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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 February 19, 2020

    11 Google Chrome Apps & Features for Getting More Done with Less Effort

    11 Google Chrome Apps & Features for Getting 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: Benjamin Dada via unsplash.com

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