In today’s technology rich world, there are many opportunities to access others’ data you shouldn’t necessarily be able to see. Personal facts like interests, gender, jobs and sexual orientation can all be discovered fairly easily and then sold to those who care to know. Even information which is supposedly more secure, like banking and medical information, can be accessed, though that is much more difficult.

Unfortunately, many people are not necessarily aware of the personal privacy violations directed at them every day. Have you logged onto Facebook recently? Maybe you clicked on an ad which looked interesting. Well, each time you do that, there are companies that track this information and sell it to advertisers who can target you specifically. That’s right, they can tailor their websites’ advertisements specifically to your tastes. I don’t know about you, but this is a little creepy to me.

But so what? Big deal, right? Well actually, it is. This is only part of what can be done.

It is possible to hack someone’s Facebook account and steal their password by simply being on the same Wi-Fi connection, as well as through other websites which are not encrypted.

Would you want some stranger to be able to go through your profile and post things as you? Nobody would, but the real danger lies with posting malware links as you, causing your friends to get infected.

Now that I have your attention (I hope), let me tell you some ways to be more secure.

First and foremost, use your common sense. If you see something suspicious, be suspicious about it. Don’t blindly click on every link your friend posts on their Facebook wall. At least take a look at it first. Adobe Flash Player is a huge vulnerability for more malicious activities. I recommend blocking it if you can. Restricting cookie access is another way to help keep your computer a bit more private. All you have to do is disable cookies in your browser.

A little bit of statistics about operating systems can help here as well. If you are running Windows (of any kind), then you are a constant target because Microsoft Windows has by far the highest market share and it is a standard target.

Not to burst your bubble Mac users, but you can get infections too. While it is less common on the computer itself, Safari still uses cookies and Wi-Fi so it can still have these issues.

I am hoping Cal Poly students and staff can be a little more aware about online privacy. Nowadays, everyone is always on Facebook and with its track record on privacy, I don’t trust anything.

David Dynes is a computer engineering freshman and the Mustang Daily technology columnist.

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7 Comments

  1. Sorry, I have to do this as an assignment for my English class. I don’t have anything against the author of this article…

    I think that this article contains an Appeal to Fear. The whole first half of the article is a list of statements made in order to scare or warn the reader into paying attention and following the instructions given in the latter portion of the article. 🙂

    1. Gurveer,

      We were wondering if that was the case. Hope you get a good grade on the assignment!

      Leticia Rodriguez, editor in chief

  2. It is not possible to (easily) steal a persons’ facebook password simply by being on the same wireless connection is them. The username and password are encrypted between your computer and facebook.

    It is far more likely that you’ll have your session hijacked (but not your password) when using unencrypted wireless than for somebody to go through the trouble of properly man-in-the-middle attacking HTTPS on a public wifi.

    Finally, this article is in fact NOT about internet privacy at all. You begin to discuss privacy with tailored ads, which is an interesting topic, but then you talk about people stealing your username and password, which has absolutely nothing to do with privacy at all! Password theft is theft, or perhaps identity fraud, but it’s not about privacy. You should have discussed how anyone with a laptop can see every website visited by anyone using Mustang Wireless. Anyone with a laptop and the right software (Wireshark) can sit in the Avenue and watch their peers’ surfing habits without them even being aware of it. Even if the website you’re visiting is encrypted, I can still see that you’re visiting http://www.mysuperawesomepornsite.com, and if the website is not encrypted (note that other than the username and password, facebook is not) I can see anything that you see, without you even being aware of it.

    1. As well as FireSheep, yes. I did not say it was easy, merely possible…
      Having your Facebook password stolen is stealing, yes, but it is still a privacy issue on top of that.
      I also recall mentioning that it is possible to hijack a session from someone else on your open wifi network.

      Just to pose a rebuttal to your extensive post…

  3. Privacy is of vital importance to civil liberties and should not be under estimated. There is a reason why offshore jurisdictions are doing a booming business and it is not about tax savings. It is about the lost concept of keeping information private. Individuals of substantial wealth are especially at risk. Giving up too much of personal information via the internet is foolhardy.

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