Too much faith in the Internet’s security?

Recent blunders involving user information should make us consider Internet security risks.

Connor Nikolic

Last week, I received an unsettling email from TCF Bank informing me that I would receive a new card because my old one had been compromised.

In a panic, I rushed to my nearest branch. The cashier — who was much calmer than I — looked at my account and saw no suspicious charges. She said this is VISA’s standard policy after recent card-hacking scandals at Cub Foods, Home Depot and Target, suggesting that I should monitor my account closely. I chuckled to myself for a moment, remembering that I’d bought groceries at Cub just the day before. Later, I received my new card in the mail, and that was that.

My life had had enough privacy concerns before I read about Facebook’s recent error. The social media giant has admitted to manipulating users’ news feeds for a study on user emotions. The research was conducted on nearly 700,000 users in a one-week span in 2012, without the consent of the individuals studied.

The scariest part of this is that Facebook, with help from two universities, conducted this study two years ago. For two years, people were unaware that this research had taken place. That’s the type of power that social media sites like Facebook have.

Last week, JP Morgan Chase filed an SEC-mandated disclosure of details on the company’s substantial summer security breach. More than 76 million households’ data and 7 million small businesses’ data were compromised. Undetected hackers accessed 90 of JP Morgan Chase’s servers for weeks. Fortunately, no financial information or social security numbers were compromised, according to the firm.

We’ve been told that it’s our own responsibility to protect our data. We’re told to change our passwords twice each year and to use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t forget to throw in difficult security questions for good measure. Pay with cash at the registers. Manually enter your card number for each online purchase you make, as opposed to allowing the sites to conveniently hold your data. Review all of your accounts regularly, at least once or twice each week. Don’t open email attachments from strangers.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Use this opportunity to talk with family about safe Internet use.

Of course, the safest way to protect your information is to go off the grid. While that’s certainly a nice thought, it’s nothing more than a pie in the sky to most Americans today.

We need the web and its connectivity in dozens of aspects of our lives. I’d be all but incapable of performing my job without the Internet, and this discussion would reach significantly fewer readers if the Minnesota Daily didn’t publish online. The Internet is part of my life. It is part of all our lives, and it will be an even greater part of our lives in the years to come. It is our responsibility to protect ourselves.