Online security is a double edged sword. The more secure you are, the more anonymity you give up.
ONE OF THE POWERS OF THE WEB IS FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Activists, disenfranchised minorities, political groups and religious entities all use the web to get exposure. How do we exercise some control over this online freedom.
FEAR There is a lot of fear associated with the security risks of working on the internet because of viruses, identity theft and other malicious behaviour. Money and identities are stolen all the time. Insidious individuals steal passwords, log into email accounts and format computers remotely. A recent case involved a hacker gaining access to an Amazon account, then a Google account and from there, formatting all the user’s accounts on their computer.
We store everything online these days, including our most important and private documents and information. All the things we want to protect, we give over to servers. We tick the T&C’s without reading them and hand over our rights. Companies like Google own our email. They read it and are able to send us advertising that they know will interest us. We lose ownership of the things we put up online through ignorance. Google has tried to help us by presenting simpler terms and conditions that are easier and quicker for us to read, yet we remain ignorant, time poor and still don’t read them. The more we have that is publicly accessible, the more at risk we are to viruses or people actively searching for our information online.
PASSWORD The password is famously used as an online security mechanism. Yet a serious hacker will be able to crack your Gmail password in under 10-minutes. So how do we protect ourselves? When was the last time you changed your password? Adobe recently got hacked and all its passwords were leaked onto the internet. If you search for Adobe’s 50 top used passwords, you would be surprised at how ridiculous they are and how bad we are at creating them.
TWO FACTOR AUTHENTICATION Banks are now using two factor authentication – the combination of a password with an sms. For many of us, one of our most valuable and frequently used online accounts would be a Gmail or mail account, that we use like a passport to log into other accounts. One way of protecting ourselves would be to opt for two factor authentication for these types of sites, as well as for our banking sites.
FINGERPRINT Instead of a password that is time consuming and can be easily tracked, Apple now uses your fingerprint as an identification security mechanism. The iPhone 5s scans the internal structure of your thumb using infared. Now when you are logged into your Google account, you access web pages as an identified individual and your online anonymity is lost. What if you unknowingly and accidentally log onto an illegal site? Apple’s fingerprint clicked links and buttons link everything to you.
FREEDOM You don’t need to worry if you haven’t done anything, but the point is, we are all guilty of something somewhere along the line. If someone wants to make life difficult for you, they can single you out. It’s a great weapon that governments and organisations can use as a threat to prosecute you if you are not doing exactly what they want you to do. Our freedom is in danger. We trust that no one can hack Apple and that our fingerprints are secure. But then again, weren’t they just hacked? If your password gets compromised, you can change it, but you can’t change your fingerprint. Once a hacker has your retina scan or fingerprint, he has it for life. And what if it has been universally compromised as in the case of Edward Snowden? Some of the most potent viruses have been created by governments and organisations to illegally access people’s information in the name of national security.
We employ passwords and finger prints, but they allow us to be hacked. It sounds like something out of a bad movie, but it is the unfortunate reality. It is our responsibility to support initiatives like SOPA to protect our security and freedom and to educate ourselves to know our rights and how to protect them.