Law in the Internet Society
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How Have I Enslaved Myself With Google's Passwords Manager

-- By MotazArshied - 07 Oct 2019

That Night Google Convinced Me to Register for this Course

Passwords manager was introduced to help generating and retrieving our passwords, usually by storing those passwords in an encrypted database. If you use Google Chrome's passwords manager, as I shamefully do, then the method your passwords are being saved by Chrome is depending on whether you want to store and use them across devices. Turns out that is exactly what I systematically did without understanding the potential repercussions.

After arriving in Manhattan Island, and just before the beginning of fall term, I decided to purchase my first ever MacBook. So, I went on to visit that famous glass cubicle building near Lincoln Center and when I returned home, with a heavy bag and a much lighter pocket, I started setting up my new device.

One of the first actions I took was to install Google Chrome browser and log onto my Google account. after doing that, I prepared myself for the exhausting process of re-log onto all of my other accounts (social media, student account, governmental and professional services, financial and etc.). It is sufficed to say that many of those accounts contain sensitive information, but Google went on anyway and automatically retrieved all of my passwords for those accounts, one after the other, re-entering all of my information instantly. The morning after I registered for this course.

Explaining Password Manager

"A password should contain at least one letter, one number, one special character..." and on and on it goes! We all been through it and it seems like the majority of us have created endless variations of personal passwords. By seeking to remedy this complex, inconvenient nowadays reality situation, passwords manager is a software relying on its users to store their credentials and sensitive information, to be retrieved later on when needed. Basically, it requires the user to remember "only" one master password in order to decrypt the passwords manager database. The passwords manager stores full URLs next to the stored passwords and it does not log on automatically to those browsers, presumably out of creating another safety layer.

The Risks I Have Entered Myself Into

According to Chrome's latest extension in the respect of passwords, Passwords Checkup, my password manager stores information of 68 different sites: 53 of these passwords are reused, 23 of these accounts are using weak passwords and there are no compromised passwords. What a shame. However, one might say that provided with this information a user can be reassured of his safety. I argue the opposite. Because of the master password idea of passwords manager, if the database is insecure, then all the "advantages" that comes with it are wasted and from what I have researched, Google's passwords manager is not secure. Untrue to their own claim that passwords manager stores the info in Google's servers, Google Chrome actually stores this info in SQLite database file in the user profile directory. By my modest and amateur understanding, the SQLite database is a self-contained, server-less, zero-configuration, transactional SQL database engine and its code is in the public domain and is thus free for use for any purpose, commercial or private. Even a non-programmer lawyer like me can sense that this is not safe nor secure.

Thus potentially, any user to this database file can make modifications and access my personal data.

This idea of convenience that I unreluctantly enslaved myself for has exposed not only my private emails, conversations, files and etc. to outside threats, but also my very own property, especially my financial assets. To add on top of that lately these financial transactions surround around the fact I am a student sponsored by a full scholarship, who's in charge of utilizing the sum granted towards academic-financial duties, terrified me immensely. This situation has compromised my right of privacy and property, regardless of how much Google's are trying to reassure me that my information has not been compromised.

Moreover, I have risked my own human control of my very own interests, connections, achievements and life through the instrument of the web. Like a lost captain in sea, I have let go of the wheel of my own ship at the brink of it being devoured by the sea I falsely trusted to lead it to safety shore. Thus, remains only the question: how do I take the wheel back? In other, more subjective words, how could I redefine "convenience"?

Reflecting Upon My Indifferent Behavior

Second Thoughts

The first second thought I had is deleting passwords manager and keeping that information in a notebook or other non web-connected instrument that I usually carry with me, such as a calendar or a professional notebook. There is a clear disadvantage of digital comfort in this thought but I believe that overtime it will transform into a satisfying feeling of regaining human control over my life.

The second second thought I had was to disconnect from most of these platforms anyway. The fear of missing out is truly real when it comes to social media but if one maintains his desirable relationships constantly instead of liking and commenting virtually, the FOMO should be neutralized. On the other hand, there are some services I most likely won't disconnect from (Faculty services, financial apps and Twiki for example). I believe these kind of platforms, will be used according to my first second thought.

Awareness Resolutions

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Webs Webs

r7 - 10 Oct 2019 - 22:28:29 - MotazArshied
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