Sermon 2013: The Internet is not private

Venn diagram, privacy and the Internet

Venn diagram, privacy and the Internet

An interesting article on Ars Technica yesterday told of a really dumb Internet extortionist who stole compromising photos from some women’s Facebook pages, and then threatened to post them publically if the women did not display more for him via Skype. Instead, they called police, and the perpetrator was tracked down very quickly via his undisguised, unproxied IP number. Stupid crooks, bless their hearts, keep our police departments in business.

But the notable name in this story was, once again, Facebook. It was from Facebook that he stole the pictures, from accounts the owners thought were private. The criminal hacked their accounts. Smart enough to hack accounts, too dumb to hide his IP address. Go figure.

But crooks aren’t the only dumb people drifting around the Internet. The story concludes:

Of course, the truly brilliant criminals may simply not get caught at all, and therefore we see only the stupid ones. But let’s hope not, because most Internet users aren’t particularly savvy, either. In every “sextortion” case I’ve seen, the victims also believe in the privacy of their online communications. They store compromising photos on Facebook, they e-mail them to other people, they post inadvisable images on sexually-oriented dating sites—all in the belief that these things will not be leaked, hacked, or tied back to them. And yet it happens over and over. (Encryption? Fuggedaboutit.)

While using a smartphone or computer from the comfort of one’s bedroom feels private and anonymous, it simply isn’t once you connect to the ‘Net. Both perps and victims would do well to remember it.

Same old lesson: Facebook is not your friend. And in a larger sense, neither is the Internet. You can’t be too careful.

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Also on PIed Type:



Categories: Internet, Media/Comm, privacy, Society

4 replies

  1. I’m not sure I understand the logic of posting these kinds of pictures online. Well maybe I get it after they’ve had a few drinks.

    • In this case, as in most such cases, the people who posted the pictures thought they were private. Even so, why take the chance? Or they could have been innocuous pictures that the hacker photoshopped in some way to make them look compromising. The fact remains, there is no guaranteed privacy on the Internet. Enter at your own risk.

  2. My rule of thumb is if it is something I don’t want the world to know or see or take or use…, it doesn’t go on line anywhere, Period.

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