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Is our online data safe?

Is our online data safe?
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Are we living in the age of hacking? Is our data online safe from the skill full art of computer coders and hackers that seem to be able to break into even the most sophisticated desktops?

With the SONY hack still fresh in our minds, whilst celebrity twitter accounts are infiltrated daily and production companies are broken apart to leak episodes early- it is important to ask ourselves whether the financial, personal and important data we tap into our computers daily is really being held in a safe and secure environment.

Last week, multimillion dollar and ginormous film and television company HBO- were hacked, leading to the latest episode of Game of Thrones being posted to the delight of some viewers and the dismay of others.

The hackers also claimed that they now have up to 1.5 terabytes of data, that’s a huge amount of footage, leading to speculations that more than one episode is now in the hacker’s possession, with the threat of them exposing the information online a very real possibility.

The internet positively exploded when the episode was found floating around google several days before the official air date. Spoilers were plastered on social media sites whilst HBO apparently brought in the FBI to quell the chaos.

With the hackers now claiming that they have much more data than what was previously thought, the huge breach in security calls to question the lack of safe keeping over confidential files owned by large corporations, with this hack happening in the wake of the hacking of SONY.

With HBO expected to take weeks to work out the logistics behind the breach of security and what exactly went wrong, as desktops were targeted and trawled for information, people are calling for better security systems to be in place to prevent this from happening again.

The hackers were also able to hack the twitter account of HBO, posting a very condescending tweet questioning whether the HBO team would like their security improved by the hacking group.

Sometimes, it seems, hacking has nothing to do with the leak of data, with simple foolishness and the sheer amount of personal data online leading to severe leaks of information. In the case of The University of East Anglia, an email was sent to the students on an American Studies course, detailing the reasons behind countless student’s mitigating circumstances, ranging from information on suicidal thoughts, family illnesses and depression.

The university then quickly followed up this email with an email apologising ‘unreservedly’ and pleading with students to not open the email and to delete it immediately- which, through sheer curiosity and possible anger, many students were seen to ignore and follow the link.

Our personal data is also threatened online, through viruses, scamming emails and even online services.

It seems that internet giants such as TalkTalk are unable to avoid the infiltration from hackers as a group reportedly hired hundreds of fake TalkTalk workers to break into the security systems, claim personal data and phone numbers, before  phoning up customers and scamming them out of hundreds of pounds.

A BBC report has found that there were nearly 6 million computer fraud and hacking offences last year alone, with the number set to rise alongside the advancements in technology and skills of hackers.

There are even championships and competitions held across the world on computer software on how to mimic, create and infiltrate systems, through to how to code and customise data. They are commonly named hackathons, and although they are not based on hacking and illegal practice, they do champion the skill behind code and computing, which are key components to breaking into computer systems.

Hackers have also been targeting the gaming world, as earlier this year hackers were seen to steal the data of around 2.5 million gamers, including email addresses, passwords, IP addresses, credit/debit card details and home addresses, all alarmingly important data.

The sheer scale of the information leaked can be represented in the fact that before the hack of 2.5 million gamers, only the information of 13,000 gamers has been previously acquired, meaning that the skill sets of hackers are growing at an alarming rate.

All of these incidents are reminiscent of the Sony Hack, an event which caused people to start to question whether data was truly protected online. The hack saw information released to the public detailing personal information about Sony employees and their families, emails sent between employees, information on salaries within the company and countless clips, information, scripts and even full length edits of unreleased films.

A Dive article has revealed that last year 6000 retail sites were hacked, with the credit and debit card information removed and copied to be re used for fraudulent activity.

In an age where purchasing is becoming more and more online based, the hacking of 6000 websites and their user’s accounts is quite a terrifying thought.

So, with major TV companies such as HBO being infiltrated; data slowly oozing into all areas of the internet; people being hired professionally to hack and scam; universities leaving countless amounts of personal, sensitive data in the hands of incompetent people; gamers’ home addresses floating around the internet and giants such as SONY letting down their guard, are we living in an age where we are simply not safe online?

Elizabeth Whittingham Elizabeth is a history graduate currently working in content and communications.

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