We don’t think about it often but clicking on your Mac can be dangerous. What happens with a click? Allow me to look into cause and effect for a moment because there is more going on with a click than most of us realize.
First, click on a button within an application and something happens; usually we know what it is and the action and results are expected. Add Little Snitch to your Mac and you’ll see that even without clicking, some applications start phoning home to who knows where, often carrying personal data on their journey.
Second, click on a link with a browser– they all work about the same way– and something happens. What? Well, we expect to see a website appear, or a new webpage, or have some interaction with data between our Mac browser and an online store or wherever and whatever. That’s expected behavior. What we don’t see is what is happened in the background, with or without a click to a button. Little Snitch can help track some of that background action, but who wants to sit around watching your personal information being tracked and shared online?
This week I read about an even that occurred on the public internet recently where something highly unusual happened (so far as we know). Dan Goodin in ArsTechnica:
Traffic sent to and from Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft was briefly routed through a previously unknown Russian Internet provider Wednesday under circumstances researchers said was suspicious and intentional.
So far as we know, this does not happen often on a mass scale, but happens frequently otherwise. In essence, large chunks of data traversing the interwebs– could have been your Safari clicks, or Facebook posts, or Google searches, or Apple Store purchases– were captured and re-routed through servers in Russia, and then back to their destinations.
What happened in between? Only the perps know for sure. Since much of important traffic these days is encrypted, all that data could have been captured and stored; perhaps waiting for some quantum computing breakthrough that could de-crypt the files.
The event this week wasn’t the first and won’t be the last time when whatever you’re doing online– the point and click and back and forth of browsing or using applications that run across the interwebs and back– gets captured, stored, and, presumably attacked by scurrilous agents; either the local U.S. of A. Federales, or some of President Putin’s cyber-henchmen.
There are inherent dangers when we connect devices to the internet and run applications which send data back and forth across the internet. I highly recommend that you read Dan Goodwin’s article. It’s filled with geek-isms and techno-gibberish, but it points out basic weaknesses in a publicly accessible system where there are few safeguards in root protocols.
Trouble is brewing. Be afraid. Be very afraid. But lock down your Mac and its applications as best you can, use Little Snitch to monitor outgoing traffic from your Mac, and stay away from the alt-right and dark sides of the interwebs.