THINKING FORWARD – Ideas for your work from MIT Sloan School of Management


Ideas for your work from MIT Sloan School of Management | Office of Communications

+ THREE INSIGHTS FOR THE WEEK October 24 – October 30, 2021

1. In 2018, an engineer attending a Fourth of July barbecue received an alert that a password had been changed on the main user database at Timehop, an app that aggregates social media content and photographs.

So began a chain of events that wound up compromising both personally identifiable information and the keys that allowed the Timehop app to access social media posts.

Nick Selby, a cyber incident responder who assisted Timehop after the breach, said the incident is a good case study in how an attack can unfold and how companies should prepare.

Speaking recently at the EmTech MIT conference hosted by MIT Technology Review, Selby described his recommended plan of action in case of a cyber attack:

  • Keep an incident-response firm on retainer.
  • Consider paying for a support plan from your cloud service provider.
  • Draw up a checklist of things employees should do if they notice something is off — and train them on it ahead of time.
  • Know who to call and what laws are applicable — including Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation if you have global customers.
  • Test your backups on a quarterly basis, and make sure backups are fully disconnected from the regular system — otherwise, ransomware could infect them, too.
  • Write up a security communication plan.


2. Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston spent the better part of the past 18 months thinking about how to relieve burnout among knowledge workers — including scrutinizing the cloud storage and collaboration tools made by his company.

“In the same way we had a new generation of cloud tools that revolutionized how we work, I think we’re going to have a new generation of smart tools,” said Houston, who spoke last month at the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing.

“We need to both design better tools and a smarter system” to protect workers from feeling burned out and disconnected in a remote space, he said.

Other observations from Houston:

  • “There’s no substitute for in-person experience.” Dropbox has adopted a “virtual first” working model in which employees will spend most of their time at home but also schedule visits for in-person work with teammates.
  • Location-agnostic jobs have expanded the pool for talent, but candidates now expect more workplace flexibility from potential employers. “A company that doesn’t offer that flexibility will quickly look as archaic as a company that doesn’t have a website.”


3. The Norwegian Nobel Committee last month awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to investigative journalists Dmitry Muratov and Maria Ressa.

Ressa, whose digital news company Rappler has exposed government corruption in the Philippines, is a digital fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. She has “documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents, and manipulate public discourse,” the committee wrote in its prize announcement.

Speaking in April at a social media conference at MIT, Ressa explained how she and her team identified ways in which Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine government used social media — especially Facebook — to spread disinformation and false narratives. “We really have documented networks of disinformation,” she said, calling the government’s actions “insidious manipulation.”

Ressa made the case that U.S. lawmakers should hold social media platforms accountable.

“We have coronavirus in the real world. Here in the information ecosystem, you have the virus of lies,” she said. “You don’t see it, you don’t feel it, [but] it changes your worldview, and it makes you impervious to facts. Our societies are going to have to fix this.”

Content from the: MIT Sloan Office of Communications Building E90, 9th Floor 1 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142

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