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For the past month I’ve been working part time to secure my family’s home network.   We have several computers, most of which are on a wireless network.  All of the computers are behind a router.   I had discovered several security issues, including the encryption used on the wireless signal.   During the month which I spent working on this subject, I found myself constantly fighting with the other members of the household over these security measures.   I happen to be the “tech support” for my house, so I wasn’t surprised that there might be questions about the subject, or “push back” over certain measures.  I was unpleasantly surprised, however, by the difficulty I ended up facing.

In the end, I was unable to convince them to change.  This led me to “go around them” and install a router beneath the “gateway” router along with the stronger, AES based WPA2 encryption and a super strong password.  But this whole issue led me to think about a separate topic.  How do we, as people experienced with technology, communicate important issues in technology to people who aren’t technologically savy?   It’s a difficult issue and I’m not sure that I have a good answer to it.   I’ve always found that one of two problems often crop up in these situations.

Often the issue being dealt with is complex enough that it requires an explanation.   The issue then becomes how much should I explain to the person?  It’s very easy to simplify the issue to the point that any contradictions which crop up later will always confuse them.  If you simplify computer security down to a truism, there will always be a contradiction which will result in your status as an expert being reduced and the person who you are helping will be even more confused.   However, simply explaining a topic fully will usually just confuse the person, obscuring the true issue at hand.

The other issue is that explaining an issue to someone doen’t necessarily result in the person truely understanding it.   Perhaps the best example of this occurred in my own experiences.   When attempting to explain the dangers of using WEP encryption for a home network, I began by explaining the problem in lay terms before providing textual resources backing up my claims.   What I found was that no matter what way I described the problem, I was met with the same question.   Well the person would have to sit outside our house, right?  They didn’t understand the danger, despite being well informed about the problem.   They, literally, couldn’t imagine one of our neighbors wanting to “read” our traffic.

In each of these cases, the problem seems to be one of communication.  Their solution is not as obvious.   The first problem is more of an issue dependent upon how intelligent the person is, and how much the person wants to know.  The second problem is more difficult.   We cannot make a person do something which they don’t want to do, nor should we.  In this case we can only fall back to the first solution, and not much else beyond that.   In the end it seems that it will always be difficult to make important technology decisions when the person “in charge” doesn’t grasp the issues at hand.   But I guess when push comes to shove, there’s always a way around the issue, even if it requires adding a second router.


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  1. […] didn’t want to keep this from you: a short but familiar description of the problems someone encounters when trying to secure […]

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