When does security become insecurity?


Thor May
Adelaide, 2015



Preface: This is a discussion paper, not a researched academic document. The reading list at the end is mostly a collection of contemporary links from the Internet and pretty accidental, not edited for quality. Where a topic is of broad general interest comes up with friends, I have adopted the practice of posting discussion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that others might also find them worth thinking about.











1. Introduction


I am the luckiest of people. At any time in prior history, in almost any location, I would have been a far more insecure man. Perhaps you, living in another location and circumstance are less secure than I am, yet taking the people of the planet overall, they too are more secure than their ancestors. At Thomas Hobbes wrote in 1651, where disorder reigns, “life can be nasty, brutish and short”, and that was a common lot in many an earlier time and place, not only from civil disturbance, but from the even more common ravages of disease and starvation. Yes, your daily television screens are filled with such misfortunes, but proportionate to population sizes, the levels of real insecurity are now much lower.

So what exactly is security? Here are some starting ideas:

a) “Security is the degree of resistance to, or protection from, harm. It applies to any vulnerable and valuable asset, such as a person, dwelling, community, item, nation, or organization.” [Wikipedia on Security, 2015]

b) The perception of insecurity is often poorly related to real risk. “the fear of earthquakes has been reported to be more common than the fear of slipping on the bathroom floor although the latter kills many more people than the former”. [Wikipedia 2015]

c) “Security theatre” is the common practice of soothing people’s (subjective) fear of risk, perhaps without substantially reducing real (objective) threats. Security screening in nightclubs and airports are examples of this. In a recent series of checks at American airports, 67 out of 70 armed fake “terrorists” were able to pass through security screening without detection (Reuters: Tuesday 2 June 2015).

d) Perceptions of a security presence can sometimes deter attacks if the deterrent is believed. Fake CCTV cameras, and some car security systems work on this principle. The same is true of the military defence systems of many nation states. In other words, deception is one type of security tool, but it remains vulnerable to exposure.

e) Secure protection against attack is always unequal to the threat: “The situation is asymmetric since the 'defender' must cover all points of attack while the attacker need only identify a single weak point upon which to concentrate(Wikipedia 2015). Some kinds of warfare depend upon this paradigm: the aim becomes to bankrupt the defending state by forcing it to overprotect, or paralyse its civil society by forcing an extreme protective police presence.

f) While unreasonable fear of attack can become a source of insecurity (and self-fulfilling prophecy in itself), overconfidence can also render security fragile by leading to thoughtless provocation and poor preparation for defense.


2.  Perceptions of security


Not risk, but the fear of risk is a form of debilitating insecurity. My 93 year old mother refused to lock her house door for her entire life. She came from a country village where locking your door would have been thought stupid and inhospitable. After all, everybody knew everybody in the area. Moving to the city as an adult didn’t change this perception for her. She didn’t feel insecure. Maybe it was a kind of fatalism, or stupidity, but nothing untoward ever happened. From a policing viewpoint she was totally insecure and at mortal risk. From a personal viewpoint she was free.

I recently moved into accommodation which requires me to carry two bulky electronic dongles. One allows me entrance through a gate, and a second opens a door. Both of these things are rather expensive, and both are a great nuisance to carry. Nobody has been able to tell me what happens if there is a power blackout and the electric openers cease to work. I don’t want them but I’m stuck with the wretched things. I’m terrified of losing them. That’s the real risk. I’m a prisoner of somebody else’s ideas about so-called security. It is even worse than that.

My old van died, so I bought a car for the grand sum of $2100. A bargain it seemed, but it too came with a bulky dongle, even more expensive if lost than the house openers, and a supposed back-up dongle is non-functional. This car dongle immobilizes the engine. Can I just rip out the immobilizer? No, that would cost half the price of the car. Who is going to steal a 16 year old car worth $2100? But once more I am trapped by someone else’s idea of security, and at real risk of losing a very expensive gadget. My first car, in the dim, distant past cost $75 and had the key welded into the vehicle! Yet an article by Bilton (2015) in the reading list reveals how kids can break into $100,000 cars with a simple frequency amplifier. So much for illusions of secure insurance against risk. Such illusions and their unmasking are, of course, also the story of the Internet (Reuters, December 23, 2015 and many other referencesin the reading list).


