Welcome to the October 2022 issue of Incognito, a monthly newsletter from DeleteMe that keeps you posted on all things privacy and security.
Here’s what we’re talking about this month:
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In last month’s issue of Incognito, we talked about how individuals in public-facing roles face higher risks of harassment. However, the scary truth is that you don’t have to work in the public eye to be harassed online.
According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, about 4 in 10 Americans have experienced some form of online harassment (i.e., offensive name-calling, purposeful embarrassment, threats, etc.).
Remarkably, despite us living more and more of our lives online, this number has remained more or less steady since 2017.
But what hasn’t stayed the same is the level of harassment people experience. A growing number of Americans report encountering more intense and severe forms of online abuse than ever before, i.e., sexual harassment, physical threats, and stalking. Harassment now also tends to last longer.
You know things are bad when the White House rolls out an online harassment force to curb online abuse.
Anyone with political views. Political harassment is on an upward trend, with half of Americans harassed saying they were abused due to their politics. Interestingly, white male adults are more likely to report being harassed because of their political beliefs when compared to other genders or ethnicities.
Politics aside, people are also being harassed because of their gender, race, ethnicity, or disability. For example, on gaming sites, 49% of women, 42% of Black or African American people, and 38% of Asian Americans said they were harassed because of their identity.
Many Americans also say they have experienced online abuse due to their religion or sexual orientation.
Most people experience harassment in the following online spaces (ranked from most to least common):
However, it is not unusual for harassment to happen across multiple platforms. For example, harassment may start on a forum and then transition to someone’s social media account, personal email, or messaging app.
Because most people have a huge digital footprint, it’s really not that difficult to find someone across different platforms/apps on the internet.
Just because it happens on the internet doesn’t mean online harassment can’t seep into our physical lives. In extreme cases, online harassment can lead to physical violence or stalking.
But even when abuse takes place only in the online world, it can still have a detrimental effect on our mental health. A review of 43 articles on online harassment found that 42 articles reported online abuse victims experiencing anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and suicidal ideation. Some victims have also reported a negative effect on their reputations.
Steps to reduce the risk of online harassment:
What to do if you’re already being harassed:
Our recent favorites to keep you up to date in today’s digital privacy landscape.
Pentagon Bought Mass Monitoring Tool
Several agencies within the US military collectively paid at least $3.5 million for an internet monitoring tool called Augury. The tool, which covers more than 90% of global internet traffic, can apparently provide access to people’s web browsing activities, email data, and other information, like internet cookies. Sen. Ron Wyden is urging government watchdogs to investigate the warrantless purchase of the Augury by federal agencies.
Teen Hacker Suspected of Uber, Rockstar Hacks Arrested
UK police have arrested a 17-year-old thought to be behind the recent Uber and Rockstar Games hacks. The hacker is believed to be a member of the Lapsus$ hacker group responsible for breaching high-profile companies like Microsoft, Samsung, Nvidia, and Okta. According to Bloomberg, the hacker might be the mastermind behind the group. The publication identified the hacker after he was doxxed, supposedly by rival hackers.
California’s Children’s Online Safety Bill Becomes Law
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (ADCA). The state statute will require online services used by minors to include a number of safeguards, like the highest privacy settings by default, for users under 18 years old. However, civil liberties experts worry that the statute could have negative consequences for adult privacy due to potentially invasive age-verification systems.
Meta Accused of Bypassing Apple Privacy Settings to Track Users
Two Facebook users have recently sued Meta (the parent company of Facebook) for using a loophole in Apple’s privacy settings to monitor user activity without their permission. The proposed class action lawsuit claims that Meta is violating Apple’s policies as well as state and federal laws. If the lawsuit obtains class action status, many users could be compensated.
Here are some of the questions our readers asked us last month.
Q: How often should I change my passwords?
A: Traditionally, the recommendation has been to change your passwords every few months or so. Makes sense, right? The more often you change your passwords, the harder it is for someone to break into your accounts.
As it turns out, if you do that, you’re following outdated advice. In fact, the idea that you should change your passwords regularly was rebuked all the way back in 2017 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), says PCMag.
The main reason changing your passwords too often isn’t a good idea is that you are likely to just create a variation of your previous passwords, i.e., something easy and memorable—and yes, easy to crack. Already, most people have ridiculously simple passwords like 123456 or their pet’s name. It’s a miracle more people are not getting hacked daily.
So, what is the new advice regarding password changes? Nordpass advises that you change your password if:
Obviously, this assumes that your passwords are strong and unique to begin with and that you don’t reuse them across services.
A: When you click “accept” cookies, you consent to the site you’re visiting to collect information about you.
This means that the site will remember you and your preferences. For example, your location/currency when you return to an e-commerce site. Which is pretty convenient.
As a result, some people prefer to disable cookies. But this might not be so simple. Kaspersky recently did an experiment on site cookies. Their findings are worth a read in full, but here’s a quick summary:
We’d love to hear your thoughts about all things data privacy.
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Let us know. Are there any specific data privacy topics you’d like us to explore in the upcoming issues of Incognito?
That’s it for this issue of Incognito! Stay safe and we’ll see you in your inbox next month.
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