Little Red Riding Hood

Posted on: July 18, 2011 by Rob Price

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a village near the forest. Whenever she went out, the little girl wore a red riding cloak, so everyone in the village called her Little Red Riding Hood.

One morning, Little Red Riding Hood asked her mother if she could go to visit her Grandmother as it had been a long time since they had seen each other.

She knew the way as she had been many times before, yet today she just couldn’t not remember. It was as though somebody had been in and completely wiped that part of her memory. Her personal map, her own unique way of getting there was gone. She would have to rely on directions from others.

She packed a nice basket to take with her. It was a special basket, she thought unlike any other, and yet as she walked out of the house that morning, it was noticeable that every other little girl had exactly the same basket. Someone had clearly seen hers, photographed and copied it exactly, making no end of money no doubt in the process.

At the bottom of the path, she stopped briefly at the postbox. There was a letter telling her that she had been successful in applying for a £15,000 loan. “Great”, she thought briefly dreaming of the bike she could buy to make the trip to her Grandmothers less energetic. Then she remembered she hadn’t applied for the loan, and indeed as she was only a little girl, had no obvious way of repaying it.

Confused, but having asked for directions, she set off on the path for the house in the forest. After a short while she had a phone call from a man (well, actually it was a very articulate wolf) she didn’t know. “I see that you’ve been talking to Little Boy Blue”, he said. “You know you cannot do that. Give me your basket of goodies, or I will eat your grandmother”. Little Red Riding Hood didn’t know what to do. How did he know that information? She’d only been in a private chat room for a short while, and beyond that it was just a few text messages. And how did the wolf know she had a basket?

Little could she imagine that he had sneakily traced her every key press (laptop and mobile) for the past two weeks and knew all of her passwords and personal details. What’s more he had then logged on with these and had further interactions with the online world pretending to be Little Red Riding Hood. Unsurprisingly, he had encountered significant scepticism from those with whom he talked who were largely unpersuaded that it was really her, especially as she never appeared on the webcam any more.

Unperturbed, he sent a series of emails from her email account to all her friends – the Three Little Pigs, Little Boy Blue, Little Miss Muffet and the Gingerbread Man included – that offered a variety of teasing temptations in exchange for their registration on When he began to see many of Little Red Riding Hood’s friends register with their personal details, he really, really couldn’t quite believe just how gullible some fairy tale characters were. The wolf was raking it in.

Back to the story though, and Little Red Riding Hood was nearing her Grandmother’s cottage in the forest. Her grandmother, a bit of a silver surfer herself, had noticed this new web activity over the past few days and had concocted a little present for the wolf. Interacting with him on the web (posing as Little Boy Blue), she’d tracked back his IP address and had been able to target him with a clever piece of software that pretended to be a contact directory for all Fairy Tale characters.

Only that morning, as Little Red Riding Hood wandered through the Forest, the wolf had downloaded the software and stared, horrified, as the trojan flew around his laptop and mobile devices, wiping away all of his collected data, disrupting all of his money making schemes.

It was the sole reason why, on this day, our innocent Little Red Riding Hood knocked at the door of the cottage, and was greeted by her smiling, and worldly wise, Grandmother and not the sneaky wolf. The wolf had far too much to do, trying to rescue his entire livelihood. They shared the contents (fairy cakes, strawberries and a bottle of lemonade) of the now less unique “basket”, talked about the events of the previous two weeks, and laid plans to protect against the next moves of the temporarily exposed, but still very dangerous, wolf.

Last month the UK Government Cabinet Office issued a report that highlighted £27bn of loss due to online threats. The core threats (dominating financial loss) were IP theft and Industrial espionage, swiftly followed by Fiscal Fraud, Extortion, Identity Theft, Online Scams, Online Theft, Customer Data Loss and Scareware. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf may not be real, but the story is real. The players today are simply industries and nations. The threat is there. Information Security advise is no longer an insurance scheme, it is a necessity of life.


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About Rob Price
COO for Worldline UK&I and member of the Scientific Community
Rob is COO for Worldline UK&I, the European leader in the payment and transactional services industry. He was previously Head of Digital for Atos UK&I, is a member of the Atos Scientific Community and was a founder of the award winning CIO/CTO Atos blog, the predecessor to Ascent. He successfully melds inspiration and creativity with strategic direction and implementation, focusing on driving more efficient and effective exploitation of technology and services to drive positive business outcomes and better connect our clients with their end consumers. The insight gained through both operational delivery roles and strategic Digital evangelist roles ensures that he views the Digital Revolution from multiple perspectives. Find him on twitter @The_Digital_COO

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