I first started on the Internet in the early 1990s. Access was via a matchbox-sized modem that back then cost about £200 and howled like a banshee when connecting. There was no World Wide Web WYSIWYGism and you interacted with the cyber world via typed in string commands. You could access cyberspace via either AOL or CompuServe and, on the latter, I joined a teleworking forum with like-minded individuals and we eventually formed a four-year project for the European Commission.
We were responsible for examining the ways the emerging Internet could benefit the geographically disadvantaged, Eurospeak for those stuck in the middle of nowhere and would these days be titled digitally disenfranchised.
As I had been a magazine production editor and knew what HTML stood for, I was responsible for developing the project’s web presence. There was no WordPress and everything had to be hand-typed in HTML and the most sophisticated thing I would do was to make a word blink!
Today, technology has advanced beyond our wildest dreams, however, the project’s manifesto of embracing a technology that would benefit mankind has become two sides of a coin, black and white, good and evil; you get the picture.
We are all aware of the perils of Internet cybercrime and of nation-states trying to hack vital infrastructure to turn off power supplies and pollute water supplies, but even at a micro-level, online life is fraught with danger. Anti-virus and malware detection software is essential and the more tech-savvy are turning to VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) such as Surfshark and NordVPN to further enhance their online security.
If, like me, your whole life is on your smartphone and tablet, this adds another level to the need to be aware of threats to the software and services you use. I don’t believe anyone can be 100 per cent sure of the security of the software and services they use. Never a day goes by when the online media carries a story on malware being planted in software and hacks stealing credit card and personal details.
Take Newton, a first-rate email package that stores user details on its servers. This is so when you create your username and password on one device, all you need to do is sign in with these details and your software automatically updates what is needed on this device; folders, preferences, etc are all synced. But, and it’s a big but, users rely on the honesty of the service provider to make the system as bombproof as possible. I trust the integrity of Newton’s owners and development team.
I have started using Aqua Mail on my smartphone and tablet and I am more than happy with it. On the company’s support forum there is been a robust debate about tracking code in the free version. Development costs time and money and if you want a free service then the company has every right to monetise you. If you are not paying for a service, you are the product. I believe it is good of the developers to keep these highly critical posts and their responses in the public eye and shows transparency that is to be applauded.