Stop using the Internet! 4 ways to maintain your online privacy

The other day I was thinking about new shoes.  I went to Google and typed in “Keen Mary Janes”. Now, all I see when I’m on my computer (and phone!) are ads for Keens and ads for Mary Janes.  So much for my online privacy… I keep wondering if I do decide to buy them will the ads disappear and I’ll start seeing ads for a different product that I’ve Googled.

I’ve been thinking a lot about privacy lately, ever since the House & Senate passed a bill last month in favor of blocking internet privacy rules.  You can read more about that here.  This bill essentially gives Internet Service Providers more leeway in selling our searching info to advertisers.

There are ways to keep our data more private, one of them being setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN). That’s a little over my head, so I’ve asked Chris to write a blog about that.  In the meantime, there are four pretty easy ways of keeping your searching history more private.

Online Privacy – What can you do?

You could….

Well, you could just stop using the Internet.  No more email. No more Facebook and other Social Media. No more online shopping sprees.  No more checking the news online.  Yeah, like that’s gonna happen!

Or, you could….

Do all of your shopping in person.  With cash.  Without signing into the store’s reward program. A good friend of mine once went to a store and bought a pair of pink Ugg boots for a friend with cash.  Unfortunately she did use the store’s reward card.  For weeks afterwards she got ads on her computer for Uggs!

Or, maybe….

You can go to your local library.  As long as you don’t sign in to your email or any other account, your online privacy is maintained.  You can search for anything while you’re there without worrying about what your ISP will see.  You can print off the relevant pages, fork over 10¢ or 20¢ per page,  and be on your way.

Realistically….DuckDuckGo helps protect your online privacy

You can use apps that protect your privacy.  Two that come to mind are DuckDuckGo for Internet searches and What’sApp for texting.  I like What’s App’s description of their end-to-end encryption:

“WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption is available when you and the people you message use the latest versions of our app. Many messaging apps only encrypt messages between you and them, but WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption ensures only you and the person you’re communicating with can read what is sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp. This is because your messages are secured with a lock, and only the recipient and you have the special key needed to unlock and read them.”  Here’s the link to download WhatsApp to your Smartphone or tablet.

It’s easy to change your default search engine on the iPhone to DuckDuckGo.  Click on the Settings icon, then scroll down to Safari.  Click on Safari and select your preferred Search Engine. On your computer, just bookmark the DuckDuckGo page and use it whenever you do a search.  I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and am not noticing a difference in the quality of responses to my searches.

Using DuckDuckGo and WhatsApp doesn’t protect you 100% but it does help you maintain some online privacy.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission if you sign up.)

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8 Tips For Determining Fake News Sites

Over the last week or so, I’ve been hearing more about “Fake News” websites.  I’ve been aware, for a while, of websites that seem more biased, but I hadn’t been aware of websites with actual fake news. An off-shoot of this issue is that these websites sometimes include malware.  Several of our customers got a virus in the week leading up to the election from clicking on those types of “news” stories.

abraham-lincoln-internet-quote

Have you read any of these news stories?  Many of them surround the impact fake news has had on Facebook and other Social Media.  For example this article from the NY Times, or this one from the Washington Post, or this one from CNN .

What to watch out for:

  • Does the site have a lot of “click bait”?  That’s a web site with pop ups that you have to click through before you can read the actual content. This is different from the sites which make you watch an advertisement before you get to the actual story.  Click bait will take you to another site entirely.
  • Can you verify the news item with a reputable source?  If it’s real news, there should be something on one of the national news websites like CNN, NYT, MSNBCUSA Today, or even the Financial Times.  If it’s a local news stories, an NBC, CBS, ABC, or Fox local affiliate should have information.
  • Does the URL for the website seem odd in some way?  For example a url that ends with ” .co “, or ” .su “, or ” .ru “.
  • Does the headline match the story?
  • When a news story seems too fantastic to believe, I head over to Snopes to see what they have to say.  From their website, Snopes: “began in 1995 as an expression of … interest in researching urban legends has since grown into what is widely regarded by folklorists, journalists, and laypersons alike as one of the World Wide Web’s essential resources.”
  • Is it on a list of “fake news” websites?  There are several of these lists floating around.  Here is the one published by USA Today.
  • Is it satire?  Several websites are satire, which is not fake news.  Satirical sites which come to mind include the Onion, and the Borowitz Report.
  • Check the date.  Is it a recent news event, or something from months or even years ago that is being re-purposed as new news?

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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I’m Addicted To My Phone!

