Thursday, June 17, 2010

Internet privacy and safety: Just myths?

So, I just had a rather sobering conversation with one of our resident IT experts here at the newspaper. He was in the process of adding Tweetdeck to my laptop (no administrative privileges for me!) when he said something to the effect of, "Well, now you can access your Twitter thingy..." That made me curious, so I asked him what he thinks of social networking. He laughed and said he's never going on any social network. Too dangerous. Too many hackers out there. Actually, he said it's not just social networks. He won't put any personal information on computers if he can help it -- he won't even do online banking, despite the obvious convenience factor. I noted that the banks and social networks have security controls, and they seem to keep people protected well enough, despite the occasional hiccup. His response: most people putting their personal information online will be fine, but the few who get theirs hijacked are in for a nightmarish experience. He'd rather not take the chance at all.

I know there are others out there like him (a few make a point of telling me -- repeatedly -- how pointless social networks are). But part of us will always recoil at the notion of sharing previously private information over a public transom. I still remember thinking the Observer's parent company had lost its collective mind years ago when it decreed the end of paper paychecks and made us handle all of our pay data via a secure online site. Now I input without a second thought.

And consider this: more institutions are asking you to do your business with them online. It saves them money, it helps the environment (no paper to throw away) and it offers you convenience. The era of cloud computing and the socially-connected Web is upon us.

It appears that, whether everybody likes it or not, it's here to stay.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

"And consider this: more institutions are asking you to do your business with them online."

That's true, but that doesn't mean you're required to do it. Not yet, anyway.

Given the option, I decline to do financial transactions online. Convenient? Sure. Secure? I don't believe it. As your IT guy says, most people might be fine, but I don't want to be the exception to the rule.

Syd said...

There's a reason IT guys spend so much time playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Anonymous said...

If you have an account at a bank (or any other business) that allows customers to access their accounts online, then your account is most probably already online, whether you access it or not, probably with a default user id and password. You're better off setting up your online account with a more secure user id and password than ignoring it, even if you don't plan to use it. And after that you need to change your user id and/or password from time to time for security as well. Remember, your account is probably out there for potential hackers whether you access it or not.

Anonymous said...

As usual, this column is baloney. I have a debit card that I use purely for online stuff, only when I absolutely have to. That means a half-dozen times a year. It has a limited amount in it, no more than I figure I can comfortably stand to lose. In three years, my ID has been stolen twice (in its defense, Wachovia did a great, and quick job in detecting the fraud) and one of the online retailers, Bike Nashbar, which sells bicycle parts, notified me that its sales records, including my debit card info, had been stolen. If you believe this security propaganda, you deserve to be taken. Use cash. Safe. Secure. BTW, another myth - dealing online is "green" and saves paper. If you'd done your research, you'd find that, despite the advent of computers and online transactions, paper consumption has soared. The reason? Most people with common sense realize how fickle and precarious online dealings are, and print out everything they do on line. I'll wager the writer of this column printed out a backup copy.

Phillip said...

Your resident IT man, where'd he go to school? First, who cares if your Facebook gets hacked? All that's found on it is your name, birth date, etc. I certainly don't recall giving them my SSN to post on the website.

As an "IT man" this is just idiotic. Of course your banking accounts get hacked, sure, credit card numbers are stolen and posted on Russian websites, but most of these are from phishing websites that people put their information into. People are to blame, not the convenience of online banking.

If people would stop trusting and believing everything on the Internet that looks like it's from a reputable source, they might be okay.

As someone said earlier, your information is already in online databases at banks. So what difference does it make? You know those cards you get in the mail telling you your account may have been compromised? Yeah, doesn't matter if you use online banking or not.

Ever heard of TJ Maxx? Well they had an unsecure network that allowed war drivers to steal all of their credit card information when the transactions were taking place. Should we stop using credit cards too because there's a chance someone out there may "hack" it? Get real.

Anonymous said...

The internet is every bit as secure as the checkbook in your purse or the check in the mail.

Eric Frazier said...

Good comments, everyone. (Even you, "baloney" guy/gal). Seems a big part of staying protected is making your password(s) hard to crack. Anybody have a favored/favorite app or software for generating random, hard-to-crack passwords?

Anonymous said...

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