‘One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!‘ – Winston Churchill
It’s with the words of Winston Churchill in mind that we need to confront an issue that will exist as long as we continue to drive forward as a connected, technologically advanced world. The issue we face lurks in the shadows and underground movements of the technological world we live in.
It’s the dark side of technology…
There is ‘world ending’ potential that innately comes with great tech breakthroughs and innovation. It’s those that twist technology with the potential for good to be an instrument of evil and to take part in illegal, criminal activity that we must be aware of.
It’s the epitome of good vs. evil, Skywalker vs. Vader.
You only need to watch the daily news or head down to the local cinema to see how the world will end up when technology takes over. Rise of the Machines, Big Brother, HAL9000, The Matrix…all (fictional) examples of technology spreading evil and atrocity.
Typically we paint a rosy picture of the future. We think technology will bring revolutionary change to the world. The benefits of technology will far outweigh the perils and dangers that are so often the focus of people’s mindset.
However, it would be remiss of us not to delve into some of the potential dangers of technology. And thus in understanding the good that comes from tech, it’s important to understand the darkness that also comes with breakthroughs and innovation.
To paraphrase Churchill, don’t run from it, confront these issues and you might have a part in making sure the future of our world sides with the good technology can bring, not the dark side.
The Dark Web, Your Online Shadow
One fact of life you need to get your head around is if you have a computer is this: according to the annual Norton Cyber Crime Report (NCCR) there’s a 66% chance you have already experienced cybercrime. That figure will grow over time. It’s rational to say if you use a computer you will experience cybercrime at some stage in your life.
That’s serious. You will experience cybercrime. Maybe they should change the famous saying to, ‘There are only three certainties in life, death, taxes and being hacked.’
The NCCR also estimates in 2011 cybercrime fleeced the world of over $110 billion. Let’s break that down a bit further.
Every second of the day 18 people fall victim to cybercrime, that’s 556 million people per year. If it takes you 10 minutes to read this essay, 10,800 people will have been victimised by some form of cybercrime.
And cybercrime comes in some innocuous forms. Most cybercrime operates silently, through malware, viruses and trojans. (These are all types of little bugs that silently sit in your computer and provide information to their creators, hackers.)
You might see it as an email from ‘Canadian Pharmacy‘ or possibly an email from a lawyer in Nigeria claiming you’re entitled to a multi-million dollar estate. At the other end of the spectrum, you might be a direct target. Your bank account defrauded, your identity stolen or your website hacked.
Scammers send over 75 million scam emails every day. And every day about 2,000 people fall into the trap.
But when it comes to your online security there’s actually a pretty easy solution to it all. Have strong passwords and some level of online security.
It’s that simple. Have a difficult password with both upper case and lower case letters and numbers. Do that and you greatly decrease your risk of becoming another cyber victim.
It will take a hacker over 438 times longer to crack a six digit password with upper case and lower case letters and numbers, than a password with just lowercase letters.
However as strong as your security might be, there’s a situation where no matter what you do, no matter how much security you have, if hackers want your information bad enough, they’ll get it.
And we’re not talking about some well-paid teenager in a warehouse full of computers in the backstreets of Moscow. (Most people think the US and China have the most active hackers. Russia actually has more hacks originate from it than any other country in the world.)
We’re talking about hackers that sit inside the walls of the civil service. We’re talking about government employed hackers, spooks, and spies. If they want information they’ll comfortably find a way to get it.
You might have heard of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and their PRISM program. Effectively PRISM is a monitoring project with the NSA taking information about everyone from the data servers of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and other major tech companies.
If it wasn’t for the now infamous whistle blower Ed Snowden we’d all still be none the wiser. And the NSA would continue on their merry way watching everything we do online. Note: There’s a pretty good chance they’re still doing it anyway.
But it’s not just American government agencies that are proficient in monitoring their citizens. Have you ever received a letter or email from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) saying you haven’t declared interest from one of your online savings accounts? We have, and so has Kris. It concerns us how the ATO knows we had $2.63 in interest in the 2011-12 financial year.
It’s the same deal when e-Tax asks if you want to pre-fill your tax return. Pre-fill? With what information? Oh, just our income, interest, purchases and sale of stocks, Medicare info, etc. The list of information the Australian government has about us is profound. And disturbing. If you think your information is private, you’re wrong.
With that in mind, when the government asks you to voluntarily part with your information for research or for maintenance, tell them to bugger off.
How to Treat Your Mobile and Tablet
One more point on online security and privacy. You need to treat your mobile phone and tablet as a portable computer. Meaning you need the same security measures to protect yourself on the go.
If you ever connect to a public Wi-Fi network make sure you’ve got high level security. When you use public Wi-Fi, you may as well be a Millwall fan walking into a West Ham pub…you will be attacked.
So be smart, have different passwords, make them difficult, and don’t open any emails from Nigerian Lawyers. Also be discreet with how much of your own information you hand over to government departments. It will go a long way to protecting you online.
But the dark side of technology isn’t just about cybercrime and the pitfalls and perils of living in an interconnected world.
And tomorrow we’ll highlight two more terrifying aspects of the Dark Side of Technology that you need to be concerned with. One word of caution until tomorrow’s part two; don’t think about anything illegal, or you might find you’re incarcerated before tomorrow. And just keep an eye on your neighbours…
Technology Analyst, Revolutionary Tech Investor
From the Archives…
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