Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Internet is Amoral

People always focus on the good or bad of a technology. Several years ago, a group of us graduate students were talking about bioweapons or nuclear weapons when one of the smarter students (who was a woman) pointed out that technology is based upon knowledge and ideas, both of which are amoral. Nuclear energy can be used to heat homes or destroy those homes. The same goes for the Internet. If you know the underlying technology the Internet relies on, you can leverage it for good or ill.

One example of the good is that the Internet is becoming a new information medium. The BBC has this article about people reading blogs for news in countries where press censorship exists. One example of the bad is how spammers have started frequenting online dating sites to harvest email addresses. Well, it's gone up a notch. There is a program called Cyber Lover making the rounds in Russian online dating sites. It's a bot program that can chat with 10 or more people at any one time and through social engineering (i.e. lying) get them to give away identity data and personal information. Just when you thought that online dating was a bit safer than blind dates, now you'll be targeted because you use a computer for meeting people.

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