Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Free Camouflage - Hiding In Plain Sight

You've all heard the question about if a tree falls in the woods and there's nobody about to witness it, does it make a noise?  This question irks me because what I see in daily life is people who are around to witness things, still don't notice stuff.  It's like they see only what they want to see.

People notice things that are different, which means you can hide a lot of things in plain sight.

Example:  If you take three cars and park them in a row.  The left car is a normal parked car, the middle one is under a protective canvas, and the right hand one is stolen but on plain view - people will nearly always be drawn to concentrate on finding out what's under the canvas.

I see this in business too, where management only see what they want to see, and are oblivious to the actual facts parading around in plain view before their eyes in the bigger picture.  You need a really big anomaly to draw their attention, but the funny thing is they don't go looking for an anomaly, so they often still won't see it.

Just because you can't see something, it doesn't mean it's not happening right in front of your eyes.

Knowing this, gives you an advantage.  For instance, after Bell Canada got annoyed at me showing them how I could bypass their security and see customer info, I still wanted to test how effective their security practices are, so, I put a few "honey-pots" (fake files to attract certain actions from others) out on the Internet to test them.  All the time that those honey-pots remain in plain sight and untouched, I know that Bell Canada has failed (if they were looking properly, they'd be removing the files and I'd then be notified that they're doing a better job).

We see this in social media too.  People choose to follow one side of a coin, or the stuff they want to know about and disregard the rest.  For instance, they might follow one left-leaning newspaper, one local TV news, and maybe one major network.  This means, they miss the information from the right-leaning papers, only see a subset of the local news and if a major network decides to not cover a big national story, they miss that as well.

That's at the macro level.  At the micro level, it's magnified.  People often look more for entertainment value than they do informative value.  This means on systems like twitter, you can put out a lot of information that will go unnoticed by people very close to you, meanwhile lots of people spend inordinate amounts of energy on things like Justin Bieber, or Glee.  Meanwhile, people are signing up to follow spam accounts on Twitter because they look at the picture only and don't look at the link feed that the account is putting out that is full of spam.

The final angle to this is when you look at the societal framework as a whole, the same thing applies.  The economy is giving clear signs that it's not recovering - but only if you look for those signs.  The media is quite happy to repeat soundbites from ministers, politicians, and banks, but only a small number of people will look for the actual picture and what's really happening.

In short, this is all a form of camouflage.