Death by 1000 Lies – IT Security Guru

During the Pandemic I talked frequently to friends, family and pretty much anyone that would listen about how it felt like the “Western Nations” were the walls of Rome and we, comfortably located in the holy city, were watching the barbarians – “the infected” – approach the walls. It was perhaps premature to consider this an existential threat to our “empire” – way of life, but suffice to say the Pandemic, the response to the Pandemic by society and, now the aftermath of the Pandemic, has had a lasting impact on our privileged society.

I say privileged society only in terms of the comfort and lack of a daily struggle – for most – to find food, shelter, and comfort. Many folks, even those in the countries of such affluence, are faced with those day-to-day struggles, and that is a tragedy. Whatever your direct impact or experience with the Pandemic was – collectively we have all changed, some for the better and some, unfortunately victims of ignorance, prejudice, poverty, and immune systems, for the worse.

I don’t view the impact of the Pandemic through a lens of affluence or casual acquaintance. It was made mandatory for me to work from home; I was not moving about and travelling for work or leisure; I obeyed the laws; I was fearful and perhaps even traumatised by the event – like many. I’m lucky that by fortune, circumstance, or genetics I did not succumb to the disease. To date five million people have. What I did observe was an aftershock with striking relationships to my chosen profession of information security and the society that we enjoy or endure – depending on your perspective and experience.

We built the largest most complex machine in the history of the world – the internet. But we have no actual governance, rules or even controls over it: it’s so critical and we depend on it so much that “Western Nations” cannot turn it off. We built something which became so vital to our survival of the Pandemic that our economies, our human spirit to survive the crisis, resulted in a deep addiction to the internet. It has become the DNA of the “Western Nations”, and this is the largest and most pressing issue we face:  we trust this “internet thing” to tell us the “truth” but, as many will tell you, it is deeply untrustworthy to begin with.

So, we face an existential human problem which has no easy solution. If the ‘house” has been built on a foundation of dishonesty, then how can we even identify truth from the lies? The conclusion I draw is we cannot, but as I will propose, this may not matter as the truth has become unnecessary in discourse and is only relevant in analysis. Here is my intellectual quandary:

We are too dependent as a cyber-security industry on cyber-crime to ever eliminate it; it matches the dependence on fossil fuels, mineral extraction, and on financial institutions to sustain our western way of life. We built and revere with sometimes radical defence the very things which will perhaps destroy us, and we continue to ignore the risks associated with a discourse-is-truth mindset: we are not doing the analysis.

This is precisely why discourse needs to embrace the big sister/brother of analysis. Sadly, too many of us have let the subjective, sensational or the provocative push discourse into the masquerade of actual analysis. This is perhaps the biggest tragedy that the Pandemic has brought – with apocalyptic repercussions for humanity. Combined with the bastardisation of believing a narrative is without an agenda, we are left with scant hope of discerning “truth” from “lies”. Our belief system has become dependent on likes, shares and fake authorities, such as “what your aunt posted on Facebook that all the doctors and scientists missed!”

This lack of analysis has cost people their lives and no one has the intestinal fortitude – called “guts” – to pursue the wrongful death lawsuits applicable to far too many of the five million who believed the bullshit.

They believed in the bullshit, and they paid for it with their lives. That fact, I believe, has caused a great cultural shift in our relationship with the “truth”. I hope that what we can learn from that is the importance of applying analysis to discourse and depart from the current path to our own destructive end. There is a glimmer of hope.

Over the course of the Pandemic humanity found itself in crisis. We proved that collectively we can apply analysis to the stream of discourse. Many of our leaders and citizens managed to turn their addiction to internet discourse into analysis and from analysis into informed decisions which resulted in success – vaccination – against the ravages of the Pandemic. Somehow the “if you get Covid-19 and are not vaccinated you may die” message has managed to rise above the online discourse. And thank goodness it did, because in a sense it helped prepare everyone for what’s coming next.

We find ourselves at a moment, a pivotal moment in humanity, where analysis is the only way to combat G-20 (now the G-19) nation narcissism long enough to save everyone. We find ourselves in a situation where privilege, affluence, corruption, and leadership duplicity in the discourse – supported by mainstream media and social media – are masquerading as the truth. All I ask is for everyone to look around and observe we are the frog in the pot being slowly brought to a boil.

And in the summer of 2022 in the UK, we did boil as did many other countries as heat waves, drought, famine and apocalyptic rain put two thirds of the country of Pakistan under water. If anyone doubts the precarious nature of the post pandemic world – where famine, war in Europe and the “regular war” in “the usual places” dictates the perception of world events, well strap-in we are suddenly living in the unprecedented, unprecedented time. Which maybe the very definition of “the absurd”.

Perhaps it’s not our judgment nor even our intuition that’s failed us, nor is it the amazing exercise of the human capability to live in a state of denial. Where we are today exposes the gaps in our armour – we have failed on many accounts. We built a system of extinction which commoditizes everything and in return gives only to an increasingly small selective few. Your actions, thoughts, ideas and even emotions are being sold and, in most cases, most of the victims are not even getting a kick back.

We need to focus on saving the “Barrier reef of belief” which is increasingly being bleached by the toxic social media environment. It’s too easy to follow, it’s too easy to be part of the echo chamber of infosec. We need fewer hot takes and more analysis, more thought leadership – not some douchebag that has a book for sale – actual intelligent discourse about the impact of the issue. It feels like the “fossil fuel of thought” is in very short supply.

On the eve of 2023 it’s time for a collective commitment to the planet and the infosec community. We need to be unified, focused and support each other on discourse which is larger than what just happened but needs to provide advice on how we adapt, improvise and overcome the threat actor. In the turbulent times ahead I can only say “United we stand, divided we fall” and the consequences of failure have never been dire. Please try to save the planet as it’s the only one we have.

Ian Thornton Trump is CISO at Cyjax, and can be found on Twitter here. 

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the IT Security Guru. 

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