Death, Taxes And PC Security
It’s that dreaded time of year again: tax time.
The old adage, “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” is being challenged recently by an additional probability: personal data theft.
We protect our homes and vehicles against theft, so how come we’re so naïve about protecting our personal income data, passwords and e-identities, especially around tax time?
Star Trek to Daily Life
What was once the domain of science fiction like personal communicators and touch screens are now commonplace everyday facts and so much of our lives are now mediated via the web. Sci-fi gadgets ten years ago are now a reality or fast becoming an accruement of living, e.g. Apple announced its smart watch recently and Google is releasing its smart glasses.
To Boldly Go…
All these new advances in technology have even changed the way we do and file our taxes. Most people today use an on-line service to electronically file taxes. About 3.7 million Canadians file their taxes on-line from home.
Have you ever stopped to consider that eFiling your taxes can expose your personal data to cybercriminals?
You don’t want the bad guys to boldly go where they don’t belong, especially if you’re sending or storing Social Insurance info, banking data and vital codes like passwords and usernames.
Beam Me UP
There’s a new take on “beam me up Scottie.”
The number one threat to your tax information is by keylogging, which is a process whereby the bad guys infect your computer with malware without you knowing so that all your keystrokes can be reported back to a central computer that captures the data.
Another growing vulnerability is via the numerous on-line tax-preparation services that allow us to Netfile our tax returns. Because they’re private companies there’s no way of completely knowing whether or not their servers are as secure as they claim.
The company you use for preparing your taxes may give access to their servers to third parties that you aren’t aware of and this can be the route bad guys use to hack into a tax-prep company’s server.
On-line tax preparers also have limited liability, so you have to check the fine print. Many companies are only responsible for refunding the amount of their services or the cost of any software if a security breach occurs.
For adequate protection, both you and the tax preparer must have the latest firewall and anti-virus protection. Often forgotten, but equally effective is to change your passwords on a regular basis.
The onus is on today’s PC user to properly protect his or her financial, personal and tax data. Think about it. Different times of the year invite different kinds of criminal activity, i.e. around Christmas there’re more break-ins to vehicles in shopping mall parking lots.
So why wouldn’t tax time be any different? Cyber crooks know that around this time of year most of us are frantically prepping our returns and maybe not paying as much attention to anti-virus and anti-keylogging security as we should. Could be easy pickings for the bad guys?
Marc Arellano teaches communication at Okanagan College in British Columbia, Canada. He has worked as a technical writer, editor and copy writer.His current academic interests focus on computer-mediated communication and the effects of new media on culture.
Marc Arellano enseigne les communications au Collège de l'Okanagan en Colombie-Britannique. Il a travaillé en tant que rédacteur, éditeur et concepteur-rédacteur. Ses intérêts académiques actuels mettent l'emphase sur la communication au moyen d'un ordinateur et sur l'effet des nouveaux médias sur la culture.