Massive ID theft & new media literacy ed

The identities of some 4 million Britons and 40 million people worldwide (mostly Americans), are up for sale on the Internet to the highest bidder, the TimesOnline reports. “Highly sensitive financial information, including credit card details, bank account numbers, telephone numbers and even PINs are available to the highest bidder. At least a quarter of a million British bank and credit card accounts have been hacked into by cybercriminals, exposing consumers to huge financial losses.” All of it has been put into a single database built by a retired police officer in the UK who wants to offset his 160,000-pound ($263,000+) investment “by charging members of the public for access to his database to check whether their data security has been breached,” raising consumer-privacy questions (see the Times for more on this). This is and isn’t kid-tech news. It isn’t only at the superficial level: it’s about the privacy of Net users of all ages. It is because we need to start teaching our kids critical thinking about social and commercial influencing just about the same day they start using the Internet. Critical thinking is protective – of our psyches, identities, pocketbooks, and computers. Increasingly, phishers’ and other Internet fraudsters’ success is based on their social-engineering skills as much as their technical ones – creating messages that trick people into clicking to sites that download keylogger and other malicious software onto their computers or into typing passwords or account numbers into fake bank sites. Stark stories like this illustrate not only how important it is to fold computer security into new-media literacy ed but also what an opportune subject it is, for examining all forms of manipulation. See also “How social influencing works.”

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