Thought for the day: Fancy a cheap pen?

How much does good information security cost? Rather less than a cheap pen, says Simon Moores.

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How much does good information security cost? Rather less than a cheap pen, says Simon Moores.




I’m putting the finishing touches to a 30-page report on Trustworthy Computing in time for next week’s InfoSecurity Europe Show in London, and I see that the event organisers have been conducting research of their own outside Waterloo Station.

The second annual InfoSecurity Europe survey reveals that 90% of office workers questioned are prepared to exchange their computer password for a cheap pen, compared with 65% in 2002.

This rather begs the question of what these people would be prepared to reveal in exchange for a bottle of Scotch or a pair of cup final tickets. It appears that men are rather more likely to volunteer their password with a 95% success rate, compared with the ladies who need a little more convincing and are 10% less likely to offer a total stranger their network password outside a London railway station.

Just as worrying for any business is the apparent willingness of those surveyed (80%) to take confidential information with them when they leave a company, and the admission by two-thirds of the respondents that they e-mailed colleagues images and content - 91% of men and 40% of women - that could expose an employer to potential litigation. Remember Claire Swires?

Given that people invariably use the same password for everything, office, bank, e-mail and so on, it becomes easier to understand why "identity theft" is now a soaring problem. We shouldn’t forget to mention that the all-time favourite, "password" still remains people’s favourite password, along with their football team or their birthday.

We can talk about the notion of Trustworthy Computing until we are blue in the face, but not all the security in the world, together with the arrival of perfect Microsoft software, is going to defeat the industry’s worst enemy - our own stupidity.

What I find most depressing about this survey is that after all the column inches and media comment that accompanied the worst 12 months in information security history. The problem appears to be growing at its weakest point, the human factor.

It’s hardly credible that a little clever social engineering and the offer of a ballpoint pen risks compromising one of the many businesses and government departments that cluster around Waterloo Station.

What do you think?

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Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit

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