Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is Your Information Secure? Technology's Not Perfect

I've been told that for someone who works as an engineer, I'm pretty hostile towards technology. I don't like feeling like a guinea pig, so I'm rarely an early adaptor to new devices. This isn't because I'm not excited about innovation or not curious about how they work. Rather, my hostility stems from a general skepticism about how increasingly "perfect" each invention seems to become. Yes, improvements are inevitable, but I also believe that a small amount of distrust is healthy. Anyway you put it, technologies are created by humans and we are hardly perfect beings.

From my experience, during the conception of a product, there are numerous factors to be considered before it can be put into the hands of consumers (think BETA versions). Even then, mistakes or problems that haven't been considered before often come up. This can be said about almost anything: software, computers, smartphones, etc.

This is the major reason why, despite the benefit of convenience, I haven't started doing mobile banking or use online bank account consolidation/budget managing websites. Yes, you heard right. I'm pretty old school when it comes to finances. Besides online banking and one android app where I log discretionary spending, technology plays a minimal part in money handling for me. (It's pretty ironic that my credit card was still charged fraudulently a few weeks ago…)

Security itself is just a game of probability. Risk always exists, so the decision of which risks to bare should be dependent on your individual situation. For example, where I live (the SF Bay Area suburb), it's less likely that there will be a break in, but much more likely that my information will be stolen by a hacker. Sidejacking (intercepting a web session remotely) can be accomplished by an amateur hacker. Or say you lose your smartphone with mobile banking apps, accessing your account and other personal information could be as easy as guessing your phone password, which a lot of people don't even have.

I don't mean to scare anyone, but whenever I hear the media praise how easy organizing your finances online or on your phone is, it also reminds me of how easy that information can be stolen. The issue of security always tends to be missing from the conversation. Think twice before downloading an app. Understand why that specific app needs to access your location, your contacts, etc. Seek out websites that uses SSL to prevent sidejacking and use secure passwords. Keep identity theft to a minimum and stay safe!


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