Over a generation the association with the word mail or AI has changed. Younger generations will automatically think of email as the obvious association with “you have got mail”. Asking people for their mail address, most people will respond immediately with their email account. That has certainly changed over the last 20 years. Email has become extraordinarily important for contacts, content and “crime”. The original set-up of mail servers were supposed to exchange data and information between trusted and trusting individuals. Nowadays we have become “anyone” on an email-list or part of a cascading email-chain. Pishing emails that try to lure us to potentially fake webpages to enter personal information is widespread. A whole new industry of cybersecurity has evolved in parallel with ever faster pingpong of new threats and costly remedies. Most critical remains the human factor to protect email and vital information from abuse. All training to better manage email should therefore begin with awareness building on the need to take cybersecurity seriously right from the beginning. It is not an issue to deal with towards the end of learning about it. Some general points have become common practice. Think carefully if you need to open the mail. Check whether there are external links in it. Do you really need this extra information? Be careful about the number of persons you forward or put in the copy field of your mail.

Unfortunately the simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) makes it technically fairly easy to abuse email addresses and send an email from a domain name which you do not own. Same holds true for the content of emails. Originally only basic letters and numbers were allowed, no Umlaut etc. But then the “multipurpose internet mail extensions” (MIME) enabled more formats of attachments and illicit links and files within the email content.

In consequence it became necessary to scan emails en masse for malware and obnoxious content. Hence the quality of your email programs reveals itself with the amount of spam you still receive. Next come the email filters that sort your inbox for spam and other modern plagues like unwanted newsletters or notifications.

In consequence we sometimes wonder that we never received certain emails albeit the person sending it reiterated that the email was sent. Even checking your spam folder in the email program might not solve the issue because your receiving email server has been instructed not to accept emails from previously unknown mail servers. Not much you can do about this as an individual person, you mail server is just not on the so-called white list from which to accept incoming emails.

With a mail address from the big national or international companies you have little to worry about in this respect. Smaller companies or organizations might suddenly face a thorny issue if their i@xy.z address appears on a dubious list. You will end up sending but nobody receives your emails. It might take you quite some time to find out about it and even more to fix the issue. Hence the take home message is, have more than one email address registered on different mail servers to check that sending out and receiving emails works properly for you. Managing an own webpage with email service for members or employees is a nice service, but beware of the implications for cyber security as well.

Once upon a time we drafted letters to 1-2 friends 🫠

Publishing in War

The right to publish without censorship is one of the first rights that suffers during wars. This has been the case since warfare has used communication as a strategic weapon. Therefore, it is important to research the often, subtle forms of control and censorship applied before and particularly during each war. The printed press was the prime target due to the scope of readers that can be reached timely and repetitively. From the history of how to silence critical voices we can learn about the proceedings, which even today find lots of authoritarian regimes copying these methods.
Using many illustrations from the 1st and 2nd world war in Belgium, 3 major forms of resistance to censorship become apparent. (1) The most obvious is closing down a newspaper rather than endure censorship and thereby being forced to contribute to war propaganda. (2) With risk to their own life, many people in the resistance movements relied on information to actively counter the worsening conditions of life and oppression of opinions or criticisms. (3) The third way at these times consisted in quitting the active contributions, but it incurred the danger that in fact the newspaper continued to appear as before, although with lenient journalists and editors. Today we would frame the latter form of continued appearance of a journal as “continued as fake news”. However, the issue is more complicated than that. Apparently, the readership needed still access to vital information of how to get access to food stamps or other day-to-day necessities including distraction from the horrors of war as it became an enduring feature of life.
This is my short summary of the inspection of some of the historical newspapers that are available with online access and the most valuable summaries provided by Emmanuel Debruyne and Fabrice Maerten in their blog entries on the overview pages linked to the “Belgian War Press” project. These are also valuable sources that hint at war crimes committed at these times as the collaborating press did not shun away from bragging about crimes. The clandestine press was also important to coordinate the various resistance movements and spread ideas of how contributions could be made to weaken the occupying criminal forces.
At times of communication via internet, in addition to the printing press, the war of communication needs much more resources above all digital-savvy resistance movements. A huge task to train people time to enable them to identify fake news and careful exercise of spreading correct and verified information nowadays.
Image Source: Extrait du « Bulletin Intérieur du Front de l’Indépendance », daté 15-11-1942, CEGESOMA BG85, Brussel.