Wednesday, October 30, 2002

More bad journalism

As I previously ranted, bad journalism really irritates the hell out of me.

While I was flipping channels last night, Fox-- world leader's in bad journalism (we make crap up, you decide)-- had a "special report" on how insecure wireless networks were.

Basic premise: grab some relatively stereotypically geekish looking high school kid with a laptop, a WiFi card, and a Cantenna. Then, wander the streets of Manhattan with a vidoe camera, MacStumbler and a packet sniffer looking for open networks.

When an open network is found, sniff the packets until you can pull a name and then wander over to the nearest apartment building and see if there is a buzzer on the door with that name.

Ok-- so far, so good. We all know that wireless networks are grossly insecure.

But, according to the Fox ("we can make paint drying into a sensational story of impending world wide catastrophe"), wireless networks are the ultimate tools of terrorists and hackers everywhere!

Of the one "Hi, we grabbed your data out of thin air" victims they interviewed, the warwalker happened to grab her name, email account, and password while she was logging into her work email.

According to Fox: The Evils of Wireless Networks Were Exposing Her Company To Terrorists and Hackers!!!!! OH NO!!!


The fact that her company isn't requiring the use of encryption when communicating with their servers from outside the corporate LAN is a far greater risk than the fact that this random employee doesn't have WEP encryption enabled (not that it helps THAT much, but certainly enough to keep out the random warwalker helping Fox to discover the Next Great Threat to Humanity).

Of course, given that stories about network insecurity aren't exactly rife with edge-of-your-seat imagery opportunities, Fox overlayed the entire story with lots of washes of numbers and locks and dollars and guns and mysterious highly technological looking things to give the story that Extra Ratings Garnering High Tech Ultra Conspiracy look. (The bbc would be proud -- see NTK archives).

The story went on and on in a similar fashion.

Unfortunately, the reality of computer security would require educating the viewer. That implies that Fox would have to try and reach a viewer willing to be educated. Pretty much exactly the opposite of the typical Fox target audience.

(Don't get me wrong-- I like a lot of Fox's programming that they don't try to pass off as "journalism". Simpsons... That '70's Show... Malcolm... etc.)
11:51:33 AM