And so, courtesy of Gizmodo, I bring you photos from Paris Hilton’s T-Mobile Sidekick II. Ahh … the simple pleasure of browsing someone’s personal information on the world wide web. With no effort you will be able to search the Internet using Google, Yahoo! or practically any search tool and find the complete contents of her device: phone numbers, notes, etc.
Should the “average Joe” be worried? Well, just because you’re not paranoid, does not mean they’re not after you! Very often, people don’t even need to hack to find stuff they shouldn’t really have access to. For example, just type “indexold.htm” into Google and you’ll see about 12,000 old home pages that people think are offline, but are actually active on their websites. They thought renaming the file from index.htm to indexold.htm would make it invisible. Wrong! It just makes the page “not” the homepage, it does not mean you can just type the URL into any browser and see it.
Now this is probably not a big deal, and I’m using the example to make a point. If you think about common computer concepts like directories and file extensions and if you know even the smallest bit about how various websites store files, you can have a blast with Google or any other search engine. So, does it surprise us that celebrities (Actually, I think Paris is a personality, she really hasn’t done anything to make her a celebrity, has she? Well, there was that tape … hummm …) make good targets for the curious. After all, people used to look through celebrity garbage cans in Hollywood to see what the stars were doing – this seems like a logical step.
Back to the question, are you safe? No, not really. Anyone with a rudimentary skill set can probably learn more about you than you could possibly imagine in about 15 minutes. Give a motivated individual with real skills a full day, and they will have your complete profile. I won’t bother to tell you how in this document, but I can find your social security number and get access to your wireless phone bill, mortgage balance, credit card accounts and probably the bulk of your Internet passwords in less time than it has taken me to type this article and I’m not even particularly good at hacking.
Our “right to privacy” concept is outdated by the technological reality of the age in which we live. If you want to live privately, you can’t use credit cards or the Internet or a bank card, apply for a mortgage or a bank loan. Doing any of these things puts you into a very large distributed database that can be searched. So, the real question is, do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy? And the answer is no, you don’t. Information is everywhere and the more sophisticated the tools get to protect it, the more sophisticated the tools will become to get at it. It’s an arms race and at any given time one is ahead of the other.
Here are some quick tips: Don’t use short passwords. Don’t use passwords that are related to obvious numbers in your life like birthdays, soc sec numbers, addresses, phone numbers, they are obvious and easy to hack. Secure your wireless network at home. When I turn on my computer, I am treated to the use of about a dozen wireless networks from my neighbors, all but one unsecured. And, yes, I can read the data from their hard drives without trying very hard. It takes five minutes to set up the network the right way and password protect it … do it!
Never use your mother’s maiden name as your secret question. Make one up for her – your mother’s maiden name is on your birth certificate which is in the public record – 10 minutes of searching and I can pretend I’m you on your wireless network and say I forgot your password.
As always, common sense is the key to your own security. You won’t really be able to protect yourself from a real hacker. Someone schooled in the art will be able to hack your system at a much deeper level. But, unless you are in International counterspy or something, who would want to. Your job is to keep honest people honest – the way door locks work on glass doors.
BTW: if you want to see the uncensored Paris pix, go to http://www.drunkenstepfather.com With the current FCC climate, I didn’t want to post them here.