3. The meaning of life is forty-two. Now do you feel secure?


Some time ago I moderated a discussion group on the topic of “Creating Meaning in Life” (May 2013). Douglas Adams’ (1978) fictional and very clever computer could famously tell the assembled creatures of the universe that the meaning of life was forty-two. Being merely mortal humans, our tiny imaginations are not often satisfied with this kind of logic. In our discussion group, it became clear over a couple of hours that many of the participants were deeply uncertain about how to create meaning in their lives. There were a variety of reasons for this uncertainty, but a major intrusion was that related but different willow-the-wisp question: “What is the meaning of life?”. Since there is no clear answer to this second question for humans, except for those insouciant enough to invent a religious answer, the uncertainty seemed to leave some discussants feeling insecure to the point of unhappiness. This was probably not the sort of insecurity you could fix by putting extra locks on your door.

I knew what these people were troubled about. At twenty this kind of speculation had made me miserable too, so I thought a bit about why several decades later and closer to oblivion, finding a meaning in life no longer seemed such a burden, and why the meaning of life, though still elusive, seemed less important. Partly it was a matter of knowing myself better, and coming to terms with still running in a race in spite of all my weaknesses to, well, nowhere,. The journey was more important than the destination. That understanding itself offered a kind of psychological security. But there was something else. It was a strength that came from having looked into the abyss a few times, and having survived until this moment. Here is what I wrote later:

Imagine you are walking along a narrow path high in the mountains in the early morning. There is a heavy mist, clouds in fact, so you can’t see far, but it is quite peaceful. Suddenly the clouds clear and you notice that you are on a ridge, no wider than the path, with 1000 metre drop on each side. Your steps, relaxed and contented only a moment before, are suddenly terrified. Will you overbalance? You sink to your knees and crawl ….

This little story is a metaphor for the coming of consciousness, the sudden awareness that life is fragile and death in a short while is certain. For some, this story has no impact until they have a brush or two with mortality themselves, maybe later in life, yet eventually we all come to understand it. “Giving meaning to life” has a somewhat different edge for individuals on each side of that bleak awakening. For the happy young immortals, giving meaning to life might be all about tonight’s party. For sadder survivors with an acute knowledge of how quickly loss and pain can overwhelm our wellbeing, very often “giving meaning to life” has a lot to do with the private stratagems we deploy to avoid looking directly at that 1000 metre drop on each side of the path while continuing on our journey regardless.


4.  It annoyed him that he could not walk on his head


In 1836 the German writer, Georg Büchner, anticipated the genre we now know as magical realism. His topic was madness, and the fragility of our hold on what we call the real world (see Turner 2013).

“ ..he fell into a dreadful state between sleeping and waking; he bumped into something ghastly, hideous, madness took hold of him, he sat up, screaming violently, bathed in sweat, and only gradually found himself again. He had to begin with the simplest things in order to come back to himself. In fact he was not the one doing this but rather a powerful instinct for self preservation, it was as if he were double, the one half attempting to save the other, calling out to itself; he told stories, he recited poems out loud, wracked with anxiety, until he came to his sense”.

I have seen someone slip into dementia, quite quickly, over several months. It came at first in waves, as she clawed back into the winter sunshine scared and confused. “Something is trying to get hold of my mind”, she said, “and I don’t know how to fight it”. Until she was gone, no longer distressed, on a hot air balloon trip to the moon, or talking to sisters long dead, and I was a stranger instantly forgotten.

And I have seen twenty year olds, stoned out of their minds on drugs, escaping, they thought, from the embarrassing world of being twenty years old into being masters of the universe for an hour or two, before their turbo-charged car with the modified exhaust, bought on time payment at a ridiculous rate of interest, met a rusty telegraph pole at high speed.  I have seen fort-five year olds tanked on whisky try the same trick.

What is it about the reality we assemble as ordinary, fairly healthy animals that so many are so desperate to escape?  Is the security found in delusion, madness and death worth having?


5.  Security in numbers – the accomplice


Security is often confused with lawfulness, or even morality. Certainly both of these can deeply effect overall stability and personal security in a society over time. However, for an individual embedded in a particular job, or a particular social group, the shortest path the personal insecurity (up to and including murder) is to undermine the activities of those around him or her. If those activities are dubious or unlawful in some way, the risks to a whistle-blower are multiplied.

In a chequered working life – you could not call it a career – I have had well over fifty jobs in seven countries. These jobs ranged from highly skilled to borderline unskilled in numerous fields. I have trouble recalling a single working environment where, at some level, something dubious was not going on. Some situations were more or less illegal. Some were survival adaptations by mostly decent people to an environment which was seriously corrupted. Now here is an individual’s problem: I am deeply uncomfortable with corruption or illegality and do my best to be honest. Yes, this is surely a personality disorder, but there you are. To progress in any of the environments just mentioned, it was usually a requirement to become an accomplice to whatever was going on (I rarely progressed). Being a passive bystander was not sufficient. That would incite suspicion and dislike.  So what was to be done?

