My personal data has been compromised – now what?

The Philippines’ Commission on Election (Comelec) hacking has created one massive data leak that affected almost, or perhaps all of the registered Filipino voters. A few days ago, there was a website that provided access to the available information by using one’s name as search term, and it shows all available information under that name. I just had to check which part of my personal information have been leaked, so that I know my personal risk factors connected to the leak. Indeed, my name was there, including some Personally identifiable information (PII).

Personally identifiable information (PII) is any data that could potentially identify a specific individual. Any information that can be used to distinguish one person from another and can be used for de-anonymizing anonymous data can be considered PII.(http://searchfinancialsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/personally-identifiable-information)

I won’t enumerate what my leaked data contained to retain a sense of security. But let’s just say if someone was determined to do something about it, there may be bits of information that can be useful to them, if I am not careful of my transactions both online and offline. And my information is already out there somewhere in the internet and most probably in the dark web, it will probably be there forever.

Blame it on the government’s incompetence in digital security. However, no amount of blaming can reverse what has already been released to the world. Somehow I’m also a bit thankful of the government’s general incompetence in data management because there were some typos in my data that might make a difference. And I’m thankful that there is essentially no data consolidation across the different government agencies, so the leak in PII from one government entity did not connect to all other available personal information in other government agencies.

So now that my (any everyone else’s) personal data has been compromised, what can we do to protect ourselves from any harm that it can cause?

  1. Secure all your accounts. This is very important for all financial accounts, digital and online accounts, as well as any other accounts that may be accessed using your PII.
    • A lot financial institutions verify transactions using PIIs (e.g. mother’s maiden name, home address, etc.), but there are additional security features which may be available from some institutions such as mobile notifications or email notifications. This will alert your if there are any dubious transactions under your accounts.
    • Ensure that your passwords online are very secure, including your password recover options. Change all your passwords if you think your password may also have been compromised. For password recovery options, avoid using PII. Use strong passwords as much as possible. See tips here: https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/32040?hl=en. If possible, also utilise extra layers of security available such as the 2-step verification.
  2. Monitor your transactions. Online banking is a pretty good way to monitor all activities in your account to ensure that nothing goes wrong, or if something goes wrong, you’ll be able to do something about it immediately. This also goes for your other accounts.
  3. Avoid phishing attempts.
    • Phone call phishing. In the past, I’ve already experienced receiving a call from someone who was posing to be from my bank and attempting to “verify” my personal information. I’m quite wary about those since I was not expecting that call, and there were other means to verify and update my information, so I did not give any information. I can imagine that possibly happening with the available information, with phishing attempts to get more information that may be used in identity theft.
    • Email phishing. Be careful when you open emails, especially those that you are not expecting, or those from senders that you are not familiar with. Make sure you don’t click on unnecessary links that may send your computer viruses, or hack your accounts, or steal your information.
  4. Keep a low profile. Remember that there the leaked information is comprised of millions of individuals, and you are only one of them. Since the information is mostly searchable by name, it may be the more popular and known one’s to be first targeted by criminals or what-nots. Remember BIR? It was the people who show up on the news (no matter how un-connected to taxes) who get their income tax closely reviewed and scrutinized. I would think it may be the same for this massive data leak. If you’re relatively unknown and do not seem to have a lot to offer, hopefully you’ll just go unnoticed.
  5. Use an alias online. Or at the very least, do not display your full legal name (with your middle and last names) on your social media and other online accounts. It may give you one thin layer of protection since the leaked information has your full name.

What else? I really don’t know, I’m not a data security expert. These are just some ways I can think about on how to protect myself, and how you can protect yourself in the midst of this massive mess that is the Comelec data breach.

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Tsubibo

Ocean_City_Ferris_WheelIsang simpleng teleserye na araw-araw kong pinapanuod ang biglang humatak sakin pababa sa isang kumunoy ng ala-ala. Bakit kailangan siyang dalhin sa perya, isakay sa isang tsubibo, hangad lamang ang kaligayahan, ang pag-ibig nito? Hindi ba ganoon din ang ginawa niya dati? Pinaibig ka, dinala sa isang malayong lugar na masaya, isinakay sa isang malaking tsubibo at hinawakan ang iyong kamay? At kung tama ang aking pagka-alala, takot siya sa matataas na lugar, o sinabi lang ba niya ito para makahawak ng mas mahigpit sa iyong mga kamay?

