Mac prob­lems solved

Mac Format - - CONTENTS -

When fill­ing out de­tails for a home in­sur­ance quotation on my MacBook Pro, I en­tered my land­line num­ber and straight away the in­surer phoned me, even be­fore I sub­mit­ted the form. Was my se­cu­rity com­pro­mised? I have a fire­wall but no virus pro­tec­tion. I’m rather wor­ried. Chris Mace Are you sure it couldn’t have been co­in­ci­dence? Did they say any­thing on the phone to im­ply that they were watch­ing you on the web­site? It is the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble for a web page to trap the sys­tem events that are trig­gered each time you press a key, and use that to grab your in­put be­fore you even sub­mit the form. This would be highly un­eth­i­cal, maybe even il­le­gal (al­though I’m cer­tainly no lawyer). How­ever, it’s pos­si­ble that the com­pany al­ready had your phone num­ber from a pre­vi­ous quotation or even from an­other site that is owned by the same par­ent com­pany. The web­site can iden­tify you us­ing a cookie left on your com­puter on your pre­vi­ous visit, ty­ing the de­tails you en­tered that time to you on your re­turn. That’s likely le­gal be­cause the small print for which you ticked ‘I agree’ to, prob­a­bly advises that they may do this.

Whether or not this web­site has bro­ken the rules though, this is a ques­tion of busi­ness ethics, not com­puter se­cu­rity. We can be con­fi­dent that this isn’t a virus or a hack, be­cause the web­site doesn’t need to do ei­ther of th­ese things to pull this trick off. It’s more akin to a site that lets you tick the box marked ‘don’t spam me’ and then sends some any­way. If you’re still con­cerned, you could take this up with the In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice (

Cook­ies let com­pa­nies track you be­tween web­site vis­its, so they can re­mem­ber your per­sonal de­tails.

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