The vast majority of people are sucked into complicit environments of fatalism, neglect, corruption, illegality or even violence not from initial choice, but to earn their weekly ration of bread. Once compromised it is difficult and dangerous for them to escape. They now know too much. Theirs is now the conditional security of belonging to a group - good, bad or mafia, large or small. This pragmatic reality is mostly what separates an idealistic teenager in a secure home life from his or her street-battered parents grasping for some kind of security in an imperfect world.


6. About job and income security


When I left high school in Australia at the end of 1961 the official unemployment rate of 3% was considered to be serious (although it was 6.7% in the US and Canada, largely as a matter of deliberate macro economic policy to keep workers fearful). Never to worry, by 1965 in Australia unemployment was down to 1.3%. Girls belonged to a different game plan: female employment participation in 1962 was 35%. In 2015 it is 55%. As a young man I was expected to find a secure career with prospects of promotion and retire from the same company at 65. The manager of my first employer said I should “marry myself to the company” (see my poem, Seventeen in 1962).  Not likely. My complaint then was not the scarcity of jobs, but the narrow list (it seemed to me) of occupational choices open to a carpenter’s son with imagination in the small-minded branch office economy that was Australia then. For ten years I ricocheted through a dreary list of unskilled jobs. There was always a chance of finding something better tomorrow.

At least for the well educated, in 2015 there appears to be a cornucopia of occupational categories on offer for those setting out into the world of work.  There are also vast numbers of young people, not only in Australia but in almost every country in the world, who will never get a job which meets their expectations. Increasingly they will never find any kind of stable job, let alone a career. This is partly a matter of a population explosion, rising education levels unmatched by available jobs, and globalized industry with zero loyalty to any local jurisdiction.

However, at an exponentially increasing rate, worldwide unemployment is becoming the consequence of a new kind of automation (The Economist 2014). The industrial revolution gave birth to new societies which were built on an uneasy social contract between the owners of capital and the sellers of labour. More and more that labour is simply not needed for production. Disappearing occupations are not only those of the unskilled. There are 3 million truck drivers in the United States. Very soon many of them will not be needed there, or most places in the world. Endangered species include lawyers and accountants.

One detailed University of Oxford study of 702 occupations estimates that 47% of total United States employment is at risk over the next few years (Frey & Osborne 2013). Other researchers are coming to the same conclusion. This issue also applies globally, and in many countries will impact even more severely. Don’t count on old occupations being replaced with new ones. Jobs, where they are available, will be short term or outsourced contracts. There is a new word in English, the Precariat, the precariously employed (May 2014b). That means you and your children.

The social contract between capital and labour in the industrialized world for several generations now, has been not merely an economic structure, but a cultural paradigm penetrating to the core of our lives. Another face of that coin is what the marketers call consumerism. If the end product of industry and commerce is something to be sold for money, then consumers are the people needed to keep the whole machine in operation. The ugly truth which dare not speak its name is that consumers are also workers. Where there is no money to spend, then there is no industry and commerce. National economies cannot live on a few rich patrons for 5 star hotels. National economies live on the money earned by millions of workers. And where there is no work? In wealthier corners of the planet, we are temporizing with welfare payments sourced from a vanishing tax base. This is articulated as humanitarian decency, but understood by ruling elites as the minimum possible bribe to keep riots off the streets and their own heads intact. The multiplying scale of this short term fix suggests that the solution is not sustainable. Nobody has yet come up with a new, politically possible socio-economic human design for an automated future.

Something very, very dangerous is coming around the corner of our economic world, even putting aside species-threatening catastrophes like climate change. All the security plans of household and governments will not buffer the breakdown of the contract between capital and labour. If you expect to live for a few more decades, buckle your seat belt, learn to meditate, or start to grow your own vegetables.


7. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown


Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude, And in the calmest and most stillest night, With all appliances and means to boot, Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down! Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown  [William Shakespeare, KingHenryIV.2_ACT_III_SCENE_I]

Kings who impose and dispose (not the cream puff bicycle variety) have long been know to sleep poorly as ambitious rivals, aggrieved subjects, and outright lunatics plot to behead them.  Traditional solutions like poison tasters, praetorian guards and palace moats were simple solutions for simple times. Meanwhile humble peasants could usually get on with mowing their fields, untroubled by kingly insecurity.

