In other news, I want to pass something on that karzon just linked, and it hit me close to home.
From the Internet Storm Center, Handler's Diary, 12-28-04: Every time I see one of the current spate of AOL television ads portraying their customers as clueless morons I want to scream. It’s not that I have some sort of deep-seated respect for the intelligence of AOL users, but rather, these ads represent, far too well, the current industry mindset, which treats computers as home appliances.Exactly. When I worked at EarthLink, we'd get some of the most moronic calls (been around me long enough, and you've heard some of the stories, no doubt) about things that a computer owner really should know. It sure was nice when some of those people would be appreciative of being taught these things, but then there were the others, the ones that literally didn't want to know, just wanted it fixed. Now, I dunno about you, but when something has to be fixed, and I can't do it, I like to know why it broke, and how to fix it, if I can, in case it happens again. The response I'd get a lot of the time is that they "don't have time" or are "too old", both of which are bullshit. As the above article states, it's a tool, and like any tool, you must learn how to use it.
"Don’t worry about viruses and spyware," AOL explains, "we’ll take care of that for you... Plug it in, turn it on, and disengage your brain..."
Pay attention, you’re about to read something vitally important: COMPUTERS ARE NOT APPLIANCES. THEY ARE TOOLS. Tools require that their user be skilled. Tools require education and training to use. Tools require a level of involvement beyond that of an appliance because "tool use" carries with it an inherent danger. To understand the difference between tools and appliances, simply consider for a moment the number of "important safety warnings" found in the user manual of, say, your average refrigerator, versus, say, the number found embossed on the side of your average ladder.
And yet, over the past decade, the computer industry has deliberately ignored the nature of its product. It has attempted to grind off the sharp edges, to put padding on the corners, and to make a "consumer safe" appliance from these inherently dangerous tools.
The current state of security on the Internet is simply reaping the seeds we have sown.
Computers are not appliances. If something goes wrong with your refrigerator, it doesn’t attack your neighbor’s microwave. If you don’t patch your toaster oven, the chance that it will join up with other toaster ovens in a denial of service attack against the White House is negligible. Yet we persist in marketing computers in a way that presents their operation as requiring the same degree of knowledge and skill as is required to operate a toaster oven.
Beyond the simple fact that computers are tools, and thus requiring more involved and knowledgeable operators, computer use in the twenty-first century is very network-centric. Thus, irresponsible and dangerous behavior on the part of an untrained user can have serious repercussions for, quite literally, millions of others. We don’t allow untrained and inexperienced drivers onto our streets, but any yokel with $9.95 a month can get on the Internet.
The time has come for change. Users cannot continue to proxy the responsibility for their security to others. If they’re going to use this tool, they need to be trained or they need to pull the plug (or have the plug pulled for them).
What can you do? Teach.
Organize a community "adult ed" class to teach people security basics. Sit Aunt Sophie down and make sure that she has (and, more importantly, understands why she needs) a firewall and virus scan. Check with your local School District and make sure that while they’re teaching the impressionable young ‘uns how to create a graph using Excel, that they’re also teaching them safe computing habits. Scout your neighborhood over the next week, looking for discarded Christmas computer boxes, and knock on the door and offer your services.
We’ll all be glad you did.
But be sure you teach. Don't just do it for them. The worst disservice you can do for another human being is to assume that they're incapable of taking responsibility for themselves. Remember: If you build a man a fire, you'll warm him for a day. If you set a man on fire, you'll warm him for the rest of his life. ;-)
Sadly, though, I'm willing to bet that this will not be the case. People will not learn how to use computers. Look into your average "computer education" class...what are they teaching? Microsoft Office. You'll learn the ins-and-outs of word processing, minor Excel usage,and Outlook for your e-mail. MAYBE, they'll show you the Internet, but not likely, since the teachers know 90% of the students will get AOHell anyway.
Humanity doesn't want to learn, it wants to be served. It wants all to be done for it. Go not that way, my friend; that way lies madness. The more you let be done for you, the more dependant on it you are, and the more you are controlled.
Learn - Do - Live.