Potential Technology Dangers

Monday May 09th, 2016


I don’t think that many of us would argue with the opinion that technology makes our lives better on nearly every front. Easier, faster, simpler - technology serves us well. However, I wonder if many of us spend enough time thinking about some of the limitations and even dangers of the technology that fuels our lives. What do we risk when we pay for that online purchase with PayPal? What are we potentially sharing when we post a picture of our dinner from that new Italian restaurant everyone has been talking about? I never spent much time thinking about these things until my website was hacked recently. The invasion of privacy, the sense of vulnerability and the questions of “why me” have rattled me enough to slow down and ask if all my interactions online are necessary and whether they’re really reflecting what I want revealed about me and my life.

A few questions I asked myself: Is social media really that social? Is buying something online really better than seeing it and touching and talking to someone? Are 10 texts from someone complete with emojis really better than a 10-minute phone call? Every time I input an address into my GPS and follow the commands blindly, am I helping my brain or memory in anyway?

I reported my hacking, but was surprised to learn that many people do not. Reporting is key to tracking down these criminals and for authorities to see patterns and links that can help them do so. I’ve taken the time to educate myself on some basic steps to minimize exposure to online fraud.

 Firstly, and most obviously is password protection. Create strong, unique passwords. Surveys show that two-thirds of people use the same password for all accounts. This means that if hackers break one account, they have access to everything. The most popular worst password used last year: 123456.Change your passwords frequently. Don’t use easily identifiable information such as names and birthdays.

 Another tip: check URL’s. An easy way for hackers to harvest usernames and passwords is by designing fake webpages that look like the ones you use in popular sites such as your bank or Facebook. Before you click a link, ensure it’s the one you would expect before entering any personal details. A secure way to open the site is using “https://” at the beginning of the web address which encrypts your data. If a green padlock is next to the address, it’s secure.

Everyone is keen to upgrade to that new phone or device, but what about that old phone or tablet? Personal data should be wiped before you throw away or recycle a device. You can do this by using factory reset. Your SIM card has lots of identifying information as well, either use it in your new phone or physically destroy it.

Also, beware of clicking on unknown links. These unknown links can be phishing sites that harvest usernames and passwords or download viruses. This vulnerability is also exposed if you download unknown attachments. This can even happen from a friend as a result of their email account being compromised.

We must remember that our credit card details, our date of birth, and our name and address all have value on the black hacker market. Hackers are constantly targeting retailers to find a weak link in their networks to access this information.

Use antivirus software and firewalls. Most antivirus software automatically downloads updates. A good program scans your emails, monitors files and protects you from dangerous downloads.

Beware of public WiFi. Hackers can use unsecured public WiFi zones to target people using mobile devices. They can set up a fake network to harvest information. When in a public place, ask an employee for the username and password of their WiFi and wherever possible use well-known providers.

I was lucky, my web site was restored fairly easily, none of my personal accounts were impacted, but it certainly made me stop and reflect on my use of technology. I felt that perhaps I was enjoying the ease that technology afforded me, but not really thinking about security or my overdependence. My day still relies heavily on technology and I’m grateful for all that adds to my life and my work, but I’ve backed off on social media a bit and I do pick up the phone sometimes instead of texting. I think I’ll close this week’s blog with a quote that I think is apt for us all: “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master”.

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