How times have changed. The kings, the presidents, the dictators, the oligarchs and company CEOs put their insecurities in our faces 24/7 (e.g. Yuhas 2015, Kinzer 2015). They are not even honest about it.  You don’t hear a president saying that our taxes must support multi-billion dollar armaments industries and wall-to-wall surveillance of our private lives so that he, the president, can sleep at night. Yes, palliatives for his insecurity are exactly what we are investing in, yet a vast propaganda spin machine calls white black, black white, and assures us through all the resources of mass media that SECURITY, as in guns, armoured vehicles and phone taps, is the central concern of OUR lives. The real truth for us, as our faces stream past CCTV cameras on every street corner, is that we are imprisoned by someone else’s idea of security, just as I am imprisoned at home with unnecessary, expensive, prone-to-loss and failure electronic dongles for gates and doors and an old motor car.

The owners of the paraphernalia of state security, and their diligent servants, are incapable of empathy. They simply cannot see the incoherence of their arguments for more security read through the eyes and ears of the rest of us. Here is a quote from the Chinese newsagency, Xinhua (official mouthpiece), at the end of an article (Wen 2015) where President Xi Jinping robustly defends the “necessity” for blanket Internet censorship and surveillance in China: “After the [exposure] of the US National Security Agency's PRISM program, more countries have woken up to the fact that 'absolute Internet freedom' touted by the US will only end up as 'absolute security' in Washington and 'absolute insecurity' for the rest".  Recall that the PRISM program involves the mass surveillance of communications, including phone calls, outside of the United States and (as just accidentally confirmed in a debate by US presidential hopeful, Ted Cruz (O'Malley 2015)) also within the United States. By “the rest” Xinhua means that abstraction, “other countries”. The security of mere people, you and me, there and here, is hardly part of the equation for the agents of the Chinese state or the American state, or any other state.

The great irony of institutional security, whoever it claims to be protecting and against what, is that it cannot in principle be secure. Not over time. The king can have his poison tasters and spies, but he never knows for whom they work or what will turn them. Every organization of any size is at least partly a criminal organization since organizations are comprised of people. In every population, a percentage are criminal by almost any definition, and a vastly greater number can be suborned. There can be laws, and screening, and error checking, but this is all down to the judgement of humans too. It’s the palace guard who does in the king. It was the head of the KGB who did in the Soviet Union’s ruling elite, for a moment in history, and Edward Snowden who left PRISM naked. This is an ancient tale. Its modern decoration is the movement of all records and reports, whether personal or institutional, to electronic databases. There is no such thing as a secure electronic database, ever, anywhere. And the larger the database, the less secure it is. Millions of American personal records, not to mention “state secrets” and “commercial secrets” are already sitting in duplicated copies in Moscow and Beijing. No doubt the reverse is also true. And so, at vast expense (and profit for some), the security industry rolls on …


8. Last thoughts


Discussing a topic such as security is like a journey of a thousand leagues inside a goldfish bowl. With the flick of an adjective or a careless noun we find ourselves leaping from intimate personal fears to the character of all the creatures in the galaxy. And yet even the wildest horizons are always nearer than we think. We are reflections of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King of Chinese legend, who acquired magic to travel 54,000 kilometres in one somersault, and intoxicated with his new powers, rebelled against heaven. Yet Sun Wukong found that all the while he had merely been leaping around foolishly on the palm of one of the Buddha’s hands. The universe is wide, and our concerns are trivial. In our busy way though, we still gnaw on the bone of “security”. Perhaps there is a whole collection of things going on here.


Psychological security/insecurity: One commentator nailed something when he noted that insecurity exists wherever security is mentioned. Psychological security clearly draws from the most basic survival mechanisms found not only in humans but probably all living things. Of course, being human, we sublimate it in countless ways, just as we do with sex. The level of psychological security we seek varies with the person, the time and the situation. Some of us get a buzz from risk to a certain level. Whenever I felt too comfortable and secure in the past, I changed jobs, houses and sometimes countries. These challenges forced me to keep learning and growing, but that is not a typical outlook. Most seek to establish a small economic, social and emotional territory in their twenties. Thereafter they build barriers to prevent intrusion and rarely venture out unless forced. This is their idea of personal security.


"Security", the word : this is a many-splendoured creature with libraries of specialized meanings for specialized contexts. In this sense, we have to ask security for whom/what, where, when, in what manner, expressed through which artefacts ... and so on. All of these in worldly contexts may have a feedback loop into the psychological security of individuals, but the connections can be an impenetrable maze. That is why research in the social sciences where there are gazillions of variables is so often overcooked mush with only occasional raisins of insight.


