I saw this poster on the tube today, which is part of a UK government awareness campaign aimed at changing attitudes to online security among consumers and small businesses.
The poster is advising people/businesses to be “cyber streetwise” and regularly download software and app updates, which contain “vital security upgrades”. Sound advice indeed and ‘HM Government’ is right, of course, there is hundreds of thousands of people out there dedicated to protecting end-users from viruses and security vulnerabilities.
What is amusingly ironic about this particular government message is that, in reminding us to benefit from how the Internet and software/app markets regulate themselves, the government inadvertently argues against the need for its own ‘services’ in terms of coercive interventions into private economic exchanges and forceful regulation of behaviour.
Who will protect people from all this software that any scoundrel can release into the world and that could do anything it likes on people’s computers? Who will protect people from beastly hackers and those twisted types who create viruses?
Who? people who can and want to – that’s who.
In the last two decades an awful lot of such people have emerged who make it their profession to fend off hackers and viruses, and to patch security holes. This wasn’t just a happy coincidence. It was the inevitable consequence of the widespread desire of software and Internet users to be protected from malevolent forces and their willingness to pay someone to do this for them. A new type of problem or need emerged, which created a new demand (to use economic-speak), which in turn motivated enough people to supply a solution to that demand. At first the supply was a trickle, but now it’s a fast flowing river that encircles our computers and our networks like a sort of sentient defensive moat. It’s a beautiful thing, and no coercion or force was necessary.
The Internet: No Government Necessary (says government).