Perhaps all the increasing discussions and ramifications about the NSA have prompted your concern, or maybe you’ve noticed that when you search for something, email a friend about a topic, or send an IM, you’re suddenly receiving ads and spam messages eerily geared toward the subject at hand. Whatever the case, a growing number of people have serious concerns about both their privacy and their security over the Internet. Big Brother is certainly watching, but so are many thieves ready to swoop in and take money and identities, so you might wonder if you have reason to worry, too.
Invasive Targeted Advertising
While it’s debatable that simply talking to someone about, say, making a dentist appointment or buying a new car will lead to an influx of Internet ads geared toward dentists or cars, that debate only applies to spoken conversations. Pose a question on Facebook, discuss a topic in your email messages, or send an IM to a friend, and you will notice a frankly spooky abundance of advertisements and spam messages aimed at the topic you’re discussing. It’s creepy and unfortunately real. Some people have even noticed they’re receiving targeted ads after they’ve sent text messages about a certain topic. That’s a bit creepier, simply because of the sheer amount of information most people have on their mobile phones. This is more prevalent when your phone is somehow connected to your Internet logins, such as through Google or Chrome, and you can fix it. It simply takes some fancy encryption skills.
Massive Military Concerns
Many military bases are increasingly (and understandably concerned) about privacy and security. Even training bases have reasons to keep things on the down low. For bases from which troops are most often deployed, the need for security is even more important. People in the military aren’t allowed to share information about deployments, whereabouts, or missions on Facebook, so certainly they don’t want information getting out over the Internet by accident or security breaches. That’s why so many military outposts use VPN, or virtual private networks.
Serious Cybercrime Risks
Image via Flickr by Wen Tong Neo
Cybercrime is a growing concern. Ranging from annoying to serious, cybercrimes really run the gamut. Common Internet crimes include:
- Spam, an annoying problem that doesn’t often cause problems but can become dangerous when spam messages include links or attachments
- Credit fraud, which can occur through spam messages, computer viruses, and dangerous downloads that incorporate programs which pick up your keystrokes, thereby unlocking passwords and PIN numbers from credit cards and online banks
- Drug trafficking, which is actually becoming a serious problem online, ironically thanks to the use of email encryption and fully protected websites and message boards
- Cyberbullying, an increasingly serious and even lethal cybercrime that largely targets teens and young adults, leading to depression and a tragically growing number of suicides
- Piracy, the so-called “victimless crime” wherein movies, music, videos, and similar forms of media are illegally downloaded for free
- Cyberterrorism, which ranges from hackers who try to break into banks, credit card companies, and government sites to vigilante groups who try to shut down various websites for political or independent reasons
As you might expect, many of the largest cities in the United States report higher instances of cybercrimes. Washington, D.C. is an understandable target, but Boston, Atlanta, Austin, and even Sacramento also have serious problems with Internet-based crimes. Not surprisingly, many of these cities are, per capita, making use of VPN themselves as a way to battle these crimes and increase security.
The Fear of Identity Theft
Image via Flickr by B Rosen
Many of the cities with highest VPN usage are those with a higher risk of identity theft, in addition to some of the other biggest cybercrimes. For example, Florida has one of the highest rates of identity theft in the country; 5 out of the top 25 cities that rely on VPN the most are in Florida. People, businesses, and corporations in the state understand the importance of using private networks to keep their information safe. After all, erasing the effects of identity theft is a long, arduous process, even given the seriousness, growing awareness, and prevalence of the crime. However, Florida is hardly the only state experiencing problems with identity theft. The problem is widespread, affecting Southern states such as Georgia and Alabama, as well as New York, California, Michigan, Texas, and even Maryland. Internet users in these states need to stay aware of their security and do everything possible to keep their privacy intact.
Greater Government Security
Capital cities also understand the greater need for VPN, privacy, and security over the Internet. With Washington, D.C. itself threatened by every type of cybercrime, even the nation’s security is theoretically at risk. Government centers in Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, Utah, Georgia, Colorado, and California all recognize how essential it is to encrypt their data, provide secure connections within capitol buildings, and protect the IP addresses of everyone who works within the government. You may not think your state has any secrets to keep, but don’t you feel better knowing that any secrets are fully secure?
The Potential Threat to the Tourism Industry
Image via Flickr by Ed Yourdon
Tourists and tourist destinations, from Florida to Dallas to Chicago, also recognize the importance of protecting privacy and increasing security. There are many reasons for this, such as the fact that if a popular place has a high number of cybercrimes, tourists would more likely to shy away — and their valuable tourist dollars will disappear with them. That could affect the economy of even the most widely visited destinations, leading to a total collapse of infrastructure. Tourists themselves are more concerned, not just because they don’t want to become victims while on vacation, but because a slip in security might lead to potential thieves knowing when they’re gone. Worse yet, they might find their identities stolen while they’re far from home. The far-reaching impact of that might become enough to keep travelers at home, instead of risking danger on vacation. There are growing numbers of reasons why citizens throughout the U.S. need to pay closer attention to Internet privacy and security, as people and as groups. Are you worried about your security when you surf the Internet, at home or out and about?