So why talk about concepts like security as a discussion topic, or read about it? Well I think that it is part of the journey to self-understanding. It is not necessarily that discussions or books provide us with persuasive new data or perspectives, although they might. Personally I find that by bumping up against propositions which are external to my own first thoughts, then I am prompted to develop and refine those personal ideas. That is why I read, write essays and run an Active Thinking discussion meetup. We rarely come to absolute agreement in such meetups. That is not the purpose. We have each gained something if we leave the meetup still thinking curiously about the topic of the day. 


Reading List



Adams, Douglas  (1978) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. pub. Del Rey. Available in multiple formats from Amazon @ http://www.amazon.com/Hitchhikers-Guide-Galaxy-Douglas-Adams/dp/0345391802

Adonis, James (February 20, 2015) "Are performance appraisals worth it?" Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/small-business/managing/work-in-progress/are-performance-appraisals-worth-it-20150219-13jvez.html 

Adonis, James (July 11, 2014) "It's a trust issue". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/small-business/managing/blogs/work-in-progress/its-a-trust-issue-20140711-3bqka.html#ixzz37Cr8Smnq

Alfred, Charlotte (11 March 2014) "Fake Passports Fall In The Spotlight After Malaysia Airlines Disappearance". Huffington Post online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/11/fake-passports-malaysia-airlines_n_4936774.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Apuzzo, Matt (January 23, 2014) "Security company that investigated Edward Snowden accused of fraud". Sydney Morning Herald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/world/security-company-that-investigated-edward-snowden-accused-of-fraud-20140124-hv9mz.html#ixzz2rH3sKXwa

Barton Gellman, Barton and Greg Miller (August 30, 2013) "$59 billion black budget: US spying detailed in secret report". Sydney Morning Herald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/it-pro/security-it/59-billion-black-budget-us-spying-detailed-in-secret-report-20130829-hv1l0.html 

Battersby, Lucy (November 11, 2013) "Love scams sending $7m a month to west Africa". Sydney Morning Herald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/love-scams-sending-7m-a-month-to-west-africa-20131111-2xca3.html#ixzz2kMvdUeQD

Benson, Jonathan (July 22, 2014) "Apple engineered surveillance back door into 600 million iPhones". Natural News website online @ http://www.naturalnews.com/046127_iPhones_back_doors_surveillance.html#ixzz38Tm0lc7K

Bilton, Nick (April 16, 2015) "Why keeping your keys in the freezer can stop thieves breaking into your car". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/why-keeping-your-keys-in-the-freezer-can-stop-thieves-breaking-into-your-car-20150415-1mm25p.html

Bosker, Bianca (10 February 2014) "Nice To Meet You. I've Already Taken Your Picture". Huffington Post online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/10/narrative-clip_n_4760580.html?utm_hp_ref=world&ir=World 

Carter, Clare (January 31, 2014) "Self-scan fail: Supermarkets lose billions as thieving customers help themselves". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/money/saving/selfscan-fail-supermarkets-lose-billions-as-thieving-customers-help-themselves-20140130-31o3p.html#ixzz2s1c34x1A

Castle, Stephen (November 21, 2015) "British police apologise to women for behaviour of spies". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/deceitful-and-wrong-british-police-apologise-to-women-for-behaviour-of-spies-20151120-gl4hbl.html

Christian Science Monitor (December 10, 2015) "Coming clean on corruption’s links to pollution".  Christian Science Monitor online @ http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2015/1210/Coming-clean-on-corruption-s-links-to-pollution

Christian Science Monitor (October 26, 2015) "As the Communist Party launches its next five-year economic plan, it also seeks ancient Chinese virtues to restore morality in the party and society. In a new book, a leading ethicist explains what the party should do". Christian Science Monitor online @ http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2015/1026/China-s-reach-for-sage-advice

Cohen, Zachary (December 12, 201) "$700 million mine-hunting drone can't find explosives". CNN online @ http://edition.cnn.com/2015/12/11/politics/remote-mine-hunting-drone-fails-tests/

Corbin, Teresa (July 24, 2013) "Data breach law essential to protect individuals". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/it-pro/it-opinion/data-breach-law-essential-to-protect-individuals-20130724-hv10l.html

Crilly, Rob (August 25, 2014) "Forget jewels and cash, Lego's the new target of choice among discerning thieves". http://www.smh.com.au/world/forget-jewels-and-cash-legos-the-new-target-of-choice-among-discerning-thieves-20140825-1081p5.html#ixzz3BRqQSgvn

Curtis, Sophie (July 22, 2015) "Security experts hack into moving Jeep and seize control of car". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/security-experts-hack-into-moving-jeep-and-seize-control-of-car-20150722-gihmn3

Daileda, Colin (June 30, 2014) "Anger builds over Facebook's emotion-manipulation study". Sydney Morning Herald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/anger-builds-over-facebooks-emotionmanipulation-study-20140629-zsqev.html

