Category Archives: Privacy

Key Block: Why Chrome wants to block ads for good

Tired of annoying ads that constantly pop up?  Well Google Chrome may just have the solution for you starting next year.

The sites that will face ad blocking on Google Chrome are those that are not compliant with standards set by the Coalition For Better Ads.  For a publisher to have their ads blocked, a significant portion of their ads will have to be in violation.

The Google Chrome browser will still allow ads as long as they follow the industry created guidelines and minimize certain types of ads.  Those ads are the ones that consumers typically hate, including pop up ads, huge ads that don’t go away when you scroll down on a page, and video ads that start playing automatically with the sound on.

Google says the feature, which will be available on both desktop and mobile versions of Chrome, will be turned on by default, but that users can still turn it off if they want.  But beyond that, Google says they will also block ads that they sell and manage if they don’t get rid of those annoying types of ads.

On the other side of this though, Google is also starting a program that will help publishers deal with users who have downloaded popular ad blockers.  Under this program, Google will work with websites to set up messages telling users to disable their ad blockers for the site or to pay for a version of it with no ads.  The benefit of this program for Google is they will take a 10% cut of these payments.  Some popular sites already have these types of measures in place.  For example, won’t let you read stories without disabling your ad blocker or by logging in with your Facebook or Google account so the site can track you.

To prepare for this new version of Chrome, Google is releasing a tool called the Ad Experience Report that will warn publishers of any ads that violate the coalition’s standards.

There is some backlash to this announcement from Google though. The European Commission is expected to fine Google for alleged anticompetitive behavior with it’s shopping service.  These blockers also threaten websites that rely on digital ads for revenue.

While everything regarding Google’s full plan for Chrome in 2018 is yet to be finalized, it seems that the intent is to make consumers internet browsing more convenient by eliminating annoying ads.

The progressive and forward thinking ad blocking from Google only serves as a staunch reminder that internet browsing shouldn’t be a detriment based on ads that are suspect at best.

Missing Links: Why we tend to overlook computer privacy

As much news as computer privacy and identify theft seem to garner on a daily basis, the reality is that most of us ignore it completely or do very little to mitigate or prevent something bad from happening on any level.

Why do we overlook computer privacy?

The real question should be what are we doing to protect or computers, tablets and devices, whether person or business related, from theft of identity?
If you answer that question with nothing or a halfhearted forage into how you avoid spam emails, you might not be as adept at preventing theft as you originally believed.

We look past computer privacy on a consistent basis for two reasons: the internet and gaining information, emails, etc. online is so easy and is often a “given,” and privacy takes on a “can’t happen to me” mentality for the masses.

But computer privacy is real and of the utmost important for a lot of reasons, namely to protect your assets, your credit and make sure you’re not inviting a hacker into your entire company to have information meant for only the eyes of your co workers and more importantly your superiors.

That’s why if you’re going to look at the basics of computer privacy and want to stop ignoring just how important it is, you’ll want to focus on your email first and foremost. Email is how we communicate for the most part, so we can’t stress just how important it is not only do the bare minimum and not open what looks to be questionable emails but also pay close attention to your email in terms of if you suspect a breach has occurred. An easy way to see this is if your password suddenly doesn’t work.

In addition to email, you should make it a habit to change any passwords you have on a 30 or, at most, 60 day basis. This includes network computer passwords at work or email passwords, streaming services, etc.

And if your Wifi isn’t password protected, you’re allowing hackers and those in the know to see what you’re doing so using public Wifi, particularly on a work device, isn’t the best of decisions.

Trying to avoid a computer hack or identity theft sometimes can’t be avoided. But if you can check all the boxes that show you’ve done all you can, then sometimes that peace of mind makes working through this problem a little easier to swallow, knowing you have in fact put a premium on your privacy.

Password Protected: How to properly secure your password privacy

If you are, well, alive and well, you absolutely have an email address and, with that, a password.

How else are you supposed to log in and scroll through junk mail, work emails or anything else through that medium?

In addition, passwords also play a role in things like online banking, security through a server at work, for example, and just about anything else that is specific to you and you only being able to see it.

So, with that, passwords are everywhere, but unfortunately your eyes aren’t the only ones trying to see (and remember) your password. A recent study showed nearly 50 percent of the population has had information brought to light by hackers, a startling number and a sobering statistic that really reinforces the importance of not only having unique password protection but online security as a whole.

The most reliable piece of advice is one that is broken far too often even though it seems fairly obvious, and that is visiting accounts or password protected ones though a public network, such as sitting down for a cup of coffee and transferring money between bank accounts or just randomly looking at your email.

