Are we ever going to be cyber safe?

(File Photo)

(File Photo)

, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:26 PM ET

Another "cyber scare" story is making its way around the web. EBay has been the subject of a major cyber attack and is now urging its 145 million users to change their passwords as soon as possible.

EBay has been a little quiet on exactly how the attack occurred or precisely what information was taken, although they did mention that they believe no financial information was compromised but that databases containing encrypted chunks of data that include personal information such as names, addresses, phone numbers and date of birth information has been taken. Although it is encrypted, it would be possible for this information to be cracked over time to reveal personal information about its users.

While this might send users into a frenzy worrying about their personal information, this isn't the first time something like this has happened. Major companies like Target, Sony, TJ Maxx and countless others have been hacked creating major public relation nightmares not to mention putting the fear of what could happen into millions of people.

The site Information is Beautiful  has an infographic about the size of some of these breaches and it will likely surprise you as to what has happened, and, perhaps more importantly, what has not happened. So many people have had their information taken, but (as disturbing as it is) the percentage of people affected is hovering at around 7% according to some sources.

Is 7% an acceptable loss? Most would argue that nobody should have their information stolen and I'd agree with that, however, it seems to be an acceptable loss to a surprising number of people - especially our youth. While there are still many hold-outs to jumping onto the information super highway, those people are fewer and farther apart today as the benefits of an electronic world appear to outweigh the downside.

The question becomes will we ever be completely safe online? Is the fact that our personal information may be at risk no longer as important as it once was? Were we ever safe to begin with? And finally, what is the worst that can happen?

According to this federal government study on privacy, two-thirds of Canadians are concerned about the protection of their privacy, with one-quarter saying they are extremely concerned. Yet, these are likely the same people that are sharing all of their information with websites and organizations and are potentially at risk (as we all are) when it comes to cyber attacks.

It appears there is a bit of a disconnect between what we feel about all of this, and how we act when push comes to shove. Many websites require personal information to ensure that we are who we say we are (mostly important for financial transactions, ironically to reduce fraud) and so it seems like we have to share and confirm real information about ourselves in order to prevent criminal activity. The more I think about it the more I realize what a vicious circle it is.

Personally, I think there needs to be more standards put in place in terms of server security. What I’m referring to are the servers that house all of this information on the web, and access to better security software and solutions for everyone that hosts websites. Speaking from personal experience, the task of protecting servers from cyber attacks in the first place can be expensive and confusing and I believe better solutions can exist to help everyone.

In the physical world, we try to protect ourselves from avoiding physical places we know are full of crime. In the cyber world, it’s hard to know where the crime will be next. There is no “dark corner” of the Internet to avoid so until then, inform yourself about the best ways to stay safe. Having knowledge won’t always prevent you from having your information taken from you, but at least you can say you saw it coming.

Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC/Methapharm. You can reach him via e-mail at sbolton@bfree.on.ca or on Twitter @sydbolton.

 

 


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