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11 Ways to Protect Your Privacy Online

11 Ways to Protect Your Privacy Online

Protecting your privacy online is harder now than ever. Whether it is “Big Brother” or “Big Data,” it seems everyone wants to collect as much data as possible on every human on Earth. We are all being tracked all the time. For some, this may seem like an inevitable fact of digital life. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself online and at the very least become much less of a target for cyber criminals and marauding bands of internet marketers.

1. Lock down your social media.

Most people signup for a Facebook account and just start using it. When someone invites them to play a game or join a group, they just click the button to give those apps authorization to access and use their account information, their list of friends, etc. This data is later used by companies to create network graphs of all of the relationships a person has with others.

Our suggestions:

  • Use privacy controls in your Facebook settings.
  • Pay close attention to which “apps” you give permission to use your information.
  • Read through the many settings and options. It is worth taking 10 minutes to read each one on Facebook.
  • Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIN and others all have privacy and security settings. Take advantage of them.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 10.50.22 AM

    2. Use a secure browser.

    Unfortunately, Microsoft has consistently shown that it is a favorite target of hackers. Use an alternative browser to Internet Explorer. Safari, Firefox, and Google Chrome are all better choices. Whichever browser you are using, also look into its security menu, extensions and privacy (in Safari) and set the security choices you are comfortable with.

    Our suggestions:

    • Block pop-up windows by default.
    • Warn when visiting fraudulent websites.
    • Block cookies and website data from third parties and advertisers.
    • “Do Not Track” should be selected.

    Remember, this will NOT protect you from all of the techniques that are used to track you with a web browser, but it is MUCH better than letting even the sloppiest of advertisers and companies track your every move.

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    3. Protect the data on your mobile phone.

    If you want full protection, choose an iPhone from Apple. 99% of all mobile malware is on the Android platform. 92% of all Android phones are susceptible to known attacks. The Apps marketplaces for Android are wide open and filled with malware, spyware and viruses. Apple has been criticized for being very strict in their review and quality control of Apps that are allowed to be installed on an iPhone, but this has created the safest mobile environment that exists.

    Additionally, Apple just announced even more privacy features in iOS 8 due out this fall. This includes a security tool that stops Apps from tracking your GPS location unless you are actively using the App. Their iMessages App is extremely secure. Even the NSA doesn’t like it. Also, they have deployed the first, highly reliable, and very secure biometric thumbprint scanner. This last week they also announced they would allow developers to start implementing using your thumbprint for authentication of various secure logins and more.

    4. Be cautious of the word “FREE” in software, apps, and services.

    Like your momma told you, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. People have clamored to get their hands on many “free” online tools and services without asking a simple question, “If this is ‘free,’ how do they pay for all the people and computers that make this service work?” The answer is that they are most likely selling YOU. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to easily tell which apps are tracking everything you do on your mobile device or computer. The best advice is to delete apps you don’t really use regularly and ALWAYS read the warnings that ask for your permission to let the software do something.

    Recently, Google and Facebook both added features to let them use your microphone and camera on your computer or mobile device. While they could use your mic and camera for only legitimate reasons, consider turning off their access when you don’t absolutely need those apps to have it. For example, you can easily allows/disallow access to your “Location Services” on an iPhone or iPad, quickly turning it on for the Maps app when you need directions.

    Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 10.50.15 AM

      5. Develop a password strategy.

      Passwords have become a pain in the butt for many people. Forgetting a password when you need to get into something is a serious inconvenience, especially when so many different password policies exist. One simple solution is to come up with a PHRASE instead of a word or character string. Instead of “Bobby1989” try using “Bobby was born in 1989!” These will often be easier to remember and much harder to crack. Note that it even uses a special character “!”, upper case letters, lower case letters and numbers.

      An additional strategy is to develop some system for using a slightly different variation of your main password on every site you use it on. For example, you could use the same phrase, “Bobby was born in 1989!” on Hotmail.com and count the number of characters in the website domain name (7) and choose the first and last letters of the name (HL) and append that to your phrase “Bobby was born in 1989!7HL” On Chase.com that would be “Bobby was born in 1989!5CE”.

