Wednesday, December 27, 2006

To trust again

About a year and a half ago, my friend and I were searching for topics to base our honours theses on. My friend took about a month to settle down with a topic, but it took just half an hour web-search for me to land on something that got my mind drenched in ideas – computer forensics and network security! I always had a thing for ‘investigating’ and an obsession with ‘defence strategy’ that ran back about half a decade, so I had a healthy appetite for what I was going to bite. Now, with my degree way behind me, my daily experiences and qualms has made me look back at my research in a different light.
Reading and keeping up-to-date with the latest tech-news is something I get paid to do, so I always had a good idea about the various dangers that were associated with the Internet. But when I started learning about the inner workings of computers and computer networks, things became a bit more serious. The curtain of enchantment that hid the principles of hacking and sending emails under someone else’s identity were burned down by simple logic. The technology that seems magical to most, turned out to be primitive and so easily exploitable when dissected. I would have expected all that knowledge to make me feel powerful, but it didn’t. Subconsciously, it made me perceive the Internet as inherently untrustworthy. I could not bring myself to trust anyone that I met exclusively online. I’ve heard of too many scams, phishing and cyber stalking to make that leap of trust.
Then came online communities – I got an invite from a friend to join Hi5, which I did. I liked the idea that it was a sort of easier and more fun way of keeping in touch with my friends, yet never ventured into cyberspace in search of new ones. When I browsed through the many networks of friends, I found out that most of my generation of Sri Lankans were more closely linked than I could ever have imagined, yet it did nothing to make me trust anyone that I didn’t know already. I came across a few interesting profiles and there were times when the temptation to share an idea or a suggestion overcame my reluctance to interact with strangers, but interestingly enough, I never expected to make new friends out of it and I never expected them to trust me either. It's almost funny when I think about it now, but I have often tried to explain to total strangers that they should not be so willing to trust me. I may have seemed like a psychopath!
Maybe, after devoting a year and a half to studying how the Internet can threaten my privacy which I covet a great deal, I may have become too self-conscious, maybe even paranoid. The fact of the matter is that, I live in a foreign land separated from family and most friends and the Internet offers the only practical mode of keeping in touch. SO, whether I like it or not, most of my social interactions now take place online. Maybe I am a victim of my own knowledge and maybe I am still unable to see these things in perspective. Maybe… I will have to learn to trust all over again…