Pagbaba ninyo nang gabi rin iyon, napuno ang kalangintan ng makukulay at maliwanag na paputok. Isa iyon sa pinaka-maligayang sandali ng buhay mo noon. Pakiramdam mo ikaw ay prinsesa, ngunit hindi, sabi niya, ikaw ang reyna at siya ang hari ng buhay mo. Hanggang pauwi ay halos hindi niya bitawan ang iyong kamay. Pinagmamasdan ka kahit dapat nasa daanan ang kaniyang mga mata habang nagmamaneho. Sa inyo lang umikot ang mundo noon. Wala nang iba. Halos maniwala ka na sa walang hanggan noon. Sino ba naman hindi maniniwala habang ikaw ay nasa mala-panaginip na mundo?

Pero sabi nga nila, walang forever. Pero nakakagulat din ang bilis ng mga pangyayari, gaano kabilis ang paglaho at pag-gunaw ng kung ano man ang namagitan sa inyo noon. Hindi mo na ninais na balikan pa ang sakit at kabiguan, tuluyan mo nang sinubukang kalimutan. Madaming taon na ang nakalipas. Halos hindi mo na nga maalala, maliban sa mga paminsan-minsang mga panahon tulad nito.

Napapaisip ka nga kung kilala ka ba ng nagsulat ng teleseryeng iyon. Sinasadiya ba ng mundo na ipa-alala sayo? O baka naman, masyado ka lang affected.

Red is almost black

Just an extremely random thought that I had to write about. Red is almost black. You’ll probably completely disagree, but I’ll explain a little bit why I state it as so. Here are some things I may have known at the back of my mind and pulled out from the dusty file drawers in my brain when the need arises.

The Red LED

On the streets of Bangkok back in November, I came upon some digital LED alarm clocks that I have been wanting to get for some time. I asked about the one with the green LED, and the salesman said it costs THB400. I heard another buyer ask about the one with red lights, it was only THB300. It was exactly the same design, only the color of the LED display differs. I verified the prices with the salesman, and he confirmed that the one with red LED is THB100 cheaper than the one with green LED.

I ended up buying the one with the red LED, but not just because it was cheaper. I intended to put it inside my bedroom, within view from my bed. I knew that if I bought the one with the green LED, it may be too bright at night when I turn off the lights. The one with the red LED would fit my requirement better. Indeed, it works well for me right now.

Thinking through it, I was brought back to the time in high school and college when I tinkered a lot with LED bulbs and electronic circuitries. We would by all the individual electronic components from our beloved store, Alexan. I had a box full of different resistors, capacitors, LEDs, logic gate chips, programmable microchips, breadboard, PCBs, and whatnots. I had my own soldering iron back then. When we bought LED bulbs, we knew that the red ones were the cheapest. If I still remember correctly, it was the white and blue ones that were thr most expensive, especially the superbright ones. I do remember being told that the differences in cost is because different diode materials generate different wavelengths, and therefore different colors of light.

Red in B&W Photographs

When my college friend was coaching me about black-and-white photography (the traditional one with the film, not digital ones) as I was preparing to take photographs for a competition I was entering. Specifically, he told me that reds always appear black or almost black in B&W photographs. Seems strange when you’re so familiar with how vivid red is in color photographs. When I took the photographs, indeed they were, all reds were black in the photographs. Red is black, or almost black.

Red Pigments

I can’t remember exactly what show I was watching and on what channel, but they were featuring how industrial pigments were produced. Apparently, the red pigments are produced by using the same material as the black pigments, but the black pigments are heated and oxidized to produce the red pigment.

Sunsets

Have you noticed, that while the sun is high up in the sky, the sky is color bright blue, but when sunset comes, just before it turns pitch black, it usually turns a certain hue of red or orange?


I’m not actually so certain what the exact explanation is why red is black or almost black. Maybe it has something to do with the wavelength of red light (remember, it’s at the end of the ROYGBIV visible spectrum of light), or the composition of red pigments. But it’s quite interesting to think about it.

