Going underground to ensure e-security of mind

It will take a lot more than a fortress in the middle of the countryside to make people feel secure about online transactions,...

It will take a lot more than a fortress in the middle of the countryside to make people feel secure about online transactions, says John Charlton

E-security; is it a bunker mentality or a state of mind? For psychological purists it could be both, but for the e-business industry it seems to be becoming the former, if a recent visit to Twyford Down, Hampshire, is a pointer to the shape of things to come.

Now tree-hugging and Alpaca-woolly hat-wearing types may remember this area, if at all, as one of the great environmental battle grounds of the 1990s. This is where Swampy and company dug tunnels, joined hands, grew their hair and sat in front of bulldozers to stop the M3 cutting through a swathe of southern England downland.

Of course it all ended in tears and cancelled Social Security cheques and the motorway builders won. And a jolly good thing too for us motorists who just can't wait to get to Eastleigh. But this place, where once post-modern hippies gambolled, could find itself the home of the world's first e-security bunker, complete with many of the IT accoutrements of the e-business age.


Chubb Information Security, best known for its safes and locksmith accessory products, has taken out a lease on a nuclear-war-proof bunker, which before that was an underground water reservoir. It has spent millions converting it, with the help of some e-business chums, into a 'secure commercial certificate authority'.

In case you fancy popping in for a cuppa and piece of sponge cake, you'll find the bunker by Corkscombe Farm, just past the big ash tree outside the village of Twyford. But I digress.

The bunker, or rather the technology it houses, offers various services designed to give e-business customers peace of mind in the security of their electronic transactions.

Just to make sure that any remaining tree-huggers or ne'er do wells don't make a nuisance of themselves, the bunker is secured by air locks, CCTV, electronic ID techniques, lots of squelchy mud and all the security paraphernalia usually associated with Posh 'n' Becks.

There's even a secure toilet for those more intimate e-security moments.

Most impressive of all, the computer that issues certificates of digital authentication is housed inside a huge Chubb safe.

Pointless no doubt, as this sort of stuff could be housed anywhere, but heck, it's great PR. But really, will this sort of e-fortress mentality help build the edifice of trust and confidence that e-business/e-commerce must have if it is to win sufficient commercial and public confidence?

Winning such trust is a tricky business and demands psychological, custom and habit considerations.

Thus it is time that e-tailers and e-busybodies started looking at security from a more academic and philosophical angle and took on board the thoughts of the masters of mind games such as Freud, Jung and Reich, to name but a few. Yes it's time for the Couch Icon.

This button, in the shape of a leather settee, would appear on any thinking e-tailer's home page and would help deal with any deep-seated insecurity hang-ups. Once the visitor/customer clicks on the couch icon they will then be taken to a menu related to their insecurities. Thus the Freudian (Sigmund not Clement) option would pose questions such as; "do you find that your superego doesn't have a clue what's going on in your id?" Then back comes a re-assuring answer, for example, "it's all in your id mate. Forget it and order your trip to Canvey Island through justamo.com. Sexual analysis extra. We don't do dreams."

Or should the caller click on the Jungian button they would be asked "Is your inherited collective unconscious getting in the way of your e-procurement urges? Then find treatment through living out your dreams through the joys of e-shopping. Peace of mind guaranteed, man".

If the Reichian option is taken then some short sharp advice on sexual gratification in the nearest orgasmatron should do the confidence trick.

Another option

Of course there is another option. It can't have escaped the notice of the e-security wallahs that most punters have no problem with ordering goods and services over the telephone. That too, like electronic transactions, involves giving details of credit cards and such to a complete stranger in the rock-solid belief that the goods or services ordered will turn up, or be there waiting for the purchaser's arrival.

Take it from the other half of a semi-crazed catalogue shopper - the public can't get enough of it. So, if e-commerce/e-business players want to wrap their customers and leads in a warm comforting blanket of security, then just put a telephone icon on the screen, and refer the 'browser' to a real live human voice. It does wonders for the ego.

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