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Intervention by Denise Caruso Read Intervention by Denise Caruso, Executive Director of the Hybrid Vigor Silver Award Winner, 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards; Best Business Books 2007, Strategy+Business Magazine


by ~ December 6, 2008.
Permalink | Filed under: Hybrid Vigor, Policy and Decisions, Social Trust Online.

The New York Times ran a story today on a truly recession-proof industry: computer hacking. The article cites a study by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that claims the underground industry grossed more than $100 Billion last year—enough to bail out the U.S. auto industry and Citigroup with money left over for alternative energy initiatives.

Sadly, the best our computer security experts can offer is an honest attempt to keep up. The first sentence of the Times article makes this chilling assertion: “Internet security is broken, and nobody seems to know quite how to fix it.”

But the article goes on to shift the discussion from security to trust:

Beyond the billions of dollars lost in theft of money and data is another, deeper impact. Many Internet executives fear that basic trust in what has become the foundation of 21st century commerce is rapidly eroding.

This is precisely the point! Our security online depends greatly on our ability to trust online. But today’s Internet security experts have shamefully little understanding of social trust, so today there simply is no model for social trust on the Internet. I’ll say that again: there is no model for social trust on the Internet today.

Here’s a case in point:

Recently, Microsoft antimalware researchers disassembled an infecting program and were stunned to discover that it was programmed to turn on the Windows Update feature after it took over the user’s computer. The infection was ensuring that it was protected from other criminal attackers.

Why were the Microsoft researchers stunned at this development? Perhaps because they thought they had written unhackable code? Or that a wolf would never don a wool coat? If these guys are experts, shouldn’t they anticipate what hackers will do? Apparently, Microsoft could use a few social scientists, evolutionary biologists, and game theorists on the security staff.

The Laws of Relation predict this kind of behavior, because the relationship between Microsoft, the PC, and the user is asymmetrical and therefore exploitive. Because the relationship is structured without regard for principles of social trust (reciprocity, awareness, consent, etc.) the relationship becomes easy prey for hackers.

But are businesses motivated to really fix the problem? Here’s the rub:

  • To fix the security problem, you have to fix the trust problem.
  • To fix the trust problem, you have to restructure the relationship.
  • To structure the relationship for resilience against invaders, you have to adjust the business model and empower consumers.

And businesses are unlikely to relinquish their exploitive relationships with consumers.


  1. The Hybrid Vigor Institute | hybridvigor.net

    […] But let’s look at the problem from a different angle: who better to defraud wealthy, intelligent people than a $50 billion confidence man? Only trusted individuals get that kind of privilege! It usually takes an entire industry of lesser fraudsters to come up with that kind of cash. […]

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