Online security is an ever changing landscape of defenses, strategies, intrusion tactics, countermeasures, and technologies locked in an eternal war. Legal matters sometimes intersect and can provide sweeping changes as new perspectives are considered in a world that marches toward a digital future at a faster rate. As every fact of life becomes more imbued with digital surveillance, there are times when specific acts and events must be scrutinized for the sake of judicial review.
This is even more prevalent with the move to working from home. Several industries are coming to terms with the new normal of telecommunication, and this is presenting challenges to be negotiated for a wide variety of personnel.
Simply put: our lives are online all the time now.
On November 30th, 2020, a new case – Van Buren vs. United States – had arguments open up with the Supreme Court concerning this very topic. In short, a police officer accepted money to look up restricted information in a law enforcement database (specifically, the license plate of a citizen). The question here is simple – does an actor who has privileged access still maintain that clearance when it is used for unauthorized purposes?
Essentially, this matter can be reduced to “it’s not illegal, buuuuuuut something feels a little off about it.” Theoretically, the argument of “there’s no law against it, thus it is not legal” has come under fire for a variety of reasons throughout history, and anything that resembles an invasion of privacy can certainly fall under this umbrella. The policeman in this situation did not break a law or violate any kind of rule or order, but it still feels strange to know that someone on friendly terms with an officer could gain access to information hidden from the public.
However, really, that’s kind of besides the point. The bigger issue here is less about the foggy nature of what happened, and more about how to classify it. This is important because until we can apply specific labels and designations, appropriate punishment (if even any should be applied) for breaching online security is difficult to assess.
Specifically, this case falls under the nebulous area of hacking (broadly defined as a situation where a user gains unauthorized access to digital resources), with specific respect to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). It was enacted in 1986 in response to ensuring that computer-related crimes could actually be punished from a legal standpoint (again, shades of weeeeeell it wasn’t illegal when I did it).
Unfortunately, the CFAA has generally been seen as vague. For example, does breaching any part of the terms of service for a website, application, or digital service constitute a violation of online security?
Tim Wu – a longstanding legal scholar and professor at Columbia Law School – has called it “the worst law in technology,” and his involvement in the computer world cannot be understated (he coined the term “net neutrality” for starters). The CFAA is believed and cited to pressure free-speech advocates, stifle journalistic endeavors, and complicate the punishment phase of law by raising a misdemeanor into a felony (creating disproportionate sentences).
One of the most famous examples of this is the case of Aaron Swartz. To summarize, he downloaded academic journals from MIT, and was charged under the CFAA with wire fraud. Following a very controversial lawsuit that resulted in felony charges, he committed suicide. This has been a subject of intense debate when it comes to free speech and the limitless punitive measures available to federal prosecutors.
Maybe the shortest way to think of this is that we – as a society – are still coming to terms with the breadth and depth that technology has on daily life, and have not yet caught up in terms of proper regulation and law with regards to our online security.
This is why this case is being heard by the Supreme Court – to discuss a long standing and still undecided law that can potentially have widespread impact on the entire digital world. Apparently, this discussion is a long time coming.
You are most likely wondering why or how this would affect you, which is an entirely valid response to have. For example, if you created two accounts on a shopping website to get a 10% coupon for two separate orders when the coupon specifically dictates one per household, could you be charged? Think about it – you knowingly created two accounts with the same physical address for the purpose of saving some money. Under some interpretations of the CFAA, this would constitute hacking behavior (or at least hacking- like behavior) and could result in felony charges.
Another example: All the recent activity involved the Playstation 5 and scalpers could fall under CFAA litigation. I’m not even sure there’s ANY laws being broken there, but a shrewd argument could be made regarding the use of bots to game checkout systems to obtain stock in a not-fraudulent fraudulent way. I’m not saying this kind of behavior should be punished, even if I really want to play that sweet new Spiderman game.
The point here is that it’s a planet sized swamp of legal complexity that may finally force specific conversations and new laws to be put into place. Arguments are underway, and digital rights advocates are understandably keeping close watch.
I’d wager no one in the entire world – should their entire inventory of digital actions be known – would be immune to prosecution under the current constructs of the CFAA. When you think about it that way, and when you think of all the seemingly innocuous things you’ve done that could suddenly land you in front of a judge, then it’s clear that this case can and should be considered extremely applicable to everyone.
Quickly learn the basics of UX and UI (for free!)
(TECHNOLOGY) For the all-time low price of—well, free—Invise gives you the option of learning a few basic UI and UX design techniques.
There’s no denying the strong impact UI and UX design has on the success of a website, app, or service—and, thanks to some timely altruism, you can add basic design understanding to your résumé for free.
Invise is a self-described beginner’s guide to the UI/UX field, and while they do not purport to deliver expert knowledge or “paid courses”, the introduction overview alone is pretty hefty.
