Feeds

Users inundated with pop-ups

Configure me out

Security for virtualized datacentres

There are many examples where users are now being inundated with pop-up messages asking them to respond to things they don't know about or don't understand, and it leads to weaker security overall.

Context and knowledge is everything. With it, the strangest things can make sense; without it, the strangest things sound, well, strange. For instance, I like to keep track of some of the conversations my wife Denise and I have, as many of them are positively surreal. Recently I stumbled across this fragment, written in March 2003.

Scott: Why are there so many pickles in the kitchen sink?

Denise: Because I was cleaning out the bathroom!

At the time, this probably made complete sense, but looking back now, from almost three years, I have no idea at all why scrubbing toilets and tubs necessitates loading the kitchen sink up with pickles. Or rather, I have some ideas, but I just don't want to go there.

It's not only domestic situations worthy of Christoper Durang that stress the importance of context and knowledge, but also language itself. Robert Lane Greene published an excellent piece in Slate titled "I'm Trying To Learn Arabic: Why's it taking so long?" that contained a description that made me understand just why Arabic would be very, very hard to learn.

"Arabic is a VSO language, which means the verb usually comes before the subject and object. It has a dual number, so nouns and verbs must be learned in singular, dual, and plural. A present-tense verb has 13 forms. There are three noun cases and two genders. Some European languages have just as many forms to keep track of, but in Arabic the idiosyncrasies can be mind-boggling. When Karam explains that numbers are marked for gender - but most numbers take the opposite gender from the word they are modifying - we students stare at each other in slack-jawed solidarity. When we learn that adjectives modifying nonhuman plurals always have a feminine singular form - meaning that 'the cars are new' comes out as 'the cars, she are new' - I can hear heads banging on the desks around me."

When I read that, I thought "Arabic? That's Greek to me!" (actually, that sounds more like something Denise would say), but then I realized that most of the people I run into every day would find the kinds of discussions we have on SecurityFocus - about computers, technology, and security - pretty much as incomprehensible as the dialog between Denise and I, or what Arabic is to Robert Lane Greene. Even the simple stuff - like don't click on attachments, or don't accept strange ActiveX controls, or update your anti-virus software - comes across like adjectives modifying nonhuman plurals using the feminine singular form: guaranteed to induce a "Huh?" or a glassy-eyed stare more than understanding.

Software and hardware makers have tried to compensate for this lack of knowledge and context in users in a variety of ways, and there's still a healthy debate to be had about the best way to work with Joe Average User. On one extreme, it can be argued that software and hardware should just do stuff without the user's involvement at all, because the system should know best. Virus scanning just happens in the background, and if a virus is found, it's taken care of. Why bother the user? Just do what needs to be done without informing Aunt Alice what happened, since she won't understand it anyway, and everyone's happy.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.