It seems that Internet security is a trending topic at the moment. It certainly keeps coming up in my life. This week I found out something that is really shocking and that is why I am sharing it with you via this blog.
We have all known for a long time the way ‘Big Brother’ is watching all the time. It is purely a sign of the times, as we say, the connection across the globe. Less than twenty years ago (yes, really), the World Wide Web was just taking a hold of our lives.
Now we all are connected with our smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers and it is really a huge part of our daily lives. We just love to share and everyone does it.
My son recently said to me, they (Big Brother) could see everything you do via the camera in your equipment. I sort of shrugged it off as an almost ridiculous idea. But believe me it is NOT!
Read on please …..
Yesterday I watched a programme about 5 Danish students who were asked officially to design a special app. The app when downloaded would give them access to literally everything in say, someone’s smartphone. Sounds impossible, absolutely not. I will explain.
When we download apps and I was really surprised how many, people actually have, we agree to the so-called Terms and Conditions. Do any of us really bother to read, no, we just click on ‘agree’. Hidden in masses of words are our agreement that the app accesses our microphone and camera. Really!
One of the biggest users of our data is Facebook and Google. Don’t believe me? Well, think about this. If you just happen to like something on Facebook about say a place like Bali, have you then noticed that suddenly you seem to get a lot of information about Bali. This is wonderful if you are actually planning to go, but for the majority of people around the world, this is not the case. Google look, with their gi-normous search engines and computer capacity, and by agreeing to their terms and conditions, they may use your data. By this I mean your photos, your chats, literally everything.
So going back to the Danish students. They developed and did a trial on the app, amongst themselves. They were surprised how much they could actually follow including a conversation on say an app like Whatsapp video. This is alarming. Would you want someone you did not know to be able to listen in to your private discussions, access your messages (through social media) or access all your data. What about the fact that virtually all of us have the mobile app on our phones for Internet banking (Tikkie too)?
They then did a survey by offering the app for free (which was called Flashlight) to people on the street. Remember this was a survey, so they did tell all the people at the end why. Literally everyone handed over their phone to install the app. Amazing. Would you? Your answer is more than likely yes.
They did the same with Danish government officials too. Everyone downloaded and accepted the app.
This app was specially designed for one purpose, so show people how vulnerable they are. The results were mind blowing as you can imagine, everyone was flabbergasted how easy it was and how unprotected they were.
Now having read this, take some time today to look at the apps on your phone, tablets etc etc. Via Settings, look how many of your apps have access to your camera and your microphone. Virtually all of them. Switch it off right now!!
If you regularly use say Whatsapp for video chatting to friends, this is probably the only one you should leave open, because Whatsapp is actually encrypted from person to person. All the same, remember you are leaving a small space open for access.
I did exactly the same when the programme ended. I was shattered how many of my apps gave access to my microphone, camera and worst of all, my location. Normally I never have my location switched on, because if this is on, you can be followed all over the place. All over the place! Every single second, every single minute, every single hour, every single day!
Now I probably know that the younger readers amongst us maybe will not care. They are sharing so much through apps likes Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp to name but a few, but isn’t is maybe our responsibility as parents to inform them?
When downloading an app, do you literally take the time to wade through all the Terms and Conditions? I almost guarantee you do not.
Although sharing is fine and we all love to be connected, maybe it is a moment to take a small step back and really think about what you are sharing. If for instance you google something like ‘removal firms’ because you are moving in say a month or two, take note that you will suddenly begin to receive all sorts of information related to this subject. From storage to removal. It is true isn’t it?
I honestly think a programme like this should be shown worldwide and definitely to kids in schools. They are so vulnerable and in their innocence they share EVERYTHING. How many stories have we all read now about risqué photos being shared with boyfriends or girlfriends that have ended up being shared with the entire school and then not to mention the shame. This can be a serious problem for young teenagers, even leading to suicide. We should not take this lightly!
The Danish government officials were absolutely shocked about how easy it was and knowing the Danes, I am sure they will do something on a more national scale. Probably a lot of people watched the programme, I am so glad it was shown here in The Netherlands too.
So take time, switch off microphone and camera access in apps where this in inapplicable. If you use Google Hangouts for example which is another really popular medium to chat, then perhaps you should shut off (camera, microphone and don’t forget location) when the chat is over. Yes, it is boring to have to do this each and every time, but if your chat is personal and you do not want to share, maybe this is the answer, only access your camera and microphone for the chat and then switch off.
I don’t have the answers, I really don’t but I think it is time for a wake up call for all of us. Share, yes please do, but be selective and you may have a phone, tablet full of apps. Do you actually use them? Do you still want to keep them? If not delete.
One of my closest friends always says this: control, alt, delete. It is a good motto.
Just one final thought, remember Google, Facebook, Instagram, all have one thing in mind and that is making profit. They do that by selling our data to people for advertising. Simple fact. You would be surprised to know the enormity of their profits.
This topic keeps cropping up in my life; make sure if you read this, you pay attention. My idea is that everything crosses our paths for a reason.
Please share this blog around your own social circles. You, like me, will be surprised how open and vulnerable we make ourselves.
Remember the old saying: Pre-warned is pre-armed.
Don’t allow yourself to become a victim. Don’t succumb by just being lazy.
Just one final thing: George Orwell wrote about ‘big brother watching you’ in his book in 1984! Yes 1984, long before some of us had even heard the words: World Wide Web!!
Image: Google Images