Your Opinion: “What are the current privacy threats?”

In 2001 we held a survey on HNS regarding the current privacy threats. Many visitors decided to share their opinions with us, thank you. Listed below are some of the most interesting opinions.

“Users are so eager to obtain free software (which unfortunately seems to be on its way to becoming a thing of the past) that they are willing to put up with its current mutation, adware, in order to avoid living off of ramen and sandwiches to keep their systems happy. Ad-supported software has become so commonplace now that it’s not even given a second thought, which is exactly what marketers want. Banner ads and pay-to-surf programs deaden the user to online advertising, while ensuring that it’s thought of as a means to obtain something of value for free. There is almost no such thing as “free” anymore. Users are often unaware of the fact that these programs can and do track not only demographic information and surfing habits, but they also pick up personal (and personally identifiable) information, either directly through user-submitted forms or by putting the pieces of information together. Their identities are being sold and tracked, over and over, and by now most of them don’t know or don’t care, or believe that privacy was lost too long ago to reclaim. It is their indifference and apathy that is the biggest threat to privacy, and the misleading spin put on by the advertisers that is a close second, tied with increasing misguided, underinformed, and often unneeded governmental legislation. However, in this era where governments often take a back seat to the corporate world where running their countries are concerned, the business sector is the area to watch more closely, if there are people available to baby-sit the governments.” – Zahira Aetheyrscat

“The abuse of personal information that was submitted in ‘good faith’. It is allready a widespread practice, for lots of websites to require registration, where the obvious intent is only to get the contact information for marketing purposes, and little else benefit to the actual web-surfer. Most companies have opt-out checkboxes, but still, some will nevertless try to subscribe you to lists, or give you other valued information, that I really did not request. This is especially true for any e-commerce site, most will subscribe you to any number of their newsletters, as soon as you buy something from them, without asking but thankfully with an option to remove yourself from the list. But this behaviour allready shows how litte respect those companies have towards your privacy, given that their customer-information is the only tangible asset they might have.” – Daniel Kluge

“Privacy threats are coming at internet users from all sides. Most users have a complacent attutide about their family’s privacy. I feel with the current state of affairs, one must have two non-networked computers. One for online activities and one for everything else. Companies like Zero Knowledge are finally helping us fight back!” – Jeffrey Febre

“Currently there are a lot of threats for the internet surfer, more than the ones before. Cause the technology used before was much more simple than the ones used today… For example lets take HTML it was very simple at the beginnig of the web but now it has many many extensions added to it, like asp, VBscript, JavaScript, ServerSide includes, using cookies and many others… All of these have some kind of threats to surfers. With cookies for example a users internet surf habits can be grabbed, and with java security valnurabilities a users disk may be exposed to the internet… So one should be very carefull using these thecnologies, if not necessary disable all of them… On the other hand Windows platform is itself is a threat to surfers. With Micrsoft ActiveX thechnology added to Internet Explorer and Outlook applications have a lot of valnurability that can be used easily by internet worms in order to infect to the users PC and from there spread to others. Currently a worm is able to infect a PC via email even if u don’t click the file attachment! So i totally advise not to use those programs at all, or get updates all the time immediately… On the internet threats may come from Thecnolog weaknesses or from Users weaknesses. That’s all of the above threats come from thechnology weaknesses from the third party suppliers. And we have nothing to do with them, i mean we have no way to influence them and get rid of them totally.. But on the ather hand, in my opinion the real threat comes from the User itself. Education is the most important part of it. Many users are not aware of the weaknesses of internet and about privacy issues. That’s why social engineering is so widely used by hackers as a very effective tool! And that’s why many internet worms written currently use those weaknesses of the users and spread themselves very easyly on the internet. If users know a little bir about security and pay attention all of those worms and other malicious attacks would be useless. So in short, most of the privacy threats currently come from the advance of technology used on the internet. But most importantly privacy threats come from the user itself, with insufficent knowledge, as most malicious users realise that trends among users and exploit it very effectively… As a last word i just say that we should educate ourselves and others all the time….” – Savas Kose

“One of the major threats to Internet privacy is the revealing of one’s user information in cleartext, by using an unsecure login or utility program. Another is using an outdated protocol, such as http, to implement sensitive transactions like online purchases. Finally, an administrator who fails to update his or her company’s operating system(s) with the latest security patches can open up the system to various hackers.” – Steve Fong

“Privacy is both an interesting and relevant issue for discussion. The dynamics of this topic are constantly changing, taking on new forms almost daily. The most surprising thing about these breaches of privacy and trust is not that it happens, but that it happens and we don’t take the required measures to ensure it never happens again. Right now, I can think of many issues and concerns with privacy on the Internet these days, and taking more time I could probably come up with a dozen more, however these are some of my current concerns dealing with privacy:

– Doubleclick and similar user profiling companies (consent which was not asked for or given by the user; having to ‘OPT-OUT’ manually)

– Carnivore/Echelon implementations

– poor privacy certification (Trust-e) and enforcement

– companies that collect information without consent, with little to fear of being caught

– lack of Government regulations and support for enforcing privacy

– closed-source programs or programs with poor security models (Internet Explorer, Outlook)

– slow progress made with implementing secure communication methods (e.g. IPSec) across the entire Internet for all users

– government resistance to encryption usage” – John Best

“Commercial tracking of my web activities doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the complete lack of privacy for email. Of course, I use PGP whenever possible – and that hopefully does the trick. But many people that are online just don’t understand the capabilities of email surveillance and interception. You don’t have to have anything to hide to have your privacy violated, but that is not the point. The point is you shouldn’t have to worry if you have something to hide or not. Privacy is a right, and for those who appreciate it and attempt to protect it through anonymizing software, encryption, and proxies – programs like Echelon, Carnivore, RIP, and whatever else really piss us off. My main Net privacy threat is people online who don’t respect my privacy, whether it is through ignorance, complacency, or illegal surveillance.” – Scully

“The most blatant abuse of internet user privacy today is in, my opinion, the intrusive machinations of unscrupulous website operators, who attempt to capture your personal surfing habits for list validity which they then sell on the advertisers. It is particularly obnoxious when they do not declare they are doing this.” – Michael Yuill