Identity Theft…think about it

By Bruce Schneier, in his 15.May.2019 Crypto-Gram

I don’t have a lot of good news for you. The truth is there’s nothing we can do to protect our data from being stolen by cyber criminals and others.

Ten years ago, I could have given you all sorts of advice about using encryption, not sending information over email, securing your web connections, and a host of other things — but most of that doesn’t matter anymore. Today, your sensitive data is controlled by others, and there’s nothing you can personally to do affect its security.

I could give you advice like don’t stay at a hotel (the Marriott breach), don’t get a government clearance (the Office of Personnel Management hack), don’t store your photos online (Apple breach and others), don’t use email (many, many different breaches), and don’t have anything other than an anonymous cash-only relationship with anyone, ever (the Equifax breach). But that’s all ridiculous advice for anyone trying to live a normal life in the 21st century.

The reality is that your sensitive data has likely already been stolen, multiple times. Cybercriminals have your credit card information. They have your social security number and your mother’s maiden name. They have your address and phone number. They obtained the data by hacking any one of the hundreds of companies you entrust with the data — and you have no visibility into those companies’ security practices, and no recourse when they lose your data.

Given this, your best option is to turn your efforts toward trying to make sure that your data isn’t used against you:

  • Enable two-factor authentication for all important accounts whenever possible.
  • Don’t reuse passwords for anything important — and get a password manager to remember them all.
  • Do your best to disable the “secret questions” and other backup authentication mechanisms companies use when you forget your password — those are invariably insecure.
  • Watch your credit reports and your bank accounts for suspicious activity. Set up credit freezes with the major credit bureaus.
  • Be wary of email and phone calls you get from people purporting to be from companies you do business with.

Of course, it’s unlikely you will do a lot of this. Pretty much no one does. That’s because it’s annoying and inconvenient. This is the reality, though. The companies you do business with have no real incentive to secure your data. The best way for you to protect yourself is to change that incentive, which means agitating for government oversight of this space. This includes proscriptive regulations, more flexible security standards, liabilities, certification, licensing, and meaningful labelling. Once that happens, the market will step in and provide companies with the technologies they can use to secure your data.



Doing Stuff

Growing up, Dad was always, always doing something. Either he was working as an architect, or doing something around the house.  He might be reading, but that was the most luxurious thing he would ever do.  He built things, created Christmas cards using block printing, put together our stereo (remember, the kind with all the lit-up tubes?). You get the picture.  ‘Lounging’ was not really a concept for him. ‘Are you being useful’ was his phrase.    My sister does the same; she moves and moves and moves. She got another degree while raising three kids, how does someone do that?! I just got back from a trip to Greece that she organised, and was oh so tired from it. Happy. But tired.

Well, now that I’m all grown up (mostly), let’s see whether I can start to emulate their ‘doing stuff’ way of life. Up till now, it’s been go-to-work-eat-sleep-survive.  Things have changed, and for the better, so the next few posts will be about my getting off the couch. Of doing, of experiencing, of breathing in this world that I’ve unimaginably been given.

Oh, and here are Billy and Georgia.



Thinking about action today. I was out running (a sporadic thing), and was thinking about fear because I’m about to go visit a new country on my own, and think that this will be good for me.  It would be good to do something different. Two things came to mind.

Memories. Memories stand out because they focus on something different. Take for example my neighbourhood flea market. I go over there perhaps every other week for local produce and to browse, perhaps for the last 8 years, and yet I’ve very few memories of each of these trips. It’s pretty much the same thing. I know I’ve settled into a routine, but this means the memories are scarce. It’s a blur.
It’s pretty much a guarantee that the trip to Hong Kong won’t be a blur.

Movement. Years ago, I was reading a german article about the evolution of the human body, and a doctor in the article said, ‘now, this is why modern society has so many health problems. The human body is designed for movement, not for sitting still.’ That really clicked for me. As a system, my body is designed to move. That includes my brain, gut, etc, not just my legs and arms and back.  At the time, it gave me an incentive to get out and do more walking and running.
Today, it clicked that we are designed for movement not just on a physical level, but an emotional and intellectual one as well.  If I just receive, if I just read a book or watch movies, or pretty much just ‘take in’, the cycle is stagnant. I have to actively DO something to complete the cycle of movement. Without this, it all feels meaningless, or I’m restless, or bored.

Of course, we’ve all heard ‘it doesn’t matter what you do. Just get out there and do it. Try anything, you’ll figure out what you like.’  But I’m one of those people who needs to know why I’m doing something, what’s the end result. Yes, you can say it’s all about the journey, but that has never helped me to get started.

But seeing action as a completion of the cycle, that helps to see that it really doesn’t matter what you do, it’s the action that counts.  So, ok, I’ll go to Hong Kong and, do.

No Photos

Was thinking about what I said to a friend about Dad’s Alzheimer’s. “Still at home, still very functional. Just losing memory, language, and logic abilities. Falling back on patterns, which, because they’re no longer based on anything, make you see them as the walls of defense that they always were. Really makes you sit up and think about your own patterns.”
For instance. I hear at least once every half hour, one of these two sentences”: “Are you doing something useful?” or “I should be doing something useful.” He is the son of a Presbyterian preacher, and was one of the most ethical people I knew, but suffered for it by the most overwhelming sense of guilt that he wasn’t quite up to scratch. Now that the logic behind the ethics is gone, it boils down to ‘useful’, and he’s still feeling the guilt. Ummph. He’s 75, retired, and has worked hard all his life; why shouldn’t he be able to just sit? Eat? Enjoy the mountain scenery?

My stepmother says, ‘If you’re feeling guilty, you’ve been had’. Bill’s friends say ‘Give it up, you don’t have that much control or power’.

I am my father’s daughter. I inherited the guilt, which often ended in depression. (‘I’m not doing anything meaningful with my life, Wail.) BUT. If three months of hearing Dad doesn’t kick it out of me, I’m not sure what could.