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Big Brother On Video Calls: Tools To Easily Secure Your Online Calls And Chats

Big Brother On Video Calls: Tools To Easily Secure Your Online Calls And Chats

Big Brother + Microsoft and Google: say goodbye to privacy

Working from home, flexi-time, global teams, remote teams, virtual teams…many of us use popular video-conferencing tools and chat tools for work meetings, collaboration and seeing friends and family. But are there more secure tools out there that we should be using? After the baby monitor hack story in the news (as well as the NSA and PRISM revelations) we should take our online communication habits and tools more seriously.

ICT and computer hacking is not limited to a few expert nerds. Young kids are able to hack computers and systems simply because it’s so easy. And we rarely bother to secure against such things, preferring to blame someone or something else for not doing it for us. Unless you are going to stay off the internet forever, you should read up on what encryption tools your device can have.

A brief overview of the information out there show that it is difficult to know where to begin, and that many security options are specific to a platform or a program. Listed here is a guide for the non-techie-experts who want to re-think their online security and add a few little features for peace of mind.

RedPhone (Android)

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      RedPhone by Whisper Systems is an Android app designed to encrypt your phone calls. It has not been perfected yet, but looks very promising. 3G or 4G phones perform better with VoIP, so bear that in mind if you find the quality wavering on a lower data plan. It has received a lot of positive up-votes on the Google Play store, and is free to install. It’s at least worth a try!

      Jitsi (desktop and Android)

      jitsi

        Jitsi is for secure IM and video calling. It is still under development (open-source), so occasional setbacks may occur. Unfortunately it will never be available on iPhone due to restrictions by Apple. Despite that, it is receiving huge support across the internet. In order to benefit from the security features of Jitsi the person you are communicating with must also have it installed – so tell your friends!

        Silent Circle Desktop (Windows desktop)

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          Silent Circle provides a complete secure package for all your communications – Silent Circle Desktop (formerly Silent Eyes) is its video security service for individuals or businesses. At $69.95 a year it is a great option if you don’t want to handle the frustrations that sometimes come with open-source or beta-level products. They recently had to shut down their encrypted email services due to government pressure – they were unwilling to hand over their user’s emails. I like them just for that.

          Gruveo (desktop)

          Gruveo

            This is an interesting new product on the market. An awesome feature is that it doesn’t require a download. What you do is agree on a unique number with the person you want to call in advance (so please make it at least 4 digits long), go to the landing page, type in the number and wait to get connected to your counterpart. The call will take place once both parties have entered the same code.

            Zoom.us (all platforms)

            Zoom.us was developed by ex-Cisco and WebEx engineers, so you know it’s got the expertise behind it. With AES 128-bit encryption (very difficult to crack), and up to 25 meetings/people free, it is pretty nice tool to use for secure business meetings. It’s selling point is offering HD calls with large groups. You can also have private chats within the group chat with members of the call.

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            VSee (Windows, Mac desktop, tablet – smart phone apps due 2014)

            vsee

              VSee is for video chat and IM, and starting from a free package with one screen share per day and rising to $9, $49 and $299 per month for group usage. The free package is quite limited if you want it primarily for video usage so expect to pay for this one. A nice asset is that the low bandwidth makes it good to use even on a slow connection.

              Google is “secure”, right?

              Google+ hangouts, as far as my knowledge goes, are not secure (even if you choose “off the record mode”). You can’t really trust the privacy standards of Google because they make their money off of you by selling data to advertisers. The popularity of Google is because a) it’s a great service and b) it’s free. But nothing that great comes for free. You gave Google the right to your data as soon as you signed up. Some people don’t mind – but in hindsight, you may regret not taking a more secure option.

              Take the time to secure yourself!

              There are far more apps, extensions and products being created out there at the moment. AJ Dellinger wrote a fantastic in-depth article on all communications encryption options that is worth checking out if you want to learn how to secure more than just video calls.

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              Remember! Data storage as well as data transmission need to be secure in order for you to reap the full benefits of secure video calling and IM. After all, if the video call is stored in an unsecured place (like many), then what’s the point of only the live calling part being secured?!

              Happy encrypting!

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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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