• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Technical terrors are only a click away

I CONFESS, it took about six days before it clicked that the Heartbleed virus was of the computer variety.

After the horror of learning that the Ebola virus had reached Canada, I was allowing my eyes only the most cursory scan of any article pertaining to Heartbleed.

It does sound fairly grim, doesn't it, Heartbleed, for a human. The Ebola of the cardio-vascular system. Ye gads.

But I think that shows what side of the 21st century you're on - if you see the word "virus" and make a mental note to update your software you're probably alright where you are. If you think of Lemsips or antibiotics, you might be best digging out some nice headed notepaper and a rollerball and consign yourself to Googling in the Pears Cyclopedia.

Just then, I could think of seven different types of pen but only one type of anti-virus software, McAfee, which my colleague tells me is an outmoded ­choice.

So far, Heartbleed has left hundreds of thousands of people at risk of having their accounts hacked. The first arrest in connection with a ­security breach has been made. A ­teenager is accused of hacking into the Canadian Revenue Agency's website and stealing 900 social ­insurance numbers. Experts say Heartbleed could cost millions to clear up after.

It hit the FBI's website. And Mumsnet, for crying out loud. Is ­nothing sacred?

So, after reading extensively around the subject and trying to work out what on earth Heartbleed actually is (it's described as catastrophic, that's all I have) I've worked out there are two ways you can protect yourself from it: firstly, change all of your ­passwords online or, secondly, don't change any of your passwords online. My plan is to just ignore Heartbleed until newspapers stop mentioning it.

Having not yet been hacked, the consequence of Heartbleed, for me, has been to highlight my complete ignorance of a tool I use every day, all day.

If I was taking my problem to an IT department I would probably receive a PEBKAC diagnosis: Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair.

But I bet I'm not the only one, I bet my bottom dollar. So what I propose, what I believe firmly should be passed into law at the very earliest opportunity of our legislators, is some kind of computer licence.

They do not let us get behind the wheel of a car without a licence. But they allow us to peck at the keyboard of a machine where such things as catastrophic viruses can occur. Where people can steal your identity, wipe out your bank accounts and redirect pictures intended for the eyes of your lover to your mother.

How many people really know what to do in these situations? I don't just mean the internationally impactful stuff like Heartbleed. I mean when that rainbow spinny thing on a MacBook appears or when you start getting dozens of mysterious text messages saying: "Microsoft Access Code" and it turns out to be your mother trying to get into her Hotmail account.

Above and beyond the technical requirements, there should be various classifications of licence.

For teenagers, etiquette classes. Everyone knows a teenager who's scuppering their prospects of future employment by uploading all sorts of shenanigan-heavy nonsense to WeChat, gifs of Cody Simpson and semi-nude selfies.

The over-65s can be directed in ­banking, shopping, healthcare services and, er, ourtime.com.

You can't drive a car without first learning about the Highway Code and you shouldn't be allowed on the ­information superhighway without the basics of coding.

I'm just not sure how to start the ball rolling? Hang on while I quickly phone IT.

Contextual targeting label: 
Automotive

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

227470