September 11, 2015

Vast Data Troves At Risk: Web is “Most Perfect Surveillance System”


In a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal, “The Hacked Data Broker? Be Very Afraid,“ Christopher Mims reports on the potential for a massive exposure of data that would “make the hack of infidelity site Ashley Madison look like a footnote by comparison.”

“Even more daunting,” he writes, “it could be under way already, and we don’t even know it.”

Mims explains that the vulnerability of vast troves of stored data—from “shopping habits to the complete Web browsing histories of many Americans”—could allow hackers to create sophisticated spear-phishing attacks that “contain so much personal detail that even the most paranoid of government employees or contractors could be fooled.”

The article quotes security experts who explain that the Internet in its current form—where much of our information and behavior is not only tracked but also stored over time—represents “the most perfect online surveillance system ever contemplated—for bad guys.”

Among the experts quoted is Grady Summers, Chief Technology Officer for FireEye, a cybersecurity firm: “What more could you want if you wanted to gather intelligence on our citizens? You’d want to see everything they do on the Web, everything they’re buying. We’ve built this incredible machine that does that and we don’t even realize it.”

Image credit: Simon Stratford

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