The builder and his ‘critical infrastructure’…

Chatting to a self-employed builder working on a neighbour’s property last week proved interesting. The guy works very hard, but readily admits he’s a slave to his smart phone whenever it rings, buzzes, beeps or its screen flashes. He always responds to these triggers regardless of whether he’s up a ladder, laying bricks or digging a trench. The builder says his smart phone apps are as essential to him as the physical tools of his trade. He laments this but says it’s a necessity if he’s to make his living.

Conversation somehow moved onto online security and privacy. The builder said he’s read about this in his ubiquitous tabloid newspaper, but never pays attention to things like password advice. When asked why not, he simply said ‘because I’m a builder. I just want my day to day life to be as easy as possible’. The builder has used the same password for everything for years! He saw the Badger flinch and frown, and just said ‘With all this AI and driverless cars malarkey, this security gubbins must have been sorted so it’s obviously safe to run my life with one password’. Oh dear!

If the builder’s thinking typifies that of the average person then we should worry about the depth of security and privacy awareness! In 2019, ~55% of British firms reported cyber-attacks (up from 40% a year ago). There have been more cyber-attacks on ‘critical infrastructure’, and Facebook has hoovered up 15 million email address books without permission! The online revolution of recent decades has certainly unlocked Pandora’s box. The builder recognises this but just says: ‘The Genie’s out of the bottle and can’t be put back in, so I’ll just carry on as-is with what works for me’. Oh dear!

The Badger realised two things from the conversation. First, there’s lots more to do to counter security and privacy ambivalence and educate people on the subject. Second, the smart phone in your hand is your ‘critical infrastructure’ and you must treat it as such. To prove the point, try not using it for a few days, like Badger did this last week. Yes, it’s difficult and strange at first, but you adapt surprisingly easily to overcome inconveniences.

Today the Badger and the builder chatted again. The builder has a new phone, a basic one providing just voice and SMS. Why? Because he lost his old one. He thinks he dropped it in a trench and poured concrete over it. He doesn’t miss it because he’s realised all he really needs from his ‘critical infrastructure’ is voice and SMS. Unfortunately, this has made him even more ambivalent about online security, privacy and passwords. Some people will never learn…

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