Computer Privacy In The Surveillance Age
Computer Privacy in the Surveillance Age
Information security is all over the news these days. We normal computer-using mortals are probably not being surveilled by the government or organized criminals any more than we ever have been, but there is a much greater awareness of the vulnerabilities after recent disclosures by people like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Most computer users now realize how very vulnerable they really are to surveillance. The fact is, if you are engaged in crimes or espionage – or if you are a high net-worth individual – then the kind of people who will be coming after you are the well-funded types with plenty of expertise. In those cases, it is probably just a matter of time and effort required to crack whatever security measures you employ. But if you are just a “regular Joe or Jane,” hoping to surf the Internet and look at funny cat GIFs in relative privacy, then there are a couple of basic things you can do to protect yourself.
Be Careful What you Disclose
At its most basic, privacy simply requires a little foresight and discipline on your part. Sharing information about your life on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter has become so widespread that people barely think before they post some pretty intimate information. Remember – once you post something online, you never really know where it could end up. The other thing to keep in mind is that with ever-dropping data storage costs, anything you post online is likely now to stay online practically forever. Do not post your home address, information about your finances and accounts, or naughty pictures of you and your friends up to no good. Think twice about posting controversial opinions, political or otherwise. Avoid heated arguments online. If you use basic common sense and avoid posting when angry, intoxicated or otherwise not thinking clearly, then you will eliminate 90% of your online privacy exposure right off the bat.
Be Careful About the Files you Open
The Internet today is teeming with Trojan horses that carry malware and viruses. Many times an email from your best friend is not what it seems! A Trojan horse is a file that conceals a harmful bit of software that can allows others to spy on you. If your friend or family member carelessly clicks on an executable email attachment, they can unwittingly download a virus or some malware that propagates itself by sending emails (for example, to you) that also include the Trojan horse. The malevolent software you might be downloading when you click on an executable file could be a keystroke logger that records everything you type on your keyboard and sends it to online scammers. In this way, they can get your passwords and account numbers. Be cautious and do not click on email attachments unless you know they are what they purport to be. The emails with these sorts of malevolent attachments are usually badly written and very brief. Read carefully and slow down!
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