Living With Technology: How good is online privacy?
It seems that every day we see stories of companies that have been hacked and frequently millions of passwords, credit card numbers or other key pieces of information make their way out of the computers where they are stored.
It’s clear that the more information we have outside of our homes and on computers that are connected to the Internet, we run the risk of the information getting into the hands of people we don’t want to have it.
We also try to create secure connections between our applications so that prying eyes can’t see our communications.
I can’t say I believe this is working very well. Recent postings by WikiLeaks indicates tour intelligence services may have ways to read encrypted information we believed to be unreadable.
And our government isn’t the only group who has the interest and means to read things we don’t intend them to read.
For my communications, I take the perspective that everything I create digitally is probably readable by someone I don’t want to read it.
When it comes to things I may generally write, it helps me ensure I stay factual and true. This is a good thing.
When it comes to items such as passwords, account numbers and bank information, I try to use things like two-factor authentication to ensure that even if someone has my password, they can’t log in unless they enter a code sent to my mobile phone.
Luckily, the companies that are the biggest targets for these sorts of breaches have very sharp people working to secure their systems and our laws and their policies provide instant relief for things like unauthorized bank withdrawals.
Still, situations like identity theft, where someone pretends to be someone they’re not can be problematic for those affected. Even if someone who has been affected by identity theft loses no money, the time to repair the damage can be daunting and take years to correct.
So how can you protect yourself?
In most cases, try to keep your computers and mobile phones up to the most recent standards. Because this field is changing rapidly, staying current is a very good defense.
When companies offer features such as two-factor authentication, use them.
If you are concerned about communications being private, consider whether it should be sent digitally or perhaps in person. While this is not always possible, it is fair to assume that if your recipient can read something, so can someone else.
Privacy and security are legitimate concerns in today’s world. They have been for generations. We now have more and different ways to communicate and, therefore, need to be cognizant of the risks the new technologies bring.
Stay vigilant, stay honest and stay safe. A little care can go a long way to protecting you.
Mark Mathias is a 35+ year information technology executive, a resident of Westport, Connecticut. His columns can be read on the Internet at blog.mathias.org. He can be contacted at livingwith