The best part—aside from the “free” aspect—is how simple it is to get a copy of the guide: You enter your email address on the Invise website, click the appropriate button, and the guide is yours after a quick email verification.
According to Invise, their beginner’s guide to UI and UX covers everything from color theory and typography to layout, research principles, and prototyping. They even include a segment on tools and resources to use for optimal UI/UX work so that you don’t have to take any risks on dicey software.
UI—short for “user interface”—and UX, or “user experience”, are two critical design aspects found in everything from websites to app and video game menus. As anyone who has ever picked up an outdated smartphone knows, a janky presentation of options or—worse yet—a lack of intuitive menus can break a user’s experience far faster than slow hardware.
Similarly, if you’re looking to retain customers who visit your website or blog, presenting their options to them in a jarring or unfamiliar way—or selecting colors that clash for your landing page—can be just as fatal as not having a website to begin with.
The overarching problem, then, becomes one of cost. Hiring a design expert is expensive and can be time-consuming, so Invise is a welcome alternative—and, as a bonus, you don’t have to dictate your company’s vision to a stranger and hope that they “get it” if you’re doing your own design work.
It may not be the best year to break the bank on design choices, but the importance of UI and UX in your business can’t be overstated. If you have time to read up on some design basics and a small budget for a few of the bare-bones tools, you can take a relatively educated shot at putting together a modern, desirable interface.
How to safeguard your small company’s data without distrusting staff
(TECHNOLOGY) Even a tiny company has valuable data that can be stolen from inside – without adopting a policy of distrust, you can take preventative action
Data breaches are scarily common in today’s digital world, and even gargantuan businesses can easily be brought to their knees should a wayward phishing attempt (or a disgruntled former employee) succeed in making off with valuable information.
While your small business probably doesn’t have all of the same calibre of worries as your more monolithic counterparts, don’t make the mistake of thinking that your data can’t be stolen to devastating effect, even if you think the data you have is irrelevant and not worthy of being stolen (you’re wrong).
Cloud storage and increased collaborative tool use means that things like sensitive documents and files are at increased risk of theft. Small businesses are especially susceptible to this due to a lower likelihood of advanced security usage, so it pays to know what kinds of things you might be at risk of losing.
According to MUO, employees are most likely to steal collaborative documents, consumer databases, and any resources devoted to research and development.
Safeguarding these items can be tricky due to their relatively high-traffic use, so a preventive strategy is your best defense.
It should be noted that trust in your employees is crucial, and treating them like they’re poised to steal from you at any moment is not a particularly effective management strategy.
However, it’s important to be aware of the following reasons – and possible preventive measures – for employee theft of data.
Firstly, corporate espionage (as dramatic as it sounds) is still something you have to worry about as a small business owner. It isn’t uncommon for competitors to bribe (or even simply persuade) current employees to share data, even if your competitors are relatively small themselves.
Your employees should know that data is sacred (and confidential), but employing things like intrusion systems and holding trainings for recognition of espionage can help prevent this problem.
Those competitors might also try to snag some of your employees, and not just for their work ethic. Employees may save their own copies of documents that they think will be helpful in their new workspace; in doing so, they can unwittingly aid your competitor with much more than their skillset. Again, reminding your employees that all work documents are both confidential and property of your brand can cut down on accidental data theft in this category.
Non-Compete agreements and NDAs can also prevent this kind of theft, intentional or otherwise; if an employee chooses to leave your business, making sure they are aware of their contractual obligations is key. Perhaps the worst competitor you can have is a former employee who launches their own business in your field, though, and this is a situation in which data theft can be intellectual. Once again, Non-Competes and NDAs are helpful in mitigating damage in this context.
Finally, angry employees can find themselves doing a myriad of dumb (and harmful) things, up to and including data theft.
As mentioned earlier, early prevention is the best way to keep your data on your servers and out of your departing employees’ hands. Restricting employee access to files and folders can limit the number of possible breaches, and the aforementioned Non-Compete and Nondisclosure agreements are absolutely crucial in any business that deals in data–just make sure you’re discussing the terms of those agreements with employees as they come and go.
Twitter bid on hold, Tesla stock plummets: What’s next for Musk?
(SOCIAL MEDIA) The surprising bid of $44B coming in for Twitter from none other than Elon Musk is now on hold and Tesla stock is down. Is Musk in hot water?
In the largest corporate privatization deal in U.S. history, Twitter has accepted Elon Musk’s offer to buy 100% of Twitter for 44 billion.
Musk plans to privatize the company and do away with ads, a nearly 5-billion-dollar revenue source for Twitter, which accounts for 90% of their total income. Musk’s plan to do away with ads was nothing short of strategic. Musk is a free speech absolutist – or someone who believes that free speech should be unrestricted at all costs.
