Thought for the day The bogeyman cometh

Don't let reasonable security concerns turn into panic-filled hysteria, says Simon Moores.

Simon Moores  
Reasonable security concerns have turned into panic-filled hysteria, says Simon Moores




News from the CBI that 97% of UK companies regard terrorism as a matter of great or significant concern comes as a surprise to me. The atmosphere of concern in the physical world has now merged with the fears experienced in the virtual world of the internet. Although over-hyped predictions of a cyber-jihad have come to nothing, business continues to be startled by shadows.

In the coming months, I’m in Jordan, Oman and possibly Saudi Arabia on projects that involve e-government and information security. I like to think I’m as concerned about safety and security as the next person but I also believe that fear of terrorism and crime, virtual or otherwise, can be profitable and frequently useful to those who wish to exploit popular worries and company budgets.

As an example of this, we saw last week on television and read in the media the sense of outrage expressed by journalists at the ease with which someone could carry a metal thermos flask past security onto a channel tunnel train. After all, who knows how deadly a cup of hot coffee can be in a confined space?

Certainly, where information security is involved, we have to be on our guard constantly these days and last week’s news of a problem at Cahoot, the UK internet bank, drew media attention to the perceived and rather exaggerated risks of online shopping and banking.

With more companies relying on their online presence for a much larger proportion of sales revenue than at any other time in the past, some industries, such as banking, bidding and betting, are sensitive to the risks of extortion, information theft and denial-of-service attacks.

Terrorism, I warned a year ago, prefers the melodramatic, but organised crime prefers cash. The internet offers increasingly entrepreneurial and innovative gangs a relatively low-risk and high-reward way to conduct operations against large business institutions that would have been impossible at any other time in the past.

In the last seven days, I’ve wandered alone through the corridors of Westminster and flown an aircraft hauling a banner over a union march through the centre of Birmingham. Those two experiences only reinforce my view that while you can take sensible precautions, there is very little to stop the determined on a mission.

As a nation, we used to have a reputation for sangfroid and a stiff upper lip. More recently, we’ve become a health and safety-driven society that worries over the internet, the risk of falling headstones and a fear of shadows. So while we build security into business, digital and otherwise, let’s not make it an obsession, which it’s fast in danger of becoming.

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 e-government and information security.

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

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