The other evening I was watching an episode of NOVA with my family. The subject of the program was ship disasters and what causes them. The obvious choice of conversation was the Titanic and the Costa Concordia which both sank for similar reasons. They both ran into objects more solid than their hulls and took on water in ways the ships were unprepared to compensate for. The ships both had very strong skins designed with one or two linings. But those were compromised. They both had leaders who, it has been argued, placed the ships into positions which that were likely to fail. The ones who paid the highest price were the ones inside the ships. Many of which had no idea what was coming and were ill prepared to handle the doom that awaited them.
Then, some days later, I was listening to a radio show that described the consequences and potential folly of failed security. The subject was about privacy and leaks of secure information. The show mentioned Edward Snowden and his efforts to expose the teraflops of information about us currently in the hands of people we don’t know and in at least some cases have not the foggiest idea they have it. The conversation turned on the issue of leaking such information to the people.
I saw a connection. What exactly is a leak?
In its essential form, a leak is when there is a breach of trust or a failure of faith in something or someone.
When a plumber installs a pipe, the intention is to connect a homeowner to a trusted source with an equally trustworthy product into his or her secure home. A breach of the pipe, whatever its contents, is a leak. We trusted so much. The utility provider. The pipe. The plumber. The product in the pipe. The appliance the pipe is attached to. The home the pipes are run into and through. So much trust and faith in others. But somewhere along the line, in that maze of copper, lead, and brass a failure of trust occurred. The pipe may have swollen because the homeowner was supposed to turn on the heat, but didn’t and so the pipe froze and burst. The fitting may have failed because the plumber didn’t apply the correct amount or type of solder. The utility had a surge of supply beyond the pipes capacity and exceeded its design strength. The appliance failed to shut off correctly and allowed the product in the pipes to run unchecked. These are all leaks. These are all breaches of established or assumed trust.
Assumed trust. Breach of faith. Failed security. Compromised hulls.
These are all leaks.
These are all what we fear will happen with our vital information. So we add passwords, security checks, retina verifications, fingerprint identification. Anything we can to restore or eatable trust or faith in something other than ourselves. But it doesn’t always work. It’s not always fail safe. In fact on a daily basis I we learn truths about just how vulnerable we are to a sufficiently motivated “other.”
So what’s a leak? It’s when our faith or trust in something or someone fails. It’s not just when the pipe bursts. It’s not just when the NSA collects data and the sealed lid they created is exposed as vulnerable. It’s not only when the Target, Home Depot or any other retailer in the news recently, loses control of your account numbers or passwords. It’s not just when Nixon taps a political adversaries line, or the NSA taps the German chancellors. It’s not just when that Ziploc bag you bought unzips and spurts the contents in your purse. It’s deeper than that.
It’s when you trusted enough to give of yourself to someone or something. When you allowed yourself to be vulnerable just long enough to connect with something you need or like or love. And then that trust is broken.
That is a leak.