Online security … do we have to worry?

I woke up this morning and read two articles. One was from Fast Company regarding Mint a ‘Quicken’ killer that strives to make balancing your checkbook ‘fun’ well if not fun then at least less painful. Its all online, you put in all your banking and credit card data, it mines it all and then voila puts it all in one place and automatically categorizes them. The second article I read was Wired’s “Why ‘Anonymous’ Data Sometimes Isn’t” by Bruce Schneider. In his article he talked about how little information is actually needed to de-anonymize data.

Using public anonymous data from the 1990 census, Latanya Sweeney found that 87 percent of the population in the United States, 216 million of 248 million, could likely be uniquely identified by their five-digit ZIP code, combined with their gender and date of birth. About half of the U.S. population is likely identifiable by gender, date of birth and the city, town or municipality in which the person resides.

It’s scary. On one hand you have the benefits of utility and efficiency, on the other hand you have security. It’s the reason why my mom refuses to use a credit card or ATM card. It exposes her to more risk. Incredulous, I exclaim “… but its so convenient. Why do you want to rely on CASH?” (It’s so old school) Maybe I am part of the old generation now and it’s the ‘kids’ that will look at me with their mouths hanging open and ask me ‘What do you mean you don’t do your finances online?”

I realize I am not as secure as i can be. In the beginning of the web years, I used part of my real name on a forum. That series of posts still haunt me to this day. (For god’s sakes…I said that 6 years AGO!! Does it get automatically wiped off in 7 years like bad credit?) The lesson I learned? Whatever I put on the web will ultimately be found and yes, used. (Get those naked pictures down now!)

A friend of mine, recently answered one of those crazy scam e-mails. You know the one, “I am from (insert exotic country of choice) I have 100 million $. I need you to claim it.  It’s no risk. I just really need to give you this money.” I used to get 10 of those a day. Some of them are actually really funny…but hell, I never answer them! But I do ask myself…who believes these things. (Now I have actually found one…my extremely naive friend) So he emailed the guy back. In the following week, the guy got his phone number, address and real name. Now he is stalked by this guy who wants him to send a check for 250$ so that they can mail him a check for  650,000$.

As for the question of “How I can be more safe online”? I am thinking that whatever it is I do…its probably still not enough. And I don’t care that mint uses the same data guys Microsoft Money uses…that’s ALL my information out there…. no thanks. I am sticking to old school.


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