Hackers are Threatening the Internet as a Whole – Not Just Individual Sites

My mother has always been cautious about what information she gives out on the Internet. It took her years to trust online shopping sites, and forget about making a generic account on a website—you never know what they’re going to do with that information.

I have always been skeptical at her wariness of the Internet and these nefarious people who can’t wait to get their hands your information. So, like the rest of the world, I set up online banking for my financial accounts, I shop online, and I don’t even blink when a website asks me to make an account so it can save my preferences. In short, I trust that my bank, Crate & Barrel and The Washington Post are not going to sell my information or use my credit card to go on a shopping spree.

So I was surprised last week when my husband hesitated at entering our bank account information into Amazon’s seller program so it could deposit our vast profits (a stunning $15) when the item sold. Come on, this is Amazon.com! Jeff Bezos has enough of his own money, and if he wants to keep making it via his blockbuster site, he’s not going to go fishing into users’ account for a little extra.

But my husband pointed out that it’s not Amazon we have to worry about, it’s hackers who might worm their way into Amazon’s system to get at our information. And then they’d have a direct line to our hard-earned cash. I conceded that it makes sense: The danger of giving out your information on the Internet these days is not the unscrupulous companies my mother was worried about, but rather those who seek to subvert those companies’ varying levels of protection on our personal data.

In the last two months, hackers have hit Sony, the Senate, Arizona's Department of Public Security, Citibank, the CIA and now are threatening to “declare war” on the city of Orlando.

This harms not only the companies whose databases were hacked, but also the legitimacy of the online market as a whole. If people are afraid hackers might steal their information, they’ll be much more reluctant to hand over their credit card numbers, preferring instead to go to a bricks-and-mortar store where they know hackers won’t get at them. Even though it’s less convenient, driving a few miles is far less hassle than dealing with the consequences of identity theft.

This is why security is so important. Strong security makes for a safe market, and a safe market is one that will flourish. Stores aim to keep their customers safe in the real world – they should do so on the Internet, too. Their very business may depend on it.

Posted by Laura Williams on Jun 29, 2011

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