The story of Elon Musk purchasing Twitter has evolved into a Musk vs. Twitter conflict that will be resolved in court. But there is an aspect to this story that has not been addressed, despite being the most critical to millions of Twitter users around the world.
You may have read about the company’s former head of security revealing that Twitter has major security problems, as well as a corporate environment in which users’ private data is not being secured. And instead of taking steps to address those vulnerabilities, the company is allegedly trying to cover them up.
The media is mostly reporting these revelations by speculating how they may impact the Musk and Twitter suits and countersuits. What they should do is step back and look at the bigger picture: Companies like Twitter have amassed a huge wealth of information about us, and we are vulnerable to how they secure (or do not secure) this data, and whatever they decide to do with it.
"Take a tech platform that collects massive amounts of user data, combine it with what appears to be an incredibly weak security infrastructure and infuse it with foreign state actors with an agenda, and you've got a recipe for disaster," said Senator Chuck Grassley. "The claims I've received from a Twitter whistleblower raise serious national security concerns as well as privacy issues, and they must be investigated further."
Would you leave a stranger alone with your cell phone for an hour?
Would you give the keys to your house or your car to someone you’ve never met?
Most of us would not. If we did we’d have to trust that they were not going to do anything reckless or malicious with the access to our lives we voluntarily provided them.
But when we open accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, or when we sign up for loyalty programs at stores and restaurants, or fill in our cell phone number on applications that don’t really need it, that is essentially what we are doing.
How do we know that the information we give them will be handled responsibly?
According to the Twitter whistleblower, about half of the company's 500,000 servers run on outdated software that does not support basic security features such as encryption for stored data or regular security updates by vendors. That means, without realizing it, you’ve given thousands of strangers access to your cell phone. And if your home security or other household functions are controlled through that phone, you may have also given them the key to your front door.
Protect Yourself – Because You Are the Only One Who Can
You can’t do anything about how companies handle your private data, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself by limiting how much of that data is exposed. Start with these:
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts and safeguards your passwords and logins (and all other information) submitted through WiFi. That means your cable company and internet service provider won’t know what you do online, and can’t share or monetize that data.
Cell phone numbers are highly prized by marketers, which is why you should never give yours out to any company or organization. When you must do so, however, we recommend using a VOIP number that accepts and forwards calls and text messages.
Mail forwarding allows you to get an alternate address and have your some of your mail sent to that address. If that address is leaked and someone heads there to confront you, they won’t find you there.
Online Privacy Protection
IronWall360 is our privacy protection service for public servants. We scan the internet daily for sites that list or sell the home addresses and phone numbers of anyone under our protection. When we find information, we contact those sites and make sure that content gets removed. Unlike our competitors, however, we don’t stop there; we search social media sites, independent websites and even sites created by people with axes to grind. We work to remove dangerous content from them all.