How do the things we take for granted affect our security?

Arne Blankerts on . . . assumptions

Like it or not, assumptions are what make the world go round – without certain bits of seemingly reliable information, we wouldn’t be able to participate in all sorts of day-to-day activities. But, from a security perspective, assumptions can also be dangerous.

Our world is based on assumptions. It may not always be obvious, but the majority of decisions you and I make every day, the very core of our interactions, are almost always based on assumptions: assuming that you and I mean the same thing when naming it, assuming that a certain gesture will encourage the other or support a speech. You nod in agreement, shake your head to show disapproval. Or do you? Did you ever ask yourself, whether or not all those tiny things mean the same things in other parts of the world? What happens if they don’t?

When you use public transportation, you assume that the train will stop at the station, the doors will open and close and, when you press the „stop“ button on the bus, it will actually allow you to exit at the next station. All this works because of agreements – quite often unspoken – that we assume to be kept and adhered to by others or by the technology we rely on. What applies to your country, though, may not be valid all over the world.

While it would probably cause quite a stir not to rely on those agreements in everyday life, or at least earn us some very strange looks, from the paranoid perspective of a person being interested in security I come to realise more and more how fragile the world’s everyday workflows are. On the other hand, I realise how easy it is to recover from many smaller problems whenever our assumptions turn out to be wrong.


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