COLUMN: Trust a huge casualty in cyberspace

For more than a decade, we’ve been on the front lines of an invisible war, an escalating war of terror going on behind our computer screens

By STEVE KIDD

For more than a decade, we’ve been on the front lines of an invisible war, an escalating war of terror going on behind our computer screens as “black hat” hackers and manufacturers of security software battle for control of our computers and our minds.

It used to be we only had to worry about hackers getting into mainframe computers – “the big iron” as it used to be referred to – belonging to banks or governments and having some innocent fun poking around, perhaps indulging in the odd innocent prank, like making an ATM spit out $20,000 onto the street or starting a Third World War.

Well, those hackers grew up and innocent fun turned into organized crime. Computers themselves left the tech geek-only world and became everyday home appliances.

That’s when the viruses and worms – the whole range of malware – became an issue for the rest of us, with hackers using e-mail and other nefarious means to sneak little bundles of code onto your computer that might do anything from simply wiping your hard drive to stealing your personal information or turning your computer into a zombie for the hacker’s spam e-mail network.

It was also when the makers of anti-virus and security software came to our rescue with programs to combat the hackers’ little bundles of joy. The hackers, in turn, upped the ante by creating code that was increasingly harder to detect and eradicate. And so, the war has raged on to this very day.

That was OK, when the battle was contained on our computers. But then we all decided to get smart phones, and the hackers started to move in on all these new sub-computer devices – well, at least that’s what some companies say; the companies that profit by selling you software to prevent attacks.

Sure, I can see there might be some interest from the criminal element in hacking smart phones, but the dire predictions of antivirus software makers have yet to materialize.

And no, I am not complacently ignoring the problem of malware, even if I am a Mac user (20 years of owning Macs, one virus infection; smiling smugly). Sure, you need an antivirus program on your computer, but people are the most common way computers get viruses – like when you say yes when a virus asks for permission to install itself, open mysterious e-mail attachments, etc.

So you won’t be surprised that I was incensed when I received a ‘study’ from  a prominent anti-virus maker warning of the dangers of computer systems in cars becoming smart enough to be infected by computer viruses or open to other hacks.

My eyes must be going. It wasn’t there when I looked at the report a second time, but I could have sworn that the report’s title was “new ways to drive software sales with fear.”

Computers in cars have gone far beyond computer chips monitoring engine efficiency. Some new cars have the ability to be remotely started by a mobile phone, using a WiFi connection from the car.

Other conveniences like the ability to open doors remotely date back even farther, and cars in the future are likely to have many more embedded electronic systems.

That leads to a dire warning contained in the report. “As the popularity of these personalized connected systems increases, so does the need for security.”

OK, with parts of your car sending messages to other parts of the car, those connections need to be secure.

But the likelihood of a hack that would penetrate the systems? Only if my car starts opening “A happy birthday message for you” e-mails or cruising shady porn sites when I lock it up alone in the garage at night.

u

Steve Kidd is a reporter with the Penticton Western News, a Black Press newspaper.

Just Posted

Taxpayers at e-town hall meeting ask for more sidewalks in Nanaimo

City collects feedback on budget items as it moves toward adopting 2020-24 financial plan

School districts looking to partner with RDN on recycling education

Zero-waste pilot project would run this spring and involve 30 classrooms in Nanaimo and Oceanside

RCMP launch month-long impaired driving counterattack campaign

Carpooling, designated drivers, taxi, public transit all better choices than driving while impaired

Nanaimo Art Gallery youth art groups show work at this year’s Artwalk

Saturday Studio and Code Switching members present ‘Generate’ during Artwalk Dec. 7-8

Give and Go donation drive for holiday charities happens this week

Food, clothes and cash sought at drive-thru donation drive Friday evening at Steve Marshall Ford

VIDEO: A brief history of bumps in the Trudeau-Trump relationship

Remember Peter Navarro saying ‘there’s a special place in hell’ for a foreign leader who aims to cheat?

Coins can add up to a merrier Christmas for kids

News Bulletin’s Coins for Kids campaign now underway

Vancouver Island town to star in new Syfy series: Resident Alien

Ladysmith will play the role of Patience, Colorado in the series

Half of shoppers say they have no holiday spending budget

B.C. consumers surveyed estimate they will spend $921 this season

Opening day delayed at Mount Washington

Dec. 6 was set as opening day but will now be delayed due to lack of snow.

Province begins forfeiture of Shawnigan contaminated soil site

The forfeiture proceedings do not impact the closure plan for the landfill site

Man killed in crash due to ‘absolutely treacherous’ conditions on Coquihalla

Winter means icy roads are dangerous and drivers should be careful, RCMP say

Former Burns Lake mayor gets two years for sexual assaults against minors

The Crown is seeking four to six years federal time; the defence wants 18 months in provincial jail

Nanaimo city council expected to vote on 5.2-per cent property tax increase

Councillors add deputy city clerk and increase bylaw enforcement, eliminate council contingency fund

Most Read