Wednesday, September 10, 2008

United Airlines and the 5-Second Rule for Security: Freshness is important

United lost $1 billion in market cap this week because an old news article being mistaken for a fresh article. As a graduate student, I collected stories about flaws related to integrity and freshness of content --- ranging from news stories to software updates --- because of my interests in engineering secure file systems. But it's not the first time that a flaw related to freshness of content has affected the stock of a company. Emulex lost $2.5 billion in market cap because a hoax eight years ago. Here's a screenshot to remind you.

The United incident might be an unintentional accident rather than a security problem. But try to explain the difference between security and robustness to jittery investors who count on the integrity and freshness of information to make important decisions.