Digital Networks are Not Safe

Earlier this year your correspondent went into a small bakery in Helsinki to buy a sandwich and coffee. It did not happen because their cash register was down. No cash register, no coffee! It took them most of the day to get it up and running.

Last year, a small supermarket in Rovaniemi lost access to the shop’s network when a Russian hacker managed to encrypt the system data through a security gap in its cash register system. They demanded a bitcoin ransom but the owner refused and lost three days of business rebuilding a new safer system.

The amount of money hacked from banks by state-backed criminals in Russian, Ukraine, and North Korean are many times greater than all the physical money ever stolen from banks by ordinary masked robbers. You may think that banks’ shareholders suffer these losses but you the taxpayer end up as the paymaster to these criminals.

This week the Finnish government has seen huge attacks on the digital networks of their tax office, the police, and the Population Registry – all three were closed down for most of a day.

In June, Capital One Financial, the 7th largest commercial bank in the US saw a major data breach with data of over 100 million customers being lost. There was a similar data breach in 2017 at Equifax that exposed the social security numbers and other private information of roughly half of the US population.

The largest Finnish banks have regular breakdowns in their networks each year – it appears that the annual average is 10 times for each bank! 

Almost all important official and financial data about you and for you is on many digital service networks. To access them you must invest in expensive smart phones, computers, internet access, and software – the total cost is several thousand euros over a 3 to 5 year period. You also have to perform a lot of the work keeping everything updated as well as having to remember dozens of passwords.

The stories about how Facebook, Google, and other social media companies are selling our private data for profit to Russia, to advertisers and to other undesirable people is shocking. You must wonder what big retail shops are doing with the data they are collecting – are the insurance companies buying this data? 

Countries like China and the UK are using random facial recognition on the streets to find criminals and other non-desirable people. Here is the link to the latest story in the UK.

Even worse is that we are being told to update our security on our smart phones and laptops. The security holes are caused by software glitches from the companies to whom we pay money and not from our negligence! Most folk do not have a clue about the security threats, and the same is obviously true about many companies and governments.

All this talk about the virtues of digitalisation is still based on weak foundations because there is no secure digital system that can guarantee that our data is managed in a 100% secure manner. 

The present system actually increases the size of security threats that commercial companies and politicians are exposing us to, and it is ironical that we are the ones being crucified at our own expense! 

You can easily understand why the Austrian government is now writing a new law into its Constitution saying that banks and companies must always allow cash to be used for any transaction.

Digital solutions offer some convenience, but the cost is not balancing the real and actual threats. Talk about greater efficiencies are certainly true for companies because they can reap the profits of digital solutions while outsourcing much of the work to customers without having to pay them!

Site Footer