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What has the internet really given us?

25/04/2017
What has the internet really given us?

The internet has changed our lifestyles - at a glance, it has definitely improved our lives and brought us many benefits. The internet is a medium that lets us do anything from shopping, seeing parts of the world we have never seen, socializing, learning new things - the list goes on and on. Nevertheless, as Newton’s Law of motion states that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”, the progress that the internet has given us is not without repercussion.

Perhaps not quite an ‘equal and opposite reaction’ but the internet has also brought with it its own kind of downfalls - especially when it comes to Privacy and Security, not to mention the impact on social human interaction where patterns are emerging to suggest people are starting to prefer communicating via mobile rather than talking to each other in person.

Technology is changing so fast that no one is able to keep up with it and even the developers themselves struggle to develop anything that is 100% secure. Once you are connected to the internet, any flaws in a product (software or device) can be used against you. The security side of being connected to the internet might not be taken seriously enough yet. This lack of awareness might stem from poor IT literacy, especially in older generations who were not brought up in a technological world and yet could also include younger generations who are brought up in this evolving world where such concepts should be more natural

Privacy! Just how relevant is this word on the internet? Recently, we heard the news about CIA leaks in a document called “Vault 7” - though nothing new, it is apparent confirmation of how powerful the CIA is. These leaks listed the vast range of tools that the CIA have at their disposal to eavesdrop on nearly everyone and everything. Even with the growing trends of “End to end” secure communication that are provided by apps such as What’s App, leaks have confirmed that you are only as strong as your weakest link and if your device is insecure then your data can still be accessed once your device is breached.

Such leaks show how insecure the internet is and the problem is that it’s not only the CIA that is out there spying on people - anyone can do the same thing with even fewer technology tools in their arsenal. As mentioned earlier, there is nearly nothing that is 100% secure and so anything connected to the internet should be considered at risk. When you consider that even your TV can be accessed by hackers and that all your conversations are no longer private, it goes to show how delicate the situation can be.

Privacy is not only breached because of our insecure devices but, since we trust our data with 3rd parties such as social media, we are essentially letting them have control of it. Problems might not only arise if their own system are breached but also if they tend to use data/info stored it to make more money, for example by selling it. Remember that anything placed on the internet is there forever as it is very difficult to completely erase it.

Without wanting to sound too melodramatic, the reality of the current situation of the much loved internet is that it puts us all at risk. No matter how secure anything is advertised to be, one should always suspect there is a weak point whereby those with malicious intent and accompanied by the required skills might somehow manage to sneak through; many times it is our own actions in how we use the internet, so freely giving away our personal information or leaving devices connected, who accidentally initiate this intrusion. We must never take anything for granted when using the internet - hackers might have no intention of targeting you but that should not mean you let your guard down.

A recommended approach is to always be mindful of how and when we are connected on the internet, what we are saying and if we are using the most recent software version that has the latest security updates. This doesn’t only go for our mobile devices but all networks at home and at work – everything is connected.

Of course a good old fashioned face to face conversation and experiencing the value of real life communications rather than virtual ones is probably much safer and just as rewarding!

 

Ryan Mintoff works at Deloitte Malta in Information Technology and Security. For more information, please visit http://www.deloitte.com/mt