The issue of hacking is again entering the spotlight when the Russians are accused of hacking into the American presidential election 'data' raising a controversial point whether the Russian hacking helped Trump to win the election. Obama condemned the Russian hacking and on 12-29-2016, Barack Obama announced tough measures against Moscow, including the expulsion of 35 diplomats and the closure of two Russian compounds in the U.S. However, the President-elect, Mr. Trump, is expressing a different tone regarding the hacking as shown in the headlines of news media below.
“Doubts Russia involved in hacking United States election” (DW.com) - US President-elect Donald Trump once again said Russia was not involved in hacking the US presidential election. Trump also said he was open to meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
“Questions claim of Russian hacking: 'I know things others don't'” (The Guardian) - President-elect warns reporters on New Year’s Eve against being quick to pin blame on Moscow for the hacking of Democratic party emails. “President-elect Donald Trump on 12-28-2016 suggested that the United States and Russia lay to rest the controversy over Moscow's computer hacking of Democratic Party computers”, saying, "We ought to get on with our lives." (Fortune) - Trump has cast doubt on the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian hackers took information from Democratic Party computers and that of individuals and posted them online to help Trump win the election. Regardless how much hacking and what effect the hacking might have on the 2016 US presidential election, we, the Americans and our government should be concerned about potential 'data' hacking in our lives, simply because hacking has become a way of life in modern digital living.
Over the Christmas and New Year, One of the popular gifts is the personal assistant product, a second generation product named Echo Dot offered by Amazon.com. Similar products in this category include Google Home, Siri and other Internet of Things using intelligent voice recognition interface such as voice command in the car or global positioning system (GPS) guidance products. Shelly Palmer, a consumer technology product analyst, wrote an article on LinkedIn regarding these products and people's willingness to yield privacy 'data' to gain convenience as exhibited in various interfaces to tech product and apps. Palmer was concerned about "(our) willing suspension of privacy (exposing data)" in our digital and online lives. Our digital life is ever expanding by products like Echo Dot which automatically listens and records your voice communication and interacts with the Internet cloud. Palmer did raise a legitimate point which deserves further discussion.
Data exposure is more vulnerable when data communication is done over wireless and using the Internet cloud. Echo Dot uses seven-microphone to listen and a 360 degree speaker system that uses far-field voice recognition powered by the Amazon Alexa voice service/assistant. The second generation Echo Dot is certainly an improvement over the Echo in far-field voice recognition and in price reduction. The shrink in size with the Bluetooth speaker is also appealing. The Echo Dot listens for its 'wake' word (Alexa, Amazon, or Echo) then follows voice commands or answers questions, plays music, and gives you news, weather, traffic, sports results, and other things, including accessing many third party applications like Fitbit, Uber, Domino's Pizza, and Capitol One. So Echo Dot is a user friendly device but its convenience does cause its owner to yield his or her privacy data which may be of concern.
The "willing suspense of privacy" demanded in products like Echo Dot not only causing users to give up our data (location, viewing, purchasing or search history) for our online experience but also exposing our normally unmonitored physical activities, such as movements of people and devices and mumblings and private conversations. This is because that Echo Dot listens and records 60 seconds of sound (and voice) data constantly for command recognition and service execution purposes. The Echo Dot of course can transmit this data to the Internet cloud or wherever it is directed to send to. Just this capability alone, one can easily imagine a hacker hacking into the Echo Dot and receive the 'privacy data' that otherwise should be maintained privately. It is not a question how hackers can hack your privacy data, it is a question whether your privacy data is worthy of hacking.
From 'privacy data' security point of view, one can certainly take precaution to protect it but generally one will sacrifice to some degree on ‘convenience’, for example, adding another layer of hardware device to control over intelligent voice interface or switching off the auto-listening mode until the user wanting to turn the Echo Dot on trading off convenience for security. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that there is always a certain amount of trade-off between 'intelligence', 'convenience' and 'security'. To prevent hackers to succeed, one must be consciously aware that 'Hacking Is Easier and More Dangerous to the Cooperating Victims'. One cannot be so lax regarding data security to the point of being cooperating with hackers. Products like Echo Dot certainly offer the consumers convenience to cooperate with hackers. Users must be aware and on the look-out for hackers.
Returning to the Russian hacking into the US presidential election case discussed above, we must first call the attention of the owners of ‘data’ to take a serious attitude and approach in protecting 'data security'. The Democratic Party is to blame for having its servers hacked. Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for her ‘work’ (national security) emails is such a lax attitude regarding protection of data security, both herself and the State Department are guilty of negligence at least in protecting national security information. As for Russians’ hacking, Obama’s expelling of 35 Russian diplomats is a belated reaction to the hacking event but it still serves a purpose, more as a warning to ourselves than a punishment to the Russians. Putin did not take any retaliating step to expel Americans from Moscow, one for showing a friendly gesture to Trump and the other for keeping Americans to spend money in Russia. Yes, we have to accept that hacking is a way of life in international affairs and we must be on the look-out. “United States and Russia lay to rest the controversy over Moscow's computer hacking of Democratic Party computers.” may be a reasonable diplomatic statement to make by the US President-elect but a serious attitude and approach about protecting ‘national data security’ must be taken by the new President when assuming the White House.