Why the Internet Makes Identity Theft So Easy

August 20, 2008

identity theft
Identity theft is much easier than you might imagine

We humans being the most social of animals leads us to constantly talk about ourselves (some more than others, some much, much more) no matter how mundane or trivial the actual subject can be. New technology such as the internet has only facilitated this urge to speak about ourselves even more in the form of social networking sites.

In a previous post here at vodka/soda we discussed some of the dangers of social networking sites on the internet. One of the most costly dangers is identity theft, a theft made much easier by the amount of personal information available about ourselves and made available by ourselves (and websites) on the web.

Herbert H. Thompson, a professor of computer science and a software developer, shows us how easy it is to steal a person’s identity just by mining data on the internet in: How I Stole Someone’s Identity. Here’s a quote from the article:

I asked some of my acquaintances, people I know only casually, if with their permission and under their supervision I could break into their online banking accounts. After a few uncomfortable pauses, some agreed. The goal was simple: get into their online banking account by using information about them, their hobbies, their families and their lives freely available online. To be clear, this isn’t hacking or exploiting vulnerabilities, instead it’s mining the Internet for nuggets of personal data.

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Cyber-Nationalism: Fighting Wars Online

July 24, 2008


“No way man, the EU is waaaayyyy better than the USA!!!!”

Conflict amongst humans first arose on land. It quickly spread its way to sea. Several millenia later, it made it into the air above us thanks to the invention of the Wright Brothers. Less than a century after the successful takeoff at Kitty Hawk, conflict is being fought on the fourth frontier, the internet.

For those of us familiar with usenet back in the 1990s, warfare was being waged on all sorts of newsgroups as such soc.culture.israel and soc.culture.yugoslavia. Fast forward a few years and internet forums played host to conflicts not only current, but centuries old. The rise of web 2.0 has seen these battles move onto new battlefields, from YouTube to Facebook.

The Economist takes a look at this new battleground in: Cyber-nationalism – the brave new world of e-hatred.

A quick excerpt:

But e-arguments also led to hacking wars. Nobody is surprised to hear of Chinese assaults on American sites that promote the Tibetan cause; or of hacking contests between Serbs and Albanians, or Turks and Armenians. A darker development is the abuse of blogs, social networks, maps and video-sharing sites that make it easy to publish incendiary material and form hate groups. A study published in May by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human-rights group, found a 30% increase last year in the number of sites that foment hatred and violence; the total was around 8,000.

Social networks are particularly useful for self-organised nationalist communities that are decentralised and lack a clear structure. On Facebook alone one can join groups like “Belgium Doesn’t Exist”, “Abkhazia is not Georgia”, “Kosovo is Serbia” or “I Hate Pakistan”. Not all the news is bad; there are also groups for friendship between Greeks and Turks, or Israelis and Palestinians. But at the other extreme are niche networks, less well-known than Facebook, that unite the sort of extremists whose activities are restricted by many governments but hard to regulate when they go global. Podblanc, a sort of alternative YouTube for “white interests, white culture and white politics” offers plenty of material to keep a racist amused.

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Facebook is childish and dangerous…but we still love it

July 18, 2008

Facebook stats

Is Facebook’s popularity dipping?

Toronto is the Facebook capital of the world. We love it. From those of us who’ll post pictures of anything that comes to mind to those of us who update our status several times a day. We know it’s silly and for most of us it’s a complete waste of time. Simon Dumenco tells us that even Bill Gates has quit using Facebook after having a daily half-hour habit. He was being bombarded with roughy 8,000 friend requests each day. And yes, it is quite silly, as Dumenco explains:

But Facebook’s ick factor in the executive suite might have as much to do with its shiny, happy world of “friendship” as with security. “There’s almost an inverse relationship between seriousness and how much you participate in social networking,” says ReputationDefender’s Fertik, laughing. That basically nails it: Facebook is simply unserious—particularly given how it prompts hard-driving business executives to regress into adolescent vernacular. “Poking” people, requesting “friends,” writing on someone’s “wall”: It’s cute when you’re in high school or college. But in a corporate environment, it sounds disingenuous and downright silly.

I personally detest the proliferation of ridiculous applications (and especially hate being tested on my movie knowledge!) but now and then a good *poke is a bit of fun :)

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