20 October 2014

Personal Data up for Grabs in the Great Cyber War

Earlier this year Apple and Google made headlines with the connected home. They both have plans to branch out from your smartphone and computer and into your home.

It’s all a work in progress right now. But with the speed of modern progress, I’d expect to see both companies launch a product next year. As competitors not known for playing nice with each other, you’ll more or less have to choose one or the other.

That means your home will either connect with Google, or Apple. Until they unveil the details, it’s hard to say which will be better. All I know now is that these technologies are only possible through modern connectivity.

Your home internet connection will be the lifeblood. You’ll probably have multiple WiFi hotspots in the home. And probably a couple around it as well.

Your car will also be a wireless hotspot. Pretty much wherever you go you’ll be able to connect to the internet and manage all your devices. Or maybe I should say all your devices will manage you…

Within this connected existence comes a startling problem. What happens if the system goes down? What happens if you come under attack from digital predators?

The question is never if you’ll come under attack. It’s a question of when. And will you have the right measures in place to stop it from destroying your online existence?

Of course, the likelihood of you being targeted individually is quite remote. Most sophisticated hackers couldn’t be stuffed with average people. Why? Well there’s nothing in it for them. Hacking your connected home doesn’t have much of an upsell to a hacker.

But hacking your data does.

Let me explain a bit more.

Your data is far more valuable than you realise 

Think like a hacker. What purpose would taking down your connected life have? None really. Unless you’d specifically pissed them off, or you were a public figure, there’s not much point in it. However, accessing all your data and information has lucrative benefits.

This kind of hack you’d probably never know about. It wouldn’t impact your day to day life. Streaming TV will still work. Your pre-warmed car and automatic garage will still work. Your alarm clocks, thermostat and light system will all still function as normal.

But all the data your home collects is highly valuable. A picture says a thousand words, as the old saying goes. Well, your data is even more telling.

Imagine if an organisation had every intricate piece of knowledge about you. Not just your age and address. But how many times you roll in your sleep…the precise time you eat breakfast…how many kilometres you walk inside your home every month…how long you spend on the couch.

I’m talking about data that tells the exact story of your life. Of course, all this data is collected by new technologies. Smart TVs, wearable technology, your smartphone, all the connected devices in your life — they all collect data about you, which you can use to live a more informed and smarter life.

But if that data is collected without your consent and sold to a third party, what could you do? Not much, to be honest. And what’s scary is that as an endless Cyber War rages across networks around the world, your data and the data of billions is up for grabs to the highest bidder.

Trying to live better can lead to unintended consequences 

The Quantified Self Movement (QSM) is part of this massive collection of personal data. The idea behind the QSM is to gather information about you, your health and how you live your life. It’s personal data, but it’s supposed to be for you, to help you make smarter life choices.

Quantifying yourself requires you to connect with a range of new technologies, which is inherently dangerous. The security of all this personal data is inherently vulnerable.

One of the briefings I’m attending at BlackHat Europe over the next few days is titled, ‘Quantified Self — A Path to Self Enlightenment or Just a Security Nightmare?’

The speaker is Candid Wuseet, who works with Symantec’s global security response team.

Candid has made some worrying discoveries while researching the QSM.

‘While analyzing the top QS apps for smartphones we have found all sorts of worrisome behavior. How much data is actually gathered? How is the data stored? How many entities do you have to trust to not sell your data to marketing companies?

‘Furthermore, we discovered that most of the quantifying self hardware devices, like sports bracelets, do not implement the full spectrum of privacy functions available. Hence, people using such activity trackers can be tracked by others. We created a proof of concept scanner and performed some tests in different European cities. We will discuss the scan results and show that when the tracking is combined with the leakage of personal identifiable information, this can quickly become a nightmare.’

It promises to be one of the most relevant briefings of the next few days. Most people I know have some kind of QS device they use regularly.

Just a week ago I explained how a mate of mine who works for one of the big four banks now has a work-issued Jawbone Up! activity tracker.

Will his employer collect and use his data? It’s an important question.

With ever more people connected to QS devices, many of which are already vulnerable to corruption, what does the future hold for this movement?

I don’t know just yet. But it does trouble me. As big an advocate as I am for new technologies, I can’t deny the opportunities here for malicious perpetrators to hack the system.

I hope to have much clearer thoughts on it all by the end of the week. I should have a better idea of how you can protect yourself and, of course, how you can profit from it as an investor.


Sam Volkering+

Editor, Tech Insider

Tech Extra

Just as we individuals are all vulnerable online, so are governments. And just recently it came to light that the Russians had been taking advantage of this. You reckon Abbott wants to ‘shirt front’ Putin? What about NATO? I think the Secretary General might want to give him a ‘piledriver’.

The government likes to keep tabs on people who protest against it. Spying on its own citizens is a massive breach of civil liberties of course. It’s all good for the government when nobody realises they’re being spied on…until someone finds out.

Speaking of spying, what has the X-37B been up to? I saw its hanger at the Kennedy Space Centre in July when I was in Florida. There wasn’t much to see. That’s because the thing has been circling the earth checking out…us? But now, two years after launch, it’s coming home with an untold number of secrets for the US to mull over.

And this…

According to this former investment industry insider, there’s only thing that makes a small stock rocket like a surface-to-air missile…and that’s big, positive news story. So…what if there was a way you could legally INTERCEPT these kinds of news stories before they hit the mainstream press? Well now you CAN, as you’ll see, right here.

Sam is an amazing talent at finding new, cutting-edge technologies and translating that research into how the future will look — and where the investment opportunities lie. When he’s not writing Tech Insider, Sam spends his time uncovering the most exciting tech investments around the globe for readers of his premium investment advisory service Revolutionary Tech Investor.

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