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How Technology Makes Us Vulnerable

Big Brother may not be behind it all, but it is clear that modern technology makes us vulnerable.

There are a whole bunch of modern conspiracy theories; some, more prominent than others—such as government spy programs and social media mind control. Whilst there isn’t really any definite proof, or proof that "we believe," for many of these, some theories are backed up by concrete proof.

In this article, I’m exploring some of our biggest technological vulnerabilities, present anywhere from our mobile phones to our bank accounts, our laptops to even our DNA. Some fuel some pretty big conspiracies, whilst others just suck to know.

GPS on Your Phone 

If you have a modern smartphone, I can be willing to bet that GPS tracking is "on" by default. From the iPhone, which makes it a bit harder to find, to Android devices which are a lot more "up-front," GPS tracking has a few main roles in our mobile lives.

In an ideal, "non-cynical" world, the GPS function betters the advertising we’re subjected to, it geotags our Instagram images, and suggests Facebook friends that are actually nearby. Hey, it does this, so good job tech guys!

On the other darker and creepier hand, the GPS function plays a jealous-ex role. Namely on the iPhone, the software tracks your "commonly frequented" locations, and aptly names these (home, where you spend your most time, for example, or school, using data from Maps) alongside the exact date you visited them, and when you left them.

To some conspiracists, this is clearly government control over what we do, and surveillance over where we go. To the techies out there, this is nothing more than essential data gathering to tailor our online experiences.

Credit Card

Yep, the age-old concern over credit card fraud is still here, and boy is it growing. As technology grows, so too does the vulnerability our cards face on a day-to-day basis.

New fraudulent methods include minute cameras hidden on ATMs, entire fake facades for ATMs with in-built card scanners, and even the ancient method of email and text phishing diving for our details.

There really is no other advice than to remain vigilant with this one; Wiggle your ATM card reader, never disclose your personal details to an odious website or text, and simply cover your hand when entering your PIN code. Small steps like these could help you save weeks of stress and hassle. 

Social Media

Another "older" factor on the list, social media has been, and always will, remain one of the darkest tools against us in a technological society. We post everything to it; what we look like, who our friends are, who our family are, where we went to school and what our hobbies are.

Interestingly, most of these are also "security question" choices for if you "conveniently forgot" your password, making social media pure opium for would-be hackers.

On top of this, through our own mistaken complacency, social media is incredibly useful for stalkers or sexual predators—the location features, or even photo backgrounds or status updates, could reveal your exact location and open you up to "real life" vulnerabilities and threats.

As with the credit card factor, simple tips such as being vigilant to your surroundings and aware of exactly what you’re posting can save you from some scary or awkward encounters. Unless you don’t use social media, it’s inevitably possible to be used against you.

Cars and Other Transportation

If you’ve seen gameplay of the successful video game Watch Dogs, you’ll know where I’m going with this factor.

Transport is becoming increasingly technology-driven, namely through internet controls (such as new GPS and online features in smart cars) and electric controls—the rise of Tesla springing to mind. With this, as has been proven a few times online, these can be hacked.

Now, I doubt you’ll have to worry about your car dashing off into the oncoming lane, with the exception of fully automated driven cars, but "underground" attacks could be possible. Imagine someone being able to watch exactly where you’re going, how long you stay there, where your heading, where you live, your entire contact list (thanks for that, hands free contact list) and a whole host of other vital information. The opportunities are endless, and endlessly frightening for prominent figures such as politicians and CEOs.

Our Own DNA

You read that right. Our own DNA, the one thing most secure and personal to us, is wholly vulnerable on a variety of levels. From strands of hair left on your pillow to trace amounts of saliva left on the cigarette-end you threw in the trash, our DNA is left everywhere.

The conspiracists amongst us know how this can be bad; secret government agents could harvest our DNA left in public places, such as left on the seal of a can, or blood after an accident, and perform a wide range of undisclosed experiments, cloning being the most popular theory.

Of course, this is merely speculative, but one real and common use is by the contamination of crime scenes. Criminals have, and continue to, purposefully taint their crime scene with planted DNA. In a recent New York Times article, Andrew Pollack reported that scientists in Israel have demonstrated that it is “possible to fabricate or possess DNA and plant it at a crime scene,” completely swaying the results of an investigation.

For the average person, this isn’t something to worry about. To those with a psychopathic stalker who happens to be a murderer and also insanely intellectual about the properties of DNA and how to harvest/forge it, be afraid.

As technology continues to develop and expand into almost every aspect of day-to-day life, from the vehicles we drive to the devices in our pockets and everything in-between, the chances for vulnerabilities grows exponentially. For the average person, a lot of these are nothing to fear, but that doesn’t mean to be complacent. Fraud, identity theft, and even framing can happen to any one of us. As we reach a society solely driven by technology, will these problems continue to rise, or will we one day find an ultimate solution? Stay vigilant and you’ll probably be fine—just think before you next "check-in" to that local McDonalds or use a suspiciously placed ATM.

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