News / Science & Technology

Basic Steps Help Protect Personal Information From Hacking

Basic Steps Help Protect Personal Information From Hackingi
X
June 20, 2013 2:28 PM
The recent disclosure of extensive U.S. surveillance of phone and Internet communications has raised many technical questions, including how it is possible to sift through the mountains of data. It turns out that the government was collecting only so-called 'metadata.' VOA’s George Putic explains.
Basic Steps Help Protect Personal Information From Hacking
George Putic
The recent disclosure of extensive U.S. surveillance of phone and Internet communications has raised many technical questions, including how it is possible to sift through the mountains of data. It turns out that the government was collecting only so-called "metadata."

U.S. government officials say the surveillance covered only metadata - the patterns of the phone calls and internet messages - not the substance of the communications.

According to reports, a majority of e-mail messages sent during a specific time period was intercepted and the metadata stored for possible later analysis.

Bill Supernor, the chief technology officer with Internet security firm KoolSpan, said metadata can provide valuable information for intelligence services.

“Metadata is the generic term used to describe information that describes information. So the metadata of an email may be who was it sent to, who it was from, the date, what size the message is. Many emails were passed through a number of POPs [Post Office Protocol]. A number of different email relay stations and that kind of information may be regarded to be metadata,” said Supernor.

Supernor said that storing metadata requires considerably less space than storing the content of those messages, and is much easier to index and catalogue. But its usefulness is limited.

Phone conversations also carry metadata, including which cell tower the phones used, when a call started and ended, and the position of the caller right down to the city block. Those bits of information can help police and intelligence agencies track criminals and terrorists.

Internet messages also can help hackers, however, who may be after financial and other personal data.

“The best thing you can do to defend yourself is pick random passwords, so nothing that involves your cats or dogs or car, or the names of any of these things - your address, your family, any of the kinds of things that appear in social media. It’s such a weapon in the hand of the bad guys,” said Supernor.

In the case of cell phones, Supernor said never use them to send valuable information such as Social Security or personal identification numbers, or credit card numbers.

”SMS is something I would not use for exchanging secure information. That transport is just not a safe transport to use for that kind of information,” he said.

Bill Supernor said the Internet is not a secure means of communication and strongly advises encryption of messages containing sensitive information. This is especially true for commercial companies and organizations that want to make sure that the private information they share stays behind an impenetrable screen.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs