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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 15, 2019

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

    Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

    Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

    So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

    Joe’s Goals

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      Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

      Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

      Daytum

        Daytum

        is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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        Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

        Excel or Numbers

          If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

          What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

          Evernote

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            I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

            Evernote is free with a premium version available.

            Access or Bento

              If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

              Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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              You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

              Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

              All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

              Conclusion

              I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

              What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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