Cyber criminals love the fact that most people are sheep, or in a lot of cases, lemmings. If it’s deemed cool to: give all your personal information to social media sites, do all your shopping online, pay your taxes, buy and read books online, dump your TV and MP3 player for online streaming of television/movies and music, and have a smartphone that controls just about every possible thing in your life—then of course you have to do it! Don’t want to be left out do you?
You’re ripe cyber prey is what I’d say if you blindly follow the latest whim of technology, especially technological convenience.
The fact remains, the more online we become the more we leave ourselves open to compromise. But the cold reality is, do we have a choice anymore? Can you even function in this world without being online? The answer to this question is a tough one, because the drive to bring everything online is being pushed so strongly and is moving so rapidly, being able to function completely ofﬂine will eventually be impossible.
Lately I’ve been thinking, if I were to go “ofﬂine” and try to disappear from the “online” world, what would I need to do? I believe it can still be done, but it wouldn’t be easy. Before I get into the steps I’d have to take, I’d like to clarify one thing: In the context of this article the word online does not mean a website, or viewing and using webpages on a computer. If you think online means only those things anymore, then wake up. There’s something that’s been around for a while now called the IoT, the Internet of Things. There’s even the IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things. Both are terms used for everything that’s online, that is, everything that’s managed by a computer.
So if I wanted to go ofﬂine, here’s what I’d have to do:
- Pay for everything with cash, that is, paper money.
- Pay bills with bank checks/cheques if I could not pay with cash.
- If I must do something online, use a reputable virtual private network (VPN) so my IP address isn’t logged.
- If I must buy something online, use a gift card. And if they don’t accept gift cards, either buy it offline or from a site that does.
- If I search for something online, only use search engines that do not track.
- Never buy a car that’s connected online; or if I had one, have it disconnected.
- Same thing with houses.
- Ditch my smartphone and use a landline.
- Do not use social media — I suppose you could go through a VPN and then not use a real name when you set up your accounts.
- Do not use email — Same situation, you could use a VPN, and then not use your real name with the provider; and if you had to pay for it, use a gift card. I admit this is a tough one.
None of this is completely ofﬂine though. Checks/cheques are usually paid today with same-day ACH payments. So even if you write a check/cheque, whomever you give it to will convert it into something that’s “online.”
Are you thinking I’m somewhere around 100 years old and am therefore against computers? No, as of this writing I’m 39, and I love technology and computers. I’m trying to make a point. You could follow all those bullet points, and yes, you’d be much less if not completely immune to cyber-attack, or what might be called “legal surveillance,” that is, government spying. But could you really function in the modern world like that? It’d be tough.
I believe that one day it will be in all telecommunication companies’ best ﬁnancial interests not to offer landline telephone service; so you will not have a choice but to have a smartphone. I believe being able to buy a brand new car that’s not online will be impossible, and impossible to disconnect if you wanted. And I believe that one day there will be no paper money. In multiple Scandinavian countries there are proposals to eliminate cash and only have plastic.
Good! Why are you making such a big deal about all this anyway, Jon? That’s actually a good question, why care? What’s the risk of paying for everything with plastic, doing everything online, having a smartphone, being on every social media site, and having a car that’s connected to it all? Millions if not billions have all that and have never had trouble. Unfortunately, I’ll have to delve into what might be called conspiracy theory to answer why care?
Right now you still have a choice. Let’s get that straight. You have the freedom to go offline and follow all those bullet points I mentioned. But I believe at some point you will not have a choice. You will have to be online whether you like it or not. If governments dump their currencies in favor of plastic you will not have a choice; if landline phones are no longer an option, you won’t have a choice and will have to have a smartphone that can easily be tracked; if municipal governments require “smart” homes, if you want to live in that municipality you won’t have a choice; if all new cars are required to be online, only used cars will be an offline option, but even then government can gradually eliminate them through licensing.
In other words, as I’ve heard others mention, the framework for a global system has been and is being set up. No one will be able to hide from it, at least not easily. Because where would you hide that a heat-sensing drone cannot ﬁnd you? Maybe a cave. You’d have to come out of the cave at some point to get food! Kidding aside, you have to admit I have a point, that bringing everything online, and every aspect of your life being recorded on a server is a worldwide system, or at least something that could evolve into one. Read more about blockchain and Big Data technology if you don’t believe me.
But also there are intergovernmental organizations like the UN that want to set up what’s called global governance (pdf) of everything that’s online. The UN and others aren’t going anywhere, and they’re not going to stop until they get their way.
We humans don’t like not being given a choice, and something being forced on us. So enjoy having a choice now, because you’d have to do some serious convincing to get me to believe that we’re not in danger of losing what little privacy we have left. And that our personal information, including our ﬁnances, is not becoming more vulnerable to compromise due to every last aspect of our lives being brought online. And businesses are getting in on it too, monitoring every aspect of their employees’ lives electronically.
If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide, Jon. The Soviets said that. And that’s just it, what’s considered wrong behavior is deﬁned differently depending on who’s in charge of a government.
In closing, at least be conscious of everything I mentioned in this piece. Because an ignorant populace not understanding what the technology they’re accepting is exactly what cyber-criminals and other power players love.