A Rouges Gallery of Threats to Web Privacy

June 30, 2011 – In The News
The Philadelphia Inquirer

A recent surge of high-profile hacks into companies such as AT&T and Sony, as well as into government agencies such as the FBI, have spurred users of the Web to grow concerned about the safety of their personal information

"Face it." said Scott Vernick. "Nothing is safe."

The odds that valuable information can be leaked from personal computers to hackers is minimal, but the risk increases when you join a network, such as Sony's gaming network, or have weak passwords.

Representatives are working to improve government protection of information and companies are working to make breaches more transparent to customers, something called "breach notification." "Amazingly enough," said Vernick, "no federal law makes it mandatory. Why not?"

The legal collection of personal data has become a $1 trillion Web business with no real benefit to those submitting the data.

Vernick suggests that "when you're using a web site, the owner/operator should tell you what he's going to do with your personal information, and with the information that you've come to this site."

Web browsers are now incorporating an option for users to turn off tracking so data on their web browsing habits cannot be collected.

Although high-profile hacks have consumers worried, the biggest threat does not come from large hacking companies, but the small groups of criminals looking to break into bank accounts and contact lists. Users can prevent this by creating strong passwords, changing their passwords frequently and pressuring organizations to invest in better security.

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