December 5th, 2008


You and Internet Security

I was on a panel at Orycon that I keep meaning to post something about, dealing with online privacy.  I want to pass along a couple of things that I think people overlook sometimes.

1) The Internet is not a neighborhood bar or a comfortable lounge. It's more like a reality show featuring that comfortable lounge, where the feed is both available to everyone on the planet and gets archived for perpetuity.  When you say something on the Internet, it's there for everyone to see.  You may think that the person whose name you mentioned won't see it, but it's actually probable they will, either through the magic of Google Alerts or from someone helpfully passing the link along to them, so if you don't want them to see it, you might want to seek a different venue.  Similarly, if you take down a web page, it will still be available to those savvy enough to look in the right archives for it. 

If you are a new writer who is trying to maintain a professional image, bear in mind that behavior on your blog is not the same as complaining about something on the phone to a friend. It is public. Even things like friendslocking may not be quite as secure as you're thinking it is.

2) I'm careful about what information I put out on the Internet. For example, I recently saw a meme where people made up rock star/porn star/etc names, using things like "the name of your first pet", "the street you grew up on", etc. That's a lot of fun, but when I was looking at that, I noticed that at least three of those pieces of information are ones that my bank uses as online security questions.  Along the same lines, a friend got an account hacked because he'd used the name of one of his dogs as his password -- and then blogged about those dogs, complete with names.  Your easily remembered password may be just a little too easily guessed at if you don't take a little care.

I don't mean to sound paranoid.  But I worked in network security for a number of years, and it seems to me that people forget that the Internet has a few perils among the pleasures and porn very easily. That's my PSA for today.