Decade of Security

Jedes Jahrzehnt hat seine Überschrift. Wenn die Siebziger sich unter dem Banner von „Love, Peace & Happiness“ versammeln und in den Achtzigern der Schlachtruf lautete: „Ich will Spaß“, so steht unter dem ablaufenden Jahrzeht „Security First“, Sicherheit hat Vorrang.

Zitat aus dem Artikel „Zeit der Exzesse“, Spiegel Nr. 50, S. 155

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Google on Safes, Prisoners and Locks

Chrome1When I installed Windows 7 and Snow Leopard lately, the progress bars must have been progressing too slowly. I was wondering what I was doing and I asked myself what the operating system actually was good for in times when one can do almost everything online (apart from running the computer, of course). According to Google the new operating system will be like a browser. Driven by spirit of the web, one could expect Google not to “protect” their users behind medieval walls or in castles. Yet in the famous comic strips by Scott McCloud that was announcing Google’s new browser, one can find suprisingly many classics of depicted safety.

On page 2 product manager Ian Fette says that browsers as such “need to be more secure.” He proceeds: “Given what’s known about browser exploits, browsers need architectural changes to disadvantage malware.” Saying so, he stands in front of a big safe. This promise of a safe browser is consolidated by the casual crossing of his arms; and by his glasses that contribute to his (and the company’s) competence.

Chrome2Ian Fette tells us more about malware in chapter four, page 25. On the right-hand side of the page, the shocked reader (or future user) can see how a masked criminal reaches from inside the user’s screen onto the actual keyboard—alarming! Apparently he escaped from prison lately, because he is still in prisoner’s garb. In the background one can see an angler. A casted fish with a dollar sign serves as baitfish for the criminal. The caption reads “Malware is very financially driven. It is all about stealing passwords and moving money around.”

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On page 37 another classic depiction of safety comes in—the lock. Usually the lock is used to visualize encrypted connections, passwords or safety as such. Yet Google makes use of the somewhat restricted connotation of the lock and uses it as a symbol for proprietary software. The head of Chris DeBona turns into a lock. Unhappily he states “Sure. We could ship a proprietary browser and hold it in.” Freed from the lock and standing on the classic internet visualization (a cloud consisting of ones and zeros) he continues: “But Google lives on the internet.” Reminding us that without competition there is stagnation and that Google really is not evil and actually needs the internet to be “a fair, smart, safe place”, he opens the lock. What a gesture.

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“7 Windows” @ Kunsthalle Dot Com

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On Thursday, March 25th, I will show my new series “7 Windows” at Platoon Kunsthalle in Seoul, South Korea. It is my first work on the new operating system and also the first time that something in Korean has been written about my work:

????? ????? ???? P ?????? ????? ?? ???? ???? ???? ????? ??????? ???? ??? ??. ??? ???? ?? ’7?? ???’??? ??? 7? ?????? ??? ???? ???? ? ???? ‘??? ???? ??’? ??? ? ??? ????.

In English: johannes p osterhoff is an interface artist, whose works explore users’ and companies’ communication with popular operating systems. for “7 windows” he dug deeply in windows 7′s system folders and presents his findings :)

For more information, please refer to the blog on the Homepage of Platoon or the Project Page of “7 Windows”.

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Defensive Wedding Photos

This week, Mi Sun and I went to OST Studios in Incheon to do our obligatory wedding photos. Luckily our famous photographer had an open mind for Interface Art. The entwined medieval wall at the back was not planned but fits in perfectly. Piece of luck :)

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I very like how the studio lights reflect on the fake pixel reflections of the shields. Kind of a double hyper real…

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iPhone Safer

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Three years after its introduction the iPhone mostly is regarded as a save device. “dottie” and “alpine” have been changed and forgotten; and “ikee” only attacked iPhones that have been jailbroken. Besides those I did not notice anything obscure. Surprisingly on its user interface no references to security features can be found. No safe as for FileVault in OS X, no walls nor castles as on Windows and only a tiny lock for HTTPS connections that can be easily overlooked. (Only the icon for settings underlines the devices’ solidity.)

