Getting a dog for home security can make sense, but how about online security?
This weekend we started downloading a map app – high tech consumers in action, but progress ground to a halt because we were uncomfortable with the app’s demand for an email identity to associate with the app. There is no good reason for the app to need that and even less reason for us to waste a well-behaved email identity. If we give it up, it will be henceforth tracked and thoroughly spammed.
We created an email account for our dog under an amusing pseudonym.
Spam won’t bother him since he doesn’t check for email, never clicks on dodgy commercial offers, and he hasn’t mentioned a Nigerian lottery prize that he wants to deposit in our bank account. Neither he nor we will use his email identity to send email that could trick you or to comment as paid troll on political sites.
It’s easy to create an account that can’t be traced back to a real person — hackers do it all the time.
Some expert users have worse Internet experience than our dog. They suffered hackers draining their online bank accounts, watched vicious attacks on others launched from their email or social media accounts, and had their personal data and online accounts deleted.
For program operations purposes, governments are just beginning to fight back against those who fake identities for criminal reasons.
A system called eSignature is spreading in use among government departments who need to assure the identities of parties they deal with are genuine.
For example when you want to share a tax return with a financial institution, the IRS requires you to use eSignature. It lets you authorize sending your tax return to a financial institution and to assure the receiving institution that it’s indeed your tax return. That cuts back on issuance of fraudulent loans in other people’s name.
There are prudent steps that casual Internet consumers can take to protect themselves. The top 7 are lucidly discussed by Linda Bernstein in a Forbes article.
Much of your responsibility centers on keeping up vanilla virus protection and a firewall, plus selecting and regularly changing a strong, non-obvious password – one for each important account.
So-called security questions and answers are in effect passwords and should be maintained too. Our dog knows the rest – no clicking on dodgy links and don’t even sniff at anything that sounds too good to be true.
If you really want to dive deeper into identity verification, be warned that the pool is bottomless.
For example, eventually all passwords may be replaced by 2-factor security (a password, plus a forced retrieval of one-time passcode from a separate device/system such as a cellphone or an immediately generated email).
Alan Daley is a retired businessman who lives in Florida and who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research