In early nineteenth century England, members of the ‘Luddite’ movement protested against the onset of the industrial revolution by destroying the machinery which they believed was jeopardising their careers as skilled tradesmen. Since then the term has become synonymous with all of those who shun technological progress in favour of more antiquated methods.
There is a touch of the Luddite in the US Postal Service’s latest attempt to convince consumers and businesses to ditch electronic communication in favour of ‘snail mail’. ‘A refrigerator has never been hacked’, it informs us, before extolling the security credentials of paper compared to more modern means of communication.
Even if one ignores the fact that a letter pinned to a fridge or board is arguably less secure than if that same information were stored on a computer, the message of the commercial is potentially quite dangerous. It implies that we should turn our backs on the many benefits of technological progress because of a few teething problems. This would be akin to abandoning the motor car after the first ‘fender bender’, or cancelling the NFL because of its injury record. While we cannot ignore the fact there have been security breaches, stronger authentication and other security methods mean that we are constantly improving our defenses against cybercrime.
Those old enough to recall the days when mail train robberies were a regular occurrence should be well aware that post is no more secure than email or other forms of digital communication. But even this slightly misses the point, which is that digitalization is now so much a part of our everyday lives that the suggestion that we should regress seems preposterous. Our efforts instead need to be focused on making our digital world a safer place for all of us. The USPS claim that ‘a refrigerator has never been hacked’ may presently be true, but it is only a matter of time before all of our appliances are ‘smart’, connected devices. And when that day arrives, we will need to secure them against the actions of cybercriminals, just as we now do our laptops and corporate networks.