Essays Tagged "Gulf Times"

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How the Great Conficker Panic Hacked into Human Credulity

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Guardian
  • April 23, 2009

This essay also appeared in the Gulf Times.

Conficker’s April Fool’s joke—the huge, menacing build-up and then nothing—is a good case study on how we think about risks, one whose lessons are applicable far outside computer security. Generally, our brains aren’t very good at probability and risk analysis. We tend to use cognitive shortcuts instead of thoughtful analysis. This worked fine for the simple risks we encountered for most of our species’s existence, but it’s less effective against the complex risks society forces us to face today.

We tend to judge the probability of something happening on how easily we can bring examples to mind. It’s why people tend to buy earthquake insurance after an earthquake, when the risk is lowest. It’s why those of us who have been the victims of a crime tend to fear crime more than those who haven’t. And it’s why we fear a repeat of 9/11 more than other types of terrorism…

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.