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Technological Turf Wars

Technological Turf Wars: A Case Study of the Computer Antivirus Industry

Jessica Johnston
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Technological Turf Wars
    Book Description:

    InTechnological Turf Wars, Jessica Johnston analyzes the tensions and political dilemmas that coexist in the interrelationship among science, technology and society. Illustrating how computer security is as concerned with social relationships as it is with technology, Johnston provides an illuminating ethnography that considers corporate culture and the workplace environment of the antivirus industry.

    Using a qualitative, interdisciplinary approach, which combines organizational and security studies with critical and social analysis of science and technology, Johnston questions the motivations, contradictions and negotiations of antivirus professionals. She examines the tensions between the service ethics and profit motives-does the industry release viruses to generate demand for antivirus software?-and considers the dynamics within companies by looking at facets such as gender bias and power politics.Technological Turf Warsis an informed, enlightened and entertaining view of how the production of computer security technology is fraught with social issues.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-883-8
    Subjects: Technology, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Computer security is a technical and social problem. It is just as much about social relationships as it is about computers as tools. Internet security professionals are as concerned with how people use information as they are with how machines manipulate and process that information. This book is a case study of how the knowledge systems articulated by computer antivirus industry professionals affect technological security. It analyzes the tensions and political dilemmas at the heart of the interrelationships among science, technology, and society.

    All technologies involve ‘scripts’. A computer virus is a metaphor that generates images of global viral epidemics...

  5. 1 Naming the Threat
    (pp. 17-44)

    On November 4, 1988, computers around the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), the forerunner to today’s internet, suddenly and dramatically slowed down. They were sluggish, some eventually becoming completely unresponsive. Unnecessary and unneeded data had interfered with their operations. And these clogging processes swiftly disseminated around the globe. InTechnopoly, Neil Postman identifies how the popularization of the computer virus metaphor began:

    The early hypothesis was that a software program had attached itself to other programs, a situation which is called (in another human–machine metaphor) a ‘virus’. As it happened, the intruder was a self-contained program explicitly designed...

  6. 2 Security Transformations
    (pp. 45-60)

    The standard definition of security circulating within the antivirus industry is protecting ‘CIA’—the Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability of data, projects, or services. This chapter complicates this definition. ‘Security’ is not a neutral fact, not merely a techno-instrumental or managerial orientation, not a word or state of being that is universally understood. Within the antivirus industry, contradictory interpretations of ‘security’ expose the fears surrounding the global flows of information and the conflicting identities within the industry. This chapter analyzes how concerns for, and uses of security underpin, animate, and reinforce forms of power, identity, and economic circulation within the industry....

  7. 3 Trust, Networks, and the Transformation of Organizational Power
    (pp. 61-92)

    Any discussion of the social construction of security and threat raises two questions about agency and resistance: first, who are the people who define what is threatened, and second, when is security achieved? The first two chapters focused on the negotiations surrounding various definitions of security and threat articulated within the antivirus (AV) industry. This chapter focuses on how various industry professionals go about legitimating their definitions, and the effect these negotiations have on the products and technological innovations created to manage malicious code.

    Most of the professionals interviewed within the antivirus industry defined themselves as high-tech experts with specialist...

  8. 4 IT Corporate Customers as End Users
    (pp. 93-124)

    There are different perspectives and objectives in the antivirus (AV) industry among those who research the solution to protecting technology, those who actually develop and sell antivirus software, and those who purchase and use it. These industry segments variously conceal and share institutional and cultural knowledge systems. Researchers, vendors, and corporate end users continually negotiate over who and what is considered a security threat, and who and what can be trusted with secret information. As we saw in Chapter 3, CARO members see vendors as transient and untrustworthy, needing discipline and surveillance by CARO practices. This chapter is about how...

  9. 5 Marketing Service
    (pp. 125-158)

    Antivirus (AV) industry professionals, whether researcher, vendor, or corporate end user, see themselves as both protecting technology and providing for the common good of the global networked community. They situate themselves in the ‘white hat–black hat’ contestation against virus writers, with their roles as benevolent experts and protectors opposing the cyber thieves and malicious code writers. They construct themselves as having a service relationship to the world, with a duty and an ethical responsibility to work against the virus writer to create a secure environment for electronic communications. They continually articulate their duty to safeguard technological infrastructures, and express...

  10. 6 Situated Exclusions and Reinforced Power
    (pp. 159-212)

    The term ‘digital divide’ is shorthand. It refers to the social disparities, diversities, and segmentations within the networked society (Castells 2001; Moss 2002). Limited access to the internet, whether based on incomplete knowledge and ‘know-how’ or physical infrastructure issues, marginalizes segments of the world’s population from the growing predominance of digital communication. On the other side of the divide, those with broad and comprehensive access gain more power and resources, potentially able to direct and profit from their extensive and wide-ranging connections.

    Within the antivirus industry, the digital divide is a multidimensional phenomenon. In this chapter I will explore three...

  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 213-218)
  12. Index
    (pp. 219-222)