Expertise and the Palin hack

When a friend from the Czech Republic brought me a bag of dried wild mushrooms he had collected in the woods around his hometown I was excited. I added them to an Alfredo sauce (minus the peas) and served it with linguine — fantastic. The flavor of the mushrooms was insane!

It is rare you get mushrooms with that amount of flavour. I suppose I could go looking for them in the woods around here except for one thing: I’m not stupid. I know nothing about picking wild mushrooms and as making a mistake could result in the last gastronomic experience my dining companions and I would have, it’s something I’ll happily leave to the experts. Of course, sometimes experts make mistakes.

Consider Yahoo. The company offers a free e-mail service and so one might reasonably expect them to be expert in e-mail. But what does expert mean in this case?

Well, it means it designed a solid e-mail service for average users. For average users the chance of being singled out by bad guys and having your account compromised is very low. Not so for the famous.

Consider the plight of U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. She had a Yahoo account for her private use and a miscreant, for reasons that appear to concern political activism, managed to get access.

You’ll notice that I didn’t refer to this account breach as “hacking” for the simple reason that there was no skill involved. All it took to gain entry was to use Yahoo’s forgotten password feature and guess the answer to the challenge question, “Where did you meet your husband?”

Figuring out the correct answer wasn’t hard seeing Palin’s life story is easily found on the Internet. Palin, foolishly as it turned out, gave honest answers to all of the challenge questions.

Allow me to digress for a moment and note the insane response with which some of the press and analysts has greeted this event. For example, PC Magazine wrote a piece titled “Why the Palin Hack Could Happen Again and Again”, which implies there was something special about the breach and that it matters in some crucial way. Please! There’s nothing special about this event and I think we can pretty much guarantee that exactly the same thing has already happened many times before without anyone caring.

Let’s be clear: Given her high profile, Palin was na

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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