Experts urge awareness on the cyber security front

Cyber espionage. Digital surveillance. Hack attacks. News about the pitfalls of the digital revolution are everywhere these days.
But what can we to do to stay sane in light of the endless stream of scary stories? For one thing: Be aware.

“Everyone has one of these in their pocket,” says Dr. Paul Hinker from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology waving a smart phone.

He says we need to understand that for the phone to do what we want, it needs to gather data — a lot of data.

“If you think about it, there is a tremendous amount of information the phone needs to be able to do (all the things we ask),” he says. And that can cause security issues.

“Once data is turned into digital form, it’s hard to keep it protected,” he says.

But our lives are much more complicated — and interconnected today than they were just a short time ago.

“Many of us have heard the term the ‘Internet of things’ without maybe exactly understanding what that means,” said Hinker.

It means data is being collected on us from every angle. Smart refrigerators. Home security systems connected to our phones. Laptops. Game consoles. Our cars. And our TVs.

And now a new trove of apparently stolen files posted on WikiLeaks purports to detail the CIA’s abilities to turn ordinary devices into surveillance tools.

Should we be surprised? Perhaps not.

“The CIA is in the business of getting information and they try and go and hire the best of the best and, so without having first hand knowledge, it’s pretty apparent that they’re going to have some pretty clever people working on this sort of thing,” said Hinker. “Because their charter is to go catch the bad guys and they’re going to use every trick in the book to catch the bad guys.”

What should we do? Again, be aware.

“The kind of things we could do our make good passwords, turn off the location service on your phone,” said Hinker. “Maybe put a piece of tape over the WebCam on your laptop.”


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