Home Users: A Public Health Problem?

In his latest Counterpane, Bruce Schneier argues that the ISP should shoulder the burden of “protecting” home users from spam, viruses and provide a “clean pipe”.
I can’t disagree with this more.
Bruce’ point of view is coloured by his having a competent IT administration department, that if Bruce requires something, will be adjusted to his needs (Bruce is the boss after all).
Having been the end user of a large corporate IT department, where everything is done for the lowest common denominator, for expert users this is a crushing blow to productivity and utility. I want my ISP to provide me with an unfiltered, unfettered pipe that is my own problem to deal with.
Bruce claims that “I wonder about those who say “educate the users.” Have they tried? Have they ever met an actual user? It’s unrealistic to expect home users to be responsible for their own security. They don’t have the expertise, and they’re not going to learn. And it’s not just user actions we need to worry about; these computers are insecure right out of the box.
I wonder if they said the same thing about motor vehicles, or horses when they were introduced ?
I believe that educating the users is the _only_ way to have viable interconnectivity, and if that means that ISPs act as gatekeepers to prevent users who can’t clean up their own mess, then they can block their outgoing traffic.
Currently there is no incentive for users to clean up their act. Give them an incentive, revoke their licence to internet, but don’t put the burden of cost and loss of utility onto users who are quite capable of looking after their own back yard.
My Mum & Dad are pretty good examples of “the average internet users”. I got them to install AVG at the start, and have left them to their own devices. Twice a year they have a local IT guy come to their place and he either reformats and re-installs Windows, or does a thorough checkup and repair of their systems. I think it costs them about $50 each time, plus a cup of coffee.
We don’t think it’s strange that we have education to learn to drive a car, nor do we think it’s strange that we take our cars for a regular service (2-3 times a year).
Yet, when it comes to computers, the users are impossible to educate ? I’d say there is no effective incentives or repercussions for non-educated users.
Give them an incentive, turn off their pipe. That’ll give a bit of a push for people to stop leeching off the help desks of the ISPs (“I can’t find my spacebar with a map and 2 hands”) and take a bit of personal responsibility.
Or, get the fuck off the internet. If my Mum & Dad can do it, anybody can. It’s just that they have some degree of personal pride to make sure they know what is going on, and not perpetuate the “nanny state” thinking so prevalent in society these days.
Edit: It appears that Marcus Ranum has already written a similar response here

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Home Users: A Public Health Problem?

  1. “I wonder if they said the same thing about motor vehicles, or horses when they were introduced?
    “I believe that educating the users is the _only_ way to have viable interconnectivity, and if that means that ISPs act as gatekeepers to prevent users who can’t clean up their own mess, then they can block their outgoing traffic.”
    I just don’t think that will happen. Think about motor vehicles. When they were first sold, they came with a full set of tools. People were expected to be able to maintain and repair them. And they’ve become more of a mass-market commodity, people have become less sophisticated about them — not more.
    The computer industry is nascient now, yes, and it will simply kill innovation to require the sort of licensing requirements that you see in the automobile industry. But as computing becomes more of a commodity, this will change. People don’t want computers. They want to be able to surf the Internet, send and receive e-mail, look at and edit their photographs, write documents and spreadsheets, etc.
    As the computer industry becomes more of a service industry and less of a product industry, everything will change:
    http://www.schneier.com/essay-166.html
    Bruce

  2. Thanks for that response Bruce. If we want to change the parameters of the problem to “people don’t want computers, they want network connected devices” then that’s different. I’m all for specialist devices for people who want them, but as I said in my first response, don’t force that on everybody, don’t make it all the lowest common denominator, some of us like it how it is.
    Right now, that doesn’t exist, so people are forced to (as in your example) know how to do all the repair work for themselves and their vehicles. All the tools are freely available, and in many cases are packaged with the computer on purchase.
    However, guess what ? Somebody lied to the unwashed masses to make a sale. Computers aren’t easy to use and keep working well. Inexperienced people make a mess of it, each and every day. (As does this experienced one, but oh well)
    I still believe that users can have enough skills not to cause a mess, because (to quote Clint Eastwood) “a man’s gotta know his limitations”.
    There is something we probably agree on, which is that “this will not happen”. Why ? Because people are too lazy to change their ways unless they are given some motivation to do so. This was the basis of my original response.
    I don’t want a “Nanny Net”, I want people to become encouraged to educate themselves, or lose the opportunity to participate. I think that’s pretty fair.
    I’m with Marcus (if he’ll have me), and let them all die out. The next lot will be a bit more willing to learn, but then we’ll have a different set of problems to deal with. And that’s pretty cool.

  3. The first ISP to provide a network delivered managed desktop solution (with SunRays of course) at an appropriate price will clean up the mums & dads market 😉

Comments are closed.