I thought I’d protected my PC pretty well. You know, anti-virus software, firewall, anti-spyware software etc, all updated automatically. But just before Christmas I opened an email claiming to have a Christmas greeting for me from Hallmark Cards. I’d had a few e-cards already and I guess I was used to opening them. It’s at that point that think I let a Bot into the system. Of course, I had no knowledge of it as Bots like to sit there unobtrusively not advertising their presence. It wasn’t until I had an email from myself promising me miracles in the manhood department that I began to suspect something was wrong (with my computer that is!). I’d been botjacked. Not a nice feeling. I’ve since installed a good spam filter at the mail server, ran every malware programme I could find and installed a Bot checker. I think I’ve cured it now but I’ve lost a bit of confidence in the system and I might yet have to start from scratch and reinstall Windows. My experience is not untypical, a friend has just had the horror of finding his business blog hacked into and, beyond the anecdotal, it’s estimated that there are at least 150m Bot-infected PCs.

That’s why it’s been very timely to be reading “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It” by Jonathan Zittrain. The book’s a very readable account of the development of the Internet – and the PC. According to Zittrain, both are “generative” i.e. they are adaptable, freely configurable and therefore capable of unexpected development and innovation. The trouble is that all of this is under threat from the kind of attack I’ve just experienced and, if this level of threat continues, we might all be forced into ‘tethered’ locked-down devices that don’t have ‘generativity’. Doesn’t sound too bad at first but the book argues compellingly that ‘tethered’ devices have their own dangers for individual and collective freedoms, which is why the ‘generative’ Internet has to be maintained. A recommended read as is his (longish) lecture: