“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
Oscar Wilde said this many moons ago, at the time when the internet was not even imagined; its inventors were not even born yet. Perhaps this saying was true back then, where people used a literal mask and only then, started to actually say whatever was on their minds. Some sort of anonymity, despite its physical limitations.
This saying is even more relatable nowadays, given the existence of the internet. Creating an anonymous account on social media takes you less time compared to cooking pasta. After that, god forbid, you can do whatever your evil heart desires to do with that virtual identity.
It is indisputable that technology has brought us the convenience of modern life that we have today: transportation, ease of access to foods, and everything else. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Along with all the good things in life that have been improved with the help of technology, the bad things are evolving and adapting as well.
Yes, with the help of technology you can contact your relatives that are on the other side of the world with ease. You can also purchase your favorite items without even leaving the comfort of your bed. Many things can be done from your home, thus reducing the chance of you being physically harmed by people with bad intentions, all thanks to technology.
But there’s a catch.
Burglars, thieves, and criminals: enhanced.
Enter online villains.
In real life, their looks might fool you. They might look clean and tidy, with a friendly smile to greet whoever they meet. But the second they turn into their virtual persona, they are a whole different person. They might become scammers, thieves, cyberbullies, or even cyberterrorists.
This is the mask. Near-perfect total anonymity, where saints can turn into devils and no human will know.
Cybercriminals can pose as someone you know and ask for money. They can also do it remotely, without you even realizing it taking place. One great example is scam-callers, where people act as tech-support and tell that your computer has a problem. They act like they want to help you, but they are actually trying to scam you out of your possessions. Because of their seemingly sweet intentions, you might grant them access to your computer, and before you know it, they use your cards and your hard-earned money is gone.
What can we do?
Have some good sense, that’s a start.
Don’t visit dodgy websites that are giving you free money, or that you win millions of dollars simply because you are alive. And no, there are no hot men/women in your area that are interested in you (ouch). When you receive an email, make sure about the identity of the sender. Pay close attention to the email addresses, website names, links, etc. Potential hackers might disguise their malicious website by using the name similar to the famous ones (think of faceb00k.com instead of facebook.com, and so on). Hackers can pretend and use the name of your close ones, perhaps asking you to transfer money for urgent reasons. Always make sure that it’s actually the person before sending any money.
Next, improve your passwords. This is serious.
I mean, think about it. Many hackers and cybercriminals don’t actually possess great knowledge about hacking. They might simply know how to get around the technology. There are several cases of cybercriminals hacking into celebrities’ accounts simply by knowing their victims’ favorite places, pets, and things like that.
Now say goodbye to your easy-to-guess passwords. The ones that involve your birthdate; your favorite pets, teachers, and coffees; your first date; your maiden name; etc. In fact, one of the criteria of a good password is something that can’t be related to you by any means.
In addition, the mix of different characters in your passwords will make it harder to brute-force. Brute-forcing is a method that hackers use to simply try millions upon millions of passwords combination, hoping that they will get the right combination eventually.
By using special characters (such as !@#$%^&*) combined with lower-upper cases and numbers, it will make your password take a much longer time to brute-force. We’re talking about centuries of brute-forcing, so it’s not viable for the hackers to keep doing it. So instead of simply having ‘thisgoodpassword’, you can use ‘Th!5g00|)Pa$$w0rD’. Last I checked, this password will take 3 centuries to brute-force. I don’t think there are many determined hackers that will wait that long.
You can check your password strength by yourself with online tools such as Kasperky’s password checker here.
In the end...
…we can’t stop all the wrongdoings in this world.
Despite our best efforts, there will be moments when the atrocities are one step ahead of us. This is why tech literacy is vital in this day and age. Yes, you might have a relative or a friend that you can count on to help you with your gadgets and technology. However, it will be much better and convenient if you have a good grasp of technology by yourself.
This way, we can minimize the number of cybercrimes and atrocities as small as possible.
Author: Gamal Kevin Alega | @gamalkevin
A law student from Indonesia; currently living in Pekalongan, Jawa Tengah. Highly enthusiastic about languages, cultures, and technology. Joining AYO as a Content Writer with the intention of honing writing skills, as well as enriching connections from various cultures and backgrounds. A proficient eater with 23 years of experience as well.