Advertisers are the main reason speech is restricted on social media platforms. For social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter who rely on advertisers buying space on their platforms, as well as sponsored content, to make most of their profits eliminating this revenue stream is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Without these restrictions or community guidelines, advertisers would not advertise on social media, and the sites could not generate much of their revenue.
But, when your pockets run as deep as Musk’s, I suppose revenue doesn’t particularly matter.
Some changes Musk plans on making are as follows: He claims, that despite the lack of advertisements, he will quintuple Twitter revenue by 2028. He plans on doing this while cutting Twitter’s reliance on ads to less than 50% of the total revenue. He also plans on growing the platform’s user base. He claims by 2025 there will be 69 million users on Twitter (however, considering 69 is his favorite number I’m not sure if this is accurate or another one of his famous trolling stunts). He also plans on offering a paid service, Twitter Blue, which will allow users to customize their Twitter experience for only $3 a month.
However, advertising is not the only hurdle to free speech on a social media platform.
Now Musk will face a barrage of questions and restrictions from government watchdogs, regulators, and activists. Twitter could even end up being banned in other countries if Musk attempts to skirt regulations. Musk wants to strip back content moderation rules and stop the censorship of new organizations; he has also not answered questions about how he plans to go about this, only stating that he’d only allow free speech that “matches the law”.
However, several European countries are changing their laws. New laws in the United Kingdom and The European Union (which comprises 27 European countries). The EU, for example, has enacted the Digital Services Act and The Digital Markets Act which aims to create a safer digital space, while protecting the rights of users and leveling the playing field for businesses. These acts extend to social media. The acts, in part, heavily fine companies that refuse to curtail illegal content on their platforms. However, as of May 9th, 2022, EU Industry Chief, Thierry Brighton, met with Elon Musk in Texas and they have reached an agreement regarding free speech and The Digital Services Act. Yet, the pair has not gone into detail about what exactly their agreement entails. When asked, Musk simply stated that it “totally aligned with his thinking”.
Musk may have circumvented the largest spanning cyber laws, but that does not mean he’s out of the woods regarding governmental regulation of Twitter around the world.
Now, the decision for Musk to purchase Twitter, and go public was a polarizing one and was met with mixed reactions. People did not hold back, and many roasted Musk for his decisions.
Some of my favorite reaction tweets are:
Okay, but they make a good point. He’s been heralded as a “Real-life Tony Stark” and there’s nothing technically stopping him from being Iron Man.
Live your dreams I guess, Elon.
Sure some people are disgruntled by the whole ordeal, but there’s really not a way to boycott this. In fact, the user base is only projected to grow for Twitter, with Elon at the helm.
And, in true Musk fashion he trolled Twitter users, critics and fans by tweeting a series of Tweets detailing which companies he was going to buy next.
Musk then said would buy America’s most popular fast-food chain, and fix the most common complaint. I have to admit, I kind of want him to follow through on this one.
First, he threatened to buy Coca-Cola and put the cocaine back in, referring to the inception of the popular soft drink, when it first contained cocaine.
Lastly, the new Twitter CEO threatened to shut down the entire platform altogether, so that all the users go outside.
As of Friday the 13th (spooky), Musk announced his Twitter bid of 44 billion dollars is currently on hold.
He claims he still plans on following through with the acquisition, and he will owe Twitter a one-billion-dollar breakup fee if he does not follow through. However, if he can afford to spend 44 billion on a social media website, I have to assume one billion dollars isn’t much of a deterrent for him. The bid could be on hold for multiple reasons.
He could be trying to negotiate a better price for Twitter, the deal could be falling apart or he could simply be walking away. One issue is that he was going to borrow against his smart car company, Tesla, but Tesla stock has been plummeting as of late. A part of me wonders if this is some kind of bizarre stunt in order to get media coverage and attention prior to unveiling a new concept at either Tesla or SpaceX. After the frenzy the news of Musk purchasing Twitter has caused, the deal may not even go through, and once again, the future of Twitter remains uncertain.
Opinion Editorials2 days ago
Is there a proper time and place for saying “I love you” at work?
Opinion Editorials13 hours ago
Writing with pen and paper may mean your smarter than your digital peers
Business Marketing2 weeks ago
The use of offline marketing can still be advantageous in a digital world
Business News1 week ago
How to apply to be on a Board of Directors
Opinion Editorials15 hours ago
5 reasons using a VPN is more important now than ever
Opinion Editorials1 week ago
3 reasons to motivate yourself to declutter your workspace (and mind)
Business Entrepreneur2 days ago
Before starting that startup, consider these factors
Business Entrepreneur1 week ago
Having client difficulties? Protect yourself with an exit strategy clause