More tricks than treats

Halloween pumpkin
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The changing nature of IT threats should have everyone in fear this Halloween



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31 October 2018 | 0

Billy MacInnes“Trick or treat, trick or treat.”

Yes, it’s that time of year again. There’s very little trick though and an awful lot of treat. It’s the time of year when older generations brought up on the limited delights of an apple and some ground nuts will look in awe at today’s kids weighed down with swag bags groaning under the weight of sweets, crisps and bars. And as for the costumes…

It’s no different for IT. Those who grew up with PCs and laptops in the 80s and 90s must look at the multitude of additional devices available today, such as tablets, 2-in-1s, smartphones and smart watches, allied to the significant advances in communication and connectivity, with similar sentiments.

But the way that we mark Halloween today has brought a profound cultural change too. Much of the inspiration for costumes, the stories we tell, the folklore, traditions and superstition that were the bedrock of the celebration have been pushed to the margins by the invading forces of ‘Holloween’.

If you search for Halloween on google, most of the results on the first page are for the Halloween films, not for the day itself. Holloween has repackaged the festival into a promotional tool for a relentless schedule of slasher flicks. All the ‘trick’ is on the screen.

When it comes to IT, the ‘treat’ it delivers has evolved spectacularly since those early days. There are many things that can now be delivered direct to the user. Music, film, video, phone calls, social communication, diversion, entertainment, personal finance, banking, booking flights and hotels, shopping, the list goes on and on.

On the other hand, so has the trick. All the functionality wondrously available on IT devices of whatever shape and size has brought with it a much wider area of potential vulnerability to attack from nefarious forces. All the trick is on the screen.

Quite a lot of the effort expended by the cybercriminal community is in trying to use the treat of IT to deliver the trick. For them, the slogan is ‘treat and trick, treat and trick’.

For the IT community on the other hand, the onus is on delivering the treat to users while trying to eliminate or mitigate the trick. The horror occurs when they fail. And unlike the slasher flicks, the damage inflicted can be immense with the victims ranging far beyond a houseful of screaming half-dressed college students into the hundreds of thousands or millions.

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