Internet dangers on the rise
Published 3:00 am Tuesday, July 4, 2017
The Internet is a massive, complex and dangerous space. Greg Price, chief technology officer at Troy University, said the lack of appreciation for those dangers is rampant among both children and adults.
“Most users of the Internet lack appreciation of its size, growth and complexity,” Price said. “I’ve worked cyber-security issues globally since 1996. I continue to be amazed that children and adults lack appreciation of the power of the Internet, of mobile devices and things as simple as digital photos.”
Troy Police Chief Randall Barr said increased Internet access among children has made the landscape that much more dangerous in recent years.
“There are several different ways in this day and time to access the Internet,” Barr said. “We have cell phones, laptops, tablets – it’s not wired in the home like it used to be, so it’s just more difficult to monitor. But parents have got to be vigilant in watching what their children do on the Internet. There are people out there in the Internet world, and that’s where they hunt their victims.”
During his 21 years in the cyber-security industry, Price said he’s worked nearly 1,000 cases, of which more than two-thirds were Internet crimes against children.
“None of the attacks, none of the assaults were complicated – they were all conducted by perpetrators with just a slight advantage over their victims,” Price said. “The common denominator was a lack of knowledge, a lack of appreciation by the victims of the power of over-sharing, not truly understanding how their data could be used and how to improve end-user security.”
Children aren’t the only ones in danger. Price said adults often give away as much or more sensitive information online than children do as part of an exchange for “free” services.
Price explained that many of the free Internet services are not free at all¬– they just come at a different cost than money.
“With our ever-present digital devices, proliferation of applications (apps) and free WiFi, what do I exchange for these services?” Price asked. “Often, the exchange is not money, but, personal data. In our modern, highly connected world, the traditional sense of privacy has been eroded. Security and privacy are mere shadows, whispers of a time before the Internet and commoditization of personal data.”
Rules and regulations are in place to protect the consumer, Price said, but most users willingly sign away the rights to their data when they skip through the terms and agreements to check the box and get the app.
“My location as I use a mobile device, my habits, behaviors while I play a game, my photos that I stream to a social service, my likes, dislikes while engaging the latest app are all desirable,” Price said. “ Digital profiles are constructed and sold as resources for advertising, marketing– whatever.”
This marketing in personal data opens the door for “bad guys” to step in, Price said.
“Those data are often poorly protected and managed,” Price said. “Similarly, abuse of those services and data are a credible threat.
“Youngsters are using large Internet systems, uninformed adults are using the services by the hundreds of millions. All are potential victims. The data that is willingly, perhaps unknowingly, being given to companies can be used inappropriately. The technology can be manipulated, users tricked into divulging additional data.
“In doing so, a participant in our global communication system could introduce bad actors into one’s private life. The ever-present bad guys could observe you, collect your data, impersonate you, attack you.”
¬¬Price said the only solution is to be aware of how the Internet works and how companies and individuals use it to access personal information.
“Often, I’m asked for a solution to the bad things that happen with technology,” Price said. “My simplest answer is to be aware. Understand that you are connected to billions of other users and billions of devices throughout the world. If you wouldn’t walk up to a complete stranger and hand them a photo of yourself and a summary of your personal information, then, why would you willingly do it from the palm of your hand?”
For more information on Internet safety, users can go to www.whoswatchingalabama.org.