5 things that Aussies and Americans need to stop doing online immediately!
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Hackers are looking for weaknesses in your cyber security. Photo Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images Israel

Hackers are looking for weaknesses in your cyber security. Photo Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images Israel

Privacy on the web is getting assaulted on all sides. Better watch your step so as not to attract the wrong kind of attention

“We’ll keep your private things private by looking at them privately and sharing them privately with others!” Ironic isn’t it! That’s what the US and Australian Governments are going to do with your data. Following the signing of the Restoring American Privacy Act in the US and the metadata retention law in Australia, the citizens of the two countries prepare to let go of their precious data, hoping that someday a savior will come to their aid and restore their lost rights to privacy. But since such a savior doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon (or maybe he too got dragged out of the plane on his way) so we should just focus on the things that are coming your way. And let me tell you if you think you have nothing to hide, read along and you’ll definitely think otherwise. So jumping to the main event, here are the things that you should stop immediately; and by immediately I mean right now, if you don’t want to get into trouble or worse be dragged to court.

1. Stop torrenting immediately!

If you pride yourself on being a notorious torrenteer, then buddy, those Good Ol’ Days are over! If you haven’t received a DMCA notice yet, then it’s highly likely that you’ll get one now. And who knows, maybe even a court order if you happen to be a hardcore torrenteer, downloading and uploading data by the second.

How are they going to know you wonder? Simple! Since the ISPs or broadband providers are required to submit your browsing history, metadata and other information, the authorities can easily track what website you have been visiting. And it does not require one to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that your visit to Pirate Bay or Extratorrent was not because you like the website, but because you are a pirate. Once the authorities know the websites you visit, they can specifically ask ISPs to track your downloading patterns, and voila! It’s DMCA notice or jail time for you! But, if you are using a VPN for torrenting, then an IP leak, a connection drop or your VPN provider selling you out will get you busted.

This is an oldie, but quite relevant if you want to know what happens to illegal torrent downloaders when they get caught.

2. Don’t be a bigot

So you have been a naughty boy online; abusing people racially or religiously over the internet just for fun without the fear of consequences. Well, now you should buckle up because it’s going to get ugly for you! Following the data retention law, if someone sues you for racial or religious abuse, then your data provided to the authorities by your ISP can be used as evidence against you in the court of law; And the thing is; no one needs a court order or a warrant to scour through your browsing history. So if you consider yourself to be a bigot, then you might want to turn the heat down a bit and take out your frustration somewhere else.

3. Hacking is out of the question

Are you an Ethical Hacker? No problem there; unethical hacker? Now that’s something of concern. Previously you might have gotten away with hacking people’s accounts and black mailing them, but now, you have to be extra cautious. The prying eyes of government agencies are stronger and sharper than ever, and unlike the ‘Eye of Sauron’, the agencies can creep into your computer through pre-installed software, recording every activity of yours; and unlike Frodo, you can’t get away with it! Yes, that’s one of the things in the menu of US Privacy Bill passed lately. Even before passing of the bill, some say that the government has already been spying on you, and Mark Zuckerberg knows it; don’t you Mark?

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg with tape over his devices Photo Credit: Facebook

4. Stop visiting black-listed websites

Internet was the incarnation of the term ‘freedom of speech’. It used to be a place where you can say whatever you want, start your own website and curse all you want. It was an integral part of the ‘American Dream’… Sadly, it’s not anymore. After the passing of bills, especially in the US, the internet has become more of a surveillance factory than a place of freedom and sanctity. Just like you weren’t allowed to go to a pub when you were young, you are not allowed to visit these websites or own one:

a. Child pornography website:

Pornography is legal in the US, sure, but any porn website hosting child pornography is illegal and is bound to face legal action. Not only is it a legal offense, but the fact that the documentation of such act is illegal as well advocates the gravity of this disgusting act. Clearly, such an act should be intolerable. No ill will with the governments on this matter; the citizens will surely agree.

b. Betting/gambling websites:

Gambling in the premise of your house with a bunch of friends isn’t illegal, but if you decide to go big and open up a gambling website, luring in millions of dollars, then my friend you are in some deep trouble! According to Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), gambling businesses are prohibited from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law. This law, however, does not apply to state lotteries nor does it say anything on betting on horse-racing.

c. Piracy websites:

Now how can we miss this one! Piracy websites are out of the question for both the US and Australian citizens. Websites like Pirate Bay and Kick Ass torrents are a no go for the American and Australian Netizens. Do expect a DMCA notice if you are caught downloading torrents from one.

5. Cheating on your partner

You’ve been secretive all this time with your significant other, hiding all that you did in Vegas. There’s news for you; what happened in Vegas, won’t stay in Vegas anymore! You metadata and browsing history can be used as an evidence against you in divorce case proceedings and child custody cases. And US Law even took it to the next level; you can even bid for the data you want, and find out what your partner has been up to online. So people cheating on their spouses should just stop doing it or come up with a good cover. Oh and a little heads up if you don’t want to be embarrassed when your partner finds out that you’ve been watching porn staying up late instead of doing your office work. Tch tch tch, can’t even imagine the embarrassment!

Now that the ground has been laid, it’s up to you to decide. I would say prevention is better than cure any time of the day, so you should stop doing any of these things while you still can!

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Junaid Mohsin

About Junaid Mohsin

Junaid writes about online security, AI and technology, and currently works as Cyber Security Adviser for Ivacy VPN. Follow him on Twitter: @junaid_nyt

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