Opinion

Security and Privacy in the Age of the Internet

The Internet Has Ushered in an Age of Complete Transparency and Risk

By: Haziq Naeem

microsoft.com

If you think you still have anonymity or privacy in the age of the internet, think again.

Everything about you, from details you explicitly submit and display into the realm of the internet to the information you keep only to yourself, is available for the world to know of and track, whether you like it or not.

The only caveat is that the people that want information about you must know a little about technology, and how to get it, to do what they want. And this part is, surprisingly, not very hard.

They don’t need to be computer science majors to steal your credit card information.

Current and past information is not the only thing at risk, the future is as well.

Scientists can now predict the ups and downs of the stock market by looking at the realm of twitter and how calm or agitated it is on any day.

Given your past movements, they can also predict where you will be with an astounding 94% accuracy. Flu symptoms can be detected before people even know they’re getting sick.

These capabilities have been brought on by the combination of internet and technology we have now, and it is all at risk if malevolent forces decide to use it for their own purposes.

Security flaws have been around before the dawn of the internet age, but they have never been as pervasive and accessible as they are now.

Here are just a few examples. The credit agency Equifax was hacked earlier this year, resulting in the theft of millions of addresses, date of births, and social security numbers.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, a governmental agency in charge of business regulation, was hacked resulting in potential illegal trades and theft of confidential information.

The drug and vaccine company Merck suffered a cyber attack, causing it to lose profits and stall the manufacture of drugs, some of which are lifesaving.

These are just a few of the cyberattacks that took place within the past two years, and yet there isn’t an uproar or impulse to act.

These cyberattacks share some common characteristics.

We are not certain who initiated the attacks; we do not know how far reaching the attacks were; we do not know why they were conducted; we don’t have the capability to prevent future attacks, and we are not prepared for the prevention of or recovery from such attacks.

The threat this age of transparency poses to individuals, corporations, and governments is enormous.

Joel Brenner, the former inspector general at the National Security Agency and head of counterintelligence with the director of national intelligence, lays out in his book Glass Houses that information from American Corporations and the United States Government about classified intel is being stolen by foreign intelligence agencies and governments at an astounding rate.

He also claims in his book that we should assume the Chinese are now permanently within Google’s systems.

But instead of alarm and swift action, we rarely hear of these things on the news.

The outrage and impact at a physical attack on us is tremendous, so why should the response to a cyber-attack be any different?

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