Former NSA hacker Dr. Jared DeMott is going public with the disturbing but not surprising news that on-line privacy is basically a misnomer. “Security will always be between a one and a nine, not a zero or a 10,” he says, noting that are some basic moves you can make to increase the safety of your data in cyberspace.
DeMott is an associate professor of cybersecurity at Dakota State University and the founder of VDA (Vulnerability Discovery and Analysis) Labs in Michigan. He also does contract work for Synack, a company started by other ex-NSA hackers who help clients realize and deal with their on-line vulnerabilities.
DeMott says that he and the other white-hat hackers at Synack are working to “make the world safer and better.”
When it comes to investing in new technology–from smartphones to digital thermostats–DeMott advises people to wait a while before purchasing such products. “I don’t personally early adopt things,” he says. “I’m not going to put the Nest in my home, right? I know too much.”
He explains that later generations of such products are the safer bet. “You know they’re not being built securely at first,” he says, because “the awareness of the importance of that doesn’t shake out until later on.”
Dealing with your life from a remote location, such as turning up the temperature in your home while you’re still at work, can be risky. You have to “wait for kinks to get worked out,” says DeMott, noting that such devices can create an opportunity for someone with bad intent to target you.
And then there’s your mobile phone. DeMott says that he was initially resistant to getting a smartphone. “I didn’t get the iPhone 1 or 2,” he recalls. “My first iPhone was like the 4 or something. I did originally wait on that.”
DeMott says that most malware is Android-based, so the iPhone is slightly more secure, because “Mac does a little better vetting apps,” he says.
DeMott warns that there’s no way to be entirely protected online, despite all the malware programs being offered to consumers.
Working in a field that is sorely in need of manpower, DeMott coaches his clients to improve “poor password practices” and says there’s a certain amount of “cyber hygiene” which needs to take place.
In related news, cell phone privacy is at the heart of a Supreme Court case being heard on Monday regarding consumers’ Fourth Amendment rights.
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