Since 60 countries just observed “safer internet day” yesterday, I was browsing and looking for good campaigns that we can replicate here in the Philippines. Then I found this interesting post from Linda of I Look Both Ways Inc. She asked this straight forward Q in light of the safer internet day observation,
Yet while these events bring important awareness to online safety, security and privacy, the larger question is, have consumers become safer or more vulnerable in the past year?
She then explained that there were gains, like global spam volumes have dropped, and data privacy is now being being given serious attention. But she also observed that consumer behavior and Gov’t. attitude can contribute to the increase in criminal exploits and threats.
Among her observations that may have parallel, similar or applicable situation here in the Philippines are:
- a reduction in budgets for law enforcement organizations; legislation that has no follow-through. PH Setting: if my understanding is correct, we are lagging behind our south east asian neighbors in terms of 1] applicable cyber laws, 2] a government arm that will look into they cyber operations, safety and crimes.
- little change in consumer behavior in key areas like securing their computing environments. PH Setting: Base on personal observation and as a result of my discussion with stakeholders before, during and after our Web Safety PH Roadshows, Filipinos are responsive and immediately applies safety practices.
- the deployment of new consumer features with potentially high risks – but without an adequate counterbalance of safety functionality and broad user education. PH Setting: New products from advance economies are flooding our market. Thus, similar situation is likely.
- and not enough innovation within the industry on ‘best practices’. PH Setting: While stakeholders have a community program in addressing the threats. Web Safety PH, our group, is doing roadshows, blogging and other events to educate people. Yahoo! launched it’s Yahoo! Safely and Microsoft has it’s own public safety division, a benchmark may be needed.
Below is the Linda’s review of the state of consumer safety, privacy and security, in the US, with her opinion of the current state of affairs. Please note that since PH is following US trends, observations may also be correct and solutions applicable locally.
- Data mining: While it’s true that ad tracking, as well as data privacy, ownership and control have become mainstream discussions, these discussions are a result of the steep increase, and awareness of the increase, in data encroachment.The good news is that data privacy has become a hot topic, within the federal government, and among consumers. As a result, responsible companies are giving consumers greater choice in allowing or disallowing the collection of their information. Unfortunately, not all companies are responsible, and transparency, choice and control are still not inherent consumer rights. Consumers need to know: Who is collecting the data, how are they using the data, and with whom are they selling, sharing, or trading it? At stake is who owns the right to your information, what kind of transparency, and choice consumers should have into data mining practices, and how websites turn a profit.
- The Bottom line – More information is being collected about individual consumers than at any other time, and our ability to control this is still weak to nonexistent. We see the potential for the tide to turn in consumer’s favor, but are at a crucial point. The decisions made in the next few months regarding consumer’s rights to personal privacy and control of personal information are likely to echo through history. We all have a very high stake in the outcome.
- Privacy Settings: Companies and consumers still struggle with establishing privacy settings. In some cases it’s because of the frequency in which privacy settings change, and the defaulting all privacy settings to ‘public’ when changes are made. In other cases, the settings are simply too complicated for users to set, or the settings options do not give users the level of control they need. Whatever the case, individuals are trying to protect their information, but it has certainly not gotten easier for them in the last twelve months.
- The Bottom line – Privacy settings are still too cumbersome for users, and there’s been little improvement over the past year. Creating easy to use, consistent privacy settings should be a best practices requirement. Even more innovative would be to make these consistent across online services within a category so that if a user’s learned how to do this on one site they can be successful on other sites.
- Safer software: There are many things online services can do to significantly improve the privacy of their consumers, and while some real milestones were made – like innovation in family safety/parental control tools – may old holes have yet to be plugged. Here are a few pet peeves:
- Passwords struggles continue to be a major privacy risk for users. While some sites help consumers create strong passwords, others do nothing to educate users, and they place stumbling blocks in consumers’ paths by limiting the length of passwords, failing to allow symbols, etc.
- Insecure ‘security questions’ that ask for publicly available information actually makes users less secure. There is no excuse for questions like ‘mother’s maiden name’ ‘city you were born in’ etc.
- Lack of image editing tools reduces user safety. Simple edits can make virtually any photo safer – and basic photo editing tools have been around for 40 years. Why aren’t services enabling crop, blur and stamp functionality wherever they allow user generated content to be uploaded?
The bottom line – As an industry, we continue to fall short in developing tools inside products that inherently improve the privacy of users. This is another area the industry can strengthen their best practices and drive companies to adopt better standards.
- Education: Internet safety and social responsibility education is still optional for K-12 schools in most states, and even in the states with laws, it’s pretty much up to each teacher to figure out what to teach. This means kids generally get the same few topics covered multiple times – with varying degrees of quality – and miss much of what they should learn. Compounding this lack of holistic material is the rapidly expanding set of online functionality that youth (and adults) are using, and for which users have had no safety education – like location tracking, mobile banking, etc. At a time when users need more education, they are getting fewer of their key risks covered.We have also largely failed to make progress in creating quality educational materials for the body of seniors who are going online for the first time, and in localizing educational materials for those for who English is a second language.
- The bottom line – Given the dramatic cuts to education budgets, and charitable organizations, technology investments and safety education suffered heavily over the past year, we are at best at status quo.
- Safety, security & privacy legislation: It has been a contentious year for internet related legislation, with many proposals, and more fights. What’s notable is the lack of follow through on legislation that has been passed. Some passed without real funding – which means they went nowhere. Some passed, and received funding, only to see a breakdown at some other link in the chain.
- The bottom line – It isn’t enough to pass quality legislation; it actually has to be implemented at every stage if it is to be effective and measured for success. Instead we’ve seen a series of well-intended stops and starts, largely disjointed and certainly not providing the best returns. Year over year, we are at best at status quo.
- Law enforcement: I have nothing but the highest praise for the law enforcement officers dedicated to protecting our online safety, but they’re trying to work miracles with both hands tied behind their backs. We do not have enough trained officers, and those we have don’t have the resources they need. There is an appalling shortage of cyber-crime labs, they’re often struggling against antiquated state and federal laws (and all the international differences), and most do not have the latest in digital technologies to work with – though the criminals they are fighting do, and so on.
- The bottom line –cyber criminals have law enforcement out outnumbered and out gunned. We are in worse shape than we were a year ago.
- Criminal threats: The title of a new McAfee report says it all it was A good decade for cybercrime, and 2010 was the best of the bunch – from a crooks point of view. Here are just a few of the stats:
- Spam – Global spam volumes actually declined in 2010, by September, the global spam volume was down to 3.5 trillion spam messages per month.[i]
- Malware – In 2010, 20 million new malware strains were created – a 50% increase over 2009[ii]. The year also saw a shift in criminal tactics to focus on exploiting users trust by increasing the volume, sophistication and complexity of social networking exploits, ID theft, scams, and phishing attacks[iii] . Attack toolkits (malicious software that criminals use to launch their attacks has significantly increased[iv]
- Botnets – The number of botnets held fairly steady in 2010 with some downturn. There was an average of 6 million new botnet infections per month in the first 8 months of the year.[v]
- Phishing – There was a marked increase in phishing sites in 2010 with about 2,000 new phishing sites discovered daily. Even more concerning is that these exploits were generally more targeted – and more successful.[vi]
- Identity theft – ID theft continues to escalate and transform so quickly that the Identity Theft Resource Center says it “can only make educated predictions on the course of identity theft for 2011”[vii]. According to Dataprivacyrights.org, over 512 million personal data records have been reported as breached in the United States. Given there are just over 300 million citizens, the likelihood that your personal information has been stolen multiple times is high.
The bottom line – though the malware battle fields have shifted, and some skirmishes won, the threat of malware and other criminal exploits continues to rise; we’re in worse shape than we were a year ago.