With last week's discovery of the Heartbleed Bug, I heard a number of people remark on how this is "just one more reason not to trust the net". It is true, the internet isn't completely secure, as Heartbleed very clearly demonstrated. Theoretically, you are one hack away from trouble when using the web. With all the information we have online, a hacker could most certainly disrupt your life.
But, there is something about that remark about "not trusting the net" that doesn't feel right to me. Can we really not trust the web? At all?
When you walk down the street, you are only one mugging away from trouble too. Is the internet really any less secure than the world at large? In many ways the internet is more secure than the physical world. Think about it this way: pretty much anybody could steal your wallet, use your credit card and use your identity. However, only a few people have the skills required to understand and exploit the Heartbleed Bug. Are you really less secure online?
Even if a hacker did exploit the Heartbleed Bug (and so far, there is no proof anybody has), the Heartbleed bug worked by returning random strings of data. A hacker would have to collect a ton of that random data and find some way to filter that mess of data in order to find something useful, like a password. Chances are, a lot of useful data got lost in the noise.
Is it possible that somebody got your data from Heartbleed? Of course. Is it scary to think that they could have? Yes, most definitely. Is it worth changing your passwords in light of Heartbleed? Hec yeah! Trust me, at SpringTrax we patched our server right away and updated various keys once the news broke about Heartbleed.
But are the odds of your information getting stolen enough to make you stop trusting the internet altogether? I don't think so. At least, no more than the odds of getting mugged are enough to make you stop leaving your house.
Your odds of having a hacker steal your information or getting mugged in the offline world come down to the same factor: what neighborhood you are in. In the case of the internet, are the sites you visit in a good neighborhood? That is, can you trust those sites to do their absolute best to keep your information secure? If so, then you'll probably be safe using those sites. In the same way, you'll probably be safe walking around in the real world, provided it is a good neighborhood.
Sure, bad things can happen on sites you trust, like Heartbleed which affected a large percentage of the internet, but bad things can happen in incredibly safe towns or cities too. The more you trust a site, the less likely your chances of having an issue. Along the same lines, the websites in a good neighborhood will take care of issues, like Heartbleed, more quickly than the sites in a bad neighborhood.
Succeeding online comes down to building trust with your customers and making sure your website lives in that good neighborhood.
A big part of why I founded SpringTrax was to help your website become more trustworthy. There are a lot of factors that build trust. Security is a big one. Speed is another. The quality of your site's content and the quality of your product play a role, too.
Another part of trust, though, is preventing errors on your website. That's what we focus on here at SpringTrax.
If people encounter an error on your website, your credibility takes a hit. Too many errors, and you are no longer part of that good neighborhood in the eyes of your visitors and potential customers. That is why people leave websites to never return after they hit a not found error page. That lack of trust is also why not found errors cost you customers.
Our job, at SpringTrax, is to provide a tool to help you find and those errors fast. That way, you can prevent people from losing trust in your website and in your company.
Am I saying 404 errors as bad as Heartbleed? Certainly not from a security standpoint. But, from a trust standpoint? Yeah, I think both (along with lots of other factors) equally affect how much people trust your website. How much your visitors trust you is critical to how well your website performs.
So, back to the main question I've heard several people ask: can you trust the internet? The answer doesn't depend on how many security risks, like Heartbleed, or errors, like the ones we deal with at SpringTrax, come up. Errors and bugs are going to happen. Ultimately, the answer to that question really depends on how many websites are in the good neighborhood and take care of those issues quickly.