Tag Archive | "invasion of privacy"

The Trojan Horse in Your Home

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According to the legendary ancient Greek epic poet Homer, during the ten-year siege of Troy, the Greeks plotted to invade their enemies by leaving a giant wooden horse at the gates of Troy.  This “gift horse” was carefully timed to coincide with what appeared to be a recession of the Greek fleet.  Assuming that the gargantuan equine was a peace offering, the Trojans opened their gates and rolled the horse inside.  In the dead of night, a team of thirty select Greeks quietly stole out of the horse and reopened the gates to their own armada that destroyed Troy.

Since that time, the term “Trojan Horse” refers to trickery or sleight-of-hand conducted with ill intent.  In the computer world, a “Trojan Horse” refers to malevolent computer programs (“malware”) that appear to be useful or harmless.  They induce the user to install and run them and thereby, seriously compromise, crash, or totally obliterate the user’s system.

Herein lies the crux of this article.  By having a computer system linked to the World Wide Web, have we invited foes into our homes?

I recently heard on the radio that a school in Pennsylvania gave every one of its students a free Apple laptop computer without notifying them that it could reveal what the students were doing at school or home, whenever the school decided to access its video cameras linked to those laptops.  The school’s treachery was revealed when its administrators interrogated one student concerning his use of drugs.  Needless to say, when the student informed his parents of this occurrence, the question arose as to whether or not this constituted a violation of the student’s civil rights.

If this could happen to a student, via a body of adults that he and his parents trusted implicitly, the question arises as to how widespread this problem may be. Legally, the issue impacts not only the unwary user but also the manufacturer(s) of the computer and videocam, the Internet provider, and those who supplied the laptop to the student.   If you think you’re immune to such deception, consider how many times you have agreed to terms of software utilization and access, via the Internet, without actually reading all of the terms.

The PC may be the greatest learning tool in recent history, but at what cost?  Is your personal business at risk? Once the foe has access to your home and its possessions, you are at his mercy.  It’s twenty-six years after George Orwell’s prognostications about “1984” have come and gone, and it appears that the author was correct.  “Big Brother” is indeed watching!

Our Constitution guarantees us freedom from illegal searches and seizures, but how many times have you heard that someone who has been accused of a crime has had his computer impounded by law enforcement authorities?  If the presumption of “innocent until found guilty” is the basis for our law, and if the Constitution protects us against invasions of this nature, what exactly is going on here, and why is it going on?  Is this part of the Patriot Act now expanding into avenues it was never intended to survey?

Finally, we have a subject into which the ACLU can really sink its sharp little incisors.  If the ACLU is so concerned with safeguarding our inalienable rights, let them examine the legality of cyberspace agreements and malware programs.   Let them then push to institute laws that would protect PC users — nearly every American above the age of two — from pitfalls such as these.

Your files on your PC contain what you are and who you are: your thoughts, your opinions, your desires, the sites you enter, the products you purchase, your banking documents, ad infinitum.  You may consider these aspects of your life to be highly personal and accessible only by the use of a password.  Consider again how private they really are if a Trojan Horse in the guise of a malicious program or an unscrupulous party should be left at your gateway to the Internet. 

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

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Life can be overwhelming.  It relentlessly pursues even those who attempt to hide from it.  Today, life encompasses an aggregation of personal, professional, social, and familial commitments.  And, given the impact of technology, life moves at an ever-increasing pace.

Symbolic of this fact is the earbud and its omnipresence.  Go into any crowded public place, and I am certain that you will see that a significant percentage of those present have this appendage firmly affixed to their ears.  Some people, I imagine, only remove their earbuds to sleep or shower – and then, with great reluctance.

You see, the earbud is a reflection of a new and dramatically higher level of connectedness that we experience today.  Cellular phones, text messaging, instant messaging, and email, to name just a few, offer us easy access to networks providing virtually instantaneous communications.  Global positioning system (GPS) technology allows us to find intended destinations as well as track people and property.


Previous generations had none of these capabilities and, if presented with the opportunity to utilize such technology, may have considered it unnecessarily intrusive.  Life, prior to the Information Age, had the same personal, professional, social, and familial components, but each part of one’s life was significantly more distinct from the others.  When someone was working, he or she was not shopping or making personal travel arrangements online or instant messaging friends.  Likewise, when an individual was traveling or recreating with family and friends, he likely did not receive incessant messages from his place of employment or from other friends or acquaintances.

Connectedness has its price.  And, that price is paid in interruptions and, to a degree, losses of freedom, privacy, and effectiveness.  Interestingly, while technology advances in scope and complexity, Mankind remains largely the same.  We can only effectively focus on “one thing at a time,” no matter how fleeting that time.  Those who believe that they can multitask are largely deceiving themselves.  As the number of tasks to be performed simultaneously increases, the concentration on any particular task decreases and, frequently, the quality suffers.  Unlike a computer, Man cannot truly multitask.  He can merely spend small increments of time on individual tasks, rotating his focus and time spent until all the tasks are completed.

And so, when overwhelmed with life, we are left with two viable solutions.  If the issues which inundate us are matters of importance, we should first prioritize them and then, beginning with the most important issue, focus our attentions and steadfastly work through each issue to resolution.  But, if our feelings of powerlessness are based upon the increased chatter and noise produced by living a “connected” life, we should “disconnect” from our networks for a time and hearken back to a day when life was simpler and less stressful. 

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