
The Romans adjusted to a new material world. Today, we’re mentally
capable of translating numbers on
computer screens into a measure of
wealth, then into bread and circuses,
houses, clothes, and cars. Human
instinct lags in most of the places
where cyberspace is swelling and
ramifying. A future of informed and
secure choice demands tools—
technological, educational, policy-orient-ed—that project cyberspace down to
the scale of human instinct and intelligence. If not, we might wind up as
stupefied as an early Roman staring
at a chunk of bronze.
Ari Juels ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is chief scientist and
director of rsA Laboratories, Cambridge, MA, and author
of the novel Tetraktys, Emerald bay books, newport
Coast, CA, 2009.
© 2010 ACM 0001-0782/10/0300 $10.00
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