Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you’re on, Donald Trump has decided that one of the methods he will use to pay for the US/Mexico wall is to tax money Mexicans send back home to family. Western Union, a typical money order service for moving funds to Mexico, would leave a paper trail that could lead to deportation at worst and heavy taxes at the least. One way to circumvent that challenge is to transfer BitCoins across the border.
Genesis Mining is one of several companies who contribute to the BitCoin blockchain, a massive and public repository of anonymous transactions. Soon, immigrants will be able to visit BitCoin ATMs, managed by savvy entrepreneurs, and purchase digital currency to transfer to digital wallets like PayPal.
The stated goal is always to preserve national security, but there is a dark side to all of this access. The simple fact is that if you ever became the target of an investigation, it would be stunningly simple for most law enforcement agencies to find you even if you subscribe to the theory of security by obscurity. That’s why your privacy should matter now more than ever.
Your Data is Big Business
Where you shop, what you buy and even what your email says are already targets for data mining from companies like Facebook and Google. The amount of data collected about you is staggering, and the average person doesn’t often see it firsthand. Companies that offer free services, such as Google and Facebook, make money collecting information about how you use those services in order to sell space to advertisers.
Facebook is one of the worst offenders. A Belgian privacy commission found that the social network was installing tracking cookies on non-member’s PCs and claiming the removal of those cookies constituted a security violation. That alone should send a strong signal that these companies are not working in your best interest.
Everything Leaves a Trail
It’s important to understand just how crucial security and privacy is to an individual today, and there is no better way to illustrate that then a good story about stupid criminals.
AlphaBay is a website that became the Silk Road replacement over time. Two sellers wanted to make some cash on the side heroin and cocaine, and shipping the packages. They bought silver mylar bags and quality packaging, hoping to outsmart law enforcement. Law enforcement was busy putting together connections, thanks to flaws in the security procedures the two sellers engaged in. They discussed transactions and business plans over text, they shared a single email address authorities traced back social media accounts and the AlphaBay account itself. Even their screen names betrayed their source for the drugs.
It’s easy to sit back and criticize two people for making silly mistakes, but how fast would it take to connect the dots on you if someone wanted to?
More Data Outside Your Control
More and more, you’re asked to create additional accounts for new services that you come to rely on in the course of your everyday life. How many of us own a Dropbox account or use Spotify? What if a hacker managed to breach those databases? Maybe you’ve been the perfect IT security expert, and you’ve gone to great lengths to protect your privacy. You might make an offhand comment, like James Comey did, that exposes you.
The point is that you can no longer rely on a single complicated password, or dummy accounts to protect yourself. An extreme argument would be that you are no longer in control of your own security, and there is some truth to that. What you can do is take steps to make it harder to breach your data. Deterrence is an extremely powerful force in IT security.