Thursday, April 28, 2016

Privacy And Communication

Privacy is something that I value highly. I recently changed my Facebook profile picture and got rid of the picture of me. I got grief from my family. They called me paranoid and many other hurtful, meany names. They almost hurt my feelings… I just informed them, in my condescending way, that I am careful. They are probably right, the government has my fingerprints and background checks for at least the last 25 years. But at least they know I’m safe. Anyway, I still like to be careful. I’ve told this story before but I think it bears repeating.
We have some good friends in a city about 3 hours away. We have their daughter on Facebook but they are not into that. We’ll call this daughter Michelle*. When school started this year Michelle’s young son was going to his first day of Pre-K and so she took a picture of her little guy. He had a sign around his neck saying “First day of Pre-K” with his first name. Because it was on Michelle’s page we had his last name too. She posted it on Facebook. I commented to my wife that there was a lot of information in the picture. Not only did we have a pretty good idea of the boy’s age, we had his first name, and right next to him on his porch, where the picture was taken, was his address number. There was nothing else. After texting her daughter, our friend texted us back saying Michelle wasn’t “too worried” about the picture. I sensed the same attitude my family had for me when I changed my profile picture. So I asked my 20 year old daughter to get on her Facebook page and find out all she could about Michelle’s boy.
My daughter is not “friends” on Facebook with Michelle so she could only see what anyone else could see on Michelle’s Facebook page. From the information on this page, and a little Google work, my daughter was able to figure out Michelle’s full name and address. Michelle’s husband’s name and where he worked. She figured out what Pre-K he went to, what his teacher’s name was, and the schedule of the school. She figured this out in a matter of 20 minutes with Google and Facebook. If she was a pervert, she could have devised a plan to try and kidnap that boy with all that personal information. “Hi. I’m here to pick up Jimmy*. Michelle told me her husband Jack* had to work late so she asked if I’d pick him up. Is he still in Mrs. Brown’s* class?” That’s a lot of personal info.
The FBI may have a harder time than my daughter did dealing with messages on phones or other devices. End-to-end encryption has pretty much done away with any monitoring. The aps Telegram or Whatsapp have ensured that no one can read their encryption if monitored. That may give you, or the bad guys, a little freedom but don’t get too cozy. Once your messages are on your device, they are pretty much there forever. So if what you are doing is illegal or tied to crime, a warrant to search your device will change that feeling of security. Since the FBI opened the San Bernadino bombers I-phone that security may be compromised. If you want to remain hidden in your communication, better devise code with a code key, otherwise you may be monitored. I realize the importance of law enforcement gathering their evidence and I am glad the FBI took care of their own work instead of compelling a non-government company to do it for them. Things are changing in the industry of technology constantly. Security of websites, communication, and other digital media will change rapidly. Do not think that you are completely safe in the cyber world. Always do things with caution. I’m talking about lawful activity here, things you’d prefer to be private. Be careful how much you reveal about what you do, and how you do it (opsec). I’m not really that worried about my government, although you don’t want to be involved with anything illegal. What I do not want well known is what I prepare, how I prepare, and where I prepare. I am not a threat to anyone so I consider my preparation information private. I also want to guard against crime.
I like encryption though I’m sure law enforcement would like to be able to crack it easier. But you know something? 20 years ago these devices were not so prevalent. How did criminals and law enforcement do what they do? I guess it was different and criminals are using this technology. As I’ve said before though:
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
Benjamin Franklin
Here is the article I took some of this article from on C/NET News
I have read briefings of incidents concerning military facilities like bases and recruiting stations, being targeted by suspicious activity. Some of it may be innocent, but I doubt all of it is. It is imperative to be vigilant where ever you shop, go to school, or work. Be extra careful around places with large crowds. I’m not saying never go to a ball game again, I’m saying you should be alert and vigilant.
Being safe online is much more important than you think. It can go from cyber world to real world very fast. I realize there aren’t as many stalkers of random people out there as “Criminal Minds” and “CSI” seems to deal with, but being careful will ensure you are never a victim. Besides, social media is not very real. It’s a good way to communicate and share pictures but how you feel on Facebook is probably not what you really feel. The real risk is in identity theft and other fraud. This is very common these days and it can cause anything from annoyance to monetary loss. These days will not be safer and more secure unless you make then that way.
*Not real names.
Semper Paratus
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