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Secure in My Identity

Secure in My Identity

"Take security issues into your own hands," the experts told me. Now all I've got are sore hands . . .

I admit it - I'm to blame. I used to think viruses, spam and security breaches were caused by bored students, criminals and Nigerian princes. They were assisted by people in Redmond releasing operating systems with holes in them, ISPs who let spam mail through or education authorities who taught people to spell (I used to pick dodgy e-mails by the poor spelling).

Having read reports by Gartner and others on security, I now know the mistake lies with me. It was me who didn't download yesterday's urgent patch until today, me who didn't turn on all the security protection that the vendors don't turn on in the base product and me who didn't test that the latest mandatory patch would stop my database working.

How could I possibly predict that opening unsolicited e-mails with attachments promising naked tennis player pictures or lengthening tips (in both meanings) could result in a virus attack? Anti-spyware vendor Webroot says the average business computer has 27 spyware pieces, which prompted me to check mine. My laptop had 83, but I've always considered I was well above average.

The real trouble is that hackers appear to read their e-mail more regularly than I do, because as soon as a security update bulletin is released, new viruses exploiting it deluge me while I'm still installing last week's patch.

My other security issue was wireless access. In tracking down what was causing a sudden huge excess in downloads, I discovered a guy parked outside with a Pringles can antenna. While he was engrossed in his laptop, I snuck outside and siphoned all his petrol. Then I blocked his access and watched as he drove away. He only made it 300 metres. These days petrol is worth a lot more than megabytes, so I reckon we're even now.

I have unearthed a valuable shareware tool that eliminates the most insidious virus to contaminate the business world: non-comprehensible corporate speak. Bullfighter (ouch!) analyses documents and presentations to reveal buzzwords empty in meaning. I recommend it highly to other people (clearly I do not require surveillance by a technological device in order to establish clarity in the phraseology within these literary oeuvres).

The biggest security issue today is identity stealing. Viruses are increasingly originating inside company DMZs, credit card identities are being stolen and the spotlight is now on biometric user authentication. The most common method is handprint recognition, although movies tell me iris recognition is the way to go. A more accurate biometric target is the ear, according to groundbreaking work by Southampton University researchers (when will they get a real occupation?). The ear is ideal as it changes very little between birth and old age. The drawback is that hair can obscure the ear, but I'd overcome that by mandating all employees have number three haircuts.

It was while working with health researchers that I hit on the best biometric test. We all know DNA is the most accurate individual marker, and tests have become cheap and rapid. So I've changed my computer keyboard to incorporate a DNA analysis test and have embedded tiny syringes into those little bumps on the keytops between D & G and between H & K. Each time either key is struck, a small blood sample is taken, analyzed and compared to the stored user record. Should the DNA records not match, the system is immediately locked.

As a biometric security device, it has been an outstanding success. The only downside is it causes considerable pain in the index digits when typing large documents.

Which is why, excepting one proper noun that I couldn't avoid, I've not used those two letters throughout this entire article. It's a small price to pay to guarantee accurate user identification (ouch!).

Bruce Kirkham is a veteran IT professional specializing in leading-edge technologies and scepticism, who views the IT industry not so much as "dot com" as "dot comedy"

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