As convenient as public Wi Fi is, you have to make sure you’re using it correctly, and that simply means avoiding anything that has personal information associated with it. Hackers have very little road blocks in order to get account numbers or passwords when you’re basically handing them that information on a silver platter.

Even your own web browser or your private network can also come into play, as you should try to tap into security features offered by Internet Explorer or FireFox, to name a few.

One thing that is often underutilized is additional security that is available for email, such as not only giving a password but also another piece of personal information that can be required to access your inbox. Some products that are available make getting into your email that much more difficult for computer hackers because not only do they have to figure out your password but also some other unique code or series of numbers that you’ve asked to be part of authenticating the user.

Protecting your identity is paramount and one could argue that it is the most important element of security overall. The good news is that as adept as hackers are at finding ways to manipulate the system, you can always stay one up on them with sound pieces of advice and a little effort in regard to how you use your information properly and safely.

Soft Aware: Free software to protect identity is worth second look

Everybody wants to ensure that their privacy is protected when they’re online.  Whether using your phone, tablet, or laptop, you want to make sure your personal information is secure.  This is especially important if you use public Wi Fi hotspots. 

So how do you protect your privacy without spending a ton of money on software? 

Tor Browser, for starters, is a special version of Firefox that diverts data to protect your privacy.  With the Tor Browser you can browse the web as usual, but it uses thousands of relays to disguise where your data is coming from.  Tor Browser delivers secure browsing that is only slightly slower than normal and enables anonymous internet browsing provided that you practice safe internet surfing. 

Some software prevents tracking cookies from monitoring your browsing and reporting it back to advertisers.  Ghostery is one of those, and it also has the knack to tell you exactly what each company is looking at and what they are likely to do with your data.

While some software that is free can be a little “too good to be true,” you can’t argue with the price tag. That said, one of the more overlooked means of computer identity and subsequent theft is your password. Hackers are adept at stealing your key strokes, but with Key Scrambler Personal, the aptly titled software makes short work of this.

Key Scrambler Personal encrypts every letter you type and the free version supports 38 different browsers.  However, email, instant messaging, and online gaming do require a paid for version of the product.

For Windows users, you already know that Windows 10 is the most personal version of Windows.  But some feel it’s too personal and that Windows 10  gathers too much personal data.  Anti Spy enables users to disable advertising ID’s, Smart Screen filtering, and apps that can access your camera.

Finally, you have GnuPG or GNU Privacy Guard.  GnuPG is a tool for encrypting files and emails.  It enables users to encrypt and digitally sign documents with technology that is effectively unbreakable.

All of these programs are free software that provide security in a variety of different areas and will help ensure your peace of mind when it comes to protecting your privacy online. They can only do so much (since they’re free, remember?) to protect your identity but certainly is a good place to start if money is an issue.

Basic Instinct: Are you doing simple things to protect PC privacy?

Protecting your personal security when using your computer is something that we all know needs to be done.  With identity theft being as prevalent an issue as it is, you would think we all know the basics on how to prevent it from happening.  But are you as up to speed as you think you might be?

This may sound basic, but the first thing you should always have on your computer is a firewall.  A firewall blocks unauthorized access to your computer while you’re accessing the Internet.

Using an antivirus program, again, might seem like something obvious.  But it is often overlooked.  Antivirus programs help to prevent and remove viruses and other malware and spyware.  There are plenty to choose from that are both free and available for purchase.  Along with an antivirus program, spyware-blocking software is very important as well.

Another common overlook is installing updates to your operating system.  Use automatic updates to make sure your system is up to date and all of the latest patches are installed.  Turn on the automatic updates in your settings to make sure this is covered without you having to do it manually and leaving your system vulnerable to attack.

Passwords are another basic function that can be often overlooked when it comes to security.  Make sure to use a strong password.  A general rule is to use at least six characters that include upper and lower case letters, numbers, and a non-alphabetic character.  Changing your passwords at least every 60 to 90 days is recommended as well (30 days is a bit much, honestly). You should also password protect all guest accounts and use encryption too.  Encryption scrambles the text so it can’t be read without decrypting it.

Another easy security option that is often overlooked is increasing your browser security settings.  This is a simple step that allows you to select your security level.

And of the easiest ways to protect yourself is using common sense.  Don’t open any emails that are from unknown senders. Unknown email attachments carry viruses and Trojan horses, so make sure that if you don’t know the source, you don’t open the email and/or attachment.

Following these suggestions should keep you safe and secure and prevent viruses from damaging or destroying your computer.  It should also prevent hackers from accessing your personal information, even if they’re on the cusp of the latest technology that allows them to do that.

You can fight the proverbial good fight and do what needs done on your end to, at the very least, keep them guessing and sending them right back to the drawing board.

