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7 Reasons Your Data Is Probably Not Safe Online

7 Reasons Your Data Is Probably Not Safe Online

Yo mama's so old, her resume's on a floppy disk...

    Yo mama’s so old, her resume’s on a floppy disk…

    I grew up on computers. Way before smartphones put the internet in the hands of every man, woman, and child in modern society, I sat in my room, staring at a black screen with c:// in a white font. There was no graphical user interface (GUI) back then, so there were no mice, track pads, or touch screens; you had to type everything. The word-processing programs (Word Perfect was the best, by a large margin) changed the pixelated screen from black to blue.

    Technology has vastly improved since those days.

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    I’m one of a shrinking minority of people who understand that your desktop, with all its shiny icons, is not the foundation of your computer. It’s a subfolder within a subfolder within a subfolder at best. Your computer has a structure, and this structure applies also to any network and even the internet itself. This basic understanding gets me into as much trouble as it resolves, but knowledge is power, so allow me to impart a little wisdom to you as to why your data is not safe online.

    1. Your Governments Are Spying on You

    NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked a lot of technical manuals and other documentation to the media. In doing so, he gave us proof that our government is monitoring everyone but themselves. It’s crazy to think we’re the only ones, though. Governments on all habitable continents have been caught snooping on their citizens. No matter where you are, there’s a reason some government agency would want to monitor you.

    No matter how safe you are with your personal data, it’s not safe from government snooping. Some of the Anonymous hackers involved in data breaches of Stratford, HB Gary Federal, Sony, and PayPal used temporary laptops (similar to a drug dealer’s burner phone) and kept all info (including the operating system) on USB drives, and they still got caught. If these tech experts were tracked, even with all of their advanced techniques for evasion, then you don’t stand a chance.

    We are living in the future, and our actions are being judged by anyone with the money to access and analyze it. Keeping your head down will temporarily avoid any trouble, but your only real chance for long-term change is joining the various protests against government monitoring, such as February’s International Day of Privacy, held annually by the Computer Chaos Club (Europe’s oldest and largest hacker organization).

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    2. If You’re Not Hacked, Your Company Will Be

    Let’s say you don’t have any social media accounts, and you never shop online. You likely have an email address, though. You also have an employer and a financial institution, and you shop somewhere. All of these businesses store your information. I don’t even have to hack you to know everything about you; I just have to hack Sony, Target, Facebook, Hotmail, or some other company you do business with.

    It happens all the time. If you use the same username and password for everything, you’re much more at risk of people using your stolen info to further harm you. Mitigate this risk as much as possible by only working with and for honest companies you trust. This way you’ll be less likely to be involved in a beef that has nothing to do with you. Anonymous has issued several statements explaining how companies are targeted not because they’re rich, but because they’re corrupt.

    3. Your Digital Life Will Outlive You

    What you post online will last longer than you; you’re just some meat puppet with a shelf life, but your Twitter account is part of a publicly-owned company. Every app or game you download on your phone wants your personal info and they’ll incentivize you giving it to them with extra features, easier connectivity, and bonus in-game items. Every time you use your Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Disquss, or other social-media accounts to log in to an app, you’re giving them access to your personal information, and they will use and sell this information as they see fit. Did you ever notice many apps and games don’t tell you they’re not sharing your information? That’s because they are.

    With your information already out there and lasting so long, you should be the one in control of how you’re remembered. At this point, you’re better off making your voice heard publicly – at least you’ll control your own narrative. Be proud of who you are, and keep your social media accounts updated with how you feel and what you think. If they’re monitoring us, the least we can do is give them our honest opinions. Don’t ever be afraid of voicing your opinion – how those opinions are accepted by others is their problem. It might be wise, however, to take just a minute think about how you will feel if that opinion or photo you just posted were to be looked at ten years from now by a prospective employer.

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    4. Everyday Threats Are Everywhere

    Losing your phone is like losing your keys, wallet, and everything else in your life. You don’t realize how much personal information is on your phone; it could be devastating if someone stole or found it. Luckily, there are measures you can take to mitigate this risk. Tiffany Rad, a Senior Security Researcher at Kapersky Labs offers this advice:

    “A feature that is useful for consumers is to have is a remote “kill” option should the phone be lost or stolen. There are free apps available that will not only try to locate the phone by pin-pointing the location of the last cell tower to which it connected, but if it is determined that the phone cannot be retrieved, you can remotely erase/wipe the phone.”

    Losing physical possession of your device is hardly the only threat, however. Data-retrieval devices can be anywhere; simply walking down the street exposes your phone to everyone with a wireless signal within 500 feet. Anytime you swipe your credit or debit card, the machine could’ve been compromised (and you’d never know). ATMs are especially vulnerable because the manuals are so easy to obtain online, and laws have made prosecuting ATM theft difficult. No matter what you do, there is a risk associated with it. Keep yourself informed about the many data theft possibilities by Googling the specifics for your particular phone and financial services, as the subject is much too detailed and complicated to go too far into here.

    5. We Want You

    You may think you’re not worth watching, but everyone is worth watching. When you apply for a job, potential employers stalk you. When you meet someone new, they stalk you. Some people you haven’t even met will stalk you to see if you’re worth getting to know. Scorned exes, rivals, friends, and family are all stalking you. People may not talk about it, but everyone snoops. Basic password protection and social media privacy settings can mitigate this risk.

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    6. Hacking Is Easy to Hackers

    The hard part of hacking isn’t breaking into a system. With a few attempts (and, in the worst case, a brute-force attack), you can get into anyone’s network or computer. The hard part is knowing what to look for and where to look once you’re in there. The basics of computer structure explained at the beginning of this piece are easily applied, however, and many people besides me know this…and I just blabbed it to everyone whose reading this. Knowledge was passed on in art, song, and literature well before the internet was invented, so even removing hacking info from search engines won’t delete it from human memory.

    There are efforts to reframe how you think about computers (with the most basic one being to train users into thinking their home screen is the root folder) so fewer people grasp computer hacking concepts, but the knowledge will always be easily available to those who know where to look. There are no good or bad people, just good or bad actions, and people hack for good and bad reasons. Many times, it’s to satiate curiosity, practice, or just for the lulz. The point is, hacking is like playing the guitar; it is easy…it just takes 10,000 hours of practice.

    7. Social Hacking Is Easy

    Even if you’re technically cautious, you may not realize how obvious your social cues are. Social hacking is how most cyber-attacks are executed, not technical programming. Although we all like to feel unique, convincing people to give up their personal data is simple. Data and forensics consultant Steven Burgess explains how social hacking may be responsible for Target’s recent data breach.

    “A careless Target worker, possibly in the IT department, was fooled by a link in an official-looking email – ostensibly from his or her bank, or from a manager or superior in the company–or by visiting an alluring website–to reveal important authorization credentials, which were passed on to the hacker,” Burgess proposes.

    Don’t let this article dissuade you from taking every possible precaution, such as locking and password-protecting your devices, using two-step authorization, encrypting personal data, and using anonymizing services such as TOR and OTR chat.  Following these steps will help ensure your private chats remain private.

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    Last Updated on July 29, 2020

    19 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

    19 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:

    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.

          Download: Bear

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          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!

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                          Download: Flux

                          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

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                                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.

                                  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

                                      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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