The Computer Corner

COMPUTERS

By Charles Miller

 

An Airbag on Your Bicycle?

 

The subject of this column this week applies to the probably 60 percent of Atención readers who use Google Chrome as their web browser. Try to imagine this fictitious scenario:

The government suddenly mandates that all bicycle owners must install airbag systems. (There is probably some politician who owns stock in an airbag company.) So millions of unwilling bicycle owners are forced to pay billions of dollars to retrofit airbags onto their bicycles because we all know that this will make riding a bicycle much safer. Then, on July 1, the government starts enforcing penalties on bicycle owners who do not comply, and the penalties escalate higher and higher in the months to come.

On July 1, 2018, the 60 percent of the world’s Internet users using Google’s Chrome browser will start receiving a dire warning whenever they visit a website that is judged “insecure” by Google. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of all the estimated 1.8 billion websites on the Internet are now deemed insecure according to Google.

So what happened to make hundreds of millions of websites insecure overnight? The answer is nothing! This warning message in the Chrome browser is nothing more than fearmongering on the part of Google, throwing the weight of its market dominance around, trying to have its way with website owners.

A website is now considered to be insecure by Google if it does not have an SSL certificate. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is used to ensure that all data sent between you and the website remains private and secure. Obviously, this is a huge issue if you are passing sensitive information like credit card numbers, medical records, even your email and Facebook chats. However, is elevated security really needed where no personal data of any kind is being exchanged?

Millions of websites have never been secured because the owners of those sites decided that having an SSL certificate is unnecessary. Those sites do not collect personal information. They do not have any place on your site to enter your address or credit card number, or other personal information. A site that does not deal with any private information has nothing that needs to be protected and nothing any computer hacker could steal anyway.

So starting on July 1, many millions of Chrome users, most of whom are nontechnical people, started seeing a warning on their screen that says most sites are insecure. A lot of these users will be needlessly scared away from visiting perfectly legitimate sites because of this.

Google is actively trying to force millions of website owners to spend billions of dollars on redesigning their websites to include security upgrades that the owners of those websites feel that they do not need. In my mind, this is like forcing millions of bicycle owners to install airbags. It could make riding a bicycle a little safer for some, but is it really worth the cost?

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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