Tuesday, May 29, 2018

It's so hard to keep your privacy these days

by Rick Blechta

Aline's post of yesterday was very timely for me (Thanks, Aline!) as I'm currently struggling with the same sort of thing, although with me, it's not current language usage/vocab but technical terms and new technology.

My current work-in-progress has posed some significant issues, the largest of which is that a major part of the plot revolves around hacking and illegal computer technology.

I have very little experience in this arena and have not been able to obtain the help of a competent hacker or illegal surveillance expert. That's been a real problem. Sure, I could always take the chance and make things up (as long as their logic is sound) and hope that my novel won't scream out, “The idiot who wrote this has no idea what he's doing!” That’s a risk I’m unwilling to take.

So for research I’ve been trolling some rather grey areas on the Internet. That’s sort of a dangerous thing to do in this day and age. I'm sure I’m now on a few watchlists with organizations like CSIS and the Department of Homeland Security.

What have I learned?

Here's one that’s pretty frightening: it’s basically child’s play to hack into someone’s smart phone. You don’t even have to be anywhere near it to accomplish this task. All you need is an app that costs under $100 and the person's phone number. Once done, you can see everything that goes on and I mean everything — unless they’re encrypting all their messages — and how many people do that. We all play computer Russian roulette far too much.

Another: Never, ever login to a free WiFi site. Again a relatively cheap device is available that will fool your computer or smartphone or tablet into thinking that it’s connected to the WiFi router when it’s actually connected to a hacker's computer. It could be the guy sitting next to you in the coffee shop. Thing is, you’d never know this is going on. I was in a fast food restaurant with free WiFi and the person sitting next to me was doing some online banking. Whoops! If there’s an unscrupulous so-and-so lurking nearby with the right equipment, the hapless soul would likely be giving up all the access codes to their bank accounts.

Sobering, right?

I've learned a whole lot more that makes me aware that a determined hacker can get almost anything out of you — and you'd never know until your life goes sideways.

Six months ago, I had someone armed with only my name and a tiny bit of easily accessible info try to get a credit card in my name. Only because we were involved with helping our son get a mortgage did we find out. It was easily remedied but we were only saved by happenstance. I've taken steps to protect myself from this sort of thing in the future but it's costing me ten bucks a month — and that's well worth it as far as I'm concerned.

It’s a dangerous world out there, boys and girls. Take some time to educate yourself.

And if you learn anything interesting about computer surveillance techniques, please let me know! I’ll give you a credit in my novel once it’s published.


Sybil Johnson said...

Interesting post. It is a scary world indeed.

Rick Blechta said...

There is no way to protect yourself completely, but in the case of banking and credit cards, one just can't be too careful. We still have a land line and we're in NO hurry to dump it for our smart phones!

Unknown said...

Same here. I have a land line, my cell phone (not even smart but rather basically stupid) is only for road emergencies, and I do not have a router. Not a bulletproof system, but better than a system that picks up wandering signals from everywhere and emits them to the whole wide world. With each passing day I am more content to be a technopeasant. (Rick, I'll never qualify for a credit in your book, but I won't whine.)

Rick Blechta said...

My smart phone is used as a phone when I'm out of the house. The only business transaction I've done on it is Uber and I guess I'll just have to take my chances there. But I did make sure that payment information with Uber is not transmitted by basically says "Use the card number on file for this account."

If the hackers do want to find out stuff about you, they can find it. All you can do is slow them down. If it looks as if it's going to take too long to get to what they want, they'll just move on to the next mark to try their luck. But if they decide they want you, they'll get to where they want eventually.

Thanks for your comment!