Interstellar – a short and (hopefully) “painless” review

interstellar_new_poster

I finally pulled myself out of the office chair (and/or the house couch) and went to the cinema to watch a movie. Since it was at the tail-end of its run in most cinemas in my city, I went off to watch Interstellar. Perhaps I’ll go watch Hunger Games and/or the Penguins next time.

Anyhow, Interstellar. It was ok. Not great or grand, just ok, not a waste of money or time. I do found it entertaining enough and thought provoking enough. However, it was quite obvious that the storyline of the entire movie was not for “dummies”… you needed a background in physics, at least an understanding of space-time continuum or relativity. But that’s maybe less than 10% of the movie-going population. After the movie, I could hear people around the cinema telling each other that they did not understand much of what happened — honestly that could totally spoil the beauty of the film.

I saw the beauty of the film (thanks to my physics background in high school and college, and my natural science geek sense), including the black holes, space travel, relativity of time, and the prospect of finding another human-habitable environment in the universe. However, I was not quite happy with the events leading to the conclusion of the story. Suddenly everything seemed too absurd, too “fantastic”, too “magical” for a movie that had a storyline mostly based on science. What the heck happened after he fell into the black hole? It’s supposed to be a gravitational singularity, a “a one-dimensional point which contains infinite mass in an infinitely small space, where gravity become infinite and space-time curves infinitely, and where the laws of physics as we know them cease to operate”. And I quote:

“Current theory suggests that, as an object falls into a black hole and approaches the singularity at the centre, it will become stretched out or “spaghettified” due to the increasing differential in gravitational attraction on different parts of it, before presumably losing dimensionality completely and disappearing irrevocably into the singularity. An observer watching from a safe distance outside, though, would have a different view of the event. According to relativity theory, they would see the object moving slower and slower as it approaches the black hole until it comes to a complete halt at the event horizon, never actually falling into the black hole.” (http://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_blackholes_singularities.html)

The movie showed a pretty odd interpretation of what lies behind the event horizon, what’s in the singularity. It’s taking me so much time thinking of how I could describe it in words, but perhaps I should not even attempt. I do understand what they were hinting at, and maybe it is ok if just taken in an overly-simplified way. But what they communicated may create so many implications. I will not even start.

Over-all, the movie did appeal to the science geek in me. I would recommend it to anyone who knows who Albert Einstein is and understands at the very least the concept of space-time continuum and general relativity.

iOS 8.0.2 on iPhone4s and iPad mini

After much hesitating, I updated my iPhone 4s and iPad mini to iOS 8.0.2 last weekend. I wasn’t planning to earlier when they initially released iOS 8 for fear of super slow down in my gadget. But I eventually reconsidered after reading some online reviews and analyses by technology bloggers that the patched version 8.0.2 seems to work much better, and ok for the older apple mobile gadgets.

Fast forward a week after, I could say that it’s not so bad after all. Although there is indeed a slowdown of the gadget, it’s not yet to an impairing level, so far. Most of the core applications are working ok, as well as other apps. There’s a wee bit more times my apps are crashing lately, but I’m attributing it more to the apps still adapting to iOS8, and still have to update to keep up. Also the apps we’re crashing just the same in iOS 7 when they were all rushing to update compatibility to iOS 8.

There are new features that seem interesting, but I have not maximised the use of them yet. Maybe I should try just dictating this sentence using the dictating tool (I did! But I had to still manually edit the sentence a bit). I heard there are some new useful features for the mail app too.

One notable lag I just recently noticed is the camera lag. When I take pictures, it takes more than 10 seconds (sometimes even up to 30 seconds) before the photo is available in my photo album for viewing, use, or sharing through the various apps. That’s quite long. I hope apple does something about it.

The verdict? Not too bad to already update to iOS 8 right now for iPhone 4s and iPad mini. But if you’re satisfied with iOS 7 and are very bothered with lags in performance and crashing apps, maybe you should still wait a little. I’m hoping that all the clonks, lags, bugs, and crashes are solvable issues through debbuging their programming and not due to the lower hardware specs of my gadgets right now. I don’t think I will be upgrading my gadgets anytime soon (perhaps later on). I think I can live with how the most recent iOS is performing on my gadgets. 🙂

P.S. This article was drafted using Evernote on iPad mini, and posted using the WordPress app. No lags or crashes were observed in the making of this blog post. 🙂