Every day hundreds of millions of emails are sent. Some of the emails contain mundane items like the latest sale on airline fares. Other emails may contain personal, financial and healthcare information you don’t want anybody else to see.
What most people don’t realize is a vast majority of the email on the internet is unencrypted and open for anybody to read or harvest information from. A majority of users have Yahoo mail or Gmail accounts but retrieve their messages on their smartphones or desktop email clients. As emails move across the internet, hopping from server to server, your emails are duplicated and stored unencrypted.
Unless you have been living in a cave and not been on the internet for the last month, you have been hearing about GDPR and the May 25, 2018 deadline. This deadline isn’t your deadline, but is a compliance date for organizations connected to the internet in the European Union.
GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation, is a new set of laws requiring companies to protect personal data of EU citizens. Companies subject to these new laws will incur stiff fines if they do not comply with these new GDPR regulations. Although GDPR is an EU law, the internet has no borders and even the smallest company can have global reach. GDPR doesn’t care if a company is outside of the EU, the data of EU citizens must still be protected.
Children are now high value targets in the eyes of criminals, especially identity thieves. A Social Security Number with no prior history is a blank slate where thieves can overlay their own name and birth date, effectively creating a new false identity. Crimes using these stolen IDs range from simple retail stealing to massive financial fraud involving multiple bank loans, mortgages and personal lines of credit. This type of crime may go undetected for years, when a credit report is pulled to purchase a phone, apply for a college loan or their first credit card, the young person then finds out their credit and identity are compromised.
We have been on a path to our digital serfdom for the past 15 years – without realizing it. This path to hell has been lined with free online video games, social media, search, mail and chat services. We made a Faustian bargain – free social media and services that would have otherwise cost us a couple of dollars, in return for complete loss of privacy and annoying targeted ads that follow us everywhere.
The Verge recently published a statement from Vladimir Putin that “artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind … It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”
Lets focus on AI as it applies to us in everyday life. The old adage garbage in garbage out applies to AI as well. AI engines are only as useful powerful as the data that is fed into them. As pointed out by TechCrunch recently: “The world’s largest technology companies hold the keys to some of the largest databases on our planet.
How can data breaches at Equifax, Ashley Madison, Yahoo and others affect you?
Data breaches at big companies have become a part of modern life. Other than garnering some bad publicity, most of these companies where the breach happened seem to recover and do fine. Unfortunately, the data that was breached is usually our personal information and it is us who bear the brunt of these mishaps.
It has been recently reported by several sources the Equifax breach exposed personal data of 143 million people in the US, LinkedIn data breach exposed data of 100 million people, Uber 57 million, Target 40 million and Yahoo breach exposed data of 3 billion accounts. With such numbers, other data breaches exposing data of of 4 million accounts at Ashley Madison, 100,000 at the IRS, or 7,000 from Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center seem almost insignificant. But, all of these data breaches are significant and any one of these breaches and countless others can directly affect YOU.
Statistics show that few sites generate as much online traffic online as adult video or porn sites. Pornhub has reported that it received 23 billion visits from viewers worldwide last year.
Similar to most “normal” sites, these adult sites come with own set of cookies, trackers, ad networks and third party content providers. Your browser is flooded with trackers just like after visiting any other site. Most of these porn sites have business reasons not to serve malware or place unique trackers, but it can happen especially with content from third party advertisers on their sites. After visiting a racy internet site, most users are careful to delete browser cookies and web data, but some discover ads and other content seem to follow them around as they continue web surfing. If you suspect that you downloaded a viewer or other files, run your anti-virus which should be able to remove known malware.
News about ransomware and malware exploits crippling business operations for weeks is widespread. Smaller rural hospitals, SMEs, local governments and 911 centers seem to have been targeted. Such exploits inadvertently enter corporate networks when employees open malicious email or visit sites that introduce malware onto their PCs/Macs.
Ransomware is not unique to corporate networks; it could also happen to users of home PC or Macs and may have a larger impact on non-expert users, especially if they don’t regularly backup their computers. We will talk about Corporate Networks in this blog, but the same message applies to the home computers.
For years, PrivatizeMe has been talking about how ad platforms use your online activity, your likes, dislikes, browsing history and personal data to generate secret profiles on you. The US FTC states some ad platforms and their data brokers partners may have created our profiles by aggregating up to 3000 items of online and offline information on each and everyone of us, including our names, addresses, mortgage and financial information and even the items of grocery we bought recently. These profiles are used by social media, websites you trust and by websites you don’t know or trust not only to serve you targeted ads, but also to select personalized content and even upcharge you.