Analysis / Why the Big Shock?

Writing an e-mail? Opening a Word file? Speaking on a cellular telephone? If you haven't got it by today, now's a good time to begin to internalize: There's a pretty good chance that the e-mail, the file or a transcript of your call will find their way to your competitor.

Business people abroad realized a long time ago that every e-mail they write could end up in their competitors' hands or, at worst, in the hands of the law enforcement authorities, and could be used against them in a court of law.

Some business managers in the United States customarily say that each decision they make has to pass "The New York Times test": Would you make the decision if you knew it would be published tomorrow on the front page of The New York Times?

Now, business managers in Israel will have to consider the Trojan horse test every time they turn on their computers, and assume that every file or document that comes up on the screen at home or at the office could find its way to enemies and rivals.

This morning and over the coming days, all the newspapers will be filled with frightening stories about the computerized world and the age in which we live - about Big Brother who knows all there is to know about us, about Trojan horses that infiltrate our lives and about the huge investments organizations will now be forced to make in data-security systems.

But before we begin the intimidation campaign, let's remember how we got here in the first place: We became accustomed to the infinite flow of free information on the Internet; we got used to knowing everything - quickly and free of charge; we got used to 24 hours a day of news, information, movies and entertainment from around the world for free - in every home and every office.

We became accustomed to high-speed, efficient and simple communication by means of e-mails, SMS services, forums, talk-backs, cellular calls, instant messaging; we got used to video, audio and text wherever we may be, at any time.

And after all this, we are kicking up a fuss and are astounded when it turns out that there is another side to the coin, that someone can relatively easily slip a Trojan horse into our computers.

The first response to such revelations is a deep fear. In a country in which there is a national ethos of military secrets and everyone is aggressively competing against everyone else, the notion that a rival is embedded in one's computer or server is a horrific one. Now, one can also explain that this is further evidence of the process of the corruption of norms in Israel and the violation of copyrights and intellectual property rights, and we are left with a particularly dark scenario.

But there is also a half-full glass: When both junior and senior managers in an organization know of the risk, they will be extra careful not to do anything illegal.

It is worth noting the types of organizations in which the Trojan horses were found. None of them is an organization that has real secrets; none of them is a high-tech company from which patents, codes, chemical formulas, software or sophisticated algorithms were stolen. They are all commercial companies and 90 percent of their "secrets" become public knowledge within days, weeks or months in any event. If such companies were to invest less energy in "secrets" and "surprises" that their competitors were preparing, perhaps they would have more time to take better note of what their customers and employees want.