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      An attacker would need to gain access to several of your different passwords to figure out what additional pattern you use to change it from site to site.

      A tool to check the strength of your passwords is at: http://www.passwordmeter.com

      6. Change your IP address with a tool like ICLOAK™ Stik.

      ICLOAK Stik is a USB device that renders your web browsing sessions invisible to everyone on the Internet. The same device also automatically spoofs your Machine Address Code (MAC) of the computer you are using ICLOAK on so that it doesn’t broadcast this identifier to every website you visit. You can learn more at https://icloak.org

      7. Use a VPN service to connect to the Internet.

      A VPN (Virtual Private Network) can encrypt all of your web traffic from your computer to the destination site making it very unlikely for anyone to intercept your information as it will all be encrypted as soon as it leaves your browser. There are many VPN services available at a nominal cost to use them.

      8. Learn about and use Crypto Currency, like Bitcoin.

      Although Bitcoin is still a young technology, it has the potential to really allow individuals to make anonymous purchases online. Every time you use a credit card, there is a digital footprint made by that transaction. With crypto-currencies, they can be used anonymously.

      Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 10.50.02 AM

        9. Encrypt your email and files that you send across the Internet with GnuPG.

        GnuPG is the GNU project’s complete and free implementation of the OpenPGP standard. You can find more information including free software tools here: https://www.gnupg.org/related_software/frontends.html

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        10. Pay in cash more often.

        We have all become accustomed to the convenience of paying with plastic. However, this is becoming more and more dangerous as card thieves have discovered ingenious ways to get and use your cards. Alternatively, use the features provided by some major banks that will issue temporary, unique Credit Card numbers for a single online transaction. At Chase they are called Single Use Accounts.

        You can learn more here:

        Chase Bank

        https://www.chase.com/commercial-bank/treasury-management/single-use-accounts

        Bank of America

        https://www.bankofamerica.com/privacy/accounts-cards/shopsafe.go

        Citi

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        https://www.citibank.com/us/cards/gen-content/messages/van/index.htm

        11. Keep your antivirus software updated.

        The Internet’s viruses are similar to real viruses in that they are always changing and adapting. The best thing that you can do to prevent an attack on your computer is to keep your antivirus software updated. There are several free antivirus solutions available; however, the one I have found most recommended by IT pro’s like Eric B. Delisle is the antivirus solution produced by Kaspersky Labs. You can find more about them at: http://usa.kaspersky.com

         

        As a final note, there are passionate people working every day to guard against ever encroaching government and business interests into our personal lives. However, their jobs are made harder by ordinary people who are just too lazy to bother doing even the simplest things to keep themselves safe. Don’t be an easy victim of anyone who would ignore your right to your own data and your own privacy by ignoring these great tips. Instead, commit to giving yourself 30 minutes each day for a week to implement some of these suggestions and at the end of one week, you will be infinitely safer.

        It is a known fact that by simply placing a FAKE “This property is protected by a monitored alarm system” sticker on your window or one of those Brinks signs in your yard, that the average, neighborhood burglar will simply skip your house and go to your neighbor who didn’t bother to do something so simple as put a sticker on their window.

        You have been warned. Good luck.

        Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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        Last Updated on November 3, 2020

        20 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

        20 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

        Whether you use your Mac for work or just for your personal projects, you’ve likely found yourself wondering how to improve your productivity. There are only so many hours in a day, and so much mental stamina you can muster before you run out.

        There are dozens of tricks you can use to improve your own productivity and outlook, but if you’re looking for a more objective, comprehensive fix, the best thing to do is equip your Mac with productivity apps designed to help you do more in less time.

        This Lifehack-exclusive list has some of the best productivity apps to help you feel less tired, improve your energy, and ultimately help you get more done every day.

        What Makes For the Best Productivity Apps?

        Beyond productivity tips, there are dozens of productivity apps to choose from too. With that in mind, here are some of the core aspects of ideal productivity apps that have formed this list.

