A Weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch





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January 4, 2002

Not to be trusted?

© 2002, Douglas E. Welch

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A quick read of nearly any high-tech publication today will give you a host of articles about protecting yourself, your equipment and your company from attack. The focus on security is a welcome one. Too many systems have little or no security installed, leaving them open to attack and exploitation. That said, there is a more insidious undercurrent to these calls for security ? it seems no one, not even your employees, your friends, your relatives is to be trusted.

A Foundation of Trust

Everyday I hear more and more discussion about computer security that sinks lower and lower into the realm of paranoia. While surely we have reasons to be concerned about computer security, when these concerns begin to make us question the most basic relationships in out lives, there is a problem. Despite current events, we must all remember that there are still people out there who are honest and trustworthy. Sure, there are people who seek to take advantage of you, but when we start believing that this is the norm, we all suffer.

While I support many security initiatives, I find it hard to support those that seek to treat everyone as a criminal. Due to the actions of a few, everyone is subjected to monitoring, surveillance and questioning as if we have already committed a crime. Not only is this intrusive to the large majority of people who are living trustworthy lives, it further erodes any sense of trust in others. Actions such as this have the ability to destroy any business that relies on high-tech to perform.

Short of enclosing all IT resources in a bunker, there is little way to protect it from inside attack. Trust, verified by engaging in a long-term relationship with your employees, is the only way to insure security in an environment where people must have access to tools and resources to do their job. Too often I hear managers proclaiming a lack of trust in their employees. I always ask them, "if you trust them so little, why are these people still working for you?" I refuse to believe that every high-tech employee is out to steal or destroy company assets and treating them as such will only guarantee that the few untrustworthy people who do appear will feel justified in their actions.

A Two-way Street

Of course, trust is a two-way street. Management that expects trustworthiness from their employees had best exemplify this same trust in their own work. Companies that say one thing and do another, layoff workers while taking huge bonuses, blame business problems on employees when they themselves are to blame, etcetera, are sowing the seeds of their own failure. Even then, though, in the midst of the worst management nightmares, most employees will maintain a level of trust based on their own integrity and morals. I see it all the time, employees who refuse to take advantage of a bad business situation and remain steadfast in their commitment to do a good job. What’s more, I see this as a normal case, not an exception.

We must be very careful in our thinking, especially during times of crisis. When we begin to believe that everyone is a criminal, we will see only criminals. America has gone down this path before with disastrous results. Let us keep our wits about us and believe in our own, and others, ability to live a trustworthy life.

‘The times they are a-changin’", but our goal, as high-tech employees and citizens, should be the return to a per-9/11 way of life. We cannot allow the actions of a few to drive us to turn on those around us. We need to delve deep in our relationships with others, co-workers, family and friends, and reestablish the sense of trust that is so important to our way of life. Without a sense of trust we will find ourselves retreating further and further from others to the point where our businesses will be unable to function and our high-tech careers could be destroyed. The New Year presents a clear marker for our re-dedication to trust. Let’s make this a year of recovery and restoration, not just of buildings and cities, but of our careers, our relationships and our lives.


about this column.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at

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