Monitor Monitoring and Monetization

Preventing Prying Eyes from Profiting off of Your Stock Picks

By Anthony Rhodes

One of my favorite films is a movie called “Pi”. It’s the fictitious account of a young man, who through his hard work and intellect, developed a method of successfully predicting the movements of the stock market, and chronicles the unfortunate consequences which resulted from his discovery. Throughout the course of the movie, the protagonist is doggedly pursued by groups of surreptitious individuals, including religious zealots and unsavory business people, who are all seeking to both monetize off of and exploit his natural ability to solve complicated puzzles. While the oft used cliche of the odd or misunderstood genius doesn’t appeal to my liking, the film cleverly atones for this shortcoming by being replete with many multi-layered themes. Its central motif, however, is the all-encompassing, corrupting nature of greed, which is represented by the inordinate and seemingly unlimited lengths that nefarious individuals will go to, in order to illegally profit or benefit from the talents of others.

As is often the case, art imitates life, and this theme of greed easily transitions to our lives today. We all believe that our social security numbers or dates of birth are the prizes most coveted by cyber-criminals, but if you are exceptional at developing investment strategies or selecting stocks for your portfolio, the truly enterprising deviant would like nothing more than to be able to profit off of your expertise. How would they accomplish this, you might ask? By simply peering onto your computer monitor, and stealing your investment trades as they are being executed through your online brokerage accounts.

Come On and Take a Free Ride 

The technical term for this form of theft is called “freeriding”, and it involves using technology or other means to track and ultimately steal someones’ stock picks, as they are being placed through their online brokerage platforms. Within today’s normalcy of constantly being connected, our “Internet of Things” makes
this form of larceny easy to implement, as we are consistently moving from device to device, and supplying our passwords and personal data between them. Obviously, you should scan your computers for malware, and make sure that your wifi connections are ironclad. But it’s equally important to change your brokerage passwords at regular intervals. If a cyber thief gains access to your online password, he or she can simply log onto your account, and wait patiently until your trades are posted, and then transition to their brokerage account and repeat those very same trades for their own personal gain. 

Securing Your Securities

If you are trading in an account today without using a VPN (Virtual Private Network), you are in essence, inviting malcontents into your investing world. These handy tools are inexpensive to use (many are less than $5.00 a month), and can protect your purchases from increasingly prying eyes, as you go about the business of investing online. It’s also very important to make sure that the “sharing” tab on your computer is turned off during your execution of trades. This addendum should not be viewed as an afterthought, because some of the more popular operating systems have this feature turned on by default. If you refuse to enact this provision, you are essentially allowing others’ to not only purview everything that is occurring on your screen, but to gain access to all of your unprotected investing files, as well.

For every individual who is responsible for creating something valuable, there will always be others who would seek to profit off of them. And the more profound such a creation turns out to be, the larger those interested parties are likely to become. This crude reality is an unfortunate byproduct of the culture of capitalism; which, left to its own devices, would evenly reward both inventor and thief alike, with no bias or favor being given to whichever party actually caused the desired creation to come into existence. For this reason, we must remain vigilant, and protect our intellectual property in the best ways in which we can. Because just as our character in “Pi” discovered, whenever the prospect of monetization is involved, nothing is beyond the pale for those truly inflicted with the avaricious disease that is greed.

(Anthony Rhodes is the owner and President of wealth management firm The Planning Perspective )