        • Non-intrusive – you want a productivity app to weave seamlessly into your workflow and not cause disruptions. From using the app to the overall display, it shouldn’t cause any interruptions.
        • Good interface – Again, you want to be able to use these apps easily and have them benefit you. The easier you can navigate around these apps, the better.
        • Fair pricing – Many of these have free trials that allow you a good chance to test before you buy. If you do decide to pay for it, the monthly pricing plans should be reasonable for what you are getting.

        1. Todoist

          Available for all iOS devices, Todoist is a note-taking and organization app that can keep you on top of all your projects—both personal and professional.

          Its best features are all free to use, including browser extensions, task creation, and interactive boards you can use to organize all your notes.

          If you want to pay the optional $29 yearly fee, you can get even more advanced features like backups and automatic reminders. Even with the free version, you’ll stay far more organized.

          Download: Todoist

          2. 1Password

            You may not realize it, but you probably spend a ton of time recalling your passwords, especially if and when you forget one to an app you use on a regular basis.

            1Password is an app for Mac that saves and remembers all your passwords for you in one place, so you can access all your favorite sites with a single click.

            You’ll save time and keep all your accounts secure simultaneously. A personal plan is $2.99 per month.

            Download: 1Password

            3. Bear

              Bear is a unique kind of note-taking app designed to make it easier for Mac users to jot down notes on the go. With it, you can create to-do lists, give yourself reminders, and outline concepts for future brainstorming sessions.

              It comes with many different inline styles so you can customize your notes to your personal preferences, and remember the context in which you wrote them. The core version is free, with a $14.99 per year version available as well.

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              Download: Bear

              4. Hazel

                Hazel by noodlesoft is an automated organization tool designed for Mac that will help you automatically organize your files based on any custom rules you want to create.

                For example, you can set it to move untouched items from one folder into another folder labeled “action items” if they haven’t been addressed within a week. It can save you hours of organization over the course of a few weeks. A single license is a flat $32.

                Download: noodlesoft

                5. Alfred

                  Alfred is an all-in-one app designed to save you time with Mac shortcuts and convenient custom actions. You can use it in a variety of ways.

                  For example, you can access Alfred’s clipboard memory so you don’t copy and paste the same material over and over, or set up custom workflows to automate some of your most repetitive tasks.

                  It’s a paid app, with multiple price points based on the features you desire.

                  Download: Alfred

                  6. TextExpander

                    TextExpander does exactly what the name suggests; it allows you to type a short snippet of text, and expand that text automatically.

                    For example, you can create a custom expansion that allows you to conjure a full paragraph you type repeatedly by simply typing a unique abbreviation. Once you get used to your custom combinations, you’ll spare your fingers from typing thousands of words.

                    An individual account is $3.33 per month.

                    Download: TextExpander

                    7. Backblaze

                      If you’ve ever experienced a crash, or theft of your Mac, you know how much time a system restore can cost you. You’ll spend hours replacing the files you lost, and lose thousands of files that are irreplaceable.

                      Backblaze is an automated, inexpensive way to back up your entire Mac for just $5 a month.

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                      Download: Backblaze

                      8. Keyboard Maestro

                        Keyboard Maestro is an older app that still has the power to make your life easier. With it, you can automate any number of tasks based on a certain trigger (such as a hotkey combination, or an event like connecting to a wireless network). A single license only costs $36.

                        Download: Keyboard Maestro

                        9. Snagit

                          There are many applications for a good screen-capture app, whether you’re trying to illustrate a tech problem you have or just want to make an interesting meme. Snagit makes it easy, with built-in editing for both still images and video. A single license covers two machines, and costs $49.95.

                          Download: TechSmith/Snagit

                          10. Bartender

                            Bartender is the cleverly-named app that helps you clean up and organize all your menu bar icons. You can also access them quickly with keyboard shortcuts.

                            If you’re like most Mac users, those icons get cluttered quickly and stop you from working efficiently. It’s free to try for 4 weeks, after which you’ll need a $15 license.