Changing Landscape: How hackers are infiltrating more than just traditional computers

When you think of the word “smart” in relationship to technology and gadgets, you immediately conjure up the image of your phone, right?

Of course, that’s because the term “smart phone” has revolutionized not just the phones themselves but how they’re marketed and perceived by the general public. More than 90 percent of the population has a cell phone and about 70 percent of that is comprised of smart phones, suggesting that they’re more popular than ever, even amongst the 50 and older demographic despite the thinking that a flip phone or even a landline would suffice.

But “smart” technology has come a long way since the Apple iPhone first gave way to smart phones. You have all kinds of electronics that have been labeled “smart,” including those at home appliances that feed off your Wifi connection and allow you to do things that you hadn’t thought possible with a refrigerator but certainly can now.

The same could be said for your home security system or even how you monitor or control your temperature, also running off wireless internet, and you certainly can’t look past the more traditional devices, such as your laptop and that aforementioned smart phone.

What this creates is the perfect store for hackers to be able to gain access to your personal information and continue to wreak havoc when it comes to identity theft and fraud, only now than them having a few portals to do so, they have more avenues now that technology is so “smart” that we didn’t realize we opened up another can of proverbial worms.

The good news is that you awareness is key, and doing all the same things you do with your at home computer still pertains and can be considered relevant. Granted, your refrigerator or home security, for example, don’t come with the ability to have anti virus protection, but you can keep updating your firmware in mind as you purchase these products. Updates are key to being able to get hackers at bay so that you’re constantly changing the game of getting your information or access to your devices before they can crack their own code.

And speaking of codes, the majority of “smart” home technology comes with the ability to not only password protect your devices but also add levels and layers of other means to keep hackers guessing. Some offer multiple digit codes that you can enter as backup to just having a lone password, most of which are becoming easier and easier to bypass by the smarter hackers. The more you change your password, as well, the better off you’ll be, because for most of us, that’s our only level of protection.

Having smart technology doesn’t always equate to being equally intelligent with how you use it. For those products and devices to truly live up to their name, users have to use some smart, too.

Hack Proof: Why we tend to overlook the simple when protecting computer

Computer privacy will forever be a hot topic, when you throw in not only the hackers and how they find ways new tricks to maneuver through capturing your identity or how we, as the general public, still find ways to overlook the obvious when it comes to protecting ourselves from one day to the next.

The two that easily stand out as glaring and easily avoidable are both related to online use: banking and user names and passwords.

The banking one is quite simple. You should always bank online when you’re using a secured internet connection, rather than randomly checking that account any other way (even your phone on your wireless carrier signal). Most banking missteps occur when you start doing any sort of bill paying that isn’t within the comfort of your home with your password protecting internet service.

The user names and passwords one is another that screams simplicity but often is overlooked on two levels. First, you should make it a habit to change your password on a regular basis, rather than just leaving it the same for months at a time. Furthermore, it’s imperative that you log out of accounts each time you are finished, whether that’s an email or if you’re online paying a credit card bill. Logging out might not seem like that big of a deal but it can lead to theft of credit cards, for example, or someone using your identity or card numbers to spend money that isn’t theirs and technically not yours, in the case of stolen credit cards.

The combination of staying logged in and not using a secured, encrypted network is only going to be part of the solution to protecting your computer privacy. You have to remind yourself, too, that opening unsolicited emails or clicking on links of that same ilk are equally bad for you. Anything that seems as though it’s too good to be true (make money fast scheme) or even an email from a trusted source that could be fake can lead to all kinds of password and identity issues online and also a computer break in you simply don’t want to deal with whatsoever. One of the bigger computer privacy scams comes in the form of those who are having computer issues and receiving random calls from “tech support” wanting to remote into your PC. This happens with some regularity but anyone asking for credit card information over the phone and telling you they’ll be able to help with your computer without you doing so much as a thing to get the call is a huge, monumental red flag.

As much as you want to believe that remembering a password or clicking a link is harmless, it’s the exact opposite. You’re undoubtedly putting your identity, your money and your computer at risk.

Easy Does It: Why protecting your identity is rooted in simplicity

Identity theft and protecting your computer go hand in hand, but as much as we want to turn this into a no one is safe discussion (which has merit), you must first ask yourself one very important question.

Are you doing enough to protect yourself? Furthermore, what about the simple things you can do, the day to day easy practices, that are tailor made to keep your identity and subsequently your computer safe.

We all have that friend who is constantly talking about computer viruses or having their identity stolen, and you don’t have to look (or think) for very long to realize that their bad habits have plagued them when it comes to this issue.

