Blogging background checking and security issues


Security In a Changing Nation

Adam Shostack brings attention to three different situations where government computer systems were accessed by hackers, and then concludes by stating that last year none of these incidents would have received much attention. Why? The reason is that we, as a nation, have become extremely security conscious in the past few years.

9/11 was the event that shocked us out of the notion that America is a place that is safe from the terror and unrest that we read about in other parts of the world. The bad things that happen to other people can happen to us, too. As a result, we’ve (not unexpectedly) made every effort to hem ourselves in and protect ourselves on every side. We’ve demanded that the government take steps to protect ourselves from foreign enemies, and political bias aside, I suspect that this desire for security is one of the primary reasons President Bush was elected for a second term.

But we’ve gone a step further. Where before we were primarily concerned with threats outside the United States, we’ve now come to suspect our own neighbors. True, there has always been difference of opinion among ourselves, but never has there been such an emphasis on personal security. We want to do background checks on our teachers, coaches, employees, caregivers, significant others (read up on the background check issue) and so on. Where will it stop?

The current state of information technology exacerbates the security problem as technological progress outpaces the necessary responsibility that would be imposed by ethical guidelines. People have always had the capacity for greed and lawbreaking, and today’s technology simply provides more opportunity for more people to do so.

Then comes along the ChoicePoint fiasco. The computer systems of one of the nation’s largest data brokers is compromised and we’re sent into a second panic. We see that our confidential information is not safe and secure, and we don’t even know who has it or who has access to it. I have no doubt that a number of the individuals affected by this had no idea that their personal information could be sold for legal purposes, much less illegal ones. Now any security breach that results in personal information being stolen or misused catches our attention and reinforces our fear that someone can and will take advantage of us. It’s a very disconcerting thought that someone could steal my identify and that their abuse of what is mine could drastically affect my life and future. Unfortunately, I’ve seen it happen to people a number of times.

So where does this leave us? There are a number of good thinkers out there who probably have some good solutions to propose. However, my initial thoughts are that we need either just and ethical information control or greater transparency in society. Both views have their strength and weaknesses, but those are different discussions. Our country is a different place than it was four years ago, and I’m not sure where, or if this seemingly reckless security craze will end. It's great for background checking companies, but I suspect that personal freedom is in some danger.


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