big.jpg

I have to admit. I’m a fan of Seth Godin. I read most of his books and keep track of his other writings. Small is the new big collects eight years of his very best blog posts, magazine columns and e-books. One could summarize his theories in two headlines :

Be remarkable in everything you do : what’s is your Purple Cow ?

Respect your clients.

There is one idea in this book that I like in particular. It’s about selfish wifi.

This one has been a long time gestating, but a scaremongering piece in teh New York Times completely pushed me over the edge. They’re trying to frighten people about WIFI connections and how unsafe they are both to the person with a network and the person using it.

As I make my travels through the Northeast, I’m stunned by how many WIFI network my Mac encounters – and how many of them are password protected. Waiting in the doctor’s office, for example, I find five networks. and every one of them is closed.

Why on earth would someoone go to the trouble do do this ? I mean, I’m sitting at an ad agency or a cosmetics firm and their network is closed. I’m standing outside of an office building and there are eighteen networks and all of them are closed. All of them ! It’s like having a television on and intentionally putting up blinders so that certain people can’t watch. Worse, it’s like making an apple pie and putting nose plugs on people who would like to smell it !

Having the WIFI network in your lobby or your waiting room or in the street under your window open to guests will not compromise the security of your files – you need a different security for that. And it won’t degrade you net performance much either (and hey, if it does, you can always turn the password protection on again, cursing me out as you do it). (Note : I’m not a computer security expert, and I’m not making a statement about the risk to your data. What I am saying is that if you’re dealing in stuff that’s superconfidential – like medical records or which congressman is breaking which law – then you’ve got no business using a WIFI network anyway.)

And yet here come the influential Times with an urgent warning that all manner of pedophiles, car bombers – hey, even people who do graffiti or spit on the street – are using this major hole in our security networks to do bad deeds. Since the article focuses on the dreaded “data thieves” it’s easy to assume that they’re stealing data from the networks. They’re not. They’re just hiding form the FBI. But if everyone jumps up and down and starts closing their networks, these data thieves will just take one of their stolen credit cards and go to Starbucks !