Data Harvesting--the New Face of Cybercrime? Daren Oliver, managing director of Fitzrovia IT, offers his opinion on the recent data breaches experienced by subscribers to social media and examines how data harvesting could be considered the new face of cybercrime.

Author:Oliver, Daren

Cybercriminals were once shrouded in mystery. Faceless non-entities lurking in the murky environs of the darkest corners of the cyber underworld carrying out carefully planned phishing attacks and unleashing herds of Trojan horses into PCs. Whilst phishing and hacking remains a lucrative pastime for many of the world wide web's underlords, it seems that harvesting is quickly becoming the new buzz word on the cybersecurity block and cybercriminals are cutting a more corporate appearance.

In the wake of the latest tidal wave of data privacy breaches that have swept the globe is the revelation that they were carried out by well-known organisations that we have trusted and obligingly populated with our most private and sensitive information, preferences, and beliefs. But more alarming has been the unwitting participation of millions of social media users in a worldwide data gathering experiment at the hands of companies that would make Orwell's dystopian state of Oceania look vaguely tolerable. How ironic then that the premise behind Cambridge Analytical audacious breach of millions of personal Facebook profiles was how it classified voters and targeted them by using the OCEAN technique Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

One of the long held arguments from the anti-social media movement--or maybe just those who would rather not bandy about their life stories online--is 'what do you expect if you publicly post your personal updates on a platform the whole world can see?' Of course, we have always known Big Brother was watching in some format or another, be it CCTV outside the local supermarket or the tracking and mapping of our daily debit card usage. It seems in the modern world, where nearly a half of the global population owns a personal smartphone--a device that can rather disconcertingly and almost inexplicably predict our very whereabouts with the flicker of a traffic update to our proposed destination--none of us are truly immune to having our personal information scrutinised and scavenged by data hungry, corporate beasts.

Even if we aren't fully active on social media ourselves, it seems that if our immediate connections are then it could make us fair game for having our information tapped into, downloaded, and used without our permission. In the case of Cambridge Analytica it appears that the masses of data it gathered was neither permissible nor ethical and was used to socially engineer and...

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