This is the first in a series of ponderings I've been having about Cloud computing, how little it's understood by end consumers, and what we in the IT space need to do to better educate the people on the street. The general internet has been greedy in terms of self-interest, selling people short in its expectations of their ability to learn about concepts and ideas. However, I am idealistic enough to really believe that once people understand what is in their best interest in terms of internet security, they will tend to act in ways that support that self-interest, to the extent that they are able. And so if we wish people to act in enlightened self-interest, we need to educate the society around us.
This pondering started when I read this viral article from the Business Insider, spread by Facebook: http://www.businessinsider.com/people-think-stormy-weather-affects-cloud-computing-2012-8
My first reaction to some of the statistics and findings as an IT person was to scoff. "Really? That's nonsense", I thought. Then I read it again, and realized, "Oh my gosh. They're talking about my mom." (Sorry, mom.) And suddenly instead of wanting to scold her again as I do annually for never changing her passwords, I instead realized my entire tone was wrong. How can you scold a third grader for not properly solving a quadratic equation put in front of them with breakfast? I think it’s our fault, we children of the computer who have made the internet our livelihood. We left our parents, our siblings, our neighbors, and so many others behind as we forged ahead, and we did it because we had a major fail in communication.
Breaking down failure is hard, but one must try if one is trying to fix what one has broken. So the first issue I think we need to address is language. We've moved into such technical gobbledygook that one techie group within an organization sometimes cannot understand what the other group is saying. I'm going to put a cry out here for our different groups to talk to one another more often, and figure out common languages. "Cloud" is a word that isn't going away. But has anyone defined it? I’d like to offer props to Wikipedia for good words and pictures, absolutely. However my mom doesn't randomly look things up in Wikipedia. She watches the news in the evenings as her only TV. What are we doing to educate the network news watchers?
I went out to a couple other sites on search engines looking for “cloud computing”, and many articles seem to start out with lines like, "You're an executive/IT Manager at a large corporation." What if they're not? Mom would surf right away from that site. She's just trying to figure out what her daughter does for a living so she can brag about it. What I learned to do is give her sound bites over the years, in words she can understand. "I monitor what happens on the internet, mom. I try to catch people trying to break into other people's computers."
If I had to do it for my mom so she could brag about her kid during holidays, maybe we need to do it as an industry. We all have relatives - we are people, not a corporation. We are individuals working together in support of common goals. Can we make one of our common goals to be the education of our friends and family? Will all of you go home tonight and start explaining in small words what a cloud is? If you have kids, can you draw it on a chalkboard and go to their school for show and tell?
And what will we do as a Computer Security Collective to educate the dads and moms in the world who aren't lucky enough to have their kids work here? I think it's something to think about. Do something today to help that statistic improve. Stormy weather should only affect your Cloud if you have a satellite internet connection, and a strong wind moves the dish. Help people understand that they are part of the cloud with every text they send.