October 13, 2007

Personal safety, do we take it for granted?

This post is a bit off-topic from the information-security focus. It does, however, belong because at the end of the day, we all want to be safe with our loved ones and know that the ones who we let into our lives will not hurt us, and information security as a field involves privacy and safety related issues like cyberstalking. Many of us in the information security field are also aware of physical security issues and understand that just as we can't take for granted the bad guys in cyberspace, we can't take for granted the bad guys in 'meatspace' either. So please read on and figure out for yourselves how information security professionals have so much to learn from and contribute to our colleagues in other safety and security related professions.

After recently meeting some people that work full-time advocating for abused women and children, I pulled out an old book from the mid 90's that deals with interpersonal violence, a topic I've studied both formally and informally for a many years.

Here's a quote that makes me think about the true meaning of relationships with family, friends and intimate partners, and how so many of us take for granted the personal safety we have grown up with or become accustomed to. It jarred me the first time I read it and still does today:

"I understand that I have escaped violence at home not because I am particularly strong or exceptional, but because I have been lucky... When I am half-asleep, my partner lifts his hand and gently caresses my hair. I cannot help but think about those women on whom a hand is descending, a hand that is not gentle." Claire Buchwald, Training for Safehouse

Some of us lead lives that allow us to drift off into the delusion that interpersonal violence is someone else's problem. Something that we'll never encounter personally, since we live in a 'safe' neighborhood, have great families and so on. This is a luxury that some of us have enjoyed and not given a second thought to, while some have struggled desperately to change their life's circumstances and escape abusive and violent people who 'love' them.

Their journey through this personal hell is eased by good people like Claire Buchwald who take the time, energy and personal risk to create a safe place for those whose homes have become a place so intolerable that they have to run for their lives, often leaving no trace and taking nothing with them of their personal possessions, in order to effect their escape.

Before I transitioned into information security full time, I had been in and out of the physical security and emergency medicine field, having done some things that would be considered scary or intense by some people. Still, I know that I don't have it in me to work up-close and personal with abused women and children. It would just be too much for me. I so admire and respect those who work in this field.

Perhaps information security practitioners can reach out to the .orgs in this niche and help make sure that the stalkers and abusers have a harder time tracking their victimes. This is hardly a new concept in pro bono IT work, just a thought for my own contributions. The other week I spent a couple hours at such a non-profit and know that my IT skills made a difference. I will be back. Basic IT skills, not to mention high-level security kung-fu are something that most .orgs can't afford to pay for. The opportunity cost for a .org paying street-value for IT/Security work on their network is very high, considering it could mean reduced levels of service for their clients.

So this post goes out to all of those people who volunteer their time or give up lucrative jobs in corporate law or other high-paying work, to dedicate themselves to the non-profit orgs that serve this need in our society. If you know someone like this, make sure to tell them how much you appreciate their work and sacrifice.

Stay safe out there,


1 comment:

Lisa said...

Thank you for that post ...