I guess this is why I never felt save using my iPhone.

I decided to do an icon like one Apple will have to do after some more reports about bugs or worms come up. As the iPhone icons for YouTube and the watch the rounded outline of the icon shape the depicted carrier of meaning—a rounded down safe with a exaggeratingly big turning knob on it and a reflecting surface. And I think it is not too farfetched to call it File Vaults little brother.

To get it on your home screen, simply bookmark this blog and to use it yourself for other purposes, feel free to download it. More icons to come.

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Korean PCs Swallow Pills

A very funny depiction of security I found in Korea. Firstly on the home computer of my in-laws, then on E’s computer during his presentation (and surprising performance) at Platoon in Seoul.


“Al-Yac” from “Al-Tools” is the Korean equivalent to Avira in Germany: a free anti-virus program, updating itself and checking the system on regular basis and, not least, making one feel safe with a nice icon in the systray.

Al-Yac is funnier than the German counterpart, of course. When you open the program you see a personalized egg. This very cute and friendly egg was the icon of a very popular local compression format some years ago. Because this format could not maintain its ground against WinZip and open formats, the software makers had to come up with another business concept. Now Al-Yac serves as security center on most Korean PCs. This is why the illustrated egg now is holding a huge medical pill in its hands. This pill is very rich in detail and with the magnifying glass on the right, one understands that the big pill actually is a container for smaller (yellow, orange and green) pills. Very complex, indeed. These are not only simple vitamines, this looks like serious stuff :)

In Korea computers have to regularly swallow pills to keep them from catching a virus (or to relieve chronic afflictions), while in Germany (at least Avira) expectably plays it safe and offers an iconic umbrella as a precaution for wandering PCs.

You can download the program at Naver (it intergartes well with Windows 7 security center) and get a bigger version on Al-Yag’ website. When you do, also have a look at the cool ambulance car!!

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Wooden Shields

Toy Shields
Recently I discovered these woden shields at a toy store in Berlin. They are not only a proof how infantile some symbols of security have become. Being so cute and so hyper-real, it is the toy stores where one can find the most fitting counterparts to icons in real space. Firewall icons very much resemble the artificiality of fortresses from Playmobil and the FileVault icon, for example, is as playful as the safes one can use as money boxes.

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Lufthansa Locks Up Miles

Lufthansa Safe
Lufthansa uses one of the glossiest and best retouched safes I discovered recently. The “Lufthansa Miles” you receive for your flights are safe behind this digitally cleaned door. Here the safe is not used to signify secure flights and aircrafts but “miles” that do not expire. “Miles” being somehow intangible data, I guess it is better to hide it behind a depiction of the security as such than trying to visualize “miles” themselves. Anyway the safe stresses the worthiness of these data.

But what is inside the safe? Maybe just data, maybe the data processing center of Lufthansa with a lot of servers. Actually I do not know and from the unknown it is only one step to the uncanny. And from the uncanny only one step to fear.

The screenshot of miles-and-more.com is from February 4, 2010.

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Blue Lit Bank Vault

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The current front page of Chip magazine promises save places for everyone’s data. As my current fascination for depictions of safety show, the rendered safe the designer place beside the caption is an fascinating commonplace cause for distrust. Eventually it was the blue light that made me even more curious. Will my data not only be safe, but also disinfected or radiated?

As it seems the editorial article is a camouflaged advertisement. According to it, the answer to all this is “Paragon Backup and Recovery”. The article announced on the front page is exclusively about this software and another hint for the downfall of printed (technology) magazines.

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Firefox and Vatican Team Up

On Firefox Key the lookout to distinguish themselves from the sometimes lame symbols of safety big proprietary software makers are using, Mozilla Foundation often finds unconventional and humorous ways. As my former professor Olia Lialina points out in her collection of “Car Metaphors” and related computer analogies, the new key symbol from the Security page of Firefox looks as if it was derived from Vatican’s coat of arms. With such imagery Olia feels she was “doing the right thing.” So do I. (Links and images from January 4, 2010)

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