I’m talking specifically about an email I recently received. The subject line read, “Am Banking Issues, Needing Urgently Response Please.” Verbatim, that’s what it said. Now this isn’t anything new, it’s just the least literate one of these I’ve ever received. Some cyber criminals I have to give begrudging respect to for inventiveness, or even acknowledge that their scam may be dangerously effective. But seriously, “Needing urgently response?” Not even Google translate mangles a translation that badly. I mean it didn’t help that it was from an unknown sender who supposedly worked at a bank I have no account with, but come on scammers. A little effort please.
Not that I want them to get any better at what they do, but I do have standards. I’ve been receiving daytime phone calls beginning “This is an important message about your ___ credit card account,” even though the ____ they mention is not the kind of credit card I carry. I’d just be ignoring them, but I sleep during the day. So I’m reporting them to the BBB and the State AG’s consumer protection division. Not because I think it will be effective (the wheels turn slowly) but just because a: I hate the scammers, and b: it might someday help someone not get scammed.
Although the biggest cybercrime in the news recently seems to be the NSA spying on us. Some people have asked me (because I’m “computer or internet guy”) what I think about this scandal. My answer seems to shock most folks.
Yeah, please. Anytime a new communication medium is invented the first thing anyone does is figure out how to spy with it. Anyone who thought their email was ever secure from prying eyes was wrong and endearingly naive. Anyone who thinks anything you post on social media sites like facebook or twitter is safe and only going where you want it to… well that’s just downright laughable. My “rule of thumb” is simple. If you put it on the internet… make sure it’s something that you wouldn’t mind everyone on the internet finding out.
Now yes, I do some shopping online, and do e-file my taxes. But I take extreme caution when I do so. The payment system I use is highly rated as a “trusted” site by many consumer advocacy groups and computer security firms. And it only accesses an account I maintain specifically for online shopping, and it’s pre-pay and will not spend any money I don’t clear by transferring it into the account for the purchase I’m going to make (consult your tax or banking professional for more specific advice.) Taxes I do behind a massive firewall using very reliable computer security. And I never save any information to the cloud. “Would you like to save the information to make the next transaction easier?” No, I would not. As an act of supreme security paranoia, I don’t even save passwords on MY OWN computer. If I get hacked (my security makes it unlikely, but it can happen to anyone) my passwords aren’t saved anywhere on my computer. That won’t protect against a keylogger, but my security will pick up on a keylogger before I have a chance to enter any passwords.
And those aren’t even the only precautions I take. Some of the precautions I take to separate myself from my online “identity” actually VIOLATE the TOS (terms of service) of the web services I’m using. So I won’t mention those, I don’t want my accounts closed. Hypothetical examples of such violations would include registering for an internet service using a fake name or phony address.
And all of that’s why NSA spying doesn’t bother me. Because I had always assumed they WERE already spying. Or rather I guess it does “bother” me, but fails to “surprise” or “affect” me in any way. I don’t blame the government, (current or prior regimes) but rather I see the misuse of technology as an unfortunate side-effect of the development of that technology in the first place. The question I have to answer is “Do I like the internet?” It it’s existence as a whole worth the fact that it can be used to spy on me? To me it’s worth it. I don’t do anything illegal, online or otherwise so I don’t really have a dog in the hunt either. Then again if I were doing anything illegal, I certainly would be lying about it here on this blog. BECAUSE ONLINE ADMISSIONS OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY WOULD BE A BAD IDEA, PEOPLE MIGHT BE LISTENING.
So to any NSA guys that might be reading this or anything else from me (emails, forum replies, etc.) I apologize for wasting your time. I realize that what you can find out about me online is pretty boring. Just a suggestion… stand up, stretch a little bit, maybe go get a coffee. Now back to work, those cybercriminals and terrorists aren’t going to catch themselves. You know, unless they brag about their activities on twitter.
I do like the occasional blog update about video games. If you (like me) enjoy games then I’m sure all this is common knowledge. But if all you hear is the easily refuted “studies” that show a link between violent behavior and video games then you might be the type of person who has never heard anything about them from an advocates’ point of view. Most will never admit it’s the same thing, but how many times did baby boomers hear, “TV will rot your brain,” while they were growing up? Yet boomers from their easy chairs will actually yell at folks my age “stop playing those games and grow up.” Which I’ve always found funny, it’s a pastime. Like reading, or television, or golf, or model railway…
And yes, it is exactly the same thing. “But oh,” some blame pushing parent might say, “those Columbine kids played shooting games and so did the Sandy Hook shooter.”
Well, here’s the response. Did you blame “Taxi Driver” or Jodi Foster for the actions of John Hinckley, Jr.? Charles Manson not to blame, he was only following the instructions set forth by the Beatles in the White Album and “Helter Skelter?”
The real answer… crazy people will do crazy things for bizarre reasons that are usually unrelated to their actions and only connected by their link in a diseased mind. And at some point in time every “newer” form of entertainment medium has been blamed for “behavioral issues” that are more easily linked to social situations (like bullying) or home life (abuse and neglect.) I’m sure bad parents in the Victorian Era were all talking about how terrible their kids were acting and how it was all the fault of those new-fangled zoetropes.
But it’s not ALL bad, lazy, irresponsible parenting. Although the bad ones really do try hard to blame others before taking on any responsibility on themselves. There are plenty of genetic disorders out there that really do cause potentially dangerous behavior no matter how good a home environment a kid might have.
But to blame an entertainment medium… is just ignorant. Any pastime or hobby can become unhealthy if taken to the level of obsession. I’ll freely admit to “binge” gaming on occasion. I’ll fire up a game and then the next time I check the clock 4 or 5 hours have passed. I’m usually a little too hyperkinetic to sit for that long but it happens. Then again, I’ve done the same reading a book I really like. Pick it up to read a chapter or so only to finish it and find I’ve been reading for several hours. A new trend in TV watching with shows being available to stream on services like Netflix and Hulu is being called “binge watching.” A new season of a television show becomes available, and someone watches all the episodes back to back. That’s not really one that gets me (I don’t like ANY shows THAT much,) but I’ve done “movie marathons” before. I don’t see occasional indulgences to be that unhealthy, but ANY pastime can be taken to the level of obsession. I’ve never let indulging in a hobby make me late to work. Maybe miss out on sleep but always managed to get myself to work. And when I say ANY hobby… I mean it. If it negatively affects work or social activities, even if you are just a stamp collector or a lepidopterist, taking any hobby too far is easy to do. You hear horror stories about parents (dads usually) getting so upset over kids’ baseball or soccer that a shouting match or a fistfight ensues. Golf clubs get thrown through windows, church ladies cheat at bingo, people buy “yoga outfits…”