Friday, July 8, 2011

Privacy in the hi-tech era? Yea, right!

Rupert Murdoch has announced he's pulling the plug on his News of The World tabloid newspaper and website.

This move comes after massive public outrage that NOTW had hacked a large number of phone accounts in order to get juicy information for its articles and expose's.

Many people are left wondering just how a bunch of newspaper reporters managed to gain access to what most people think are the secure voicemail systems offered by their phone providers.

The answer is simple -- it's really not that hard at all to access someone else's voicemail, if you know how.

I'm not about to divulge the exact details of how to go about this bit of skullduggery but suffice to say it involves the use of a VOIP connection and some spoofing of the information that connection delivers to the called party.

The illusion of security and privacy which used to surround our hi-tech communications services is once again shot to hell and back.

What's more, if you're an NZ resident, you're now even more likely to find your electronic communications being tapped, monitored and recorded by the government's SIS bureau.

New legislation makes if far easier for this security agency to perform such activities when and where they feel it appropriate to do so -- much to the disgust of many who believe such powers to be totally unnecessary and far too open to abuse.

If you really want privacy and security, you'll now have no option but to use heavy encryption on all data sent to or from your computer, and even when it's stored on your hard drive or backup media. The reality is that it's just so simple for other people to eavesdrop on what you're doing that sensible people will always assume that all communications will eventually fall into the hands of the media or the public at large.

Even if it's not hackers or "big brother" pressing their virtual ears to your electronic communications, it could be any number of hi-tech gadgets which can be bought direct from China that compromise the security of your messaging.

For around $50 you can now import very sophisticated bugging equipment and even covert cameras which will either transmit pictures and audio over distances of up to 1Km, or write it all to a removable microSD card for later recovery.

I know that I myself occasionally use my little HD keychain camera to covertly record important meetings and conversations -- something that has already proven to be invaluable when an official gave me an assurance -- but later denied doing so. With videographic evidence presented, it was amazing just how quickly they recanted on that denial.

This shows that, in today's hi-tech world, those who live by the sword shall also die by the sword and technology is a slave to all who choose to use it, playing no favourites.

The unfortunate thing is, I much preferred a time when we really could be certain that private messages or conversations were just that -- private. Too bad those days are gone forever, such is the price of progress.

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