“Wyrd biõ ful ãræd.”

Monday, July 29, 2013

The constant struggle to protect your privacy.


Everyone who watches the news at all, or reads any news blogs, knows the U.S. government is watching everybody.  Their computers read your emails and postings on the net. They monitor all our phone calls. They know what you read on the web and what your search terms are.  That's just the way it is, and it'll never go back to "the old days" when they weren't allowed to do all that. I strongly suspect they did anyway, but it's a moot point.

I have a friend who doesn't blog anymore because his blog started getting lots of hits from government agencies. Now, maybe it was just bored bureaucrats surfing the web. Or maybe it was not very nice people looking for someone they could turn in and score some points on their evaluation. For reasons I mentioned on a previous post, I don't really worry about the government anymore. I'm a prolific letter writer about political issues that I feel are important. Even if I didn't use the  internet at all, I'd still be on the "list".

What I am more concerned about is individuals.  There are some really strange people out on the internet. I mean strange as in mentally ill.  If you aren't careful, you can wind up with one of those who has dedicated himself or herself to causing you all the trouble they can. Some of them have the skills to cause a lot of trouble.


My first blog, which I had many years ago,  got me into a conflict with a group of  Neo-Nazi "youths." My crime in their eyes was that I was supportive of Israel (my experiences in Lebanon, let alone events since then, make me less than sympathetic to militant Islam.)  These nice people were able to get my phone number and my mailing address. I won't go into the sordid details, but just imagine what  you could do to annoy or embarrass someone if you know those two things. Among other things, they made  threats against my family. Who do you report that to when the people doing it are out of this country? I never did find out.
So I shut down that blog, changed my phone number, deleted the gmail account the blog was registered to. I assume they found someone else to annoy. There was no denying, however, that they shut me down and since that was their declared intent I guess I lost that round.

The next blog I had didn't end unhappily, but I did have some issues with operational security. Not everyone who nails you between the running lights means to do it.  I was careless with some comments I made, and with some photos I posted. One day a fellow figured out exactly where I lived, and as a joke he posted it on the net. Now, he didn't mean any harm.  But there were some unintended consequences of that act that were irksome. I had been warned by several friends on the old blog that I was saying more than I should, and it turned out they were right.  It's just better to be discrete. You can always use point to point email to pass sensitive information to friends who ask.

The people you wouldn't want to know where you live are out there, though.  Some good advice I was given years ago was to remember when I write a post that you never know who will be reading it.



I just got an email from a long time friend who warned me that I was doing it again. So, I've got to try to be better about Operational Security.  I never do things like posting a picture of someone without their approval, or compromising other people's privacy. But I do have a tendency to be careless and I need to watch that. I don't want to wind up listening to the Horst Wessel Leid on the phone at three in the morning again.

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing. A good stop, look, and listen posting. I have posted photos of my family only once and no names. Too many nuts have fallen off the tree.

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    1. That's something I notice between now, and the other blog, which I think I shut down sometime around two years back. People used to post photos of themselves and their families all the time. Now, virtually no one does. I guess that's smart. You are absolutely right about the mentally ill crowd drifting about the county. They are out there.

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  2. My problem is that nothing the government does, they do well. They are likely watching an old woman in Duluth who crochets doilies. They audited me last year....Mrs. Honest-as-the-day-is-long. Anyone who really is a domestic terrorist probably just gets Disability, Medicaid, WIC, food stamps and a free phone.

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  3. Jane, that's painfully true. I was flying out to take a trip with my brothers a while back, and my plane changed in Denver. Waiting at the gate, I noticed a young guy, mid twenties, wearing a heavy overcoat and clutching a bag. He was rocking back and forth, sweating like a pig, and babbling in Arabic. I asked the gate attendant if it might not be wise to have security check this guy out, but she told me, none too politely, to mind my own business. When we lined up to board the plane, they pulled three people out of line at random for a search. One was a lady with a kid about 5. One was an elderly businessman looking type, and one was a grandma. The crazy guy in his trench coat pranced right onto the plane. Nothing happened during the flight, maybe the guy was just scared of flying, but the whole thing highlights the nonsensical approach the government takes to everything.

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  4. Ya I was getting a bit too comfy with pics and such so I stopped and deleted all of my old posts from before Nov. 2012 as well.

    Better safe than sorry

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  5. It's a shame you have to do that but you do. Remember I used to put pictures of my vehicles on the old blog and show the license plates? While I don't do that anymore, I'm still an operational security managers nightmare.

    I'm trying to have a comfortable, interesting blog and be thoughtful in terms of security about what I write. But this morning I got an email from a fellow (one of the old crew) who said "you said this, and this and this". I realized, when I read it all laid out together, that I was being really careless again. But I will say the guy is pretty damned sharp, I told him he missed his calling and should have gone into counter intelligence. ;-)

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  6. Hmmm I think I am too loose with what I put on my blog. Some of the blogs I follow give out way too many details...I have been blogging since 2007 and have not encountered problems yet. Although it does cause me concern as to who is actually reading my blog...

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    1. Tania,
      I think as long as you steer clear of anything political, and don't post anything that would let people find your house, you will be ok. It's when some rabid fanatic who has no life and nothing to do but harass people is offended by something you wrote that problems can occur. The real issue is that there are just so many people out there reading blogs, and a very small percentage of them are going to have a screw loose.

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  7. One of the guys' pictures on my blog has a top security clearance, so my picture of him where I teach him to make jelly will probably be of utmost interest to someone. I have a hard time getting to your blog because when I click on a link to it, it is unavailable.

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    1. Practical, he might get into trouble if you said his name, what agency he worked for, and what he did on your post. I doubt there'd be any issues with the man just being on the post. Although, when you talk about the bureaucracy, you never know.

      I can't think why you would get an unavailable notice on my blog. But I will say this, blogger has changed a whole lot since I last used it. I'll ask some of my on line friends who have been using it through all the changes if I have inadvertently done something wrong in the settings area.

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  9. For my part it was witnessing on TWO different occasions the attempted hacking of my computers.

    What are the odds of seeing it happen both times?

    The SECOND time it happened, I put a windows based system to sleep. A minute or so later from across the room, I heard the hard drive start spinning and it woke up. Some may remember Sharyl Actkinson from CBS news who recently had her computer hacked. From what I can gather this is what happened here.

    A few weeks earlier ( The FIRST TIME this happened ) it was on my Linux Based laptop. It also was in sleep mode. I was sitting in the chair at the desk and had turned away from the monitor about 90 degrees to look out the window. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw flickering. I turned to look at the screen and it had been woke up from sleep mode and there in the password field, I saw someone trying to guess the password over and over. After several attempts, I reached over to the router and unplugged the power cable shutting their attempts down.

    Sure, we are all being watched and it got lots worse after the new year began. Yes, it was unnerving. But I shut my blog down after the 2nd hacking attempt. Some might consider say, "well he shut his blog down and gave them what they wanted".

    People are free to think what they want. More power to them. I gave up caring what others think a good while back.

    Will I be return to blogging? Maybe ... someday. Right now, I actually enjoy just leaving comments here and there.

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  10. Well, you have to do what you think is best. I had to close my first blog down to get rid of the harassment package. I'd say witnessing two different hacking attempts justifies whatever action you decide to take, including shutting down. I seriously doubt anyone thinks the less of either of us for that.

    I do hope when you get in the mood again you'll come back on with your blog, though. In the meantime, I look forward to your visits here.

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