Would you feel violated if you found out that someone else had access to everything you do online?
Well! Let’s just say that if your activities were of interest to your spouse, employer, or the Government, you are on thin ice. In the light of some of the recent scandals surrounding National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance and privacy violations, I felt that a follow up to my post titled “Five facts about privacy that may catch you unaware” is warranted. While not all of us fall within NSA’s radar, I believe that the privacy violations, brought about by developments in technology, can be classified as simple, complex or scary!
The simple: If you are familiar with IT security, this may ring a bell. Implementing software that monitor and prevent access to web sites deemed inappropriate is not unusual for businesses. Despite corporate policies, news of employees surfing adult sites during working hours occasionally catches the media’s attention. What may not be that obvious to the average Internet user is the ease by which web activity can be monitored and recorded key stroke by key stroke. Applications like WebWatcher and REFOG Keylogger ensure that the program runs in stealth mode on your PC, tablet or smartphone, transmitting data about every website visited, and email sent in real-time or as recorded data. REFOG’s website boasts that you can “safeguard kids, catch cheating spouses and improve employee performance” using their products. If you think that clearing your browsing history and cache would ensure your privacy, think again!
The Complex: If you haven’t heard of the National Security Agency’s ANT Division, it’s worth a quick look up. As per an article published in the online arm of the respected German weekly Der Spiegel, ANT, which stands for Advanced Network Technology, has developed a catalogue of “products” that include rigged cables, USB plugs, Cellular base stations, and software malware that functions as the real stuff while also gathering data for the NSA. The catalogue also identifies vulnerabilities of all major IT and Security manufacturers’ devices like routers firewalls, smartphones, and includes detailed step-by-step on how to break into them. Said in other words, if NSA is interested in you it has the means to break into your secure devices. Not a comforting thought!
The scary: If you believe that search engines are to search for things on the web, you would be correct. Unless you are using SHODAN! SHODAN is a search engine dedicated to searching and identifying network devices that are publicly accessible through the internet. It does not sound so scary until you realize that such devices include systems that control security cameras, traffic lights, and nuclear reactors. The idea is that while Google searches for websites, SHODAN searches for devices that are connected to the internet. SHODAN helps identify and protect vulnerable devices that have no place being connected to the internet – e.g. a nuclear power plant. SHODAN’s user policies and membership requirements try to minimize the risk that can be caused by the bad guys who leverage the power of this search engine. However, it is safe to assume that if you have a device connected to the internet, SHODAN can find it!
[Tweet “So, is privacy more a notion than real?”] Do you get the sense that resistance is futile?