Can You Trust Your Data?

If people start seeing things that aren’t really there, or not seeing things that are right in front of us, that’s called hallucination. If computers start doing the same thing, that’s called a data integrity attack.

“Data integrity” means that the information we’re getting is accurate. A data integrity “attack” is when hackers manipulate the data that computers send to us, so that we think something is happening that really isn’t. Sometimes data integrity attacks are used for personal profit, like if a hacker steals goods from a retail store and then adjusts the inventory report so that all items seem to be accounted for. Sometimes these attacks are much more dangerous, like if a hacker takes over the computer in your car dashboard and tells you that the car is operating normally even though your brakes have been shut off.

This type of misinformation can have horrific consequences. Once your device is hacked, you truly have no idea what information is real. Everything that your car, tablet, phone, or laptop tells you could be false. False battery life, false caller IDs, false contacts, false anything. The hacker can invent these things, and you won’t be able to distinguish those falsehoods from real data without an independent investigation.

Like with most hacking, the only way to avoid this problem is to not get hacked in the first place. Of course, even with top-of-the-line software, that can be exceptionally difficult. If you’re unsure whether you can trust your device, the next best thing to do is to verify everything that your computer tells you, by physically checking your store inventory, car machinery, etc.

In order to function in day-to-day life, we need to rely on information that we receive from the world around us. When we no longer know which pieces of information to trust, we can find ourselves in terribly dire straits.