In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, testified to the United States Congress regarding the exposure of over 87 million Facebook profiles to political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
The data breach resulted from quiz app “thisisyourdigitallife”, which was used by 270,000 Facebook users – who in turn, allowed the app to access the profiles of all their friends. Cambridge Analytica was then able to glean data from those Facebook profiles to use for political campaigning.
In order to understand how modern technology allows for these situations, it is important to backtrack a little and see how all of this evolved in the first place.
Surveillance is nothing new in the history of the modern world, but it wasn’t until the creation of the Internet during the Cold War that it really took off. Aside from the need for an interconnected network of computers, the Internet helped resolve a need for an advanced communication system during that conflicted time.
The Internet became commercially available in the 1990s, and its widespread use continued. O’Reilly Media coined the term “big data” in 2005. Big data is defined as a set of data so large that traditional business tools cannot process it- and in the 2000s, huge amounts of data was generated every day.
Fast-forward to the now, data and its collection has become a seamless part of life online. Businesses have since realized that on the Internet, everyone is a potential consumer. Instead of communicating to a faceless mass of people through billboards or newspapers, they now had access to more individuals through any digital device.
Not only are businesses taking advantage of this, but government intelligence as well. Some states are hiring cyber mercenaries, or hackers hired to infiltrate your devices in order to monitor you and spy on your dealings.
Even the dark web is in on this booming data market – according to research done by three different studies (Liv Rowley on Flashpoint, Richard on Dark Web News, and The Hidden Data Economy by Charles McFarland, François Paget, and Raj Samani, respectively).
Information pertinent to credit cards, for example, called “fullz” includes the full name, birthdate, credit card account numbers, and the like cost around $30 or over Php 1,500. It doesn’t cost much for people with malicious intent, but it will cost you great damage.
As data is collected with every click we make, our online footprints helps these institutions monitor our behavior. Seemingly innocuous social networking sites, games, and apps collect data too, and though we consent upon using them, we don’t know what they will use our data for.
Now, as we introduce smart devices into our lives, there are no guarantees on what will happen to our data if the technology gets hacked. Artificial intelligence and the rest of the digital world are evolving fast, but we aren’t getting smarter in using them.
We are unaware of the value of what we sign away whenever we sign in, which may cause harm to us. Since we no longer have control over our data, what happens then?
This article is part of the Banker’s Association of the Philippines’ (BAP) #CyberSafe campaign, where the BAP aims to promote awareness towards cybersecurity. As part of the campaign, new posts will be uploaded every Wednesday and Sunday, tackling common web security questions and issues.
For more content on cybersecurity, visit the BAP Official YouTube channel.