David Hoffman, David (July 4, 2015) "How the CIA ran a ‘billion-dollar spy’ in Moscow". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/how-the-cia-ran-a-billiondollar-spy-in-moscow-20150703-gi50xd.html

Dempster, Quentin (August 29, 2015) "Data retention and the end of Australians' digital privacy". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/technology-news/data-retention-and-the-end-of-australians-digital-privacy-20150827-gj96kq.html

DeTrani, Joseph R (23 March 2015) "Cybercrime a threat to nation states". Asia Times online @ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/World/WOR-03-230215.html

Dewey, Caitlin (April 21, 2015) "See everything you've ever Googled with this little-publicised web tool". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/see-everything-youve-ever-googled-with-this-littlepublicised-web-tool-20150420-1mpf69.html

Dorling, Philip (July 21, 2013) "Australian outback station at forefront of US spying arsenal". Brisbane Times online @  http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/it-pro/security-it/australian-outback-station-at-forefront-of-us-spying-arsenal-20130720-hv10h.html

Dorling, Philip (May 31, 2015) "Pine Gap’s new spy role revealed". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/technology-news/pine-gaps-new-spy-role-revealed-20150531-ghdefc.html

Escobar, Pepe (April 30, 2015) "Why the U.S. “war on terra” is a fraud". Asia Times online @ http://atimes.com/2015/04/why-the-u-s-war-on-terra-is-a-fraud/ [Comment: Pepe Escobar needs to be treated with caution. He writes with flair, but has been known to act as a shill for Russian propaganda interests. In the case of this article, he is probably close to the truth  - Thor]

Farmer, Ben (August 31, 2015) "Spy agencies mining adultery website data". Brisbane Times online @  http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/spy-agencies-mining-adultery-website-data-20150831-gjbfph.html

Featherstone, Tony (July 10, 2014) "Want to create a crisis?". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/small-business/managing/blogs/the-venture/want-to-create-a-crisis-20140710-3bnno.html#ixzz371N5qweQ

Ferner, Matt (11/30/2015) "Former Military Chief: Iraq War Was A 'Failure' That Helped Create ISIS - "We strategically marched in the wrong direction."" Huffington Post online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/iraq-war-isis-michael-flynn_565c83a9e4b079b2818af89c

Francis, Hannah  (December 4, 2015) "Access to private internet, phone records up by 9 per cent - without warrants". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/technology-news/access-to-private-internet-phone-use-up-by-9-per-cent--without-warrants-20151204-glfgg0.html#ixzz3tXZRgzGH

Frey, Carl and Michael A. Osborne (September 17, 2013)"The Future of Employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation?". [This is a 72 page research analysis]. University of Oxford, UK. online @ http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf

Gallagher, Ryan (March 31, 2013) "Anonymous mobile phone location data leaves 'fingerprints' that could identify you". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/anonymous-mobile-phone-location-data-leaves-fingerprints-that-could-identify-you-20130329-2gy1p.html 

Garnaut, John and Peter Hartcher (August 7, 2015) "All Australian mobile phones at risk of foreign hacking, says US intelligence committee head Devin Nunes". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/technology-news/all-australian-mobile-phones-t-risk-of-foreign-hacking-says-us-intelligence-committee-head-devin-nunes-20150806-gitcn8.html

Greber, Jacob (10 December 2014)"Up to 500,000 jobs threatened [in Australia] by rise of robots, artificial intelligence: report". Australian Financial Review, online @ http://www.afr.com/p/national/report_to_jobs_threatened_by_rise_mr0g5CI1rEbvRKMcBFTzJJ

Greenwald, Glenn (31 July 2013) "XKeyscore: NSA tool collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'". The Guardian online @ http://discussion.theguardian.com/discussion/p/3hy4h?commentpage=1&orderby=oldest&threads=collapsed&iframe=true&noposting=true

Grenville, Stephen (3 November 2014) "The need for a cost/benefit analysis in public security". Lowy Institute online @ http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/

Griffith, Chris (May 07, 2015) "Kevin Mitnick shows that hacking is child’s play at CeBIT keynote". The Australian online @ http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/technology/kevin-mitnick-shows-that-hacking-is-childs-play-at-cebit-keynote/story-e6frgakx-1227341723325

Grubb, Ben (March 7, 2012) "'Invading my privacy': it's not just Eric jamming phones". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/digital-life/mobiles/invading-my-privacy-its-not-just-eric-jamming-phones-20120307-ujgj.html#ixzz1oTjH5Qum

