Here we are moving rapidly into the 21st century and what tops the news? Starving and diseased in Africa? Natural disasters? Nope. Good old fashioned government intrusion into our lives mashed up with a natural calamity of our own making.
We may think of the Mac and iPhone as being somewhat secure devices but I beg to differ. From what I can see of the news recently, all our computing devices might as well be constructed of Swiss cheese they have so many holes.
Here’s the latest. This week both Mozilla and Google patched their respective browsers, Firefox and Chrome, to plug dozens of holes. Wait. What? Aren’t browsers secure? If they were then why so many ongoing upgrades? Firefox just topped version 45.0 while Chrome is far ahead at version 49.0.2623.87. As of today. Of course, a browser version number is not completely indicative of bug fixes but it sure isn’t representative of features. A browser is a browser. Why can’t these tech giants push out a browser that is more secure and less vulnerable?
That’s the nature of software and that’s exactly why I fear the worst for those of us who use devices connected to the internet. Bugs, holes, vulnerabilities, and exploits are a constant feature of Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, and everything else.
As long as that’s the nature of software then privacy and security are little more than a pleasant pipe dream, something to look forward to in a utopian future, but not really available to mere mortal man today.
Today’s browsing comes in multiple flavors of privacy and security. There’s the standard HTTP protocol which links your browser to a website. Private? Secure? Nope. Then there’s the trend toward the HTTPS protocol which uses SSL, mostly for online purchases and transactions, but often used just to connect your browser to a website.
Microsoft and Apple let you browse their respective sites using the HTTP brand of connection while Google, Yahoo! and others have gone to SSL and HTTPS.
That settles it, right? Employing SSL and HTTPS makes your browser secure, right? Mostly. But not always. Nothing is foolproof. That’s because fools are so ingenious and our browsing experience has two entities working against us. The browser developers cannot make perfectly private and secure browsers, and criminals and hackers can always find a way to overcome even the best security by making an exploit from a vulnerability. That’s the way it’s always worked and I’m afraid it’s always going to work that way.
Who wants to know what you browse on the internet, when you browse, and why you browse? Good golly, Molly, the list is growing. Yes, the government wants to know, but so do cell phone companies and ISPs, many of whom actually stuff more ads in your face while you browse. As in ads not delivered by the websites you visit. That brings me to advertisers. Their number is growing, their legions are many, and their purpose is to find you, track you, and push messages into your face until you grow weary and submit to their will by purchasing something, anything. And when you’ve made a purchase they’re back with more.
If you’re a Mac user, please check out Ghostery and join the trend of sophisticated, discriminating users of the interwebs just to see who’s tracking you. It’s scary. Advertising online today is no longer a matter of displaying an ad to catch your eye. It’s tracking. It’s stalking. And mostly anonymous, but thanks to Ghostery and other tools you can see how you’re being tracked and by who.
Privacy and security? Pfft! Even browsing isn’t safe these days.