July 1, 2011

Facebook, the Internet and Evils of Modernity


A young man was hacked.  His facebook account apparently cracked, sliced and violated without his knowledge and consent.  What the hacker left behind was ugly, unwanted viruses, nasty videos and chaos in his family.  How does this happen?  And further, should we all learn the lesson and totally shun the social utility facebook as a result?

Here's an answer to the first question I quickly found by googling a bit;

5 Ways Hackers Can Get Into Computer Systems:
2. Social Networking sites including:
a. Facebook - Hold on, hold on I am not telling you to get rid of your facebook account, I am just telling you to be very careful. Hackers have figured out how to create computer-generated facebook profiles and are using them to trick unsuspecting users into installing malware. This means that attackers have figured out a way to crack the facebook captcha, which is used to ensure profiles are created by humans, rather than computer scripts that automate the process, allowing attackers to create thousands of profiles at a time. facebook engineers are doing a good job killing these fake profiles, but you still need to be careful.

i. Don't click on profiles of people that you do not know.

ii. Do not click on the ads on the side of the page, because no one is monitoring what content may be in those ads.

iii. Malware is also being circulated via facebook messages. Do not open messages from anyone who isn't a friend or from friends you haven't heard from in a long time. Also don't open any messages that have strange subjects that don't look right such as "Maan,yyou're great!", "I found this video of you", etc.

Alright, so that is good advice.  We all have clicked on sidebar ads or video clips that were a little too tempting or stirred our curiosity.  No sin committed there, just a momentary lack of wisdom.  But, now that we all know, we will all be a little more cautious, right?

I was chatting with a dear friend just a couple of days ago.  No, not chatting on 'chat' or IM, but actually on a land-line telephone.  Retro, I know.  The subject matter keeps bouncing around in my mind; the evils of the internet.  Now, I find the internet to be a great tool for research as well as connecting me with friends both far and near.  It is part of my daily routine, as well as many others; getting online every day touching base with online friends.  Is that evil?  Nah, I wouldn't say so unless it completely takes the place of face-to-face connections.  In the case of long-distance friends and family, it is absolutely a lifeline for the relationship to continue.  Long gone are the days of pen pals waiting weeks, even months, to hear from their far-away friend.  Now, we can span the globe with a simple click and discuss the ever-important, albeit mundane, life issues that encompass and facilitate friendship and the sharing of lives.  I, for one, am not willing to forsake those relationships because there are scumbag hackers lurking. 

[To understand why anyone with an active internet connection is susceptible to becoming hacker prey, you first have to understand what reasons people do these things for. People “Hack” for a myriad of reasons including; To gain access to post political views, to maliciously ruin data, to access private information such as addresses and phone numbers which can be sold to spammers, credit card and social security information which can either be used to procure things they want, or to be sold to other malicious entities, for personal glory—they just want to see if they can do it, to plant malicious code on ANY remote computer (including yours or mine) that will allow them to attack other systems through yours, or simply because they just read an article or downloaded a utility that makes it easy for them.]

There is a distinction between hackers and stalkers, right?  Hackers might be defined as those developing trojans or viruses that are intended to seek and destroy the computers of unsuspecting computer users.  Stalkers, on the other hand, are those seeking information and/or photographs either once or on a continuing basis about a person or a group.

And, let's be honest, shall we?  For the majority of us, those that choose to stalk us are usually people whom we have had contact with in some way.  You know...that old boyfriend or ex-whatever, or perhaps you are just curious about that quiet gal that sits three cubes down at your office.  Maybe someone is just curious about you or wants to learn more about what clubs you are involved with.  I have heard of potential employers even accessing facebook accounts to gather further information about an applicant than what was shared on their resume.  Yeah, I know, stalking is a strong word, but I don't know what else to call it.  You simply have friendly stalkers or stalkers with bad intent.  And, isn't that just the way of the world?  Somehow, it always comes down to intent, doesn't it? 

A wise man once said that social utilities were something to be avoided.  And to a certain extent, he is right.  If the only reason you are going to be a part of a social utility such as facebook or myspace is to be a 'friend collector', you absolutely need to understand that it is all superficial.  However, it is my observation that most intelligent people avoid looking like a collector of many 'friends' they truly do not know; we all would agree that doing that is probably neither a good idea or even safe.  This wise man continued with his thoughts to state that a group of friends on the internet is quite different than having flesh and blood friends that you meet with on a regular basis to spend time together, and that this internet friends list does not constitute a beneficial, edifying community.  And, in that, he is correct.  Nothing can replace that repeated, face-to-face contact with others of like mind to make one feel connected, wanted and needed...a feeling of belonging.  No, the internet cannot replace a living, breathing community.

We all have to make decisions about how present we are going to be on the internet.  No, the internet is not evil in itself, the problem is the evil intent of some that are making the internet their playground.  Yes, it is wise to be careful of the content and personal information you put out for public consumption.  But, I'm not willing to give up all the good of the internet, as well as facebook, because there is a minority of people who are social psychopaths.  Besides, I know for a fact that if someone really wanted to find out information about me, they have ways of which the average internet user is ignorant, I'm sure.

So, what about my young man that got hacked?  Well, hopefully his favorite IT guy helped him clean up his computer, maybe even helping him out by installing more security features.  Perhaps he cared enough to advise the young man to warn those potential victims that were linked to the virus through facebook connection or his email address book.  I would hope that those closest to him would give him the benefit of the doubt as to whether he is actually looking up filth on the internet or is just an innocent victim of circumstance.  Here's to hopin'.

And here's to hopin' that people see the internet as something that is here to stay, just like the telephone, the automobile and electricity.  Binding oneself to a policy of "no internet" or "no social utilities" could be a limitation that you may want to rescind one day.  Keeping an open mind, staying flexible to the changing times and being aware of the zeitgeist is wise and prudent if you want to stay current and well-informed.

3 comments:

Jedi-J said...

Man you sure love to write. Wanna write my biography? ;)

Patty said...

Well said, my friend . . WOW!! :-)

Mama Cache said...

Well done! You know, I've lost a friend who was the victim of identity theft -- a close friend -- and now every trace of her is gone. Yet, somehow I really understand.

I certainly pray that this ends well for the young man of whom you write.