Dear Esteemed Reader,
If it seems a long while since I last raised objections here, that is a true perception. (False perceptions abound, just turn on the news. Honestly, it’s like we are auditioning for laughingstock of the world.) As you surmise, I have my reasons for staying mum. But I have crawled out from under my rock, at least for a moment, just for you. So bear with me while I square the circle.
My topic today starts with internet shenanigans. A friend in internet security reminds me that it has always been a see-saw, since the internet came into the world and people started putting their websites up. Hackers chisel into websites; the security guys improve defenses; the hackers excavate new entry points; security responds; ad nauseum.
At the moment, so says my friend, the hackers are on the ascendant. Maybe you’ve been tripped up by the occasional glitch in your surfing of late; or perhaps you’re fortunate not to have noticed the frantic struggle behind those glossy homepages you frequent.
Let’s say you happen, like our friendly publisher here at the wompus, to run a small press or some other small business. You’ve already got your hands full with regular life necessities like earning a buck and stocking the fridge, right? Where, pray tell, would you come up with ten, or fifty, extra hours this week, to clean up that mess on your website after you get hacked, once again?
Small press publishers, like the one who brought you and I together here today, are under the IT gun. (Maybe you, too, know this drill first-hand, supposing you are employed in some business other than ditch-digging, which I am fairly certain still requires no internet skills.) What I’d like to know is, at what point does the cost of doing business make business impossible? If you’re fortunate to be a tech whiz, you can spend your own precious hours keeping it clean on the web; if you’re not, you can pay up to have your webmaster or some other IT guru or Good Guy hacker do it for you. Choose your currency, but pay you must.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, artistic endeavors were supported by patrons. A few still are today, but most of these little arts engines are huffing and puffing up the small business superhighway (yes, yes, mixed metaphors, it’s a given, don’t bother to write me) on their own steam, their own dime, their own hourglass.
I don’t have solutions, just complaints (don’t you know me by now? Oh, that’s right, it’s been a while.) It’s just that I, for one, do not wish to see a world without books, and more specifically, a world without books published by small presses. Just look at the authors who found print this way, and I am certain you will agree.
If I could think up a slick segue into something about Tim Cook and the FBI right now, I’d circle round to that. And what the hell, here I go: end-to-end encryption is the only defense, in the next wave of cyber-life. How that all translates to ordinary websites I don’t have the slightest clue, but I do know this much. We most of us lock our doors to keep our homes, our offices, and our storefronts safe. We password-protect the important stuff we do online. If, like one wompus author shared with us recently, you have had your personal identity “stolen”, you use whatever defenses can be bought and otherwise engaged to prevent a repeat invasion.
Software obligated to leave unlocked back doors, in that light, begins to look like what it is: a built-in hack for people with power or expertise to access your stuff, all your stuff, anytime they like.
If you’ve got some quick fix for the publisher, some cyber-stink to keep away website trolls, an electronic banana peel guaranteed to slip up the next intruder on the doorstep, don’t send it to me. Send it to Sammy. I don’t work here, I just come to vent, and commiserate on the State of the World.
Meantime, don’t be buying any of what the gov’t is selling about encryption, or how programmers from such-and-such corporation should work free for the gov’t just because the gov’t messed up an investigation; unless you like having Uncle Sam rifling your underwear drawer.
Yours Sincerely Some of the Time, Curmudgeon thanks to Gustavb for the image, "Personal computer, exploded"