Is staying safe online possible?

I was asked a question on Twitter today. The question was, “Is staying safe online possible?” This is a great question because I increasingly see a sense of apathy in users due to the frequent threats to online safety that are reported. They ask questions such as “If big companies can’t protect themselves, what chance do I have?” or “If identify theft is inevitable, what is the point of protecting oneself?” Let’s look at the question in an Aristotelian manner. We first must establish what staying safe is. Let’s start with this definition:

Being safe online is having the knowledge, ability, and opportunity to utilize the Internet and Internet-based resources without subjecting oneself to harm*

Having the knowledge, ability and opportunity to utilize the Internet and Internet-based resources without subjecting oneself or others to harm*

 *harm is being described as the following:

  • Unauthorized disclosure of personal or sensitive information
  • Identify theft
  • Misuse of computing resources due to unauthorized access or presence of malicious code
  • Persuasion or coercion to perform actions due to misrepresentation or incorrect facts presented in phishing emails

With this definition in hand, I can now consider whether this is possible. First, this definition means that no harm, as described above, would come to the individual despite the frequency of use as long as they utilized sufficient knowledge, ability, and opportunity. I believe this is false. Even those equipped with sufficient knowledge, ability and opportunity will eventually come to some harm in utilizing the Internet and Internet-based resources. So, what if I revise my definition to this?

Being safe online is having the knowledge, ability, and opportunity to minimize the harm* and frequency of harm caused due to the use of the Internet and Internet-based resources.

This definition allows for someone to be safe online but still have harm occasionally occur. However, in such occurrences, the damage done would be minimized. For example, if personal information were disclosed, the individual would be able to recognize that disclosure quickly and work with persons and companies to restrict the value the ability of a malicious user to employ the information disclosed and to reduce the amount of damage incurred through use. More specifically, if a person entered a username and password in a fake web site, they would realize their mistake and change their password on the legitimate site before an attacker would have the ability to utilize their credentials. They would also utilize different credentials for other sites so the information gained would have no value if employed for other Internet services.

Using this definition, I believe I could say that it is possible to stay safe online. However, the possibility is not probability. Those that would be safe under this definition must have the knowledge, ability, and opportunity. If the majority of people utilizing the Internet do not have this, then the majority of users are not safe. Our logical step, therefore, is to educate users to give them the knowledge and ability and to make the technology and environment that will provide them with the opportunity something that is available to the majority of users.

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Kobata to the Rescue: No more conflicts with the Internet install and the Shinkansen

I talked to Kobata and he was able to get the NTT installers to come a little earlier. I got out of work at 1:00 and I am going to head back to the apartment soon. I should be able to barely make it in time. This should allow enough time for me to get to Shin Osaka station in time to catch the Shinkansen.

I can catch one of two trains to Okayama. One is named Nozomi. That is the same name as a friend of mine. I am going to give Mayumi a call when I get to Shin Osaka so she will know when to pick me up at the Okayama station. After today, I will probably not update the blog till Sunday night because I am not sure if I will use the Internet where I am staying in Okayama.

NTT will only provide Internet access to computers whose manufacturer has a service center in Japan. It was a good thing that I brought both my Mac and PC because my PC does not have a service center here. NTT hooked up my Mac and then I figured I would configure the PC later. I am very glad that I bought the Macintosh and decided to bring it here because otherwise I would be without an Internet connection at all.

My DSL connection uses PPPoE (Point to Point over Ethernet) with proprietary software to connect to the Internet. Because of this, I was unable to get my PC hooked up directly.

Instead, I tried to share the connection by using a wireless network. I configured Internet sharing on the mac and then tried to connect using the PC. However, I am using the first version of Mac OSX and it does not integrate well with PCs. I could not get the PC to connect properly.

This is a problem because I was planning on communicating via voice and video with everyone back home. The MSN messenger for Mac does not support video and voice. I downloaded a version of Skype for Mac but it requires MacOS 10.3 and I am running the old version. I did find out that the new version of AIM supports video in both Windows XP and for apple iChat 2.1. I have to check my iChat version but I may be able to communicate that way. Still, there is one more problem. My Creative Webcam Notebook does not have drivers for MacOS so I will probably have to buy another camera that does have support.

Just so everyone knows, I am working on finding a solution to the problem. Hopefully I will be communicating easily soon after I get back.

Internet in Japan…Finally

NTT will set up my Internet tomorrow at 2:00. I wish they could set it up today. It is going to be tough for me because I have to leave on the Shinkansen tomorrow. If it takes too long, Alexander will watch the rest of it and then lock my room for me. I hope it does not come to that. I will not really be online till Sunday night when I get back from Okayama.

Blazing Internet speeds are almost here

Last night I tried the various wireless networks around my area but I could not get a decent connection all night. I wasted too much time walking from place to place and I finally gave up.

I got a letter in the mail saying that NTT (Nihon Telephone and Telegraph) will set up my Internet connection some time between Thursday and Saturday. I need to be there when they set it up. They asked me to reply with the days listed in order of convenience. I told them that I would be out of town on Friday and Saturday so Thursday was the only convenient day. I hope they come to set it up. It will be really nice to finally have a connection. I know that everyone has been eager to talk to me on MSN and AIM and I have been too. I am looking forward to some nice voice and video conversations.

Update on Japan – Internet here we come

I went to the Internet connection meeting last night. It was a long meeting. Here is what is going to happen. They will be installing the connections this month and I might be able to get access by the end of the month. We have to rent the modem and they have to come and check out PC because they will only make a contract with a person who has a computer that was manufactured by a company that has a service center in Japan. It will be rather expensive. It will be about $60/month but the first month will be free. Our speed will be 100MBps. (really fast) Thats the good news. So anyway, I hope to be online by the end of the month or the beginning of next month.