The Internet is still the Wild West

Cybersecurity is a growing concern as more business is done and more records are kept online.

by Frank

Just the other day, a close friend from high school sent me an e-mail from Missouri. The message was from a seemingly distressed stay-at-home mom whom my friend had interviewed for a local magazine several weeks ago.

“Things actually got out of control on my trip to London,” read the email. “I was mugged and all my belongings âÄî cash, cellphone and credit cards âÄî were all stolen at gun point [sic]. I need your help flying back home as I am trying to raise some money.”

Littered with poor spelling and improper grammar, the email address it was sent from was indeed the womanâÄôs, but a quick Google search of the emailâÄôs text revealed that there were 40 identical results. It looked like we had some identity theft going on in front of us.

As a victim of identity theft myself, I know my mistake was trusting that the security on my computer would be able to protect my personal information.

I chose poorly about how to purchase items online and it resulted in several hundred dollars worth of camping equipment being charged to my debit card.

As a college student who grew up with the Internet and canâÄôt remember when it didnâÄôt exist, I am one student who did a poor job controlling personal information online. Luckily, I was able to catch my mistake before any more damage could be done under my name.

The Internet as we know it is as young as a typical college student. And because of its youth, it is still a vulnerable and flawed product.

I recently found an email in my inbox from my mother âÄî she was trying to share a video on YouTube with me. Knowing all too well that the link wasnâÄôt to YouTube, I deleted the email. This wasnâÄôt the first time my momâÄôs hacked account had sent me the same virus-laced email.

Viruses like the one I could have had on my computer had I clicked on this link could steal the password to my email, bank account, among other things.

At the University of Minnesota, close to 10,000 attacks are made against University computers on the schoolâÄôs network every year. Many of them are spread by emails that rely on the userâÄôs trust.

Hackers arenâÄôt just targeting individuals for their identity and personal wealth, though. TheyâÄôre working up the chain and attacking government agencies and billion-dollar corporations.

And digital security has become a serious issue not just at the office-worker level, but the executive level. This year alone, U.S. companies will be spending more than $130 billion on cybersecurity.

In the past six months, weâÄôve seen hackers cripple SonyâÄôs PlayStation network, causing distress for the 25 million members whose personal information was breached while the group of hackers who claimed responsibility achieved celebrity status. They garnered over 345,000 followers on Twitter while the only thing authorities could do was to follow them on Twitter themselves.

Hackers could shut down important government websites âÄî the CIAâÄôs website was shut down last month âÄî to flex their muscles. The most feared hackers, however, are the ones who steal information for profit.

In the information age, hackers are the pirates and our personal information is their treasure.

As crooks continue to be a step ahead of the authorities, itâÄôs time the government steps up to address the issue of internet privacy by expending more resources on enforcement. But while the issue works its way up the federal to-do list, everyone can do themselves a favor by being aware of the online presence they are unknowingly leaving behind.