Catching More Flies With Honey

Catching More Flies With Honey

There’s an old saying that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

And this is true in cyberspace as well…

Like a honey pot that attracts cyber criminals, organizations are now hiring “ethical hackers” to teach employees a lesson, before the bad guys teach them the hard way.

The Wall Street Journal (27 March 2013) reports that ethical hackers lure employees to click on potentially dangerous email links and websites, get them to provide physical access to data centers and work site computers, or give up passwords or other compromising information through social engineering.

The point of this is not to make people feel stupid when they fall for the hack–although they probably do–but rather to show the dangers out there in cyberspace and to impress on them to be more careful in the future.

One ethical hacker company sends an email with a Turkish Angora cat (code-named Dr. Zaius) promising more feline photos if people just click on the link. After sending this to 2 million unsuspecting recipients, 48% actually fell for the trick and ended up with a stern warning coming up on their screen from the cyber security folks.

Another dupe is to send an faux email seemingly from the CEO or another colleague so that they feel safe, but with a unsafe web link, and see how many fall for it.

While I think it is good to play devil’s advocate and teach employees by letting them make mistakes in a safe way–I do not think that the people should be named or reported as to who feel for it–it should be a private learning experience, not a shameful one!

The best part of the article was the ending from a cyber security expert at BT Group who said that rather than “waste” money on awareness training, we should be building systems that don’t let users choose weak passwords and doesn’t care what links they click–they are protected!

I think this is a really interesting notion–not that we can ever assume that any system is ever 100% secure or that situational awareness and being careful should ever be taken for granted, but rather that we need to build a safer cyberspace–where every misstep or mistake doesn’t cost you dearly in terms of compromised systems and privacy. 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Wolfram| Alpha Reviewed

Here is an impressive video (actually part 1 of 2) introduction to Wolfram | Alpha by Stephen Wolfram. 
It is an “computational knowledge engine” ( or answers engine) that was released 2 years ago on May 15, 2009 and was named the greatest innovation of 2009 by Popular Science
It differs from Google or a traditional search engine in that it does not deliver a list of links to documents or web pages, but rather it delivers computed answers from structured data.
As there are so many web sites that profess to answer our questions–whether Q&A sites like Answers.com and Quora or online encyclopedias like Wikipedia, I am intrigued by Wolfram Alpha’s computational knowledge niche. 
While the site is useful for getting everything from the GDP of France to the height of Mt. Hermont, I found the Wolfram Alpha site struggling to answer a set of basic test questions:
1) Total amount (also tried “size”) of federal deficit — No, don’t want a definition of a deficit. 
2) Number of U.S. embassies around the world — No, don’t want the U.S. population, density, language, etc. 
3) How many employees at the Department of State — No, don’t want a list of U.S. states.
4) Air craft carriers in U.S. Navy – 11  (okay, yay!, but no list of what these are and no hyperlink, boo!)
5) (let’s try this) What are the names of U.S. aircraft carriers – No, don’t want the number of passengers and goods transported in 2009.
6) Planned number of F-35 to be produced — No, don’t want the function line F-35.
7) Members of House of Representatives – Yes, 435.
8) Time in Alaska – 3:46 am, thanks. 
9) Age of International Space Station – launch November 20, 1998 (12.7 years ago) – informative.
10) Depth of Earth’s crust – 0-22 miles – not bad. 
11) Volume of Pacific Ocean – big number provided – good enough for me. 
12) Largest lottery winnings – No, not the movie, “The Lottery.”
While Wolfram Alpha is impressive in mathematical and scientific prowess, too often, the answers just did not compute for the everyday questions posed.  
As busy people juggling many different roles in life, it’s nice to actually get an answer back when you have a question, rather than have to start searching through thousands or links from the traditional search engine page.
But when instead of getting answers, you see messages that the search engine is “computing” and then coming back with null or void responses, we are left worse off then when we started. 
We shouldn’t have to think long and hard about what we can ask or how we to ask it; the search engine should be user-centric and we should be able to be ourselves.
As search engine users, I think we have the right to expect that our focus should be on how to apply the answers rather than on the engine itself or else something is wrong.