Tag Archives: Privacy

Google is STILL (Not?) your friend…

There is a saying in Internet circles abbreviated GIYF (Google Is Your Friend!). When it comes to finding information, Google (And other search engines) is your friend. When it comes to some things, though, using a search engine is one of the most dangerous things you can do on the Internet. Here are some of the Top Ways Google is Not Your Friend:

  1. They know everything about you! Whenever you search for anything, the search engine, and possibly your ISP also, knows exactly what you searched for, and probably also all the sites you visited from those search results. They can keep this data as long as they want. So what, you say? Say that to the person who briefly became a suspect in the Boston Marathon Bombing because she happened to search for the words, “Pressure Cooker.” I’m not sure of the truth of this story, but, true or not, it is certainly possible. If you value your privacy, there are alternative search providers that claim they don’t record your searches. Here’s a list of seven. My favorites are Startpage (Which uses Google’s system, but anonymously), and DuckDuckgo, Which does not use Google. This means the search results might not be as comprehensive as Google’s, but still worth a try.
  2. Related to the above, they also serve you up targeted ads, based on your web habits, unless you deliberately turn them off. This applies whether you have a Google account or not. To change this behavior,visit https://www.google.com/settings/ads and turn off everything you see there. This does not mean you won’t get ads, it just means they won’t be as creepy.
  3. Remember, nothing is truly free. The search provider is always looking to make money off of you, so some of the results you’re going to get are sponsored. Also, aggressive marketers know how to get their site to float to the top of search results.
  4. Using a search engine to find software, especially security and antivirus software, is extremely dangerous, because the bad guys have a lot of fake sites out there, and they know how to get them to the top of search results, too. If you’re looking for security software, and you like “free,” go to Ninite.com for good free antivirus. Ninite also has many other good free programs. Check it out before you spend money on pricey software.
  5. For that matter, if you’re looking for any kind of free software, like games and screensavers, you’re looking for trouble. Be very, very careful with these kinds of searches. The Web of Trust browser add-on can help protect you, but nothing is foolproof.
  6. Ditto for phone support. Search for “Dell Support,” for example, and the top results may not have anything to do with the Dell Computer Company! Which means they will probably cost you a lot of unnecessary money.
  7. This should be obvious, but if you search for things like pipe bombs, nuclear weapons, poison gas, or “How to rob a bank,” you may attract unwanted attention from folks with lights on top of their cars. Now, there are legitimate reasons to search for such things;  Just be aware that Big Brother might be looking over your shoulder! (You could possibly use a public computer for such searches if you’re sufficiently paranoid.)
  8. If you’re searching for “How-To” information, read several results and compare them. Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. (Maybe especially because it’s on the Internet!) See if the poster has any credentials. Also understand that what might be an easy task for the poster might get you in way over your head. If there doesn’t seem to be an authoritative answer, proceed with great caution.

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Protect Thine Privacy!

Do you know how much the world knows about you? Do you care? You should. What about posting your vacation plans on social media? If some random person skulking on Facebook sees pictures of the interior of your house and your big-screen TV, and they know your address from your profile, what might happen when they know exactly when you’ll be out of town?

How about a prospective employer looking at those dancing-naked-on-the table pictures from your last wild party? How about some pervert seeing pictures of your 7-year-old, and knowing her name, birthday, school, and favorite color? How hard would it be for him to convince your child that Mom sent him to pick her up from school?

All these scenarios, and more, have already happened at least once.

You don’t have to be the Secretary of State, a criminal, or a CIA operative to have a lot to lose when your privacy is compromised.

Thy privacy is at risk! Don’t let this happen!

These Brits have a way with words!

For even more empowering technology info, read my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now!

Click here to read all about it.

Follow me on Twitter:

I’d love to hear your comments!

The Snowden Effect

What is the Snowden Effect? It is the increase in public awareness and concern over the collection and use of electronic data by the US Government – without even getting warrants – since the revelations of Edward Snowden. Even though – obviously – electronic data did not exist when the U.S. Constitution was written, the Fourth Amendment specifically prohibits “Unreasonable search and seizure.”

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? My electronic data certainly qualifies as an “effect” (as in “Personal effects”), and vacuuming up data en masse certainly qualifies as “unreasonable.” This isn’t even “Rounding up the usual suspects,” which implies known criminals; This is “Round up everybody and let’s see what we can pin on them!”

Now, you might consider Edward Snowden a hero, a traitor, a patriot, or a dissident, but the important fact is that this is a discussion that needs to happen, and Snowden forced the issue. This Country is not a dictatorship, it is (allegedly) a government ofby, and for the People, and as such, the Government is accountable to the people and has no right to spy on them without probable cause.

A lot of the current chatter is about digital encryption. The terrorists that shot up San Bernardino last December had an encrypted iPhone, and Apple, the manufacturer of the iPhone, has made the encryption so good that even they can’t break it. The FBI wants Apple to write an Operating System with a “Back Door,” that would allow anyone with the master password to unlock the system. They say this is a one-time deal… but think about it. If someone developed a Master Key to your front door – allegedly for the Police to use in a life-threatening emergency – how long do you think it would be before that master key leaked out? Let’s get real here! The only true secrets are the ones only you have a key to! Especially considering how many Government secrets have been stolen recently!

If you were a manufacturer of vaults, how would you feel if an agency asked you to provide a master key to your burglar-proof vault? How would you know you could trust them to keep that key safe, not only today, but forever?

Many developers of encryption software are already being leaned on to provide just such back doors. To their credit, some have refused. Some have even gone out of business rather than compromise their customer’s information. Though I’m not an Apple user, kudos to them for holding the line.

