Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The burning of witches in the digital world

In classical mythology, witches were human beings with the ability to transform themselves into animals, devour souls and transform physical laws at will. It is not until 1400 when the Church accepts the presence of witches into its bosom. They were considered women who had reached an agreement with the Devil, and therefore fire was required to purify their spirit. The burning of witches was used for centuries to solve family troubles, helping to keep the retrograde belief that women were inferior and sinful.

The burning of witches has evolved over time becoming more subtle. Now the target of the fire is users or companies. For example, Sony Pictures suffered an attack yesterday. Its network was hacked what may lead to the future publication of confidential data. Movie teasers, for instance? Perhaps contracts or agreements of the film industry? We'll see what happens in the coming days.

The burning of witches regarding the difficult balance between the privacy of citizenship and civil protection led to an unknown person to ask the Seattle police to make public the records of its cameras at many streets of the city. And he achieved it. According to this citizen who decided to remain anonymous, the next step is that these devices become controlled by an impartial body, so the police will have to ask permission to access such material.

Everybody is touched more than once by the burning of witches. The British government is still decided to monitor its citizens’ use of the Internet, forcing telecommunications companies to keep a record of all their customers’ activity, which may eventually be seized by the police. As always, the reasons for that are pornography, hacking and national security.

The Inquisition arose in retaliation to the mystical figure of witchcraft. This organism pointed a finger at a possible culprit, relying on the opinion of a third party. In the case of webcam hacks, fortunately there is not a clear responsible. On one hand, the manufacturers develop devices with high-risk setting due to commercial reasons. On the other, software developers use default passwords easily accessible by an Internet search on Plug and Play applications. Finally users refuse to spend five minutes extra to set up passcodes correctly, encouraging the emergence of websites where you can spy geopositioned premises, with the risk that this entails for their security.

When the boundary between your data and its exposure lies on a unique password, you might enjoy reading "The Secret Life of passwords" on The New York Times. It is the story of how the forensic analysis of Cantor Fitzgerald allowed to recover passwords for all victims in just 48 hours, following the accident which resulted in almost 80% workers dead.

It is just a reminder that we are sometimes the ones who let them throw us to the fire. Even more knowing that most services, such as Google, offer lots of tools for securing our accounts: Simplified activity record, remote control in case of theft, familiar devices as a method for recovering passwords and of course, the two-factor authentication.


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