The Emperor's New Clothes 2.0
Exposing the malware that is killing cybersecurity.
By Eh’den Biber
In the past years a new malware has been slowly yet steadily taking over our world. It spreads like wildfire throughout our society, corporate and governmental world, and by doing so it increases the probability of our annihilation. It morphed and evolved, most of our infrastructure is now compromised, and yet most people don’t even recognise their infrastructure is as well.
This is the story of the malware, which started in 1837…
An old tale
In 1837 the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen published his tale “The Emperor's New Clothes”.
To those who for some strange reason don’t remember, this is the tale about two crooks who claimed to be were weavers, fabrics creators, were the ultra-high-end manufacturers were like today (e.g. Lamborghini), and only the richest and most powerful could afford. The story tells us how the two claimed that their fabrics not only excel in colours and fine patterns, but also how they become invisible to people who are stupid or unfit for office. The story tells how the king ordered them to make for him cloths and send his old trusted minister to check on them. He didn’t see anything, but because he was afraid to tell the truth, he lied to the kind and claimed they were fantastic. Everyone around the king did the same, and when the “cloths” were finally provided to the kind and he didn’t see anything he lied with everyone else, marching naked across town, where everyone continued to pretend the king is dressed, all except a little boy, who said “But he hasn’t got anything on!”.
Tales are important because they use a vehicle of a story to teaches us facts about life and human nature. This tale teaches us that we, adults, are afraid to tell the truth because we are afraid that by doing so it will expose our ignorance, and we are afraid to pay a price for it. Where there is a power hierarchy structure, the system gets corrupted, because those in power can “define” what is true and what is not. It also correlates to the Matthew Effect which is "To those who have everything, more will be given, and from those who have nothing, everything will be taken." In authoritarian regimes, lies thrive. It tells us that those who understands this system will try to use the embedded dishonesty in the system in order to try to get personal gain. Only a child, he who have not been compromised by society that teaches obedience to the power, will tell the truth.
And how does this relate to the malware?
Well, malware, according to Wikipedia, is a “software which is specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain authorized access to a computer system”. The malware in “the emperor’s new clothes” is the idea that the fabric can only be seen by intelligent, worthy people. Using this false statement of truth (design to disrupt), which is a mental code (software), allowed the crooks to socially engineer physical access to financial resources (gain authorised access to resources). The malware very intelligently circumvented the controls and exposed the weakness of the governance structure, which allowed decision makers (power holder) to lie, and to use their location at the power hierarchy to hide away their actions.
Let’s jump back to what’s killing the internet.
In October 2018 McKenzie released their report of annual report on “Women in the workspace”. Information from previous releases of their report was quoted and used by many, some in cybersecurity, most notable within Jane Frankland’s “InSecurity” book. I’ve debunked the key claims in her book, some of them referencing this report, as well as commented on the cult culture it encourages. I also ended up utterly annoying Chad Loder, a CEO of a cybersecurity awareness company called Habitu8, who wrote about the report in his LinkedIn profile: “…It's important reading and there are concrete takeaways for companies large and small. The link is in the first comment under this post. Read it, share it, ask questions.”
McKenzie, to those who don’t know, is a management consulting company, created more than 90 years ago. It has 27,000 employees, offices worldwide, and revenues of more than 10 billion dollars. It’s a private company, with shares owned by its partners. According books and articles written on the company, its culture has often been compared to religion, because of the influence, loyalty and zeal of its members (thanks Wikipedia!).
Consultancy companies have a profound impact. McKenzie fingerprints can be found at the scene of some of the most spectacular corporate and financial debacles of recent decades, as well as current work for the Saudis.
The latest UK government decision not to cut stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 until October 2019 allowed the betting industry one more year of milking gambling addicts, and was influenced by a report that claimed that without giving the industry adjustment time between 15,000 to 21,000 jobs will be lost. This report was written for the gambling industry by another consultancy firm KPMG.
The McKenzie report claims women face everyday discrimination, and say there is a name for it: microaggressions. It tells us that sexism and racism is shown via it, that they reflect inequality, as they are more often directed at those with less power, such as women, people of colour, and LGBTQ people. The report defines that regardless whether actions are intentional or unintentional, these actions, these microaggressions, signal disrespect, and give two examples:
When someone mistakenly assumes a co-worker to be more junior than they really are
When a person says something demeaning to a co-worker
The report also later tells us that over 80 percent of women who were the only female member in a team dominated by male colleagues they were “on the receiving end of microaggressions”.
Let’s expand a little bit about this insanity called “microaggressions”
The term microaggressions was coined by Chester Pierce in 1978, after the civil rights era, in order bring to attention the shift in racial relations and the less recognized racist behaviours. It gained prominence with the publication of Sue et al.’s 2007, “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life” which defined microaggressions as communicative, somatic, environmental or relational cues that demean and/or disempower members of minority groups in virtue of their minority status.
In “Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence”, published in “Perspectives on Psychological Science”, Scott O. Lilienfeld explained that microaggression research program (MRP) rests on five core premises about microaggressions:
They are operationalised with sufficient clarity and consensus to afford rigorous scientific investigation;
They are interpreted negatively by most or all minority group members;
They reflect implicitly prejudicial and implicitly aggressive motives;
They can be validly assessed using only respondents’ subjective reports; and
They exert an adverse impact on recipients’ mental health.
