Knowledge illusion in cybersecurity

Growing up came with valuable lessons. A family tradition of engineering at the residence. And, dad visiting maybe a hundred companies each year, in manufacturing and food processing. Him being a mechanical engineer by training, doing technical support for a chemical industry company meant to investigate why things were not working.

Not all problems were technical problems, many problems involved a people factor. There also were issues with deception. Some deception was for profit. Some deception was to hide individuals’ ignorance. Dad had ways of questioning people to find out what they really knew. Even if he did not succeed all the time, he did succeed often enough to have stories to tell when he came home. During summer breaks from school sometimes I got to ride along and come into the companies.

At the same time…

I worked in or experienced many aspects of computer science and engineering, from youthfully using 7400 series chips, A/D converters, etching circuit boards, to growing a germanium diode in physics lab, finding more accurate computational steps to solve certain differential equations (not published), and for a career in software see my LinkedIn.

Others at that time had similar or equivalent experience, I was not that special. I enjoyed pre-teen analog electronics exploration, starting with vacuum tubes, then by myself (not guided by dad) reverse engineering a process control circuit board to find its thyristor kept burning out because at limit of specification, in teen years reverse engineering tape drive software, making a word processor over winter break to write homework, programming a light pen to position icons of electronic components, etc..

Young minds can learn surprisingly much of what they are given access to, and have a tendency to copy much of what they see. Parents can guide by not letting others unduly occupy kids’ minds for profit. From that, they can become creators without being pressured.

As a civilization we may have a problem, at least in some societies, by hiding processes from children or from people in general. What you don’t see when young you may not know as well later on. If the next generation doesn’t see the processes that make civilization work, how well will they be able to keep it working? What may be an economic challenge at first may become an existential issue when nature or human conflict bring on larger catastrophes.

Skip forward…

Some cognitive science at school.

Fast forward…

In the 2000s I coded Java. Yet I knew how the bytes are placed in memory. I enjoyed asking people incrementally more difficult questions in interviews. I was surprised when they failed sooner than I expected. I recognized the candidates didn’t know how the systems work they are using.

And then…

I watched people working in cybersecurity, similar to how I had watched people working other jobs. How come I watch people work? Because I grew up visiting companies, and listening to narrations of investigations into processes, and because I grew up engineering.

I observed knowledge illusion and iceberg of ignorance in cybersecurity.

So now…

We are doing something to improve this situation.

If interested, contact me. Our startup’s recent work is still stealth.

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