Cybersecurity — not so secure

Emily Moore /THE REVIEW
Cybersecurity concerns has motivated university students to change passwords, put tape over their laptop cameras and totally change their online behavior.

BY Staff Reporter

Cybersecurity is the one thing protecting a person’s private information online. However, this security is not as secure as one might think: personal information like names, ages, home addresses, phone numbers and buying patterns are all vulnerable to third-party access.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, spoke to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in April 2018 to discuss how information is properly secured at his company, the largest social media website in the world, and how profit-driven third-party companies get access to this information.

The hearing was prompted by a scandal involving a British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, which had been harvesting the data of up to 87 million Facebook users earlier last year, according to a report by The New York Times.

Data harvesting and information leaks are not new. Yahoo fell victim to a data breach in August 2013 that compromised the information of an estimated 3 billion users across all of Yahoo’s owned platforms. Yahoo’s counterpart, Google exposed the account information of up to 500,000 users of their social network, Google Plus, in October 2018, according to CNBC.

While most of these information breaches don’t include banking or credit-card information, people still worry about their private information being made public. This concern has motivated university students to change passwords, put tape over their laptop cameras and completely change their online behavior.

Cohner Todd, a senior computer engineering major at the university, with a minor in cybersecurity, works at the university’s TechDeck.

“Entire anonymity is almost unrealistic on internet space,” Todd said. “To reach it would require you to go through a lot of hoops just to begin talking about it, from masking your IP to masking your Google searches on multiple accounts.”

Todd said that companies are only able to harvest huge clusters of information and sell them because users willingly provide it to them when signing up for websites.

In an age where the internet is essential for effective networking, and connecting to people around the world, it is near impossible to quit completely.

Websites that require basic personal information just to make an account leave people with little choice. Some apps push the boundaries of privacy even further, like Snapchat’s Snap Map feature, which shows the most recent location in which users opened the app.

Lee Ennis, a senior economics major at the university, does not see the significance of the online-privacy threat. He sees no real harm in people finding out his name and address through social media because most basic information is available through public records anyway.

“Some people think putting tape over their laptop cameras will stop the FBI from watching them.” Ennis said. “The only thing the FBI would catch me doing is my homework, so I don’t bother doing any of that stuff.”

Ten years ago, many parents did not want their kids sharing their names anywhere online. Today, people are practically willing to share everything except their social-security and bank-routing
numbers on social networks.

T. Gregory Lynch, an associate professor in the computer and information sciences department at the university, likens the risks involved with sharing information online to driving a car or riding a rollercoaster.

“You have to assume the risks that come with using the internet, much like you assume the risks when doing anything else in life,” Lynch said. “Make informed decisions about what information you share and with whom you share it.”

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