Nowadays, most of us lead two types of lives – physical and virtual.
By Iffy Kukkoo
18 May, 2017
Nowadays, most of us lead two types of lives – physical and virtual. And when the internet turned out to be a big thing, it became almost a truism that everything we do and say in the real world, must be replicated in the virtual world as well. But, as we go into the future, the lines between these two worlds are blurring, so much, in fact, that even we ourselves don’t know where our physical live ends and our digital existence begins.
If we are in a relationship, we shout it out loud on Facebook. If we get a promotion, we update our LinkedIn account. If we search something – anything! – it is stored by Google. Even our money is now much more digital than tangible, but this means that it is handled by someone other than us (banks, credit cards, insurance companies). Essentially, there is a digital copy of us on the internet. And we have to accept the gravity of the implications. What this means and what we can do about it.
Because, let’s face it, too much valuable data – financial info, telephones and addresses, messages, histories of purchases, loves and breakups – is on the internet and if dystopic SF-movies have taught us one thing, it’s probably that centralizations of the sort don’t bode that well for the future of humanity.
But, what can you do?
We all readily give – in fact, have to give (read here if that’s about to change) – most of our personal data to trustworthy companies (or so they seem). For example, Google knows what we’re searching for, Facebook knows everything about our personal life and our banks know how much money we have. This is not necessarily a bad thing. These companies provide great services in exchange for our data. But they also sell it to advertisers who, in turn, try to sell us their products.
Wait a minute! They try to sell my data! I never agreed to that!
Well, not exactly: remember that time you didn’t really care to read those terms and agreements? It’s in there. They can do that. And you can’t use their services unless you agree they can do that.
And that’s where the problems come: irrespective of whether legally or unlawfully, people and organizations other than the ones we allow – may get their hands on our data. Without our permission. This means that they may also share it with all kinds of bad people who will try to misuse it and essentially ruin our lives. Both of them. This last type of people is a dangerous type of professionals. Some of them who have caused damages worth billions of dollars and managed to hack high-profile companies and organizations such as NASA, Pentagon, Google, Sony and LinkedIn.
But, it seems that the term hacking has been quite misunderstood by the layman, so before I go any further, let me begin by defining the two basic kinds of hackers you can come across on the internet:
White Hat Hackers: These are the good guys, the true hackers. The white hat hackers are constructive, finding security flaws within a system and exploiting them in such a way that organizations are made aware of them and can take steps to fix them. Many companies – such as banks, for example – employ white hat hackers.
Black Hat Hackers: These guys are all about the money, the fame or, simply, the mischievousness of it. They lack ethics and will dive into your private life shamelessly, scouring anything from bank information to photos of your children. Black hat hackers find and malevolently exploit security flaws, breaking into any system without a shred of fear of consequences. There are better known as “crackers”.
So, you see, contrary to popular belief, hackers are not the problem; crackers are. They are what both companies and individuals fight against. Because, whether you are a John Doe or a Google executive, personal security is no small matter, and, black hat hackers know this better than you.
First of all, let’s see what companies do to protect the data we have entrusted them with.