I'm a little behind in my blog reading, so I just came across this post by ComputerWorld blogger Tom Patterson, insisting that we should avoid modern conveniences that have the potential to introduce security risks:
We are often our own worst enemies when it comes to protecting our cyber infrastructure. Choosing simple passwords, automatically displaying pictures from unknowns, automatically running HTML code from unknown e-mailers, and jail breaking our phones opens us up to wide-spread attacks. So you might want to think about choosing more complex passwords (beyond 0000), turning off the switch in your browser that auto loads images (runs faster, and you can always open any pictures that you really trust and want to see), turning off the HTML format switch in your e-mail program (it's kind of interesting to see all the blatant malware you receive without its dangerous cover), and the auto-discover switch for wireless connections (it won't kill you to ask for a connection when you really want one).
I'll grant him a couple points here. Sure, using stronger passwords and being cautious about which wireless network you connect to are basic and fairly unobtrusive security measures. But Patterson is asking ordinary computer users to forego richly formatted e-mail and visually-pleasing websites just to reduce the risk of malware and phishing! Perhaps he would also advocate for elminating cars as a form of transportation, since driving is more dangerous than walking.
Here's a better idea: let's find ways to use new technology responsibly, even as we make the technology more secure. This has worked with cars. The death rate from auto transportation has plummeted in the past few decades, as safety systems (seatbelts, air bags, etc.), driver education, traffic law enforcement, and other measures have boosted safety without sacrificing functionality. Cars have continuously added features and become more convenient, even as the risk of using them has decreased.
Similarly, we're beginning to see an emphasis on making users and products more security aware. Many e-mail apps and web browsers now provide phishing warnings. Web browsers and operating systems have stronger default security. Applications increasingly offer automatic updates to make patching easy. Many efforts are underway to educate children and adults about safe, responsible Internet use. And free and paid security products (those from legitimate vendors, anyway) offer more protection with fewer side effects than ever before.
"Simplifying, beautifying, and streamlining our lives leads to significant security risk," Patterson writes. The risk, however, can be managed, and I, for one, am willing to trade a bit of risk for a bit more simplicity and beauty in my life.