When looking at the recent security news, there is one predominant theme: The NSA surveillance disclosure by Edward Snowden. There is some more news, but little “breaking news”. We might count the news about the SIM card flaw, however this seems to be less severe in reality than it was reported at first.
I will not comment much on the NSA issue. Both Dave Kearns and me here and here have touched on this topic. There are a lot of political discussions going on, with some accusing others of not telling the (whole) truth about what they knew. Interestingly, here in Germany the opposition is accusing the current government, even though they were in the government some years ago, thus being well aware of what has been going on at least since 2001. Clearly, this is not a topic for election campaigns and at least until now, it does not seem to be working out as such for the current opposition.
In addition, the reaction of Apple, Google, Microsoft and others did not surprise me. They are asking the US government to unveil more information about when they were urged to provide information to the NSA. That fits to what I have said from the very beginning: The entire thing is a business challenge, especially for US Cloud providers. Thus, they will create (some) political pressure. On the other hand: As long as there are no real alternatives to US-based Cloud services, not much will change. Maybe the shift from on-premise to the Cloud will slow down. However, over time the commotion will fizzle out.
Facebook usage in schools
Another news item that did not gain much attention is from Baden-Württemberg, the southwestern part of Germany I live in. The government of Baden-Württemberg has forbidden the use of Facebook for communication between teachers and their scholars. In some schools, Facebook has been used to communicate about homework and the results. However, this communication might include privacy-relevant contents. In addition, using Facebook mandatorily as a communications tool would force scholars into this social network. Thus, according to the order of the government of Baden-Württemberg (and in accord with the German privacy regulations), it is not allowed. As I’ve mentioned, there has been only little discussion in public about that – either the use has been rather limited or the decision has been widely accepted.
Teaching computer science in schools?
When talking about schools, there has been another news item. The German BITMi (Bundesverband IT-Mittelstand e.V.), the association of medium-sized IT businesses, demands that computer science becomes a required subject in German schools, starting rather early. Currently, it is optional in many schools and regions, and taught as a separate subject only in few grades, mainly in the higher grades. However, it is integral part of several courses in virtually all schools. Recently, Hamburg has decided to reduce the time spent on computer science.
There is some discussion about whether scholars really need to learn coding – which is part of Informatics as a separate subject, while the integral part focuses more on core competencies in using computers, the Internet, word processors, spreadsheets, etc. I think this can be discussed. However, I’d like to see some thorough education on IT security in schools, so that scholars understand this critical subject far better than they typically do today.