After reading the articles on cybersecurity, I realized how little security I have in my digital life. Most of my passwords reflect the common mistakes people make when creating passwords. I have 3-4 go-to passwords that I use across multiple accounts, none of which are very imaginative. Further, I use the same email for almost all of my digital accounts. According to a study in 2007, the average Web user maintains 25 separate accounts but uses about 6.5 passwords to protect them (Goodin, 2012). Therefore, once a hacker has information or login credentials from one site, they can compromise several other accounts as well. Now with the latest password hacking technology, hackers have an intimate understanding of how people choose passwords. Algorithms are used to hack faster and more accurately once you fit a particular profile.
So, what can I do to protect myself? Apparently, the most important thing to do is have different passwords that are unique to each site. I plan on using 1Password or PasswordSafe to generate a secure password for all of my accounts. That way, I can use those sources to store them in a cryptographically protected file that can be unlocked with a master password.
While the probability that a hacker can easily access my account due to my weak passwords is unsettling, what’s more troubling is the amount of information that people and corporations have access to about me. My google account is linked to almost every aspect of my digital presence. My apple ID tracks my location, my photos, and literally, my face to sign in. These corporations know what I buy, where I live, and my banking information. They know about my health problems, my insecurities, and future goals and aspirations. They know who my friends, family, and my larger network are. They also know every single thing I look up online.
So essentially, it’s like they are in my head. It isn’t uncommon to see advertisements for things that I had searched for days prior. What’s worse is when advertisements appear that I had merely thought about, without conducting an internet search. It begs the question of free will, and if we actually have a say in the things we “choose” to consume. Be it information or material goods, the things we consume are likely the work of algorithms, which have substantial ethical implications. For instance, if I use WebMD while browsing on chrome, will that information be sent to health insurance companies? It is possible that my premium could be affected. How am I to be sure if I don’t read the terms and conditions? Even if I do read the terms and conditions, what is the likelihood that I’d understand what I’m agreeing to?
If hackers, political parties, or the government can accurately predict my behavior, then they have the ability to control it. Therefore, I need to be more mindful and think critically of the things I consume. Like, am I actually hungry or is it a coincidence that it’s around lunchtime, I’m in the vicinity of a McDonalds, and an advertisement for a big mac pops up in my Instagram feed.