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A Security Divide

Mark Twain once said that America and Britain were two countries separated by a common language. For example, a wrench to us is a spanner to them, or what they call chips we refer to as french fries. They also like to throw the odd ‘u’ into words like colour and labour. Kind of classes things up I think. Apparently, however, we differ with our friends across the pond in other ways as well. A recent survey by Wombat Security Technologies indicates that, when it comes to cybersecurity, we are as different as soccer and football—yeah, I know they call it football over there, but let’s get real.

It would be an understatement to say that cybersecurity is on a lot of people’s minds right now. Everywhere you look, somebody’s being hacked by anonymous miscreants bent on performing acts of malicious mischief, and no one is sure who is doing what, although the Russians seem to be a great option (it’s so nice going back to 70’s/80’s youth and the memories of movies like Red Dawn). Since most companies tend to take a dim view of sharing their corporate records with some guy in a dacha in Kiev, IT departments are charged with the development and maintenance of elaborate protective schemes that can withstand the most punishing DDoS attack. Unfortunately, these elaborate bastions of defense are rendered impotent when Phil examines the HOA accounting in the US. Recognizing that the weak link in the security chain could be the guy standing next to you at the water cooler, Wombat surveyed 2,000 workers in the U.S. and the U.K. regarding their security efforts at work and home.

In total, the survey indicated that we are a lot more trusting than our British counterparts. For example, 50 percent of the U.S. workers had been the victims of identity theft, versus 19% of those in the U.K. This is disturbing for no other reason than I don’t think they even have Lifelock over there. In looking deeper into the numbers, Wombat postulates that this discrepancy could be due to our general lack of cybersecurity best practices. For example, where we see “free wi-fi” as an open invitation to wave at the guy sitting at another table at Starbucks, do our on-line banking and fill-out a passport application on-line, the average Brit grabs their tea and doesn’t open-up anything more sensitive than the Daily Mail.

It also appears that we put more faith in security technology than our Anglo-Saxon cousins. 58 percent of the U.S. respondents felt that their anti-virus software would be able to stop a cyberattack, a level of optimism shared by only 37 percent of the U.K. respondents. Keep calm and work off-line, I guess. The survey also found that the average U.S. worker likes to share, since almost half of respondents said that they used their laptops or smartphones at home and allow friends and family to use them as well. After all, everyone needs to play Candy Crush somewhere. Am I right?

If you’re like me, I think you’ll find the results of the survey to be somewhat unsettling. Danger may lurk behind every corner, but did you ever think it might be Fred down the hall? Let’s face it, we are increasingly under siege from those that want to grab everything from our missile technology to Grandma Jo’s recipe for pumpkin bread, and apparently most of us have adopted an open-door policy to our most valuable information. You can talk about the Russians all you want, but I think the immortal words of Pogo most accurately describe our situation, “We have met the enemy and they is us”.