Data and communications must be protected from backdoors and viruses that could compromise them. Viruses introduce themselves into computer systems and may destroy or exploit the data they contain. Backdoors are deliberately inserted by the designers of a software application for the purpose of gaining access to the machines running the application. Both viruses and backdoors allow the people who control them to do things like extract confidential information. The risk is real: in July 2020, the company Orange confirmed they were targeted by a malware that leaked data belonging to its business customers.
Back when our lives were not dominated by digital communications, eavesdropping on someone was expensive because it required people to do it. Letters had to be opened and copied. Microphones and tape recorders had to be discretely installed to record conversations. In the past twenty years things have changed, however: the number of intermediaries we use to communicate with one another has exploded, and surveillance is now automated. Not a year goes by without headlines in the news reminding us how much the State or corporations take advantage of these technological developments (and related changes in society) to exploit the private data of citizens, human rights defenders, and journalists.
With remote working being more popular than ever and the need to organize activities on the net, our communications are increasingly going through videoconferencing services. Some of these services are criticized for how they use our personal data, but surveillance from law enforcement agencies is also cause for concern. Entrusting your data to a free service will always mean that you must believe the service provider’s assurances with regard to privacy.