Psst. They’re out there. Watching. Waiting. Planning. Scheming. Lurking in shadowy basements and trolling the far reaches of cyberspace, just dying to get their hands on my personal info. This must be true because folks around me, people who otherwise seem like sane, rational beings blessed with a decent amount of common sense, are skulking around, looking over their shoulders, suspiciously questioning the intentions of others, and spouting dire warnings about the consequences of lax cyber security.
Did you know that hackers can get in through your printer? That’s right, they work their way through the electric wires to gain access to the printer through its power source, trace the USB connection back to your computer, then BAM! They’re in. I know it’s true ‘cause I heard it from my mom who heard it from my uncle who heard it somewhere reliable.
If they get in, hackers might find out the name of my deceased great aunt’s third parakeet, and then they’d have my PIN. Hackers, let me save you the time and effort—the credit cards are at their maximum and the bank accounts are at their minimum. Don’t bother.
Did you know that anti-virus software is really a front used by terrorists to gain access to your computer? That’s right, they trick you into downloading their software on your computer, then BAM! You’ve given them an open door to any information you’ve saved to your hard drive or sent over the internet. I know it’s true ‘cause a friend of a friend posted it on Facebook.
If they get in, terrorists might get the names and addresses of all my family and friends, or worse, read the archive of Christmas letters to which I annually subject them. Then they’d know the time and location of our next big family reunion and could plan a sneak attack to wipe out a few dozen BBQ-eating infidels in one headline-grabbing blow. Hey, terrorists! We never all show up at these things, so at best you’ll get eight or ten of us. Not much of a statement in that, so maybe save your exploding catering truck for some other function.
Did you know that Dell was caught selling PCs with keyboard loggers installed? That’s right, you come home from Best Buy, set up your brand new computer, start typing, then BAM! The Department of Homeland Security, which ordered Dell to install the loggers in the first place, can monitor every website you visit and every word you type in your most personal emails. I know it’s true ‘cause I read it on the internet.
If they get in, the feds might track my iTunes purchases and my Kindle downloads, which reflect somewhat schizophrenic tastes in music and literature. She could be a dodgy one, fellas, better keep a close eye. Don’t worry feds, as an aspiring writer, I just need a wide selection of catchy lyrics and inspiring prose to feed my imagination. No hidden messages if you play track 381 backwards or string together the tenth word from all the odd-numbered pages in that novel.
I am not vain enough to think, out of millions of potential victims, that hackers, terrorists, and feds are stalking me as an individual target, yet recently it seems that several acquaintances have been brainwashed into believing just that. I can’t seem to make them see the magnitude of their paranoia or its effects on other people’s impressions of their sanity, and frankly, I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with their delusions. I’m waiting for them to break out the tinfoil hats. I’m not blasé about the electronic risks, but for heaven’s sake, the threat of identity theft was just as real twenty years ago when all a thief had to do was rummage through your trash or break in your home office and cart off your filing cabinet. You take all the reasonable precautions, and you get on with life.