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Internet Security and Anonymity on the Internet

A slew of thoughts and opinions came to me tonight inspiring me to get out of bed and start posting again. Here’s the first of them. Internet Security is something we’ve all heard someone harp on about at some point in our lives, whether it be that one teacher or Uncle who gave you ‘life’ advice (the sort of tidbits like “don’t give up on your dreams!” or “You have to work hard to get where you want to be”, you know, those sentences that make you look at whoever said them and think to yourself “well no shit.”). The point is, the numerous times I heard about this I always scoffed and thought well I’m not stupid enough to put home addresses on facebook nor am I the type of person who will fall prey to cyber bullying. To be entirely honest I always thought when reading about stories of cyber bullying where the victim was attacked on multiple media websites and at home that the person in question must have been pretty careless about their information to let it get to the point. I mean, if you do something stupid or say something rude on 9gag for instance and you start getting comments on your profile or what-have-you, simply delete the profile and move on with your life.

That, at least, was my initial standpoint. As it happened to be, a few days ago I made a pretty careless post on Reddit. I won’t go into detail but I may have exaggerated (not on purpose, but more due to it being a rough estimate) a detail of a question I was asking the community. Instead of responding to my question the initial 10 comments were users getting hung up on this small detail. Realizing what was becoming of my post, I promptly deleted it and created a new one without the exaggeration so that users could instead focus on the question at hand.

As I walked away from my computer a thought struck me:

“What if one of those users I was arguing with became really incensed at the fact that I simply deleted the whole post instead of resolving whether my exaggeration was true or not. What if they wanted to let me know just how incensed they were? Could they do it? Sure they could comment on my Reddit account profile, but what else could they do?”

With a slight quickening of step I turned and went to my computer and searched my Reddit username into google. And boy oh boy do you want to know what came up. The username I had been using for Reddit I had been using across multiple sites and platforms; Steam, Accounts for games, Youtube, Google+ etc. The point is a whole well of information came up after I searched one word and a number into google.

Through my email, people knew my name. Through my youtube account, People had a picture of me. Through the sites of certain games tracking login location down to country and city, people had a rough idea of my location. Using these three things, people had a pretty good starting point to find me on Facebook where further information can be gathered. I was at risk. Although at no point I put all my information onto one site, through the years I had been slightly careless here and there and one simple google search brought up the history of all my security transgressions like a criminal record.

Without knowing it I had put myself at risk. You can even try it for yourself, take someones username from a random site and just type it into google. Out of the 5 times I have tried it, after +- 30 minutes of searching I was able 3/5 times to locate the strangers Facebook as well as there hometown.

Here are the results of Subject #4

I was able to find a Twitter account, Youtube Account, Myspace account and Soundcloud account, simply from their username on Reddit. Using the information collectively gathered from these sites I was then able to find a Facebook account. The information gathered from these sites told me this; #4 is a parent with two children, has been married a year (1 kid came before the marriage), has aspirations to be a rap artist, is deeply christian and believes in the existence of angels and that these angels do constant deeds of good, I know the subject’s location down to suburb of major city, I know subject’s close friends and family, I know subject doesn’t have a university degree, I know where subject works and I know subjects preferred entertainment choices [movies, music, tv shows, (no books, subject doesn’t read)]. Rest assured I have no nefarious plans for this person, but can you imagine in the hands of a cyber bully the amount of proverbial ammunition he/she just gained from under 30 minutes of google searching? Quite frankly its astounding.

Back to my case, I’m part of the younger generation, and have been hooked into the internet since about age 11. Careless mistakes might not be conceived under the mind of a 18 year old but from a 11 year old kid? Most definitely. I had then 7 years of mistakes that already accumulated to me being pretty vulnerable.

If you think about the generations being churned out now however (the kids with Iphones, Xbox live accounts and Facebook profiles at age 8 etc) then the period for careless mistakes is dramatically increased. But what’s the solution? You can’t lock away your child or yourself from the internet, it’s becoming increasingly a huge part of civilization. Inter-connectivity is almost the hallmark of the modern age. Every new site visited has plug-ins to other websites, “Share on Facebook” or “Login with your Google+ account”. Google for instance, their recent acquisition of Youtube has resulted in the (for now) option of syncing your google+ account to your youtube account. And why not too? From a business perspective you want as many people as possible to hear about this or that offer, so you add a “like on facebook!” option because there it has the potential of reaching 1,310,000,000 people (not a made up number, this is facebooks monthly active user number). So it’s not as if this whole inter-connectivity thing will slow down.

And if you’re sitting here thinking, “Yes well that’s all very good, but no ones going to cyber bully me so I’m hardly in any danger am I!” (I know I said earlier no fancy script but hey, I can’t help myself.) then quite frankly I’d have to call you an idiot. Cyber bullying isn’t the only threat that this information brings. There’s also identity theft for you 30 year olds who have a family, a house and a job to keep. And for any 18 year olds entering the job market remember that it’s standard now for employers to do a background check on the internet. “Remember that comment you made on youtube 2 years ago? The one where you told that one guy “you’re a faggot and I did your mom last night? Yes? You remember? Oh no not that one, the one you made 2 weeks earlier. Oh no sorry you made 100 of those comments that day”. Don’t remember? Well your employer know’s.

So what to then Rusks? You’ve raised this whole issue of internet security and how dangerous it is being on the internet, what’s the solution? Well, for starters just do a google search of yourself. See what other people would see if they did that and eliminate the things you don’t want people seeing. Otherwise just be alert and educate your kids if you have any (but please not in the same manner as I was ‘educated’).

Anywho, thought over really. I’ve been typing for an hour now and my enthusiasm has been curbed. Enough on this. Next post whenever I have an argument with myself. Ciao

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