Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Yahoo breach exposes naked truth about online security

Robert X. Cringely | March 4, 2014
The umpteenth violation of our Internet privacy proves once again the dearth of common sense among us Web users.

Frankly, I doubt there's any way to stay completely secure using Web communication of any kind. Ars Technica caught Skype in a security lie over its text chat service just last year. For all its billions, you know WhatsApp and its ilk didn't invest in end-to-end encryption and undoubtedly have no intention of doing so. That might cut into the party budget or derail their moron plans for a six-state lawless geektopia. Your stuff is floating around out there, basically in clear text.

Remember wardriving? Not everyone does
We're not even learning from old lessons. The last time wardriving made the news was back in the late '90s, but last month a Sophos security researcher in much better shape than me hopped on his bicycle with a wardriving rig and spent four days cruising around San Francisco. Along the way he bumped into more than 70,000 different Wi-Fi networks, supporting all kinds of new client devices, like tablets, phones, game consoles, even printers and refrigerators. According to James Lyne, the warbiker, 20 percent of the networks he saw were flat out open, like come-on-in-and-peruse-my-hard-disk open.

Worse, 10 percent of the networks whose owners had the presence of mind to hit the Security button on the setup wizard opted for plain WEP, which was outed as digital Swiss cheese a decade ago. Linksys, Netgear, D-Link, all you home/SMB router folks: That protocol shouldn't even be available anymore. If you must go that route, at least name it "I love the NSA" so that people know what they're logging into.

Merely skimming the news over the last year for similar examples would turn this little rant into a book. From ATMs to POS terminals to email exchanges and goofy server passwords like "p@ssword" or "hackme," the list goes on and on and on. We shouldn't be plagued by spies, crooks, corporations, and Google AIs rummaging through our digital closets, but we are and we all know it. If you don't, you're not on the Web anyway, and the NSA will have to root through your garbage to get data on your private life.

Who's feeding the crooks? We are
Even though we know intelligence analysts are slavering over our Web trysts, we're not turning off our Web access. According to a survey from the Pew Research Center, 10 percent of us would rather give up TV before giving up Internet access -- myself included.

I can't live without the Web anymore. It's sad but true. When the evil, hunchbacked wretches at Comcast manage to down my connection every so often for a cackle, I'm bouncing off the walls after a couple of hours. Turn off my TV and I'll pop a DVD into the Blu-ray player or log into Netflix or whichever online entertainment service can afford Comcast's streaming video toll these days. But turn off my Web connection and I'm no longer sure what to do with myself. Well, there's alwaysthat, but what am I going to do two minutes later? Probably tell myself I'm going to the gym but wind up at Starbucks drinking a $10, 800-calorie cappuccino and hooking into the store's Wi-Fi for my fix.


Previous Page  1  2  3  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.