Security in the analog


I may be considered old-fashioned eccentric or even give the impression that I’m just trying to be the oddball in the room. If so, it’s unintentional. But my entire life, I’ve walked a tightrope of anachronistic technologies. My parents collected antiques. Some were family heirlooms, others practical pieces still in use on our family farm. I was the outlier, however. My mind was on the information age and the computer.

I was always fascinated with computers. When I was 12, my great-aunt, a retired teacher of 36 years, recognized my technical aptitude and gave my parents $200 toward my first one. It doesn’t sound like much, huh? Well, the technology landscape looked a lot different back then.

Home computing was in its infancy. In those days, “windows” were those glass things we had to open in the summer because my dad wouldn’t spring for air conditioning. And, if there was an “apple” on the desk, it was a Red Delicious, left behind for your favorite teacher – worms optional.

With my little Commodore VIC 20, funded by my aunt, I taught myself BASIC programming language. The Commodore was the best-selling home computer at the time. It was inexpensive and connected to the TV like a video game. When you flipped the switch, it blinked to life.

I learned several other computer languages in high school and college. Later, I added database development and networking expertise to my repertoire and made a promising career out of that for a while. I was in high demand because I could also handle the hardware side. As the Internet expanded, so did the threat to our digital world through viruses and cyber-attacks.

The first time I heard about a computer “virus” was in 1987. That was long before the Internet, and the bug spread from computer to computer via floppy disk. Today, targeted attacks endanger the economy, utility infrastructure, air traffic control, and virtually every interconnected system.

According to Gen Digital’s Norton Antivirus, global cyber-attacks cost more than $10 billion annually and increase daily. Even worse, over 75 percent of all cyber-attacks start with the most basic form of computer use – an email.

I don’t generally cater to the alarmist mentality. But the truth of it is, to cripple our society, all the terrorists need to do is damage cell towers and knock out internet service. Let that sink in for a minute. We know the government spends billions of dollars annually to prevent and defend against cyber threats. Yet, not surprisingly, the bad guys still find ways to infiltrate our systems.

The disruptive nature of such outages is sickeningly apparent when you realize that something as meaningless as a Facebook outage makes the national evening news. Why? Because we’re all hopelessly adrift in a flood of digital bedlam.

Here’s a ponderance: Do you know what can’t be hacked and goes relatively unnoticed by most of the modern world? The answer: Handwritten or manually typed correspondence sent through postal mail. Going analog is the only way to ensure communication cannot be hacked or infiltrated. The postal service is vital in maintaining communications.

I’ve written before in this column about my fascination with typewriters. As it happens, my 80-year-old Smith-Corona manual is on a separate stand next to my desk. Stationery and postal stamps are in a nearby cabinet.

For the moment, they’re relegated to private correspondence and writing projects, many of which must still be converted to digital before publication. However, there could come a time when the bulk of my work and communication is done that way.

I’m not suggesting we abandon technology in favor of 19th-century ways. That would be ridiculous and impractical. But maybe some of our most important information should be stored somewhere other than a hard drive.

Before I send the cyber-paranoid into absolute panic, please relax. The bad guys don’t care about that email to your cousin or the secret family recipe you stored on your laptop. But, if you’re worried about who’s reading your email, maybe it’s time to pull that old IBM Selectric out of the closet or even handwrite a letter to your cousin. It might take longer, but it’s permanent and totally hack-proof.

Gery Deer is a Greene County resident and columnist. He can be reached at

No posts to display