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7 Ways to Keep Your Information Safe on the Internet

7 Ways to Keep Your Information Safe on the Internet

It’s almost unavoidable to buy products online or give our personal information to trusted websites. Unfortunately, that information isn’t always safe and criminals could easily access sensitive knowledge about you. To help, we’ve made a guide for regular people who don’t have time to develop a deeper understanding about wireless networks, yet still need to protect their data over wireless channels.

1. Be Safe on Social Media

Social media may seem like a safe place to share some of the more intimate details of your life, but you should be vigilant about what you post on these networks. Even seemingly innocuous information, like your birthday or address, can be used by criminals for more dangerous applications.

To avoid this, personalize the security settings in your social network accounts. If you share a post with personally identifiable information (PII), make sure to only select trusted individuals who can see it. Additionally, be wary of anyone you don’t know in real life making appeals to you for such PII.

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2. Protect Your Credit Cards

When making purchases online, always be sure that the website you enter your credit card information into is secure. The URL should begin with “HTTPS”, not simply “HTTP”. Don’t make purchases on an unsecured network, such as that at a coffee shop, and remember to logout of your customer account when using public devices.

To be extra careful, load a prepaid credit card with limited funds for online purchases. This reduces the risk in case someone steals your information.

3. Use the Cloud for Back-Ups

Backing your important files up is essential in case your devices are ever stolen. Over the years, cloud computing has become more secure, as large technology firms like Amazon and Microsoft take control of the market. Even hospitals and healthcares have started using clouds for data storage, easy access of files and to secure confidential documents.

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A common example is Gmail and Google Drive, where you can upload the files and access them from anywhere in the world. The only requirement is a working internet connection; that isn’t hard to find these days. Moreover we can secure files with user-based or group-based permission. This is the future of backing up digital files on the clouds.

4. Factory Reset and Drive Wiping

More often than not, simply “deleting” something from your computer or mobile device will not permanently remove the information from the machine. Before you sell or throw away your old machine, make sure that the drives are fully wiped and that the machine is given a factory reset.

Without this extra step, whoever gets your device next will have access to even the most secured information on your machine, including files you previously thought were deleted.

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5. Disable Bluetooth and WiFi When Not in Use

Whenever you’re not using the Bluetooth or WiFi capabilities of your computer or mobile device, be sure to turn them off. If you don’t take this precaution, other devices in the vicinity may be able to gain access to yours; including access to open file sharing networks. For this reason, your network sharing settings should always be set to only share files with other trusted devices you own.

6. Password Protection

Many sites these days require you to have a complex password before signing up, and while this may appear to be an inconvenience at first, it’s really in your best interest. Passwords should be impossible to guess by family and friends, which mean you shouldn’t use birthdays, anniversary dates, family member names, or other obvious identifying information.

Ideally, everyone would use a random password generator, and have those random passwords saved on a secure and encrypted file on their computer. Since that may be a bit extreme for most internet users, just be sure to use different passwords for all important accounts (bank, email, etc.). Additionally, don’t use accurate information for password recovery questions like your mother’s maiden name, as these details are easy to get for the right cyber criminal.

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7. 2-Step Authentication

Large, trustworthy companies like Google, Facebook, Paypal and more all offer 2-step authentication, which forces users to enter a code sent to their mobile device in order to sign in. Other companies will ask for your mobile phone number or an alternative email address, so if someone attempts to log into your account from an unknown device, a message is sent to you requiring additional verification.

Both of these methods offer extra security for your sensitive information, whether it be financial or personal. If your social media or ecommerce site asks for additional identifying information like this so they can verify your account against strange login attempts, always opt in. You will get warnings of suspicious activity, and the ability to change your information if it ever becomes compromised.

We hope you’ve finished this article with a deeper understanding of online and wireless security. It’s never too late, or too early, to start protecting yourself online. Remember that even small details can be used to steal your identity or worse.

Featured photo credit: Safe on the Internet via lifehack.org

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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