Our Achilles heels, Communication; The weakest security link


“… but the CIA followed his COURIER to a place near the Pakistan Military Academy in Bilal Town, Abbottabad”.

I am persuaded by my exposure, expertise and experience to relate to my readers the security beast in communication this month. This argument is not against the common notion that ‘Humans’ are the weakest link. Really, I think it does strengthens it.

According to Wikipedia, Communication (from Latin communicare, meaning “to share”) is the activity of conveying information. It is also the meaningful exchange of information between two or more participants (machines, organisms or their parts).

Communicating with others involves three primary steps:
Thought: First, information exists in the mind of the sender. This can be a concept, idea, information, or feeling.
Encoding: Next, a message is sent to a receiver in words or other symbols.
Decoding: Lastly, the receiver translates the words or symbols into a concept or information that a person can understand.

I really wish communication could stop at the first level. I mean, thought-to-thought communication because most times,
humans become vulnerable in the process of encoding and decoding, also transfer of their messages. Man is made to
communicate and so does all living things and that’s why it’s tougher to protect and easier to exploit. Most breaches
happened as a result of communication between either applications, systems or people. The problem is, we can not always isolate or sandbox, we will at a point need to integrate and communicate.

In Phil Zimmermann’s (author and creator of PGP) words on ‘Why I wrote PGP’, he said, “…But with the coming of the information age, starting with the invention of the telephone, all that has changed. Now most of our conversations are conducted electronically. This allows our most intimate conversations to be exposed without our knowledge.”

In the first paragraph of this post, is the line that described how almost evasive Osama bin Laden was captured and
killed according to Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin in their book titled ‘SEAL TEAM SIX’. It was described in the book that Osama lived in a place protected by walls topped with barbed wire, has two security gate (physical security), has no phone or internet connection (attempted to disconnect from computers to avoid eavesdropping or tracking). Also, the people who live there burned their trash instead of setting it out for garbage collection like their neighbour( may be to also prevent dumpster diving, a kind of social engineering).

However, with all his security measure, he has one single point of failure – his COURIER (A courier is a person who delivers messages, packages and mails) and that was all that was needed. He was tracked and killed. I presume he never knew that was his Achilles’ heel. And like most of us we don’t know or we really don’t care about it.

I think as long as man exist and technology evolves, man will continue to be vulnerable with his communication. the only solution here is to be aware. And I repeat be aware so you can decide to either live or die by it!

Thank you for reading