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It may not seem like it, but all of the following recent events deserve your attention regarding your online presence and privacy — which hackers, government, and corporate America all want to control and violate.
Microsoft just bought LinkedIn (the Facebook of the corporate world) for $26 billion cash.
The Russian government hacked the DNC opposition research on Donald Trump.
The Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.
The implications they represent are clear. If you’re online you can assume no privacy. This includes what happened in Orlando, as I’ll explain in a minute.
The more industries online consolidate, the more your online identity will be controlled by a handful of companies running massive big-data algorithms that track your travel, spending, fueling and political leanings.
And then they will predict your future behavior and try to sell you things they think you will need. LinkedIn has 500 million users — and now Microsoft has access to all their information. There’s a reason Microsoft bought the firm for a massive premium. It got names. And no, deleting your account will not “delete” you from Microsoft’s files. They will keep everything.
One of my former publishers said over and over again that we’re not in the publishing business, we’re in the list business. And with the internet, that reality has simply gone digital. Certainly, it gives you the power to curate the content you want to receive, but the mailbox is quaint compared to the options companies have to sell to you now.
And this isn’t really about small firms that hold their lists privately (and hopefully securely). It’s about the big prize for hackers, massive files that fortresses like Microsoft, Apple and Google maintain.
As far as a business deal, it has been pointed out that Microsoft usually buys companies with about one quarter’s worth of free cash flow (about $6 billion). This deal is worth an entire year’s free cash flow. That’s a big deal and a big risk.
I can’t understand why they would buy LinkedIn given the fact that it has not found a way to expand its user base for a while now. I have to figure Microsoft is going to mine those new names and find a way to extract some revenue from them. Good luck with that.
The Russian hacking of a highly secured DNC database is once again proof that hackers are always one step ahead of the security folks. They not only got static information, but they were also able to read emails and all the chat traffic.
And there’s no point enjoying a laugh at the DNC’s expense if you’re a Republican. It could be the RNC next. Or the Department of Defense. The IRS has been hacked, as has the GAO. That’s a lot of sensitive information in the hands of hackers on the dark web.
The dark web is where hackers and outlaws play. It’s the place where drugs, arms and lists of names, credit cards, etc. are up for sale. It’s all anonymous and impossible to regulate.
The mass shooting in Orlando means the federal and state governments will be ratcheting up the pressure to bust the encryption on people’s phones, “for the sake of fighting the war on terror” so they can get a hold of, you guessed it… your personal info.
Have you ever noticed that these government wars — the war on drugs, the war on poverty — tend to do more harm than good? Well, the war on terror is the newest and shiniest war we have going. And it could very well cost us our 2nd and 4th Amendment rights.
So, for all these reasons, I have two words for you: onion routing.
Onion routers provide secure access to the internet. And while they’re certainly not hack proof, they will make you a less-attractive target to hackers or the government. You can buy them online and from most big-box electronics retailers.
The Tor Project is also a good way to get your information off the grid. It’s basically a service that runs your onion routing for you.
I would avoid Microsoft stock, but more importantly, make sure you’re leaving as light a footprint as possible online. Both pieces of advice are more true now than ever before.