Internet Security 4 : I’d like to ask a favour of you.
Pointman’s is an analysis and opinion piece blog, primarily aimed at fighting climate alarmism. When there’s something big in the news on that front and I think I have something to offer on it, I may go into blog overdrive and put out a few pieces on it but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
Mostly, I write articles that are stand alone pieces, which are not particularly news event driven. I suppose that’s the reason why people who find the blog, tend to work their way through the old articles that are on topics that interest them. Some articles do seem to be perennial favourites and gradually work their way up onto the “top rated” list as people click the “like” button.
Nearly everything in that list is related to climate realism and as that’s the whole point of the blog, I’ve no problems with that. To give myself a break, and maybe my readers too, I occasionally do a short story or an article totally unrelated to global warming and while those pieces are interesting to write, they’ll never have the drawing power of the climate articles. I’ve no problem with that either; we all need a little bit of R & R occasionally.
Leaving aside the short stories, the articles tend to be on things that are important to me personally or on topics I have an expertise on. It’s always a pleasure to pass on the essentials about a specialist area you have knowledge of. Over more years than I care to remember, I’ve been the beneficiary of that kind of generosity by a lot of people who wanted to share their knowledge and insight, rather than keep it selfishly to themselves. I think of it as one of the grand circles of life; paying back what was given to me. Certainly, training other people is the hidden fifty percent of most leadership roles in whatever career you make a living in.
An area I do have expertise in, is computer security and because of that, I started a series of occasional articles on internet security. While there’s a lot of information out there on the web about the subject, it tends to be aimed at people with at least some knowledge of this area and not the complete novices. Since the vast majority of people using the web are security novices, they tend to be the ones most frequently impacted by security issues.
I don’t mean to offend everyone out there by calling them novices but most people using the internet tend to do so in the same way that they use a television set. It’s enough to know how to change channel, alter the volume and switch it on or off. You don’t need to know the precise technical details of how the signal is received or how it is translated into a moving picture on a TV screen. This is the way it has to be because nobody can be an expert at everything. Incidentally, that’s why kids tend to be very much at ease with computers; they don’t worry about how it’s actually done, they just know it does it.
The vast majority of problems can be prevented by some simple precautions, which anyone without any technical expertise can take; keep your anti-virus up to date and make sure your computer is automatically downloading and applying security patches. These are the relatively simple steps that everyone can take to protect themselves online, so they’re the messages I push.
The harder but more important thing to get across, is to have a security mindset when interacting with other people online. Indeed, the first article in the series wasn’t technical at all. It was just about cautioning people against needlessly leaking personal information onto the internet, because that can be used against you by the few assorted personality defectives who plague the blogosphere. When I first got into the climate debate, I inadvisedly used my real name, because I didn’t realise how vicious and personal the debate could become. I wanted to discuss science and they just wanted to win an argument and weren’t particular as to the means by which it was done. That single mistake ended up in some lowlife tracing and putting the people I care for to some distress.
As a personal observation, whoever you were, I suppose I owe you one, but not in the way you might think. Given the choice between being intimidated into silence by proxy or going anonymous, I went the anonymous route. Over the years and via a few other personas, you eventually created Pointman, who I think has been a small but contributing part of the blogosphere putting a few terminal dents in your movement that not even Jesus H Christ could panel beat out at this stage. You’ll never know how good it feels to be able to say that. Isn’t payback a bitch?
The third article in the security series was called “The worst sort of Predator” and was intended to lay out some information and guidelines for parents, so they could keep their children safe while they were online. When I’d finished it, I realised that while it might be read and used by any regular visitors here, it would be much more useful if it could be found and used by kids in trouble, who were looking for some help. The first way they’d do that would almost certainly be internet searches. Though I kept the parental guidelines format, I rewrote it to be more child friendly. I added in a lot of keywords and tags like blackmail, grooming and even “help me”, in an effort to second guess what search words or phrases they might type into Google.
It’s the only piece here that gets read every day – day after day. In the half-year it’s been published, it has slowly accumulated triple the number of hits of any other article in the series. I could see what was happening soon after it was published, so I added an update to it. The blogging software I use, shows me what search phrases are being used to find the blog and it’s usually obvious which phrases have found which article. I find some of the search phrases used to find the article very distressing. There’s nothing worse than knowing there’s a kid out there somewhere in trouble.
There is absolutely nothing I can do to help. I can’t trace back to them and would probably scare them even more if I could. The only ray of hope I have is that they take the advice offered in the article and open up to someone they trust about the problem. It is the only way out.
It’s frustrating. I’m powerless to help them but what I know I can do, with your help, is prevent other young people ever getting into the same situation or help a parent spot that it’s actually happening to their child.
Just paste this link to the original article anywhere you visit online. Paste it everywhere. Think of it as a public service. You’ll never know if a parent, having read it, heeded the few simple guidelines and you prevented their child being hurt. You’ll never know, if it made a parent realise what was happening to their child. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll help a child get out of the situation themselves, but you’ll never know.
What we do know is, there is a problem out there. Just do your bit. Please.
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