FBI Director James Comey was on 60 Minutes on Sunday, in a segment that will continue next week as well. Apparently next week is when we’ll find out his views on mobile encryption and whether or not the FBI is spying on all of us, but this week, he gave us a tiny hint towards the end of the segment, in which he discusses why the internet is so dangerous. As far as I can tell, the summary is “don’t open attachments” (i.e., the same advice that you’ve been hearing for a decade, and which has little to do with many internet threats today):
Scott Pelley: Do people understand, in your estimation, the dangers posed by cybercrime and cyber espionage?
James Comey: I don’t think so. I think there’s something about sitting in front of your own computer working on your own banking, your own health care, your own social life that makes it hard to understand the danger. I mean, the Internet is the most dangerous parking lot imaginable. But if you were crossing a mall parking lot late at night, your entire sense of danger would be heightened. You would stand straight. You’d walk quickly. You’d know where you were going. You would look for light. Folks are wandering around that proverbial parking lot of the Internet all day long, without giving it a thought to whose attachments they’re opening, what sites they’re visiting. And that makes it easy for the bad guys.
Scott Pelley: So tell folks at home what they need to know.
James Comey: When someone sends you an email, they are knocking on your door. And when you open the attachment, without looking through the peephole to see who it is, you just opened the door and let a stranger into your life, where everything you care about is.
Scott Pelley: And what might that attachment do?
James Comey: Well, take over the computer, lock the computer, and then demand a ransom payment before it would unlock. Steal images from your system of your children or your, you know, or steal your banking information, take your entire life.
About the only thing I get from all this is that FBI Director James Comey is bad at analogies. Yes, you shouldn’t click on attachments from unknown people, and you should even be careful about attachments from known folks. But that makes the internet the “most dangerous parking lot imaginable”? Perhaps the other thing I’ve learned is that James Comey doesn’t have a very strong imagination.