Friday, March 7, 2014

Big Nosey Brother

I went ahead and put some silver tape over the webcam eyeball on my computer.  It was creeping me out.  Staring all day long.  Geez!

For a long time I resisted the urge to give it the finger, or stuff it with Silly Putty.  I mean really, who would be watching me?  That’s just paranoid, right?

Most of the time I forget about it. 

Anyway, what’s to watch?  Mostly I just sit here alone pensively gazing at the sky, thinking about writing.  Putting off writing.  Thinking about rewriting what I haven’t yet written. 

I interact with the cats, sometimes by choice.  Other times they mandate conversation, not to mention intervention. 

So whoever’s on the other side of that sinister peep hole may have witnessed an occasion or two when my features abruptly morphed from those of a docile, mildly alert bus rider, into the bug-eyed contorted expression of a frenzied waitress, arms outstretched trying to save a teetering glass of iced tea with lemonade – my Arnold Palmer – from overturning onto the keyboard.   

And now that I have Pandora and Stevie Ray Vaughn, my afternoons are livelier:  I sing as loud as I want and dance from the waist up in my chair on wheels in the privacy of … uh oh.  There’s that one-eyed minion.  Relentless!  Clicking its digital tongue. 

Right about the time I talked myself out of the slinking suspicion that Hal was paying attention that day I when ate all the leftover potato salad for lunch, this guy, Christopher Soghoian, “privacy researcher,” came on TED Talks prattling on about, “Ooooh!  They’re watching!” 

Of course they are, Chris!  Why wouldn’t they be watching?  Warehousing my scintillating documents?  Transcribing my daily phone conversations with telemarketers about the valuable opportunities to refinance the house or have the chimney swept.  I’m as interesting as the next guy.  I’m vital. 

Soghoian says that because drug lords and terrorists buy their computers from Best Buy just like the rest of us, our stuff is just as likely to be tapped as theirs is. 

Soghoian says that with the latest commercially available spy technology super snoopers can activate a person’s computer webcam remotely, without her knowledge. 

Same with the internal microphone.  Soghoian says you don’t have to be a journalist or activist or dissident to draw the attention of the NSA, our homegrown version of Boris and Natasha. 

I hope they like Lynyrd Skynyrd.

But here’s the thing.  My internet search history could move me up on the Must See list.  It’s all innocent you understand.  Purely for research.  But sometimes I pursue an eyebrow-raising line of inquiry.  Like the time I was preparing to write about online dating.  The stuff I found is strictly “eyes only,” if you know what I mean.

And, since writing that column, I get a bunch of unsolicited emails telling me about the singles in my area who are waiting to hear from me.  Yikes.  Where are they waiting, exactly?  Are they working in shifts like so many Norman Bates’s with their eyes to a technological hole in my wall?

One of the leaders in the burgeoning industry of spyware for sale is GammaGroup, headed by Martin Munch.  Soghoian showed a photo of Munch standing next to a laptop, presumably his own.  On close inspection of the picture, you can see that Munch has taped over the webcam!  OMG.

Another group of hackers for hire blatantly call themselves “Hacking Team.”  They boast of their ability to overcome encryption with untraceable stealth. 

Now that I’ve looked them up, will they be looking me up too?  Let’s face it; they could mistake me for a spy, or a hit man!  I fit the profile:  I have no memory of my life before retirement.  High school principal?  That could be an implanted recollection.  Yet here I am in small town America, minding my own business!

Unnerved, but undaunted, I have taken evasive action.  First, the tape.  Next, I’ve branched out in my password creation.  That’s right.  Now I use both cats’ names, all one word, with an occasional capital letter and percent sign!  Ha ha!

Yes!  Because in theory…no, in reality, they could be tracking my keystrokes right this very minute.


HA!  Take that Big Nosey Brother!