Security in the Digital Age

Internet security is a hot-button topic. And why shouldn’t it be? We live in a wired world. We put all our information into the giant world web, and there are plenty of people lurking in the shadows, waiting for a chance to take it. It seems every month a major company is hacked. Account names and passwords are compromised. Credit card numbers are stolen. It can be difficult to know how to protect yourself when so much seems out of your hands.

One important question is; who’s responsibility is it to keep people safe on the Internet?

It’s a difficult question to answer because, in order for the Internet to be safe, every person has to play their part.

Unfortunately, many people disagree who should be responsible for the safety and security of today’s world web users. Even governments disagree who should be responsible for which aspects of web security. In Canada, for example, privacy laws are very strict. A person owns their personal information. If a company collects that information, for any reason, they do not subsequently own it. They cannot allow that personal information to be stolen. They take on the responsibility of the safe storage and management of that information, and they’re liable for damages if they fail to comply. This is a promise the government forces them to make.

In the US, on the other hand, if a company collects your personal information, they own it. They can do whatever the hell they want with it. As certain US-based digital companies have expanded into other countries, they’ve had to modify their policies to adhere to stricter laws. Facebook, for example, had to change some of their policies to be allowed in Canada. For instance, it used to be when you deleted an image on Facebook, the server did not delete said image, but rather hid it so it couldn’t be viewed by others. Facebook still had a copy of the image on their servers, despite your desire to remove it. In Canada, however, this violates our privacy laws.

How do I know all this? We studied cases like this in the ethics class I took in college (a class I should note was not mandatory). Strangely (but not surprisingly), ethics tend to take a back seat to most digital ventures, and social media is no exception.

It’s generally accepted by the facilitators of the Internet that certain information should be safeguarded. For example, if my Canadian bank thinks my account has been compromised, they will freeze my debit card, forcing me to appear in person in order to set up a new one. My UK bank has so many anti-fraud mechanisms, I’ll admit to being stunned. Every card holder even gets a random number generator as one of the requirements to login to online banking. And these aren’t per account- my husband and I can’t use each other’s.

Many MMOs are taking online security beyond even some banks. Arena net, for example, have an email authentication system that requires you to validate the IP address from which you login (which has saved my account at least once). They don’t even allow you to change your email address (something my Canadian bank allows me to do in a couple of clicks). And both Arena net and Blizzard now offer random number generators tied to your account for added security (we had these at my last job to sign into the company VPN, to offer a comparison).

The main problem is, none of these security measures account for stupidity. Despite multiple warnings plastered across the Internet not to do so, it is still possible to type your credit card number into a post on Facebook and share it with the entire world. Then again, it’s still possible to leave your credit card sitting on a table in Starbucks – the two actions could be considered the same (though I argue that posting your number on Facebook is stupider because it requires you to be consciously aware of the fact you’re doing it).

In that situation, who’s in charge of protecting your security? Some people believe it should be Facebook’s responsibility to prevent you from posting your credit card number. It’s true that any programmer can write a code which can catch valid credit card numbers (even I know how to do that) and block them. But should they have to? Is it really Facebook’s responsibility to hold every user’s hand? If you’re old enough to own a credit card, shouldn’t you know never to give away the number stamped on the front?

The general consensus of network professionals is that, at a certain point, user education becomes an important part of Internet security. The problem is, I learned this in college, when I studied networking. Despite the growing use of digital technology, we don’t teach Internet security in high school. Perhaps we assume that growing up with the technology gives people a certain common sense. I worked in IT long enough to say with certainly; that’s bullshit.

The most secure people on the Internet are the educated – those who have studied computers, networking or programming, or those who have taken the time to learn for themselves the dangers. The most cautious of all are those who learn by mistake; lose an account once, have your credit card compromised, and see how fast you research net security. When it comes to personal information and the internet, a touch of paranoia can’t steer you wrong. Whether we like it or not, the responsibility of protecting ourselves in the digital world falls at least partly in our own laps. To be honest, that isn’t a bad thing. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather retain as much control over my personal, private information as possible.

2 Responses to “Security in the Digital Age”

  1. » On Social Media and Media Bias Filters Megan Cutler; Stories from the Soul Says:

    […] in the long ago, what feels like forever now, I wrote a post about whose responsibility it is to protect our privacy on social media. While Facebook does have the ability to prevent us from posting our credit card information, that […]

  2. » Protection in the Digital Age Cosmic Desire Says:

    […] wrote last week about the responsibility of security in the digital world. Whether or not you agree with the policy, part of maintaining security rests in the hands of […]


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