Harrison, Crayton and Jordan Robertson (February 6, 2015) "Tens of millions of customers' details hacked at US insurer Anthem". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/it-pro/security-it/tens-of-millions-of-customers-details-hacked-at-us-insurer-anthem-20150205-137hqw.html

Hawramy, Fazel in Erbil, Shalaw Mohammed in Kirkuk and Kareem Shaheen in Beirut (Dec. 9, 2015) "Life under Isis in Raqqa and Mosul: 'We're living in a giant prison' - Desperate civilians say extremists are tightening their grip on the two cities amid stepped-up airstrikes, while food and power shortages are adding to their misery". The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/09/life-under-isis-raqqa-mosul-giant-prison-syria-iraq

Hern, Alex (19 April 2014) "ne in three Android apps on non-Google stores are malicious, study finds". The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/18/one-in-three-android-apps-on-non-google-stores-are-malicious-study-finds?CMP=ema_632

Hopkins, Nick and Matthew Taylor (19 November 2013) "Private firms selling mass surveillance systems around world documents show -  One Dubai-based firm offers DIY system similar to GCHQ's Tempora programme, which taps fibre-optic cables". The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/18/private-firms-mass-surveillance-technologies

Karena, Cynthia (December 13, 2015) "In security, humans are the weakest link is you". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/it-pro/security-it/in-security-humans-are-the-weakest-link-20151203-gle7x1.html

Kinzer, Stephen (April 12, 2015) "The world of threats to the US is an illusion". Boston Globe online @ http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2015/04/11/have-seen-enemies-and-they-weak/Cho9J5Bf9jxIkHKIZvnVTJ/story.html?event=event25

Kramer, Andrew E. (September 3, 2013) "Viagra spam industry earns Russian crime gangs tens of millions a year". Sydney Morning Herald online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/digita

Krieger, Michael (Sep 15, 2015) "United Airlines CEO Walks Away with $21 Million Exit Package After Resigning Due to Corruption Probe". Liberty Blitzkreig blog, online @ http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2015/09/15/united-airlines-ceo-walks-away-with-21-million-exit-package-after-resigning-due-to-corruption-probe/

Lee, Peter (21 June 2013) "Snowden and the three wise NSA whistleblowers". Asia Times online @ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/CHIN-01-210613.html

Lee, Peter (December 8, 2015) "Blowback: Terror, Trump, France, and China". Asia Times online @ http://atimes.com/2015/12/blowback-terror-trump-france-and-china/

Lee, Peter (December 8, 2015) "Blowback: Terror, Trump, France, and China". Asia Times online @ http://atimes.com/2015/12/blowback-terror-trump-france-and-china/

Maiden, Malcolm (April 25, 2015) "LIBOR scandal will dog the banking sector for years". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/comment-and-analysis/libor-scandal-will-dog-the-banking-sector-for-years-20150424-1msdwe.html

May, Thor (1962) “Seventeen in 1962”. [poem] The Passionate Skeptic website, online @ http://thormay.net/literature/timepassing/hidingeyes.html

May, Thor (19 September 2008) "The End of Capitalism is Announced". Thor's New China Diary online @ http://thormay.net/ChinaDiary2/the-end-of-capitalism-is-announced

May, Thor (2013) “Creating Meaning in Life” – unedited notes from a discussion group. The Passionate Skeptic website, online @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/LifeMeaning.htm

May, Thor (2014a) "Fakes, liars, cheats, deceivers, animals in the forest". Academia online @ https://www.academia.edu/8480396/Fakes_liars_cheats_deceivers_animals_in_the_forest

May, Thor (2014b) "The Problem of Work and the Rise of the Precariat". Academia online @ https://www.academia.edu/8682789/The_Problem_of_Work_and_the_Rise_of_the_Precariat

Mazzetti, Mark and Matt Apuzzo (August 26, 2015) "Pentagon investigates claims of skewed intelligence reports on Islamic State". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/pentagon-investigates-claims-of-skewed-intelligence-reports-on-islamic-state-20150826-gj7tgv.html

McCoy, Alfred (September 15, 2015) "Maintaining American Supremacy in the Twenty-First Century". TomiDispatch website online @ http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176044/

McDonald, Henry (Friday 27 November 2015) "Four senior KPMG partners arrested in HMRC tax evasion inquiry". The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/nov/26/kpmg-partners-arrested-hmrc-tax-evasion-inquiry

McGeough, Paul (July 31, 2013) "Bradley Manning guilty verdict designed to intimidate future whistleblowers". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/bradley-manning--guilty-verdict-designed-to-intimidate-future-whistleblowers-20130731-2qyg5.html#ixzz2absN7LMp