For starters, you should make it a point to stop filling out information online that includes all your pertinent statistics (particularly social security number and address. This goes for these so called online polls or anything that tells you to sign and get something for free (pop up ads or offers).

Quite possibly the easiest way to protect your computer is to make sure you have a password that protects anyone else logging into it or you have it set up to sleep mode rather quickly if you’re away from it. How often do you use your computer in a public setting? If you’re doing that, chances are you want to stay on top of that screen, even if you step away to grab a cup of coffee, that’s how easily someone can refresh and start going to work, or even worse if it somehow gets stolen out from underneath you completely.

Along the same lines as the password are those pesky (but relevant) security questions that help determine that the person logging into an account actually is you. Often times, you’ll have to answer at minimum one but usually three to four to be able to access anything. We tend to pick questions and answer them accordingly, but the general rule of thumb is to lie about the answers with some response that is far fetched, just in case your identity falls into the wrong hands.

There isn’t one way or an iron clad way to protect your identity, as anyone is susceptible to having their identity compromised. But if you’re just leaving it up to chance and also exhibiting habits that are detrimental and often invite hackers right into your living room so to speak, then you’re not just helping identity theft experts.

You’re practically giving your identity away.

Simple Solution: Computer privacy doesn’t have to be overly difficult

As technologically advanced as most internet hackers or those who can steal your identity seem to be, sometimes it is the easiest measure you can take to keep your computer private and your name and other valuable information and numbers quite the secret.

The other irony of computer and identity privacy is we all understand that, through the news stories and information about how easily identities can be stolen, yet we tend to overlook the simple things we can do to keep everything safe and sound.

Case in point, how many times have you used a public Wifi and done something silly on that medium? What exactly do we mean by silly?

Have you ever checked your bank statement online while you’re sitting at a coffee shop? What about logging into a credit card statement sitting at Barnes and Noble?

These are really the epitome of bad judgment as it relates to computer privacy and keeping your identity safe. You should always make it a point to do one of two things: either log in using some sort of VPN login, or make sure the Wifi is password protected. Now, if you need to log in to a public network, if it’s absolutely necessary or if you’re just looking to surf the web aimlessly to kill time, make sure you simply steer clear of punching in anything from your social security number to a credit card number.
So, no ordering shoes online at the airport while waiting for your flight.

Furthermore, what is easier than simply signing out of your computer or anything that is password related online. If you’re paying a bill, logging into your email or your computer is left alone in a public place for any period of time (then again, why would you ever do that), make sure you log off or at least, in the last example, lock your screen and PC.

Finally, your password has been the same since you’ve first had your email and your first computer. The reason your company asks you to change your password once every 30 days, they’re doing so to protect your privacy, so why wouldn’t you do that for yourself on your own computer?

Maybe your work isn’t so dense after all.

You want to change your password every 30 to 60 days, and if you can at least change your password at minimum three times per year, that should deter hackers and keep you at least safer than you were when you weren’t practicing these potentially identity and privacy saving practices.

Private eyes: Common computer mistakes plague privacy

Now more than ever, being smart about what you’re doing on your computer is paramount.

The same couldn’t be said during the infancy stages of the world wide web, mostly because it wasn’t so worldly or wide, but today’s version of the internet, along with emails, social networking and anything else you freely do online, needs to be policed, parented and paid close attention to constantly.

As an individual, you have the responsibility to use the internet wisely and to make good decisions as it relates to anything and everything you do daily online.

The world wide web is all about communication, and nothing is more convenient and preferred than email, which allows you to be a little more sincere with your comments aside from texting and is also rooted in not only personal emails but also work related items.

But what tends to put us at risk for online privacy issues is being haphazard with our emails, namely the ones we open that clearly look as though they were concocted with nothing but bad intentions in mind.

What makes that revelation even more ridiculous is when you can clearly see this looks and sounds phony, but yet you still open it up because curiosity didn’t just kill the cat, but also any chance you have of protecting yourself from an online hacker.

Scam and spam is easy to spot with two easy mentions: bad spelling and the “too good to be true” mantra that lures you into an unenviable situation. Simply put, if they can’t spell (think of a prize that you “one”) or you just won $10,000 and all you need to do is “click here” to claim it, then you’re on the cusp of having someone tap into your personal information and your PC in general.

Another easy way to avoid privacy being compromised is to not ignore how you handle and choose your passwords. You should shy away from having your PC or Mac remember your password, and also never forget to log out of an account, particularly your banking information and email. Furthermore, make sure your password that you choose has some complexity to it, and don’t ignore numbers or special characters as a means to differentiate from others that are common.

And as long as you stay away from WiFi connections that aren’t password protected (you might want to think about using your banking info or other important info on your home router), you should be well on your way to keeping your personal security just that: personal.