How security is becoming a greater concern when using the internet
Imagine a world where everything is connected, interlinked between your mobile device, your laptop and your desk at work. Imagine being able to switch on an appliance from your bedside or change the heating in your home while heading back from work. Well, it seems those futuristic days are already here, with everything from our fridge, washing machine and toothbrushes, to our home heating and even our cars internet-connected for our convenience, but at what cost? While some serious thought has clearly gone into providing these solutions to make our home life easier and more productive, there has been a severe lack of security thinking injected into many of these ideas.
Take into account the recent hack on a moving vehicle, which gave the attacker the ability, remotely, to apply the brakes, cut the transmission, apply the windshield wipers or change the radio station; you would have thought the attack in Austin, Texas back in 2010 where an online immobilization service was hacked would have been a wakeup call, but lessons appear to have not been learnt.
Our world is intrinsically linked across the internet, with all our personal data being held somewhere, by someone for various purposes. This of course includes social media, where we have uploaded our entire lives for the world to share, from our favourite restaurant for pictures of our children, GPS locations of our homes and everything in between. The government has passed various laws to try and protect the end user, and the discussion around encryption has become a hot topic, while the larger corporations are also taking security measures into account. Google and Cisco are just two looking at improved security protocols between connected devices, and those making home devices, all parts of the Internet Of Things, are looking at more securely coded embedded software. Too many high profile press reports of baby monitors being compromised or TVs being controlled remotely are surfacing for manufactures to ignore this issue.
The lack of security surrounding this technology is very real and shows it can be disrupting to our daily lives. We are seeing an increasing number of activists using this information in an almost vigilante style vendetta to make a statement or cause damage to a group or individual. Anonymous are probably one of the most well-known of the groups that have been given this title, with a number of high profile hacks in recent months and threats against groups that do not conform to their viewpoints.
Take the #hoodsoff hashtag for example, with Anonymous threatening to out a number of Klu Klux Klan members, including those whose high profile roles could lead to embarrassment at best, and could at worst have serious repercussions on the American political climate. Information from social media websites such as Facebook and gaining access into Klu Klux Klan websites has supposedly garnered a huge amount of inside information that Anonymous are looking to release.
But it’s not just at home where these activists are aiming their weapons, with ISIS is another target as the awful terror attacks keep the newsreels in print. Thousands of ISIS Twitter accounts have been hijacked and used to spread the Anonymous message, with their websites either been hit with a denial of service attack or having their messages replaced with anti-ISIS slogans. There will always be a divide between those that see these acts as morally wrong and those who see it as perfect justice, doing something the government won’t.
From a more personal point of view, you have many tools at your disposal to keep yourself safer online, despite having an awareness of possible threats can arguably be one of the most important. Make sure your passwords are secure for all the different websites you log into, possibly using a password manager utility such as LastPass to manage it for you, or at the very least make sure that your passwords are harder to guess and never shared. Personal firewalls such as the free Sophos UTM can add a much needed layer of protection to your home network.
The internet revolutionized our lives, but as it does, so the political and moral landscape shifts with it. The rules have changed, the protagonists have different tools and all our information is trusted into the hands of others. The threat of losing your personal information and being at the mercy of identity theft is real, with data now being one of the most important commodities available.