Miller, Nick (March 9, 2014) "Welcome to the counter-revolution". Sydney Morning Herald online @  http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/welcome-to-the-counterrevolution-20140308-34e1v.html#ixzz2vPi1wVdI

Mitchell, Sue (March 16, 2015) "Skyfii's Wi-Fi watching you shop in Westfield". Sydney Morning Herald online @  http://www.smh.com.au/business/retail/skyfiis-wifi-watching-you-shop-in-westfield-20150316-1m0e3j.html

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Murphy, Kate (December 25, 2014) "Tiny tracking bugs lurk in emails, but there are ways to squash them". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/tiny-tracking-bugs-lurk-in-emails-but-there-are-ways-to-squash-them-20141225-12dnks.html

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Perlroth, Nicole (May 11, 2015) "Barack Obama's war on cyber espionage has not stopped theft of trade secrets". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/it-pro/security-it/barack-obamas-war-on-cyber-espionage-has-not-stopped-theft-of-trade-secrets-20150510-ggyi7x.html

Perlroth, Nicole and David Barboza (January 23, 2014) "Large chunk of Chinese internet traffic redirected to small Wyoming building". New York Times online @ http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/22/big-web-crash-in-china-experts-suspect-great-firewall/?_r=0

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Raymond, Nate (November 25, 2015) "FBI probes 'mr.grey' and 1.2 billion stolen web credentials". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/it-pro/security-it/fbi-probes-mrgrey-and-12-billion-stolen-web-credentials-20151124-gl7chr.html

Reuters ( Tuesday 2 June 2015) "US airport screenings fail to detect mock weapons in 95% of tests". The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/02/us-airport-security-raised-after-fake-weapons-missed-by-screenings

Reuters ( Tuesday 2 June 2015) "US airport screenings fail to detect mock weapons in 95% of tests". The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/02/us-airport-security-raised-after-fake-weapons-missed-by-screenings

Reuters (July 28, 2014) "Apple iPhones allow extraction of deep personal data, researcher finds". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/apple-iphones-allow-extraction-of-deep-personal-data-researcher-finds-20140727-zxi8t.html

Reuters (December 23, 2015) "Apple hits out at plans to extend online surveillance". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/apple-hits-out-at-plans-to-extend-online-surveillance-20151222-gltqjs.html

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Smith, Oliver (February 6, 2014) "Yes, we're laughing at your naked body: airport security officer confesses". Sydney Morning Herald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/yes-were-laughing-at-your-naked-body-airport-security-officer-confesses-20140206-323cq.html#ixzz2sZrNBR93

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Tung, Liam (March 17, 2015) "'Dark web' keeps criminals out of reach of metadata retention laws". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/it-pro/security-it/dark-web-keeps-criminals-out-of-reach-of-metadata-retention-laws-20150317-1m125k.html

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Wen, Philip (December 17, 2015) "China lays out its vision of the internet: more control, more censorship". Brisbane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/china-lays-out-its-vision-of-the-internet-more-control-more-censorship-20151216-glpfla.html#ixzz3uWopc5jy

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Wikipedia (2015) “Security”. Wikipedia online @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security

Wikipedia (2015) “Sun Wukong”. [the Chinese Monkey King]. Wikipedia online @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Wukong

Yuhas, Alan (17 December 2015) "Anti-Isis proposals floated at Republican debate would likely be war crimes. Ted Cruz leads way as candidates discuss carpet-bombing and attacking terrorists’ families, despite Geneva Conventions ban on ‘indiscriminate attacks’". http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/16/republican-debate-isis-war-crimes

Yuan, Gao (January 27, 2015) "Blocking VPN is for Internet safety: Official". China Daily online @  http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-01/27/content_19421423.htm


Professional bio: Thor May has a core professional interest in cognitive linguistics, at which he has rarely succeeded in making a living. He has also, perhaps fatally in a career sense, cultivated an interest in how things work – people, brains, systems, countries, machines, whatever… In the world of daily employment he has mostly taught English as a foreign language, a stimulating activity though rarely regarded as a profession by the world at large. His PhD dissertation, Language Tangle, dealt with language teaching productivity. Thor has been teaching English to non-native speakers, training teachers and lecturing linguistics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven countries in Oceania and East Asia, mostly with tertiary students, but with a couple of detours to teach secondary students and young children. He has trained teachers in Australia, Fiji and South Korea. In an earlier life, prior to becoming a teacher, he had a decade of finding his way out of working class origins, through unskilled jobs in Australia, New Zealand and finally England (after backpacking across Asia to England in 1972).


When does security become insecurity ? ŠThor May Noevember 2015