The Sunday Times says

Navigating safely in the digital age

It is nigh on impossible for anyone to live a digital-free life today as work and play are both intimately tied to cybersphere. And there are significant downsides to deal with. Indeed, issues of digital security and privacy cropped up again last week when WhatsApp acknowledged a security breach. Hackers exploited a vulnerability in the messaging app which allowed them to inject spyware into users' phones via the voice call function. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, said only a "select number" of its 1.5 billion users were targeted by "an advanced cyber actor". Although WhatsApp has updated its software and reported the incident to the United States' Department of Justice, the incident is a blow to its much-vaunted "end-to-end encryption" feature. As users have discovered, this feature is useless when hackers can get into a phone's operating system.

Hardly a day goes by without a story about apps and/or websites getting hacked. As the hacking incidents prove, users cannot always rely on big social media companies with commercial interests to protect their interests. It is the digital-age equivalent of caveat emptor. But users are not entirely helpless. They can adopt basic digital hygiene practices, such as not clicking on links from dubious sources, and being more diligent about software updates for devices. Reducing their social media footprint is another way to protect their digital identity. If shutting down Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts are not an option, then they must become aware of the privacy implications of each personal post. Educating themselves about alternative options is another. Telegram and Signal offer alternative messaging apps. DuckDuckGo and InBrowser offer incognito surfing for those suspicious of Google. It is impossible to stuff the digital genie back in its bottle unless users retreat to a cave like a Luddite. But it is still possible for them to manage their digital life.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 19, 2019, with the headline 'Navigating safely in the digital age'. Subscribe