How Mom’s Vaporub Created E-mail Spam
It was, in its time, a soothing miracle cure or a humiliating school day when I smelled like an over mentholated pine forest. But it’s also an example of a domino falling, which can lead to surprising places, both good and bad. There are domino effect examples throughout the security field, too.
About the Vick’s Vaporub: It started in 1905, when North Carolina druggist Lunsford Richardson developed an ointment to treat head and chest colds. The product, just like some security budgets, got its greatest boost with a reaction to a disaster, the 1918 worldwide influenza outbreak.
But what about e-mail spam?
Richardson wanted to mail out coupons for a free sample of the wonder drug. The U.S. Post Office, however, did not permit nor deliver mail or packages unless the mailing address included a person’s name. The Vaporub mogul convinced officials to allow delivery to “boxholder,” which evolved into “occupant” and “resident,” and which launched junk mail. With the advent of the Internet, the next domino to fall, not surprisingly, was e-mail spam. And that’s the real rub.
Motion Pictures Evolve
Cameras continue to evolve from a 1889 moving picture camera, at ten frames per second, to a controversial “domino” of red light cameras, which create revenue for cities but of which some call unfair.
Back in 1889, William Fries-Greener got patent no. 10131 for his chronophotographic camera, apparently capable of taking up to ten frames per second, similar ironically to some of today’s security video. A next domino: the electronic video tube camera was invented in the 1920s, starting a line of development that eventually resulted in digital cameras, which largely supplanted film cameras after the turn of the 21st century.
Consumer camcorders begat inexpensive, mass produced CCD imagers, which begat today’s analog and digital security video cameras. And some dominos can circle way back. For instance, The Artist, today’s hot and Oscar nominated silent, black-and-white movie, was recorded digitally.
Security cameras also can gain and lose when it comes to confidence. A tragic 1982 incident in New York City, when a driver ran a red light and hit an 18-month old baby in a stroller, knocked over the red light camera domino. Hundreds of cities have installed the cameras, but a backlash erupted as some felt the cameras were unfair or more focused on generating revenue than encouraging safety.
Some states now prohibit the use of red light cameras, including Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia.
Then there are global positioning systems or GPS.
The GPS design is based partly on similar ground-based radio navigation systems, used during World War II.
GPS Goes Civilian After Plane Disaster
In a short number of years, global positioning systems have gone from military-only applications to myriad corporate and citizen needs, including tiny devices that can hide in vehicles, briefcases, and numerous assets.
The first satellite navigation system, the U.S. Navy’s Transit, tested in 1960, employed five satellites to provide a navigational fix approximately once per hour. GPS continued to grow in number of satellites and complexity but always was under the command and access of the federal government and military.
However, the GPS domino of most importance was another disaster; Korean Air Lines Flight 007, carrying 269 people, was shot down in 1983 after straying into the USSR’s prohibited airspace. Then President Ronald Reagan issued a directive making GPS freely available for civilian use, once it was sufficiently developed, as a common good.
This year, in yet another falling domino, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement agencies should obtain a warrant before affixing a GPS tracker to a suspect’s vehicle. The court, however, was split on the reasoning. Five justices cited the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches, while the four in the minority opinion said the warrant should be required on grounds of “reasonable expectations of privacy.”
The decision does not impact private use of GPS for tracking and locating people, vehicles and assets.
Private investigations tell Zalud Report that they expect corporations and individuals to use even more off-shelf GPS devices to track competitors, spouses, children, and others as big box stores and Internet vendors sell inexpensive tracking devices.
The bottom line to all of these dominos falling: Chain reactions can start out with good reasons and can take twists and turns that can go in good or troubling ways. For enterprise security leaders, consider all the consequences before choosing your road or kicking over a domino.
And, in case of a cold, wipe on some Vaporub; it can’t hurt, at least not too much.