Dig­i­tal Life

The Oldie - - CONTENTS - Matthew Web­ster

I’m tempted to bring out a reg­u­lar ap­pen­dix to this col­umn en­ti­tled ‘breach of the week’ – such is the re­lent­less flow of data leaks and pil­fer­ing of our per­sonal in­for­ma­tion from com­pa­nies that ought to have kept it safer.

It would list the mess-ups, mud­dles and suc­cess­ful data thefts that have been re­ported by some of the or­gan­i­sa­tions who claim to ‘take the se­cu­rity of your data se­ri­ously’. It wouldn’t be a riv­et­ing read, but there would be no short­age of ma­te­rial be­cause, un­der new laws, com­pa­nies must publi­cise these blun­ders quickly. Hith­erto, many were in­clined sim­ply to keep quiet. The news usu­ally leaked out even­tu­ally, which, of course, made ev­ery­thing look worse. In busi­ness, there is a very old and good rule re­lat­ing to bad news: tell it all and tell it fast.

The juici­est two of the cur­rent crop are from Face­book and the Tory Party. The Tories have a prob­lem in this area; they some­how man­age to look out of their depth much of the time. It must be es­pe­cially galling for them be­cause Labour is very sharp at the dig­i­tal stuff.

This time, the Tories set up a phone app for use dur­ing their con­fer­ence, and then al­lowed it, briefly, to ex­pose the phone num­bers of all MPS and jour­nal­ists who were reg­is­tered with it. What’s more, users could edit the in­for­ma­tion. Pre­dictably, some rascals had fun with some of the MPS’ pho­tos.

I doubt that much harm was done, but there is no doubt that the Tories were guilty of a breach of per­sonal data se­cu­rity. They may be fined, and so they should be; when we trust our de­tails to an or­gan­i­sa­tion we don’t ex­pect them to be passed around.

Then there is the re­cent Face­book calamity, which is a much more se­ri­ous prob­lem, at least in terms of scale. For a while (prob­a­bly since 2017), hack­ers have been able to ex­ploit a weak­ness in the web­site to view all the per­sonal de­tails of up to 90 mil­lion Face­book users; names, ad­dresses, credit card de­tails… the lot.

The odd thing is that it doesn’t seem to mat­ter to Face­book users. Within my own cir­cles, I de­tect a sense of weari­ness about Face­book and a feel­ing that its time is over. I sus­pect, how­ever, that we don’t know what we are talk­ing about.

If you be­lieve the head­lines, the game is up: ‘Face­book loses $100bn in value!’ Well, yes, but the share price is still higher than it was in May; in just three months this year, it gen­er­ated £10 bil­lion in rev­enue, up 40 per cent, and user num­bers were up 11 per cent. It em­ploys al­most 50 per cent more peo­ple than it did a year ago. It seems to be a money ma­chine.

The truth is, I sus­pect, that 95 per cent of its users don’t care about the data is­sues, and most of the 5 per cent that do are still reg­is­tered with it (like me). The cash keeps on rolling in.

So how should those of us who do care pro­tect our­selves? There is one small step I can rec­om­mend that might help you sleep a lit­tle sounder. Stop stor­ing credit card de­tails on shop­ping web­sites such as Ama­zon and Marks & Spencer. I know it makes buy­ing on­line eas­ier, but it also means your fi­nan­cial nether re­gions are ex­posed to any suc­cess­ful hacker who gets past the de­fences.

Just like the bank rob­ber Wil­lie Sut­ton, who said he robbed banks ‘be­cause that’s where the money is’, hack­ers go after the likes of Face­book and Ama­zon be­cause that’s where the data is. So, please, think twice be­fore stor­ing card de­tails on a re­tail web­site. They’re all likely to be hacked sooner or later.

Come and learn more about how to get the best out of the in­ter­net at my course on 28th March 2019. See page 59 for full de­tails.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.