Internet security is a hot topic these days. Especially after reports that the CIA has been hacked. But those headlines tended to overshadow another claim that Wikileaks made … and claim that had a lot of smartphone users worried. According to the hacktivists, they had uncovered and exploited a flaw in the security of the Android smartphone operating system as well as the Google Chrome search engine. Not more than 36 hours later, Google was all over the press claiming to have completed and installed a “fix” to the problem.
But that was a long day and a half for many millions of Android users and Chrome surfers. And they weren’t the only ones sweating. Many articles written about the potential security flaw also mentioned bugs in Apple’s iPhone OS that, according to Apple, have long since been fixed. That had those users thinking about security risks as well … and not feeling nearly as secure and comfortable as Apple or Google would have them be.
Internet security is one of most people’s biggest worries these days. We live our lives online, and just about everything we hold dear and personal is attached, in some way, to the internet. Our personal information, banking records, our address, our kid’s school grades and blood type and any allergies … all of it is online and, thus, at least theoretically vulnerable.
There are levels of vulnerability, but figuring that out often requires a level of computer savvy that most people simply do not possess. They rely on basic descriptions and hope that the people they trust to help protect them will get it right. Well, from banks to retail establishments, big box stores and, now, smartphones … a lot of those people who are trusted to get it right have fallen short. Those shortfalls may not be their fault, precisely, but consumers don’t care. They just want people to fix it.
Unfortunately, “fixing” this issue in its most rudimentary scenario is all but impossible. It’s become a buyer beware sort of marketplace, where the quality of the product is secondary to the precautions one must take to enjoy it with less worry.
That brings us to the PR of all of this. How can groups and organizations and businesses and the government communicate about this issue without alarming people or boring them? What messaging should be used to convey enough information, and where is the line between “enough” and “too much?”
One key is timeliness. Google was able to get reassurances out in less than two days. Some big box retailers took months to let people know they were hacked. Months in which those persons were unknowingly compromised. This adds salt to the wound and frustration to the fear … and that helps no one.