Every move you make, 'they' are watching you

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
February 3, 2018 - 5:00am Updated: February 3, 2018 - 6:39am

‘If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.’

— George Orwell, 1984


If you’d been at the privacy and security conference at TRU this week you wouldn’t be reading this.

You would be:

1. Frantically changing the passwords to every device, app and website you own.

2. Searching through your recycling bin for old Hydro bills, envelopes, car-insurance reminders, pre-approved credit card offers and mortgage statements, and shredding anything that even remotely says anything about you.

3. Closing down your Facebook page, Twitter account, and blog, and vowing never to use social media ever again.

4. Unplugging your computer and putting the power cord in the garbage.

5. Throwing your phones and tablets in the river or digging a deep hole and burying them.

Experts who talk about the Internet of Things often insist, unconvincingly, that it can be a wonderful force for good if only we’ll let it, but what they really mean is, “We’re all screwed.”

Thus, it was at the 4th annual TRU Privacy and Security Conference, where I and a couple of hundred others listened to experts explain how the bad guys are winning.

By the end of the day I was ready to haul out my Underwood and ask for my rotary dial phone back.

Big Brother is upon us, and he looks like a teenager living in his parents’ basement in Slovenia, buying malware from the dark web and infecting every detail of our lives.

It’s EDtv and The Truman Show all at once. “They” know what brand of coffee we buy, what movies we watch, how much exercise and how much sleep we get, what we read, the music we listen to, who we like and who we don’t. They watch us get on a bus or gas up our car, walk down the street or go shopping.

Do you have a baby monitor in your house? A smart refrigerator? Do you use one of those phone apps to unlock your front door?

All of them are potential cash in the pockets of the bad guys.

Give a listen to some sample comments I scribbled down during the various presentations:

“There’s no such thing as a hundred per cent secure. It doesn’t exist… Statistically, one in three computers is actively compromised.”

— Craig Davis, HYAS (security research company)

“Around the world and across the street, our personal information has never been more at risk… It’s not ‘if’ you’re going to have a privacy breach, it’s ‘when’.”

— Drew McArthur, B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner.

“Be very careful what you put on Facebook… The bad guys are getting very, very intelligent and there are a lot of them out there.”

— Khanh Le, team lead for Cloud and Data Centre Solutions X10.

“The scary part is they’re getting very sophisticated… The challenge, once you’ve had identity theft happen to you, is it’s extraordinarily hard to fix… Most people don’t even know it’s happened.”

— Ron Borsholm, senior manager cyber security services, MNP.

And how about these tidbits:

Cyber crime costs $1 trillion US each year, and will climb to more than $8 trillion US over the next five years. As McArthur said, “Personal information is more than numbers and names. It’s an asset, a powerful, digital currency that trades on world markets.”

If you ask the ransomware guys how you know you can trust them to give your data back if you pay up, chances are they’ll offer to provide you with references.

If your car has a “black box,” it can track your speed, erratic driving, whether you’re wearing your seat belt, and who knows what else. And it can be hacked.

At the new cashierless Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle, hundreds of cameras and sensors track your every move, which aisles you walk down, and the weight of every item you take from a shelf.

If you know your way around the dark web, you can buy a piece of malware online for as little as $175 that has the capability of stealing millions.

One in three Canadians fail to shred documents containing personal information before they recycle them.

Facial recognition software is now capable of identifying you with 97 per cent accuracy from among two billion images.

Thieves often target recycling boxes in affluent neighborhoods; the bad guys often sub-contract mailbox break-ins to get mail containing your personal information.

Twenty-five per cent of those who’ve had their identities stolen had to borrow money from family and friends to get by, 15 per cent had to move from their homes, three per cent went bankrupt.

All of the above being the reason I’ll be shopping for razor wire this weekend, stringing it around the house, and settling in for the apocalypse.