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Fig. 1: Phishing personal and private information from people is a huge business and it would seem that no one is immune from the temptation of making some fast money. It has to work – you get dozens of “offers” in your inbox daily. (Source: Gartner)

Fig. 2: The rapid proliferation of content on the Internet and the time-shifting of TV programs means a vast amount of entertainment content sits on your hard drive along with personal data that can be exposed to the world. (Source: Parks Associates)

Fig. 3: With rich content available from almost everywhere, people are increasingly grabbing their entertainment to store for later. Time-shifting a HighDef TV show can easily consume 20GB of storage capacity. (Source: Coughlin Associates)

Fig. 4: 100% data protection and security is virtually impossible. The important thing users have to do is put the best security process/procedure in place based on the criticality and sensitivity of the protected information. (Source: TheInfoPro)
"The ultimate computer, our own brain, uses only ten watts of power; one-tenth the energy consumed by a hundred-watt bulb." –- Paul Valery

The Electronic Freedom Foundation, governmental agencies and privacy groups around the globe are up in arms about the Meta data Google is grabbing from people’s searches. They’re “a little uptight” on how that personal information might be used.

Is it a potential problem? Sure.

Is it the problem? No.

The problem is you went digital. You opened yourself to every product, service, well-meaning/creative individual/organization and every whacko/evil-doer on the planet.

Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, Google, Apple and others need your information. The good guys want to sell you something. The others have bigger plans for your data.  Welcome to the wild ‘n wooly world of “1s” and “0s.” Microsoft for years has kept track of their property by inserting your tracking information.

Bill’s close personal friend at Apple broke down the entertainment barriers with no DRM (Digital Rights Management) iTunes.  Your embedded customer information comes free with every download purchases.

OK, so maybe Homeland Security did lose a hard drive with 100,000 plus employee records on it.   Maybe the FBI did lose 2,000+ notebooks with really cool information on them.  Maybe your bank or loan company lost “a few thousand files.”  They may have lost it … but it’s up to you to protect yourself from having a bad day.

Then there are the hackers, phishers of men, Trojan horse producers who have turned pro to help themselves to your information.  Of course thekidsatDoom9 and similar hangouts are good but they only do it for the challenge … for bragging rights.  Phishers and digital hijackers do it for profit.

Yeah.  You just won the Irish lottery. A thoughtful lawyer in London is going to help you get $1 million from some dude’s bank into your bank for a small fee. Some folks want to send you a free 50-in plasma screen.  The bank, eBay, your university and DailyTech just notified you that your account is being suspended unless you check your records.

P.T. Barnum was right…“There’s a sucker born every minute.”  And phishing is big business.

Sure you can delete but you’re still a long way from data safe.  Businesses lose data every day of the week.  So do individuals. Usually they never know it. Until it’s … too late!

Your Stuff
Look at your home system. You’ve got data, images, content (legal and grey) whipping around the house all the time. Putting a lead shield around the home network doesn’t do any good because you constantly reach out for … something.

While Tellywood swears we’re all reaching out for their valuable stuff, the fact is – at least in our household – it is stuff that is disarmingly free or something we already own. The kids load their drives with everything they can find.

They create a ton of their own. They load it on their MP3 players (audio, video) to take with them and to share. They throw it on their cell phones (which also hold a lot of personal data) and zap it to anyone who even looks like they are interested.  They love the control. It’s second nature. They not only want it … they expect it!

Who can blame them? But is their content protected? Kinda.

Digitally Comfortable
On a recent holiday, we sat in the airport with our son and he effortlessly got his system connected to the WiFi net.  Then he started searching. In 30 minutes he had tapped into the hard drives of three notebooks that were also online in the airport. The data? There for the taking.  And he wonders why we aren’t really excited about online banking!

Using our cell phone as a digital wallet is “logical”…to him!  All of that information is immediately available to be stolen the minute you let your guard down. Our digitally-active family is probably well on its way to surpassing most industry projections for home storage in 2010 by … oh, heck, late next year!

Since there’s no going back to music platters, VHS tapes or reams of paper, we’ve developed what we’d call a normal level of concern over our identity/data security.  We don’t buy online without thoroughly researching the outlet.

We make certain we don’t throw open the back door of our system and network to every person cruising the iNet looking for good stuff, good information they can “borrow.”

Next to healthy growth in storage; reasonable security products, applications will be more important than the next iTunes, YouTube or MySpace downloads.

There’s not much you can do about your personal information that already exists on the iNet. Finding and eliminating it isn’t a job,  it’s a career. But there’s no sense adding to the information outlay.

Paranoid Comfort
Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, was fond of saying, “Only the paranoid survive.” We have what we’d call a healthy paranoia regarding our data – personal and professional.

We’ve got:

  • A good firewall on our network and system
  • A couple of honest passwords … not “password,” 1-2-3-4-5, first name or last name, address, phone number or guessable items
  • Healthy protection software that checks for phishing, viruses, system/network attacks
  • A good dose of common sense on what emails we open, attachments we open and websites we visit
On our systems we use some business level security functions that security professionals have found to be good as long as the individual connected to the keyboard uses them.

The Answers Are Out There
Fortunately there is a huge crowd of experts out there ready and more than willing to tell you what you should do to protect your data and personal information.

Buy stuff online isn’t a real issue as long as they have a secure payment location. But people are more cautious. It is more secure than calling a service center (somewhere on the globe) and giving them the information.

Our techno-savvy son also helped us add protection:
  • He showed us you can lock the browser status bar and “https” in the address bar to ensure we’re got a secure connection
  • Firefox 2 – our browser of choice -- has built-in detection of fraudulent sites
  • Our security suite is set up to prevent private data from being sent by blocking transmission or replacing the data
  • We secure our systems when the actual owner (or parent) isn’t using it
Since common sense seems to lapse and disconnecting your computer from the world is out of the question, there is good identity and security software you can find to keep your private data private.

