Internet Security and Privacy

Expert Advice from a True Novice

Well, here we are again with tech issues. This is just not my week. This post will probably be more of a continuation of “Tech and the Old Guy”. The saga continues:

This issue is with my Linux system now. I use a VPN through a third party app. I have been using it for several months now with no problems. So, yesterday I tried to fire up old reliable and when I tried to activate the VPN, nothing happened. It upset me to a certain degree because I just got things squared away on my windows computer.

Remember I mentioned in “Tech and the Old Guy” the reason I liked Linux so well was because when stuff broke on it, I could fix it. So, here I am, my VPN is broke. I cannot fix it.

I spent the whole day yesterday researching the problem and the best I can come up with is that an update (again) messed things up.

I researched the chat boards and spoke with a few experts who really couldn’t help. I resorted back to my old troubleshooting technique of completely uninstalling my VPN, it’s third party app and then reinstalling everything again. So, I did. I fired it up. It’s still broke. Damn it! (sorry) This time it says there were files missing.

Ok, now it’s time to contact tech support from my VPN provider. Nice people, but long story short they were not really helpful. Tech support offered up the notion that Linux could be a complicated proposition as it requires some moderate technical skills. Well, yes it does, I agreed: “but your VPN touts that it can work on my distribution of Linux and it’s not and you don’t seem to have any more solutions for the problem then I was able to come up with.”

So, for now, I have just resigned myself to the possibility that one day an update will mysteriously fix the file or files that are missing, but for now no one seems to know what those files are or where we can find them.

The good news is that my windows computer all of a sudden did a miraculous update. Even though in the last post, I didn’t feel that I got anywhere with the HP and Windows people, I think the phone call generated some action because all of a sudden these new updates started happening requiring multiple restarts. After all that I got an email from HP titled: “Enjoy your new computer”. It was the same one I received when I first took the laptop out of the box and fired it up. I was happy!

So for now, my Windows laptop is running optimally, my Linux laptop is currently a wounded bird in rehab. Linux still works, just without the benefit of my VPN.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Security and privacy.

I am not a computer expert. I would say I’m pretty well read on a few topics associated with my own machines. One thing I keep reading and keeps popping up in casual study of “who’s reading my stuff” is that really there is no privacy.

This is my take on the issue:

A while ago I had a Commodore 64 computer. I hooked it up to an old portable black and white TV and there began my computer curiosities. These old computers really gave you an insight as to how the 1’s and 0’s really worked. I was able to make my own programs and put it on a 5.25 floppy disk and my programs would respond to my commands. I remember once staying up all night writing a program loop that would great me formally with my name and a few pleasantries as a greeting when I signed in. I was so damn excited I woke my wife up to show her. Wow did she get pissed. When I settled her down I convinced her to take a look at what I built. I was waiting for her enthusiastic response. It didn’t happen. Here reaction was: “big deal the ATM at the bank does that”. (A further note: ATM’s at the bank were just starting to get popular at that time too)

Anyway, I digress: At the time my computer was a combination techno science and play thing all at the same time. It evolved rapidly and then became a thing of productivity. Enter the dot matrix printer.

Time went on then the internet started becoming a thing. Dial up. Then digital. Now with the advancement of the huge tech giants like Google and Facebook and shopping giants like Amazon, your computer is no longer just a tool for productivity, it is a window into your house!

I don’t know about you, but as I’m setting here typing these conglomeration of words I would be extremely upset if I looked up and saw someone peaking in my window. I would probably close the blinds and then step out and if they were still there ask them: “What the hell are you doing?” It’s creepy to me to think people are just randomly peaking in my window.

That’s what your computer is now. If you are connected to the internet, your computer is now a window for the tech giants, hackers and thieves to peak inside your home.

When I try to express my concerns to my friends, they are under the misunderstanding that that I am speaking of anonymity. There first reaction is: “what do you have to hide.” Well, I don’t have anything to hide and I’m not suggesting that anonymity on the internet is even a real possibility. What I’m saying is I just don’t want people peaking in my house.

The big tech giants are collecting data on you. They are peaking into your house through the window (your computer). Close the blinds.

There are some simple things to do like don’t give up you permissions so easily. Surf using a virtual private network (VPN) lock down the security on your browser. Don’t just accept the default setting from your browser. And most important, if you are dealing with sensitive information on your computer, contact a real cybersecurity expert for advice.

There are a lot of stories out there about how the tech giants may be exploiting our personal information. When stories come out on the internet it’s good to be skeptical, but when they come from different sources with the same message, it has the tendency to make me curious. As I look deeper into some of these stories my curiosity turned to serious concern.

One story I read was about a big tech giant working with the Chinese government on a censored search engine and tracking it’s citizens so as to assess social points and potentially restrict their movement based on social points. HOLY COW!

Be concerned people. No need to over react. Just do a few simple things to protect your data.

Oh, and get out there and VOTE!

Be safe.