Tech Beat by Namecheap – 28 October 2022
Schools are turning to surveillance technologies at a rapid rate. Arguably this tech helps defend students from cyberbullying, violence, and other online dangers, but, many of these technologies may be seen as an invasion of their privacy. In this week’s lead article, “Protect yourself from school surveillance tech,” we examine these issues as well as legally grey areas when big tech companies develop school surveillance tools and have access to collected data. We also discuss ways you can safeguard the privacy of your family from spying by school IT departments.
In other news
- The Black Death may still impact your health. A genetic mutation that helped medieval people survive the plague is linked to auto-immune diseases affecting people today. The bubonic plague impacted Europe in the mid-1300s and was responsible for 200 million deaths. According to The BBC, researchers analyzed the DNA of teeth from 206 skeletons from the plague era. These scientists discovered that if someone had a specific mutation of a gene called ERAP2, they were 40% more likely to survive the plague. Unfortunately, this genetic mutation, passed down from plague survivors to people today, may ultimately be to blame for illnesses like Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune disorders.
- Japanese companies to launch third-party vehicle security services. NTT Communications, a global IT services company, and Denso, Toyota’s parts maker, are teaming up to protect Internet-connected computerized vehicles from cyber attacks. According to The Register, the companies are launching the new service in response to “the threat of increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks against vehicles.” They believe it will contribute to creating a “safe and secure mobility society.” Services will include global vehicle security monitoring, cyber-attack and threat analysis by experts, and sending alerts to customers via a client portal site.
- Saudia Arabian sci-fi-esque megacity begins construction. Saudi Arabia is constructing a semi-enclosed, 150-stories tall city where people can live and work without ever having to leave. According to Gizmodo, the project is called ‘The Line’ and will be 218 yards wide, 105 miles long, and feature a mirrored exterior. Billed as an eco-friendly project that’s sustainable and healthy (though Gizmodo notes that builders haven’t provided any details on how they’ll achieve this), nobody will need cars as there will be high-speed public transport. Plus, you’ll never have to walk more than 20 minutes to get anywhere. Whether it will be a utopian dream or a dystopian nightmare remains to be seen.
- Quantum Computer uses the Fibonacci Sequence to create a new phase of matter. A team of physicists in Colorado claims to have created a new phase, or state, of quantum material using the Fibonacci sequence, according to Gizmodo. The physicists read the Fibonacci sequence to a quantum computer through laser pulses, which in turn enabled the matter phase to stay in a quantum state for longer. The phase of a quantum matter refers to its atomic structure, and the uniqueness of the Fibonacci sequence lasers is that they never overlap. Quantum computing is a much more powerful type of computing that still contains unsolved mysteries. Recent years have seen various breakthroughs, which have included the discovery of quantum supersolid and quantum spin liquids.
- TikTok planned to track Americans by physical location. According to a report from Forbes, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, planned to use the app to surveil individual US citizens. A TikTok spokesperson said that all location information gathered was in compliance with the relevant local regulations. But the report suggests that ByteDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control department, which is supposed to investigate the possible misconduct of the company’s employees, has tried to collect data of individual Americans in at least a few cases, but it’s unclear if they succeeded. TikTok is about to make a deal with the US Treasury Department, and President Biden recently signed an executive order defining security risks that need to be examined when assessing foreign companies and their use of personal data.
- US Internet speeds depend on where you live. According to an investigation by The Markup, Internet service from leading providers can vary widely depending on your neighborhood. To make matters worse, slower speeds are disproportionately more likely in lower-income and non-white areas. The survey looked at 800,000 Internet service offers from AT&T, Verizon, EarthLink, and CenturyLink in 38 cities across the country. Some customers received much lower speeds and data rates for their money due to their location. The disparity can be as great as $0.25 per Mbps against $100 per Mbps – even in the same city.
Tip of the week: Keeping your data where online spies can’t see it
Everything online is at risk of surveillance, from school-issued Chromebooks to internet-connected cars. While there are simple ways to increase online security, many of them cost money, and none offer absolute data protection. So one of the best ways to protect your data from being intercepted is to keep it offline in the first place.
Do a self-audit of online activities. Spend a week monitoring your online activities, and use a notebook to write down what you do. Make a list of every device you have in your home or office that connects to the web. Remember, things like e-readers, thermostats, and doorbells are also connected to the Internet.
Once your week-long diary is complete, ask yourself these questions:
- Are there apps on my phone that can be uninstalled?
- Are there any activities I routinely do online that can be done offline?
- Can I remove stored payment information from sites I don’t visit often?
- Are there any devices that can be powered off between uses?
- Can I eliminate any smart devices from my life without much inconvenience?
Being aware of actions that can put you at risk outside your home is also critical.
- Never plug your phone into a public or unvetted USB port.
- Never leave your devices unlocked or unattended.
- Never send personal data, passwords, or credit card numbers over a public WiFi connection.
By staying vigilant and keeping as much data as possible offline, you minimize your chances of being intercepted by online surveillance.