                            Download: Bartender

                            11. Otter

                            Otter is the Mac app for the note taker who hates typing. It’s an intelligent voice-recognition system and note-taking app that will help you transcribe your conversations, keep notes during meetings, and even take contextual notes to yourself in your own time.

                            Best of all, it’s free to get started!

                            Download: Otter

                            12. Flux

                              Do you often find yourself feeling tired throughout the day, or feeling unable to get to sleep after a day of staring at your computer? That could be because of the unnatural blue light that radiates from your Mac.

                              Flux naturally adapts your display to emit light that matches the time of day, so you can sleep better and feel less tired. It’s also free!

                              Download: Flux

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                              13. PDFpen

                              If you deal with PDFs on a regular basis, you probably find yourself wishing for some kind of tool that can let you mark up those PDFs however you want. Without a dedicated app like PDFpen, this can be difficult.

                              PDFpen lets you edit PDFs in almost any conceivable way, giving you more power and saving you time. A single license is $74.95.

                              Download: Smile Software/PDFpen

                              14. OmniFocus

                                OmniFocus is all about task management. It has a clean interface that allows you to tag your tasks, schedule events, and even automate certain features.

                                It’s one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market, so there’s a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of it.

                                A standard license is $39.99, while the pro version is $79.99.

                                Download: OmniFocus

                                15. Franz

                                  It’s tiring to switch between dozens of different chat programs like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp, whenever you want to have a conversation with a different contact.

                                  Franz’s solution is simple; offer access to all these apps in one convenient package. And best of all, it’s completely open source.

                                  Download: Franz

                                  16. MindNode

                                    If you’re the brainstorming type, you need an app like MindNode to help you efficiently organize your thoughts. There are dozens of tools you can use to connect ideas in a mind map, or simply jot down notes for future reference.

                                    The core app is free, with in-app purchases available.

                                    Download: MindNode

                                    17. Focus

                                      The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can be awfully distracting. And if you’re like the majority of us, you’ve interrupted work on a project because of some attention-grabbing site or bad online habit. That’s where Focus comes in.

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                                      This app allows you to block the worst offenders with custom time limits and other constraints, so you can focus on the task at hand. A single license is $19.99.

                                      Download: Focus

                                      18. CleanMyMac

                                        Chances are, your Mac isn’t working as fast as it could, thanks to gigabytes of clutter and unnecessary files on your system. CleanMyMac helps you scan your Mac, monitor its health, and ultimately clean it up—so you can handle all your tasks that extra bit faster. A single license is $39.95.

                                        Download: CleanMyMac

                                        19. Grammarly

                                          A spelling error or grammatical mistake can cost you big time. It could be the source of a worse grade on a big paper, or compromise your credibility in the workplace. Thankfully, Grammarly can help you.

                                          This Mac-integrated writing assistant monitors all your writing and makes live corrections, so you’re alerted to your potential mistakes before they become permanent.

                                          A free version exists, but the premium version will cost you between $11 and $30 a month, depending on how you pay.

                                          Download: Grammarly

                                          Focus To Do

                                            Focus to-do is one of the top productivity apps for your iPhone around. It even has a desktop client that you can connect to effortlessly. The app is built around two things: the Pomodoro technique and task management. It achieves these things with amazing balance. All that you have to do is create a task and then set the timer right within the app itself.

                                            There is also great flexibility with the Pomodoro technique as well. You can choose whether to take a 5 minute break, take a longer one, or even skip it. On the task management side, you can also create reoccurring tasks, reminders, and place a priority on tasks too.

                                            Download: Focus To Do

                                            The Bottom Line

                                            These productivity apps should help you squeeze more productive hours out of every day, but they aren’t the only tools you’ll have to help you find success.

                                            Make the time to learn about and experiment with all the life hacks that can make you more productive. By improving your devices as well as your outlook and focus, you’ll be able to get far more done in a day, and feel better doing it.

                                            More to Boost Productivity

                                            Featured photo credit: Patrick Ward via unsplash.com

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