Let’s see – Colin Powell, John Podesta – hacked – both powerful individuals with superior technical support, arguably superior to the average citizen, with security clearances that allow them to receive sensitive government data. Both existing in cloistered worlds, separate from the rest of us, seemingly immune from our mundane problems. So they assumed. So we assumed. After they were hacked, we all participated unwittingly in the breach. A breach which played out on the news, in cable-land, accompanied with questions about what the “public wants to know,” ignoring and refusing to discuss the fundamental breach of privacy and illegal activity done on our watch, supposedly in our name.
What else do we know? – Government and corporate entities are also not immune. India hacked. India hackers in turn targeted Pakistani websites. Name any country, if connected by phone, computer, banking, in this bold-new world, they too have been hacked, are doing the hacking, invading, exploring, stealing data. The Europeans, the Africans, the Asians, the Americans – all participants in the new rules of plunder.
In the United States, 21.5 million were affected by the breach of the United States government computers (obtaining health care information, financial data, personal information, including social security numbers, and fingerprints). Think your financial records are secure? Think again. Even the IRS isn’t immune – hacked. USA Today reported a 2015 IRS hack exposed 700,000 accounts. US News reported in February 2016, the additional hacking of IRS accounts, affecting 100,000 accounts. Robbing a bank by gun seemed so passé.
The predictable sentiments are loud and clear, wishing for the good old days. Don’t worry – the good old days are here. We are going to sleep at night with our doors and windows unlocked, comfortable with our safety, while hackers (both private and government) enter our world, pulling back the bed covers and do as they please. Telling us to put tape over the camera while we sleep doesn’t seem to solve the problem.
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) this past month (October 2016) issued a ruling [WC Docket No. 16-106], that some commentators have labeled “landmark.” The new rules permit the consumers to forbid Internet providers from sharing sensitive personal information, such as app and browsing histories, mobile location data and other information generated while using the Internet. Privacy advocates have applauded the changes. I would contend it is a good start, but we can’t ignore the other inaction and direct actions of our government; tantamount to locking the door, disabling the camera and security system, while leaving 9 out of the 10 windows cracked, open for theirs and others access.
In 2015, President Obama, urged Congress to pass a Personal Data and Protection Act, legislature which would require companies, read this as private companies, to notify customers within thirty days of discovery of a breach and if sensitive information is exposed. Congress took no action on the President’s request.
Our government (effective December 1, 2016), now has invoked new rules, “which would let judges issue search warrants for remote access to computers located in any jurisdiction, potentially including foreign countries.” These new rules broaden the government powers, allowing further access to data, breaching our privacy, further eroding the Fourth Amendment.
Absolutely, they tell us (read they, as politicians) that they too are concerned about privacy. In fact, it was reported that on October 27, 2016, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers from the U.S. Congress asked the Justice Department to clarify how the new rule change in the government’s hacking powers could impact privacy of innocent Americans. Of course, they (politicians) will ask, point to their asking and then go about their busy lives, reminding us of security concerns, and the need to make us safe, while our privacy rights continue to be eviscerated.
Sure, we can attempt to go off the grid, riding ourselves of computers, phones, any microchips found anywhere in our homes or work, but any such solution is about as unrealistic as some of us swearing off anything made with butter or sugar. Some of you can. Most of us can’t. Travel, banking, our jobs all implicate privacy concerns – where there is a computer, there is access. Ask the Democratic National Committee (DNC) – they too were hacked. And everyone laughed, ignoring the threat to our freedoms. Posting, musing, engaging in Face-time exposes each of us to the world. I can’t help but muse: if John Podesta and Colin Powell can be hacked, no one stands a chance, no matter what we do – particularly not under the current rules. Changing our passwords, spending billions on patches and security systems seems to ignore there are eight other windows open in which they can crawl through. Invading, touching, taking as they please – they did it to John. They did it to Colin.