15 Nov Privacy in the Age of Wearables (and Terrorism)
We are very tech-happy people. Day after day we are introducing more and more connectivity into our lives. Connectivity makes our lives easier, but is there a price behind it?
When we become more connected, we strip ourselves of privacy, one small piece at a time. Most of us are at least moderately consensual about it, at least when we know that the prying eyes come from the government side, and at least theoretically are not there to harm us, but rather to protect our freedom and our lifestyle against criminals and terrorists.
CEO & Founder Revealo Corp
Government tracks us all! Are we doomed?
While this may not be true in every case, what was shown quite clearly by Edward @Snowden a few years ago, we don’t feel really threatened by our governments (at least most of us). The government on the other side should use these invigilation capabilities only in really serious matters, like terrorism prevention. So far so good, anyway, if a three letter agency decides to check on our whereabouts, we have not much of an option for opting out. This “going dark” would require getting rid of all the modern technology, connectivity, credit cards and probably living in the middle of the woods, to avoid face recognition. Not many of us prize privacy highly enough to go such a length to protect it. Should we? I would argue, that unless you plan to support ISIS, become a high profile criminal or do things that are equally antisocial, there is no reason to. Even taking many malpractices into account, the government is here to protect not harm.
Hey, I am not a terrorist, this does not concern me!
However, the story does not end here. Most methods that governments can use to x-ray our lives are inaccessible to other parties, but we do expose our privacy to petty criminals ourselves. How is that? Criminals usually do not have access to cellular phone operator records, credit card statements and other confidential data, what they can do however is collecting the data we expose, aggregating it and using it for their profit (that equals our loss usually).
How do they track me?
How do we expose our data? We use tons of devices that were designed with no security or privacy in mind. Lets take some wearable devices as an example, most of them use Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE in short to communicate with a smartphone. BLE was designed as a communication protocol, and the messages that are exchanged between the wearable device and the smartphone can be encrypted. Good, one could say, I am safe then, right? Not exactly. As far as decryption of the message content could be hard (but not impossible, and this is known for years), the mere fact of communication taking place is quite visible to anyone listening, and both devices can be easily identified.
But am I vulnerable?
If you use a fitness tracker, smartwatch or a simple “find me” type tag, then most probably you are. Some of these are harder for criminals to track (like some smartwatches), some are dead easy – like attachable small trackers.
What does it mean to me?
We can be put on the map, in real-time, by criminals having access to very basic (and cheap) tool set. For locating a BLE enabled device user it is enough to use a botnet, network of computers and/or smartphones under control of a criminal, to locate our devices and thus us. Is it happening? Yes, our real time location data can now be bought in the dark web – the black market of the Internet, for as little as $10 per person per day.
In my next post I will show what do they do with all this data, and how does it impact us all.
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