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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.

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    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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        Joel Goldstein

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        Published on September 20, 2018

        11 Google Chrome Apps and Features to Help You Get More Done with Less Effort

        11 Google Chrome Apps and Features to Help You Get More Done with Less Effort

        In today’s fast-paced and never-ending busy world, we are overwhelmed by tasks that need to be completed by tight deadlines. With so much technology it is difficult to find the right tools to help boost our efficiency. And, many tools get obsolete so its essential to stay up-to-date to know when you will have to make adjustments to these tools. Independently of where you work, there’s a good chance that you have to be working on a PC or a laptop.

        Do you are feel like you do not have enough time, or cannot accomplish much as of late? It is recommended to take a step back and look at the big picture. Also, you want to explore new and innovative ways to improve productivity.

        In this article, I outline 11 features and apps within the Chrome browser that can help you do just that.

        Minimizing Tabs

        Let’s face it we all have more than a dozen tabs opened on our computers. One neat trick to still keep most of them open is to turn them into pinned tabs. On Google Chrome you can right-click the tab and select “Pin Tab” option. This turns the tab into an icon enabling you to continue multitasking.

        Pinning a tab anchors the tabs on the left of your toolbar; a great benefit of the “Pin Tab” feature is that you can’t close these tabs accidentally since the “X” disappears after pinning them.

        Incognito Mode

        Google Chrome is a very easy-to-use and intuitive. But, Google does collect our browsing data; so to remedy this, you can use Incognito Mode. This feature does not keep your browsing or download history. You can enable or access it in three different ways:

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        1. Press Ctrl/Command+shift+N
        2. Select File Menu and choose New Incognito Window
        3. Download extension New Incognito Window

        This feature is very handy if you’d rather not have your browsing history stored and utilized for future advertisement or suggested pages.

        Save Webpages as PDF Files

        Have you ever browsed interesting or important information and then forgot to bookmark or save it in “favorites”, making it impossible to find again? Chances are you have done this on a number of occasions.

        Thankfully, there is an easy solution. You can save webpages as PDF files. On your keyboard, press control/command+p and you will be able to save webpages as PDFs.

        Open Recently-closed Tabs

        Ever had dozens of tabs opened and all of a sudden your browser shuts down? It has probably happened to all of us. You can easily recover all of your tabs using two approaches. Don’t panic if this happens because there is a workaround and solution for it.

        One is by pressing Ctrl/CMD+Shift+T.

        The other approach is to click on the three vertical dots on your browser and hover over “History”.

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        Solve Mathematical Problems

        Google’s Chrome browser doesn’t just search for relevant and updated information. It is also capable of performing some mathematical problems. Within the omnibox (Chrome’s address or URL bar), you can perform mathematical exercises.

        For example, if you are struggling with percentages you can search 20 percent of x amount and it will instantly provide a result. Pretty handy, right?!

        Play Media Files

        Are you frequently met with difficulties when playing or watch a video files? Well, once again Chrome comes to the rescue. You can can listen or play videos from all sorts of movie or music files (mp3, mp4, .mov, .mkv, .ogv, .webm, .wav, etc.) by simply dragging the file into the search bar.

        In addition, you can view images, PDF files and Microsoft Office files, too.

        Navigate Swiftly Between Tabs

        With all of those tabs opened comes great navigation responsibilities. Rather than clicking through every tab, you can use shortcut keys like Ctrl+Tab to navigate all of the different tabs. Also, you are able to navigate to the first tab by pressing Ctrl-1, Ctrl-2, and so on. If you want to switch to the very last tab, press Ctrl-9.

        Stay Focus(e)d

        Computers nowadays have awesome capabilities.

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        Sometimes we like to get work done, but let’s face it, we’re all human. We sometimes procrastinate by visiting a website we really like, or maybe take a break with watching a flick on Netflix, a video on YouTube or browsing Facebook.

        With Chrome’s StayFocusd extension, you can truly stay focused and get more done in less time.

        This extension naturally helps you stay more productive by limiting the amount of time you spend on websites. You can set the time and it will automatically block those sites after a certain period.

        Grammarly for Editing

        Grammarly is a must have, and it’s really a complete powerhouse. Grammarly helps you check your grammar and spelling for everything you write online.

        You can use it professionally or as a student, which will make the editing process much easier and more efficient. Furthermore, it can automatically check for typos when you send an email, type a Tweet, or post a Facebook comment. It’s like having your own personal copyeditor!

        Loom

        There are times that words in an email or written text in a chat app will just not convey the right meaning.

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        There is a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, the same is true of videos.

        With Loom, you can capture, narrate and immediately share video recordings of your screen, which will help coworkers understand issues you are facing, or to easily convey an explanation on screen. Plus, with video you will be able to easily walk people through a process, and you can use it to create simple how-to videos.

        Chrome Calendar Extension

        No matter what your level of responsibility is at your job, Google Calendar is another essential resource to have at your fingertips.

        Specifically, you can have this extension added as an icon in the toolbar of your browser, which I highly recommend. Once you add the extension to your browser, you can check for upcoming events with a single click without leaving your current page.

        Final Thoughts

        Google Chrome has definitely evolved from its inception. As you can see you have a very powerful tool that comes as a free installation and is loaded with dozens of capabilities. The above listed Chrome apps can resolve some of the most common obstacles to your time management and productivity.

        Featured photo credit: Andrew Neel via unsplash.com

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