3Following Celebrities on Twitter
The invention of Twitter has been useful primarily in maximizing the ability of celebrities to expose us to their shockingly dull and inane lives. But the mass adoption of the medium combined with the childlike trust we have in famous people creates just another opportunity for scammers to exploit.
"Taylor Hicks wants to worship the dark god Set? Count us in."
The fact is, celebrity Twitter accounts are easier to break into than a convertible sedan, as we saw in January 2009 when 33 different celebrity or corporate Twitter accounts were hacked. It began with a tweet from Fox News that read "Breaking: Bill O Riley [sic] is gay" and didn't stop until Rick Sanchez of CNN had admitted to being high on crack and Britney Spears informed a shocked nation about her four-foot-wide vagina.
Okay, so the Rich Sanchez = crack thing makes sense.
So why should you care that strangers are taking over Twitter accounts and making celebrities say ridiculous things? Well, the very same week this article was written, actor Simon Pegg's Twitter was hacked, telling his followers to download a Paul screensaver. Those who did found themselves infected with a Trojan designed to steal their online banking login information.
Which is, arguably, a better fate than watching Paul.
Just a couple of months earlier, Lady Gaga sent out an oddly worded tweet that purported to include a link to one of her banned music videos. The link led to a bogus site that attempted to hijack your Twitter account, using it to spread the same tainted message to all of your followers. Gaga wasn't the origin of the tweet, but she fell for it like thousands of other people and ended up exposing her 9.6 million followers to scammers as a result.
How could she have been outwitted?
You'd think it's their own fault for trusting somebody who once wore a gown made of meat, right? You'd be less inclined to expect scammers distributing links through Barack Obama's Twitter. Except, oh wait, that totally happened. Having lots of money and the ability to order a nuclear strike doesn't render you immune to 18-year-old kids with an Internet connection and buckets of free time.
"He's a nerd, gentlemen. The only way to stop him is a girlfriend who puts out."
2Having a Cellphone
OK, you know your phone is capable of gathering data on basically everything you do. But say you've read your EULAs and check out the privacy settings on any service you use. If you disable the storing of location data and steer clear of apps that comb your private info, there's not much to worry about. Just using your navigation app doesn't mean you're broadcasting sensitive data to anyone interested in looking, right?
Allow us several seconds to laugh at your naivete.
As it turns out, the ability to "opt out" of location sharing is only really offered as a "wink wink, nudge nudge" sort of deal.
Apps for both Android and iOS are required to inform you of just what parts of your phone they'll need to access. An e-book reader probably doesn't need to talk with your sent email folder, and your maps app doesn't have much cause to log your calls. That's how it ought to work, in some far-off dimension where advertisers don't treat your phone like a magical market research box. Scientists from Penn State recently looked at 30 popular Android apps and found that two-thirds of the apps misused or suspiciously used private user data.
"Our goof! We promise it won't happen again often."
Innocuous apps were found storing and transmitting location data with "no obvious way" for the user to know. Even when the developers warn you, they bury that warning deep beneath a thick layer of legalese. How many people who give an app access to their Google accounts and network communication realize they're potentially handing the content of every email and text message they send over to marketers? You're probably fine with a location-based app using your GPS data to provide you with a service, but you may not be OK with that same app sending that data off to a marketing firm. Along with your phone number.
"Hey, Sandra! This is Anne with Conglomerated Marketing. I'll be calling you three times a day at wildly unpredictable hours until you decide it's time for Botox."
Several popular apps, like Color, even tap into your handset's microphone to pick up ambient sound data about your surroundings. Users of Color know that they're throwing pictures and other content out onto an unprotected network. But the app contains no explicit warning that installing it turns your phone into a 24/7 listening device.
You should never trust an app with a logo that lazy.
So how about just avoiding apps entirely? First of all, good luck with that. Second, even that won't be enough to protect your location. Apple recently made headlines when researchers found that the iPhone and iPad were storing user location data in an unencrypted file. So even if you do everything right and practice perfect information awareness, it all goes out the window the minute someone forgets to use the padlock.
"We feel super terrible. Please continue to send us money."