Who doesn’t love a good sci-fi movie? They offer us a glimpse into a possible future world that may or may not ever come to actually exist but, either way, can be enormously entertaining in the process.
One of the best from my childhood was the 1968 classic (yes, I’m old) Planet of the Apes.
*** Spoiler Alert *** In the final scene the protagonist, George Taylor (played by Charleston Heston), is walking along the beach of the dystopian world his spacecraft crash landed on. This alien world is run by intelligent, talking apes who have enslaved the native human population. Taylor looks up to see a half-buried Statue of Liberty and realizes that he isn’t on some distant planet but is, instead, back on planet earth many years after he left it. His final lines are:
Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it. [screaming] You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, d*** you! God d*** you all to hell!
Dramatic stuff! My young mind was completely blown. Still is …
But what if it isn’t apes that we need to keep our eyes on? What if the plot is actually more sinister? What if the threat comes from an even more unlikely source?
Yes, cows. It seems Hollywood got it wrong (shocking!). Believe it or not, according to US CDC statistics you are more likely to be killed by a cow than a shark — twenty-two times more likely, in fact. All this time they’ve been standing in our fields passively chewing cud and staring at us with those cold, dead eyes …
OK, so I’m overdramatizing for effect. No, I don’t believe that cows are out to get us or that they will eventually become our overlords, but the the point is that we are often quite bad at assessing risk. Are most people more afraid of cows or sharks? According to the actual data, which one should they be more concerned about?
What does this have to do with IT security? If we are bad at assessing real world threats, why would we think that we don’t carry some of the same deficiencies into our assessment of cyber threats? My guess is we shouldn’t think that we don’t because we do.
So, the next time you hear someone trying to downplay a potential risk, it might be worth taking a second look to see if the facts support it. Otherwise, we could one day be living on … the planet of the cows!