If you’re not anxious to rush onto the web unexposed to find products to help, there’s always:
  • Microsoft great security packages
  • Symantec
  • Homeland Security
  • Your government officials
You know … the Big Dogs! None of them will work 100%.

As Germaine Greer noted, “Security is when everything is settled. When nothing can happen to you.”

Sneaky and bad guys always stay ahead of the protection tools you buy. The best computer security solution still runs on one-tenth the energy of a light-bulb.

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RE: I'm curious
By GeorgeOrwell on 6/23/2007 3:18:15 AM , Rating: 2
A secure installation will start with an outer firewall (facing outwards) and an inner firewall (facing inwards).

Sometimes there will be a special firewall for each computer that is higher risk that isolates the computer from being able to utilize the network except using particular protocols to specific addresses.

Of course, get rid of Windows/Mac and your risk profile goes way down. It is not saying the number of security issues is far lower, but you are no longer running an "easy pickings" profile with thousands of backdoors.

Also if you are using Windows/Mac that by US Federal mandate, Symantec and other big brands of Anti-Virus have built-in keyloggers. These keyloggers can be used by anyone who knows the activation packet sequence.

The common sense rule is to reduce the amount of so-called "security software" on the system to the absolute minimum. In the open source world, this is a far easier task. In the closed source world of Windows/Mac, essentially there is no way to make a machine secure.

Last of all, remember "security", including "anti-virus" is a VERY BIG BUSINESS. If you follow the money, you will understand the entire picture.

RE: I'm curious
By darkpaw on 6/23/2007 11:00:28 AM , Rating: 1
Did your distro come with a tin foil hat or did you make your own?

RE: I'm curious
By GeorgeOrwell on 6/23/2007 2:30:09 PM , Rating: 3
Before you dismiss what I have to say, why don't you spend 15 minutes with Google (via a proxy for the obvious reasons)? You will see all I am offering is facts and well-established best practices for firewall usage.

It wasn't too long ago that a German intelligence agency dropped Microsoft Windows. They found evidence of backdoors and chatter. This was the first big intelligence agency to drop Windows and so far, most others are following suit.

In the US, the NSA even published their own security enhancements/changes for Linux. If anyone is in a position to know that Windows is incapable of being made secure, it is the NSA.

You may not want to hear that Windows/Mac are easily exploited tools that contain many backdoors (and packet level phone homes that sit right above the theoretical noise limit of your connection).

Perhaps these ideas create a bit of dissonance with your world view. Nonetheless, you will come back to my words years from now, wishing you had listened.

The simple fact of the matter:

If you work with information, and wish to be a survivor, moving away from Windows/Mac is a very good thing to do.

RE: I'm curious
By CollegeTechGuy on 6/24/2007 12:20:10 PM , Rating: 2
Every operating system is suseptable to attacks just as much as any other, including Linux. The only difference is Windows and OSX are the 2 biggest OS's out there. So why would a hacker waist his time trying to figure out how to hack Linux backdoors when everyone is running Windows and OSX. Its the same idea why the best Anti-Virus programs are not the mainstream programs. Hackers write viruses to fool and actually turn off Norton and McAfee because those are the 2 biggest. You use a less common anti-virus your less likely to get infected. But its still possible, just like its still possible to hack Linux. It just doesn't happen as often because the only people who use Linux are people who are more computer literate like programmers and such...people who have the knowledge to write a virus or hack computers.

So don't go badmouthing Windows and OSX, because Linux is just as suseptable.

RE: I'm curious
By GeorgeOrwell on 6/25/2007 2:00:20 AM , Rating: 2
What you had to say supports my point:

If you run Windows/Mac, you have a higher risk profile.

There are simply orders of magnitude more machines out there, all more susceptible to common attacks vs. UNIX/Linux systems.

I'm being careful not to say "UNIX/Linux is unhackable", but strongly get across the factual statement that Linux/UNIX DOES have a lower risk profile. There are tons of already written hacks/worms/trojans/scripts/etc/etc/etc/etc/etc out there for Windows and Mac (Windows in particular). Add to this that the average Windows/Mac user doesn't even know how to tell if his or her machine is infected and, of course, these systems are the targets of choice.

No one in the know uses Windows/Mac if their information is important. You'd be safer posting it on a public forum. At least then you'd be more assured of your copyright.

At the end of the day, an individual cannot compete with the big business of "protection". All you can do is opt out. And that means open source Linux/UNIX.

Or, if you wish, you can choose to live in the dream world of "secure Windows" or "secure Mac".

In this dream world, you can pay your "protection", but as you stated, there are problems with it. Which, if you "follow the money", makes sense.

Because tomorrow is another day, with another threat, and with another payment on your protection.

Ultimately, those with courage do one thing. Those without, pay until they die.

RE: I'm curious
By porkpie on 6/25/2007 8:48:20 AM , Rating: 2
> What you had to say supports my point

Um, no he didn't support it at all. He said there are more viruses for Windows because its a larger target. NOT because it has "thousands of backdoors" built in.

Anti-virus programs don't contain built-in keyloggers. The German government switched off Microsoft because of anti-MS sentiment in the country, not because they "found evidence" of backdoors. And you don't need to use a proxy to prevent the CIA from killing you just for googling on any of these issues.

You're wrong on all these points sadly. Take off the tinfoil hat.

> I'm being careful not to say "UNIX/Linux is unhackable

That's good. Because on 4 of the past 9 years, Linux logged more CERT security bulletins than did Windows, despite it being a target 50 times smaller.

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

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