Scott’s research showed that when reviewing microaggression research program literature one only reveals negligible support for all five suppositions. He found out that no coherent definition exists, the groups who are supposed to be offended are not clearly defined, and that there is no evidence to justify these claims.
As Musa al-Gharbi wrote in his article “Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence”, that absence of evidence regarding the prevalence and harm of microaggressions should not be interpreted as evidence of absence. It is undeniable that minorities regularly experience insults that are unpleasant or unsettling for affected minorities, HOWEVER, the question of how harmful are microaggressions, for whom, in what ways and under what circumstances IS NOT CLEAR.
The first problem of the theory is that EVERY growth experience you ever have in your life can be related to unpleasant state. Your teeth hurt when they grow. Your muscles hurt after exercise. Learning new paradigms is exhausting. Our immune system relies on us being constantly exposed to aggressive elements, and this is why it is a horrible idea to totally prevent kids from being exposed to the environment. We operate in a hostile environment, if you consider the fact that our consciousness experience relies on our existence as a biological organism in a physical environment, and that we increasingly depend more and more on technology, which again impact our wellbeing. When we reduce people ability to handle this kind of relatively small unpleasant interactions, we reduce their ability to handle a hostile physical and cyber environment, which is what’s happening in most of the world around us, take a look at China for example (topic of my next article, for sure).
The second problem is that there is no way to determine what doesn’t constitute a microaggression, because everything can. This led to the Oxford University's Equality and Diversity Unit to explains in its Trinity term newsletter that students who avoid making eye contact could be guilty of racism, because, claimed the diversity unit, avoiding eye contact is a type of microaggression. My son has severe autism, but I’ve always suspected that underneath all of smiles and joy the fact that he was avoiding to look into my eyes was because he was a little Hitler. NOT!
“The Emperor's New Clothes” was written almost 200 years ago, but it is as relevant today as it was the day it was published. Times changed, rulers changed, fabrics been replaced, but the human behaviour and its implications remained the same.
We in the west love the ideal of equality, it is our “trademark”, after all we are called “the free world”! If in the original tale luxurious fabrics allowed one to show their position, equality is our modern fabrics that we love and value so much. Governments have been using it to shut down truth, by silencing and ignoring those who suffer from it.
Here are few examples:
BREXIT took place because many people in the UK felt they have lost their ability to influence on decisions that defines their future, and that every time they tried to raise their concerns, they were called racists, or against equality. As Douglas Murry wrote in his book “The strange death of Europe”, no one in the continent was asked in a democratic way whether or not they agree to have a mass immigration into Europe. Before that, The EU tried to push a constitution on the citizens of Europe, who rejected it (France, Netherlands). This rejection was ignored by the political leadership, and later was replaced by the “Treaty of Lisbon”, which didn’t require a referendum, bypassing the people. So, while the Europe Union is supposed to be a coalition of democratic states, it sure doesn’t act democratically.
The US is… well, run by corporations which allows people equality to compete for positions, not when it comes to equality before the rule of law. Washington DC by special interests’ groups, created by powerful organisations, who hire “Public Affairs” firms to make sure politicians vote in ways that will fit their clients. Example is the fact that the banks didn’t had to really suffer and reorganise after the 2008 collapse, while so many people lost their homes. Side note - Trump was chosen because so many people decided that if they need to choose a liar to be heading their country at least let it be a joker one. Even though we don’t live in an equal society, we are constantly being told we are. If you question the beautiful fabric, sorry, beautiful equality, you are stupid and racist.
Microaggression are part of the fabricated story we been told about the beauty of equality and what prevents us from living in a eutopia. A society that don’t have microaggressions is an equal, flawless society – like the perfect invisible fabrics of the weavers. Questioning microaggressions is questioning equality, and by doing so it reveals your aggressive, sexist and racist nature, all at the heart of inequality. That is why McKenzie is able to produce such report and “sell” it to governments and organisations around the world. Like the crooks in the Hans Christian Andersen tale, they understand the system of fake “equality” and try to use the embedded dishonesty in the system in order to try to get personal gain.
I guess that makes me the child in this story.
Cyber Awareness or Cyber Microaggression?
What kills cybersecurity is the death of freedom of speech. People feel uncomfortable when they hear they have no privacy, when we tell them that they clicked on link in a phishing email and this could have caused a severe cyber incident. If people feel uncomfortable when someone else is interacting with them and interpret it as a sign of “racism and sexism”, what stops people from following this foul interpretation of reality and claim that cybersecurity awareness session are too aggressive for them, make them feel uncomfortable, makes them sick?
When a society starts to strip away freedom of speech, such as was given in the first amendment to the US constitution, it strips away the ability of individuals to learn to escape their own biases. By preventing freedom of speech, you perpetuate a culture of lies, and bring rise to authoritarian regimes.
This report of McKenzie is part of an attempt to change our societies and to silent people via a mental trick, in the name of values such as “equality”. Don’t be indoctrinated and believe that your inner uncomfortable feeling is a bad thing. The following video of Pat Condell WILL be censored soon, like most of his videos, so see it while you can!
The Big Mothership
I know, I still didn’t address the mothership of all these fallacies. Don’t worry, it will be at the centre of my next article.