Mom I did it, I passed my Internet Driving Test

This story grabbed my attention today. Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer is calling for the creation of something called the Internet Drivers License. Now, this isn’t and entirely new idea, it has been mentioned several times before. The real question is, whether it would actually have any benefit to the Internet as a whole.

The Slashdot article puts a rather negative spin on the idea, citing the fact that the Internet is unable to cause death, and raises the question of anonmity and incresed identity fraud. It closes by comparing the Internet to the aging telephone networks, stating that we have had a scammers and spammers presence here for many years, without requiring a license.

Whilst overall, I think I agree that the idea of an Internet Drivers license is a bad one, there are some benefits which we may be able to draw something from. Now the whole honus on this idea is that people get a license. A license is defined as a legal document, giving someone official permission to do something. Most often it is accompanied by some form to test, to ensure competancy in a particular field.

This is the part I agree with. Though it can not be mandated, few can argue that the Internet wouldn’t be a better place, if people understood more about the risks of being on the World Wide Web. Imagine if 90% of the worlds compromised machines were no longer under the control of botnets. It’s a nice thought eh?

So there definitiely is some kind of benefit here, but really it’s not so much about giving legal permission, as it is to educating the potential holder in the field of The Internet. What do I mean by this? I mean showing people how easy it is for their computers to fall under the control of the bad guys.

Last year, at around this time, I presented a talk for people in my area to learn more about securing themselves online. I will never forget their faces when I told them that the front page of a particular banking website that they had ll agreed looked legitimate, couldn’t be because I wasn’t even on the Internet.

We need to find a way to instill some basic security knowledge and common sense into the average user. The general public seems to have gotten it into their heads that we don’t just let anyone into our houses, but when it comes to computers, it’s more of, “Why do come on in and put your feet up. Would you like a cup of Tea?”

The problem with a license is it conjours up images of lawyers, police and paperwork. Why I say paperwork, I’m really talking about holding a piece of paper that says that you have a license to be on the Internet. Personally, I think this is taking things a little too far. Who would police it? How would you police it? And more importantly how much do you think you can sell someone elses license for on the black market.

If the license truly is going to abolish anonymity on the web, then we are going to see a sharp rise in the advent of identity theft. It’s hard to think that the license could be any more secure that current web technologies. If I’m wrong here, please tell me 🙂

In short, I think it brings up some good ideas. Some things which we could use to further protect the general public. Do I think it will work as described? Hard to say. Come back to me once I’ve passed and have my license 🙂

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