20 May 2020 — A recent Google survey suggests less than one in 10 adults in the US and UK trust tech firms to protect their personal information.

According to the survey’s author, UK-based independent researcher Stephen Cobb: “This could be a big problem for current efforts to recruit technology to solve a range of problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Charts shows under 10% of respondents said “yes” when asked if they trust tech firms to protect their personal information
Charts shows under 10% of respondents said “yes” when asked if they trust tech firms to protect their personal information

Cobb points out that some of the prime examples of how technology might help us, for example smartphone apps that track our location to let us know if we’ve been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, “may be doomed to failure if not enough people trust the technology companies involved in enabling them.” …

In 2017, I wrote: “the digital technologies that enable much of what we think of as modern life have introduced new risks into the world and amplified some old ones. Attitudes towards risks arising from our use of both digital and non-digital technologies vary considerably, creating challenges for people who seek to manage risk.” Somewhat inevitably, this even more true today.

In order to better understand this phenomenon and the challenges it presents in my current field of employment (cybersecurity), I made a modest attempt to further our knowledge through research into risk perception in the context of digital technology risks, like the theft of valuable data, unauthorized exposure of sensitive personal information, and unwanted monitoring of private communications. …

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Recently, when he was asked about Russian interference in America’s elections, the Secretary of State of the United States said: “if it’s their intention to interfere, they’re going to find ways to do that.” (Fox News interview, Bogota, Colombia, February 26, 2018).

That sounded very defeatist to some people, like the US is giving up, essentially admitting that the mighty United States of America is powerless to prevent digitally-enabled and internet-enhanced election meddling by a foreign power. Unfortunately, there is one very important sense in which Secretary Tillerson is right.

Words very similar to those of Mr. Tillerson have been spoken before. I have heard them uttered at numerous information security conferences stretching back dozens of years, often in this…

Should the US and Russia hold talks on cybersecurity? In July of 2017, a lot of Americans shouted “No!” when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the two countries were contemplating working together “to better understand how to deal with these cyber threats.” I can understand why people are voicing objections to this idea, but it is not, in my opinion, an inherently bad idea. Indeed, I would argue it’s a case of good idea, bad timing—and/or actors.

Consider these two propositions:

A. President Trump and President Putin should, bilaterally and globally, seek ways to deter cybercrime and reduce…

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In 2017 the world experienced two very costly outbreaks of malicious code or malware: WannaCry and NotPetya. Collectively, they caused IT mayhem for thousands of organizations, imposing well over a billion US dollars in “respond and repair” costs (the impact of NotPetya on just three companies alone — Fedex, Maersk, and Merck — totaled at least US$875 million). These cyberattacks made headlines for their negative impact on several parts of the world’s critical infrastructure: the pharmaceutical supply chain, the delivery of medical services, and international shipping. …


Stephen Cobb

Independent research around risk, tech, gender, ethics, healthcare, and public policy. Long history of learning, writing, and speaking. Based in Coventry, UK.

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