We need to pay attention to this stuff; our privacy and security is at risk. If the Government knows everything about you, they can do anything to you.

http://www.apple.com/customer-letter/answers/

What does the FBI think is on terrorist’s iPhone, anyway? A fight, perhaps

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/05/edward-snowden-nsa-effect_n_5447431.html

Anti-encryption opportunists seize on Paris attacks; don’t be fooled

For even more empowering technology info, read my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now!

Click here to read all about it.

Follow me on Twitter:

I’d love to hear your comments!

Google is (Not?) your friend…

There is a saying in Internet circles abbreviated GIYF (Google Is Your Friend!). When it comes to finding information, Google (And other search engines) is your friend. When it comes to some things, though, using a search engine is one of the most dangerous things you can do on the Internet. Here are some of the Top Ways Google is Not Your Friend:

  1. They know everything about you! Whenever you search for anything, the search engine, and possibly your ISP also, knows exactly what you searched for, and probably also all the sites you visited from those search results. They can keep this data as long as they want. So what, you say? Say that to the person who briefly became a suspect in the Boston Marathon Bombing because she happened to search for the words, “Pressure Cooker.” I’m not sure of the truth of this story, but, true or not, it is certainly possible. If you value your privacy, there are alternative search providers that claim they don’t record your searches. Here’s a list of seven. My favorites are Startpage (Which uses Google’s system, but anonymously), and DuckDuckgo, Which does not use Google. This means the search results might not be as comprehensive as Google’s, but still worth a try.
  2. Remember, nothing is truly free. The search provider is always looking to make money off of you, so some of the results you’re going to get are sponsored. Also, aggressive marketers know how to get their site to float to the top of search results.
  3. Using a search engine to find software, especially security and antivirus software, is extremely dangerous, because the bad guys have a lot of fake sites out there, and they know how to get them to the top of search results, too. If you’re looking for security software, and you like “free,” go to Ninite.com for good free antivirus. Ninite also has many other good free programs. Check it out before you spend money on pricey software.
  4. For that matter, if you’re looking for any kind of free software, like games and screensavers, you’re looking for trouble. Be very, very careful with these kinds of searches. The Web of Trust browser add-on can help protect you, but nothing is foolproof.
  5. Ditto for phone support. Search for “Dell Support,” for example, and the top results may not have anything to do with the Dell Computer Company! Which means they will probably cost you a lot of unnecessary money.
  6. This should be obvious, but if you search for things like pipe bombs, nuclear weapons, poison gas, or “How to rob a bank,” you may attract unwanted attention from folks with lights on top of their cars. Now, there are legitimate reasons to search for such things. Just be aware that Big Brother might be looking over your shoulder! (You could possibly use a public computer for such searches if you’re sufficiently paranoid.)
  7. If you’re searching for “How-To” information, read several results and compare them. Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. (Maybe especially because it’s on the Internet!) See if the poster has any credentials. Also understand that what might be an easy task for the poster might get you in way over your head. If there doesn’t seem to be an authoritative answer, proceed with great caution.

Keeping your private stuff private

Your privacy is getting more and more difficult to guard, thanks to the Internet. You lock your house, right? Not only to ward off thieves, but because your house is private, and you don’t want people in there without an invitation. Yet oftentimes, we compromise our privacy on the internet, and even in person, every day. Here are some ways to curtail privacy issues, and possibly prevent Identity Theft:

  • Be privacy-conscious; be aware that everywhere you go, everything you do, people are trying to harvest your information.
  • Stores do not require your zip code or address in order to buy from them; With just your zip code and your credit card swipe, they have your address… Which they can use however they want!
  • Many places that ask for your Social Security Number don’t need it. Your Doctor doesn’t need it, the Police don’t need it. Your employer obviously does, but if it’s not required, don’t give it.
  • Pay attention to your physical mail. If you don’t receive a bank or credit card statement when you expect it, it’s possible someone stole your mail… And now they have your credit card number. For the same reason read your credit card statement carefully and investigate any unfamiliar charges.
  • When you’re browsing the Internet, hold your mouse pointer on a link and the address the link goes to will appear in the bottom left of your browser window. You can see where the link goes before actually clicking on it.
  • Don’t run any Facebook apps if you value your privacy. Facebook is a privacy nightmare, anyway, and apps just make it worse.
  • Don’t allow kids, grand-kids, or guests access to your computer, tablet, or phone if you are logged onto any websites. You might wind up like this guy, whose daughter bought a car on eBay. If your kid wants a toy, get them a toy of their own, and don’t link it to your financial or email information.
  • Turn GPS off when you take pictures with your smartphone or “smart” camera. If your pictures are posted online, they will probably have that GPS data attached to them. Any stalker out there can figure out where you work, shop, live, where your kids go to school… You don’t want that.
  • Don’t post your travel plans on social networks… Burglars read Facebook too.
  • Have at least three separate passwords:

1. for your non-secure, non-confidential stuff (News, weather, etc.)
2. for your moderately secure stuff (email accounts)
3. for your highly secure stuff, and a different one for every account (your online bank accounts, eBay, PayPal, shopping, anything having to do with your money)

  • It’s best to have a separate password for every site you visit. Can’t remember all of them? Use a Password Manager such as Password Safe, which can even generate random passwords that not even you know, and save them securely.
  • You might also consider changing your highly secure passwords on a regular basis, maybe every few months.
  • Pay particular attention to your email password. Your email address can often be used to reset other passwords, so if your email is compromised, you’re toast.
  • No legitimate entity will ever ask you for a password via phone or email.

Further reading: Safe Web surfing, Safe emailing