Information security and comedy seem the oddest of bedfellows. However this year, at the Edinburgh comedy festival, Nick Helm was selected as having made the best gag of the whole event about password management. He won for the joke: “I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” As a joke I understood it, as an information security specialist it made me stop and reflect on the broader context within which we operate.

Comedians often develop materials and sketches reflecting our everyday lives. It enables them to connect quickly with their audiences. Basically they leverage what’s going on around us and in our lives to get a laugh. So what does an award winning best joke, at the world famous Edinburgh Comedy Fringe Festival, say about the prevalence of password management, access control, authentication, confidentiality, privacy and information security within our everyday lives? I’ve highlighted some, but not all, of my thoughts below.

• Effective password management occupies a space in our psych / our minds. This doesn’t mean passwords are effective rather that people know what they should be doing.

• Turning concerns, fears and doubts into the butt of a joke is normal practice. Could this reflect people’s growing concerns over privacy, confidentiality and the challenges of managing both your personal and work related passwords.

• Is there anxiety when people understand the relationship between their own personal identity, freedom and their passwords?

• When jokes reflect cultural norms does the use of everyday information security challenges reflect a significant shift in cultural attitudes towards data protection and password management?

• Is the use of humour an alternative way to drive better awareness and more importantly adoption of information security practices, within work and society?

In military terms the challenge for business and information security professionals is in “winning hearts and minds”. Could it be said that Nick Helm’s joke reflects a growing cultural awareness? And if so could it be said that the tide is turning on the most significant challenge to business and information security professionals when managing information risks i.e. peoples attitudes towards their own, their organisations and societies data confidentiality and privacy needs?

Have you got any thoughts on the use of information security within joke materials? What does it say about data security’s role and place within society? If so please share them and leave a comment. If you want to discuss fringe concepts for raising awareness please do get in contact.

The copyright in the image used in this blog article belongs to the Disney Corporation.