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news & views ● editorial By Ashley Burns Staying Safe in the Information Era O nce upon a time, way, way back in an ancient era known as the 1990s, when the Internet was still a raw landscape of information sharing that only a small fraction of the public was utilizing, the term “hacker” had a very dangerous and evil connotation. Movies and TV shows were made that de- clared hackers the new villain of the cyber age, as Holly- wood and news stories made these dark, shadowy characters out to be diabolical geniuses that could steal our lives with the stroke of a key. And while that identity still exists today, the act of hacking has been watered down and diluted to an almost jovial definition because of how vast and readily accessible the Internet has become. For example, we probably all know someone who has left their Facebook account open on their phones or laptops or home computers, which has allowed a friend or family member to post a harmless-yet-hilarious status update at that person’s expense. What’s the typical response to that? “I was hacked.” Or maybe we’ve seen an instance when a celebrity or notable personality has Tweeted something of- fensive that he or she almost instantly regretted and delet- ed. The standard excuse for that? “Someone hacked me.” Because of minor instances like these, “hacking” has be- come something that anyone can seemingly do as long as someone has left a social media page open or account logged in, when, in reality, the act is now far more danger- ous than it has ever been before. With more social media sites and more companies relying on online interaction and commerce, your information is now more valuable to thieves and even unscrupulous companies, and there are people who will do whatever it takes to steal it. That’s why we and so many others preach the safeties of creating and maintaining your online presence. In this winter edition of Pageantry magazine, we have two great examples of the dangers of modern online inter- action and personal branding. For starters, when Nina Davuluri was crowned the new Miss America, she was the immediate target of some horrible, bigoted remarks on Twitter. Open-ended outlets for unlimited social interac- tion and the ability to freely discuss news events as they un- fold is a double-edged sword that, more often than not, displays the truly ugliest side of the Internet, now in a mat- ter of mere seconds. As she explains in her interview within this issue, Nina was able to take the derogatory and racist remarks with a grain of salt. After all, the Internet’s dark side is no secret. What’s key to overcoming the instantaneous hatred and filth is being able to look past it and continue working to- ward the betterment of those who truly appreciate what it is that you do. That’s what Nina will strive for, not only in her upcoming reign as Miss America, but also in the future 10 PAGEANTRY when she fulfills her dream of becoming a physician. For Cassidy Wolf, though, the term “hacker” is far more heinous than someone simply playing a Facebook prank. Cassidy’s story is a terrifying one to most people, because it reveals that invasion of privacy can not only happen to all of us, but it can happen in ways that we’ve never expected. Through an unused web cam, a smart TV, a home’s securi- ty camera—any of these devices can help make our lives more convenient, but they can also provide an incredible danger to our personal lives and well-being. A former classmate of Cassidy’s discovered how to ac- cess her computer’s web cam—as well as many others, the FBI would eventually discover—and attempt to use it to blackmail her. To her credit, Cassidy handled this situation with bravery and admirable aplomb, working with the fed- eral and local authorities to bring the terrible person behind it to justice recently, and she did this all while maintaining the poise and maturity that we’d expect from someone with such a prestigious national title. But crowns aside, she set an example for any other teens or adults out there who may find themselves in a similar, unexpected situation. As she explained, a person cannot cave to such threats, and they need to let the authorities do their jobs. Two different stories, one common theme—the dangers of the Internet and the lack of online security. As more and more people move toward establishing online presences and social media branding—and this especially goes for all of you aspiring models, actors and pageant queens out there—the dangers grow, and the necessity for education and awareness doubles with each new story of bullying, ha- rassment or personal violation. More insidious is the challenge of our own making. The funny links or cute puppy images that many love to “Like” are now, at an increasingly large percentage, subject to the dreaded trojan, the imbedded virus that sends out more viruses in addition to the plea-for-money-help stating you’ve been mugged in some distant country whilst on vacation. Between Pageantry’s digital edition and our ever-ex- panding social media presence and all of our wonderful fans, we are constantly trying to provide not only the best content from the Glamour Lifestyle for our readers, but we also want to maintain a safe environment for our readers and Pageantry family to share their stories without having to fear clicking a bad link or receiving rude or malicious feedback from strangers. Let’s create a safer and better online experience. Safety comes with strong and positive decision-making. Pageantry and you... Celebrating the Glamour Lifestyle, one positive post and comment at a time. Ⅺ