By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2005-02-07 Print this article Print

-Case Scenarios"> Was there no one in that meeting with a devils-advocate personality and a healthy imagination for worst-case, doom-and-gloom scenarios? It doesnt take a lot to imagine viruses jumping from nonessential to essential computer systems. Think of a virus that could jump from a navigation computer to a connected OnStar system, which has the ability to lock, unlock, start and stop cars.
And, of course, there are the inevitable privacy and tracking capabilities that could be abused by stalkers or the government.

To read more about OnStar, click here. I dont want to jump too much on Lexus here—it clearly isnt alone in making this kind of design decision. Across the gamut of software and hardware products, one can easily find cases where huge security problems were created by stupid and easily avoidable design decisions. (Wait a second while I double-check that the active scripting is turned off in my mail program and word processor.)

Clearly, things need to change at many companies, and every company needs someone who is constantly thinking "What if?"

Im proposing that all companies add a new position, the main responsibility of which would be to shine the cold, hard light of potential disaster on questionable product and project decisions. Ive decided to call this new position the Glum, named after (and I know Im dating myself here) the depressing little guy from the old "The Adventures of Gulliver" cartoon. The Glum essentially will be required to stand up at design and project meetings and politely state all the ugly ways a decision could blow up in the companys face.

Of course, just like in the cartoon, there will be a tendency to ignore the Glum and his cries of "Were doomed." Thats why it will be important for the Glum to make sure that the nightmare scenarios are really possible and leave the way-out ideas to the conspiracy Web sites.

Product managers and design teams will learn quickly that they ignore the Glum at their own peril—if a problem does occur, it will be recorded that the potential for the problem was clearly stated by the Glum and then ignored. Managers most likely will find themselves looking for new jobs because they chose to ignore the Glum.

Im not saying that all projects should be stopped because of potential problems. There are risk-and-reward decisions that must be made with everything. But companies need to make sure that their decisions fall clearly on the reward side.

Hang on. I have to go help someone outside. His Lexus is bouncing up and down, and the windows are opening and closing like crazy. I wonder how you patch a car computer?

Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com.

To read more Jim Rapoza, subscribe to eWEEK magazine. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel