Internet privacy and security course
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Why should I need privacy and security on the Internet?

Chapter 21

Why should I need privacy and security on the Internet?

Everyone can have his own rationale for setting up comprehensive privacy and security for his devices, and you’ll probably want to skip this chapter because it doesn’t seem that useful. Still, I recommend you read it as it explains why getting serious about online privacy and security really pays off. Most likely, you will feel additional motivation to follow the advice offered in this course,

Do you want your friends and colleagues to see the most intimate details of your life?

I can’t reveal the real name of this girl whose story I am about to tell you, so suppose her name is Helen. Helen is an average girl who lives in the European part of Russia. Young, pretty, a top university student, an email and social networks user. She also regularly uses Skype and WhatsApp to talk to her friends. She enjoys her job as a manager in a private company and gets along quite well with her close-knit and large team of colleagues.

For leisure and studies Helen uses her laptop equipped with an antivirus and the latest system updates. One day while browsing the Internet, unbeknownst to her, Helen got infected with malware. She was naïve to think that a popular antivirus with updated virus bases will protect her from any problems. But as we have already mentioned it, if it was really true, there would be no viruses and infections whatsoever. To her misfortune, she hadn’t read this course and didn’t use additional important tools that would protect her laptop.

The program that infected Helen’s laptop was RAT malware. This kind of malicious software is designed to remotely control a computer and can enable a perpetrator to gain full access to all data, including camera and microphone.

If you live in a one bedroom apartment that is at once your bedroom, library, changing room, chances are your laptop is constantly connected watching the owner through the webcam. The perpetrators recorded the private details of Helen’s life using the camera on her laptop. Then they copied all her friends from a social network, her contacts from Skype and WhatsApp and after sent a letter threatening to get the video out to all these people if she doesn’t pay them 3000 USD in bitcoins.

Needless to say, Helen was hit with the realization of the devastating consequences for her if the video was exposed to her relatives, friends, fellow students and colleagues. She couldn’t sleep all night, wasn’t herself over an entire week and collected the required amount of money getting into debt. She was lucky because the perpetrators held their word though did take a lot of money from her.

If Helen had read this course, the perpetrators would never have been able to spy on her using her webcam. While the solution to this problem is quite simple - tape your camera, it won’t protect you from malware, but it will - from surveillance through the web camera for sure.

Tip

Tape your laptop’s webcam. If you use it on a regular basis, make a triangle shaped cap to temporarily cover it.

There have been attempts to implement a similar model of monetizing ransomware. Some time ago Android users were attacked by malicious pornography-focused ransomware Adult Player. It masqueraded as an adult-themed Android app that requested access to the web camera during installation.

When the users viewed pornography, the app secretly took photos of them, locked the phone and demanded a ransom.

Interview widget: Do you have the front camera on your phone taped?

There is an older way of sextortion racket when a young girl, the so-called “honey trap” actress befriends a man on a social network and then tricks him into stripping off or performing sex acts in front of the camera after undressing herself.

Encouraged by the pretty girl, the man eagerly responded to the play, then the session got abruptly interrupted and he was shown the footage as blackmail. The scammers offered him two options: either he paid a hefty sum of money or the video would be sent to all his friends and acquaintances whose contacts had already been copied from the social network. Imagine the terrible position the victim of this webcam blackmail is put into.

Are you ready to put up with the censorship that violates your rights?

Some ten years ago the Internet was a genuinely free zone where you could find and leave any information. Today it is tightly pressed by government censorship. I understand why drug dealing websites or child pornography should be blocked, but the government of many different countries blocks the websi