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Security Conspiracy Theories That Might Actually Be Right


In today’s age of disinformation and fake news, conspiracy theories are running rampant. Some are small and dismissed almost as soon as they pop up. Others are so ludicrous that we can’t help but laugh. Still, some conspiracy theories turn out to be true. There’s nothing more shocking than finding out that some wild theory is actually right.

Below are some of the most well-known tech and security conspiracy theories that have turned out to be right—or probably are, but no one has any hard proof… yet.

Built-In Obsolescence 

For decades, theories have circulated that companies—tech companies in particular—have intentionally designed products that don’t last. They make sure their gadgets are obsolete in a shorter amount of time than necessary to force people to buy newer versions of the product. Apple was considered a big culprit since iTunes was a bit glitchy when used on PCs. Many suspected Apple of intentionally making iTunes for PC inferior so people would buy Macs. iPhone users have also complained that iOS updates slow down their phones on purpose.

This conspiracy theory is true. Companies don’t prioritize longevity when developing new products. Many will argue that they’re doing it because they’re greedy. Others may say they’re adapting to consumers’ rapidly changing tastes. But who has helped fuel consumer hunger for the latest and greatest products? That’s right, the companies.

Microsoft’s Halloween Documents

In the 1990s, Microsoft was concerned about open-source software. Microsoft dominated the personal computing market but feared systems based on Linux would dethrone them. Nobody knew Microsoft had these concerns until a set of documents became public in 1998. Software developer and open-source software advocate, Eric S. Raymond leaked some of Microsoft’s internal memos in October and November of that year. The documents contained Microsoft’s strategies for taking down open-source software.

Why was this actually-true conspiracy theory such a big deal? Publicly, Microsoft never alluded to fears about Linux and open-source systems taking over. Open-source developers had long suspected Microsoft was coming after them, however. When the Halloween Documents were released, they saw that they were right.

You Are Being Watched Through Your Webcam

As webcams became popular, so did the idea that they’re being used for spying. People feared that their webcams could be hacked and cybercriminals could watch and record their every move. You probably know someone who covers their device’s built-in camera with a piece of tape for this very reason. And they wouldn’t be wrong.
In 2014, the FBI uncovered a huge hacking scandal involving peeping through webcams. A webcam that can connect to the Internet can be hacked. Some even have separate IP addresses so they can be controlled remotely. Cameras on devices such as laptops and phones can be compromised if you unknowingly download malicious code from a website or app. If you keep your devices updated and use antivirus software, you should be safe from having your webcam hacked. But covering up the camera with a piece of tape couldn’t hurt.

The NSA Is Spying on the Whole World

At first, the accusations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on American citizens reeked of Big Brother and Cold War-era McCarthyism. People didn’t want to believe their privacy was compromised, and there was no evidence, so it remained a conspiracy theory—until 2005 when the New York Times published a story confirming the theory.

Since then, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has been tracking, reporting on, and fighting U.S. government surveillance on American citizens. The EFF found that AT&T was providing customer data to the NSA and that the U.S. government was monitoring calls from foreign nationals to U.S. citizens. Moreover, the NSA developed backdoor hacks that targeted Windows users, and those hacks were leaked. Actual hackers then used the NSA’s hacking tools to launch cyber attacks.

Robots Will Take Our Jobs

A theory that’s less of a theory and more of a generalized concern is that robots will take over our jobs and make us obsolete. Robots and artificial intelligence have captivated our imagination in science fiction classics for decades. It wasn’t long before we started fearing that fiction could become reality, given the progress in robotics and the Internet of Things.

This conspiracy theory is more like a prediction. Automation is coming regardless, but jobs will or won’t be safe depending on the societal response to the increased use of robots. In a Pew Research poll, 48 percent of experts said they worried about robots displacing human jobs and 52 percent were more optimistic about the role of automation in the workplace. The optimists say the increased use of robots will create more jobs, but the pessimists say people won’t be able to acquire the skills for these jobs easily enough.

Although it’s fun to laugh at conspiracy theories, it’s not so amusing when they turn out to be true. It’s even more concerning when our privacy is threatened, as it turned out with the NSA. These conspiracy theories can teach us that things that sound ridiculous at first because just might be true. So it may be worth keeping an open mind as long as we also maintain a healthy amount of skepticism.

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