Does anyone else wonder if they spend too much time on their phone?  Too much time using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites?  I know for me there have been times when I have picked up my phone to (gasp!) make a phone call.  After I enter my passcode, it opens to the last screen I had active.  If it is Facebook, I’ll check my notifications, completely forgetting about that call.  Does that ever happen to you?

Social Media Apps on your phone

        Social Media Apps on your phone

It turns out it is designed that way.  From this month’s Atlantic Magazine article “Tristan Harris believes Silicon Valley is Addicting Us To Our Phones”:

“Messages, photos, and “likes” appear on no set schedule, so we check for them compulsively, never sure when we’ll receive that dopamine-activating prize. (Delivering rewards at random has been proved to quickly and strongly reinforce behavior.)” 

Even I remember that from my Freshman Year Psych class!

And who even knew there is an “Information Overload Day”, let alone an Information Overload Research Group?  They state that:

“Information Overload causes people to lose their ability to manage thoughts and ideas, contemplate, and even reason and think.  It has resulted in work days that never seem to end, completely destroying work/life balance.”

Tips:

What can you do to help yourself be more present and not focus so much on your phone and social media?

  1. Set up a schedule for using your phone to check email and social media.  Set a timer to limit your time to ten or twenty minutes.  Keep your phone turned off otherwise, except when you are expecting a call.
  2. Change your notifications so that you don’t receive an alert whenever you receive a new email, or Facebook message, or when someone has liked your Tweet.  (With my iPhone I receive an alert whenever I get a new email to my business account.  I’ve set it up so that I do not receive alerts for new personal emails.)
  3. Remove some (or all) Social Media apps from your phone and only access them from your computer.
  4. Ask everyone to put their phones in the center of the table during meals.
  5. Charge your phone at night in a different room, not right next to your bed.

I hope these tips are helpful!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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5 Good Things to Know about Pokemon Go

Have you downloaded the new Pokemon Go App yet?  Are you playing it?  It seems to be taking the nation by storm! You can find out all about it at the Pokemon website: http://www.pokemongo.com and you can download it from the iTunes store or, for the Android from Google Play.

If you are playing, make sure you appropriately manage your security settings. (In fact you should always be careful with how much you share from your phone with game developers.)

pokemon_go_logo

Pokemon sure has been getting some bad press though. Consider some of these stories:

  • Veteran Memorial overrun by Pokemon players
  • Pokemon Go players go mad.
  • Falling, tripping, and other mishaps.

The Good News:

But it’s not all bad news.  There have been several good things to come out of this new craze.  For example, people with anxiety, autism and Asperger’s are finding the Pokemon Go helps them get out and be more social.  According to this article in Inverse:

 “… the game is reportedly helping people overcome anxiety and other mental health issues, bringing an array of players together under one common passion. Such has been the case for a few parents of autistic children, who have been sharing stories about the game easing their children into incredible social interactions.”

 Pokemon has helped people find things:

According to one story, two women found a toddler: “Looking for new Pokemon Friday night, as they’d done before, the two stumbled upon a little girl who looked to be no older than 2, crossing a busy street by herself.”

 Another teen found a missing man who had recently died.

Businesses have realized they can use Pokemon to their advantage.  In fact, this Forbes article is full of ideas that businesses can use to lure in more Pokemon players – and potential buyers!

“Instead, take a cue from this local indie clothing store, which got into the spirit of the game by saying, “come get your PokéBalls and previously rocked threads. Gotta catch ‘em all in style!” That’s bound to leave a positive impression, get people talking and, with the overwhelming media attention this game is getting, potentially get your local business some exposure in the press.”

And players are accidentally getting more exercise!  One friend posted this on her Facebook a few days ago:

“I’ve walked 26 miles this week playing Pokemon GO. This is the weight loss plan I’ve been waiting for my entire life.”

In fact there’s even a guide for people who want to do interval training!

“Interval training … is a workout where you push yourself as hard as you can in short bursts, rest, then repeat. … This kind of stop and go activity is perfectly suited for the walk-and-stop play of Pokémon Go, and knowing that you get to play while you exercise can be a huge motivator. You’ll collect items at PokéStops (like eggs that only hatch if you walk or run), hatch said eggs with the massive number of steps you rack up, wear down rival gyms so you can take over, find wild pokémon to catch, and get fit all at the same time.”

Is it all just a mad scheme?  How long do you thing this craze will last?

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Facebook and Politics

Social Media:

I don’t know about you, but my Facebook is getting full of posts about politics.  Sometimes I agree with my Facebook friend, and sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes the posts are downright offensive!  I have a trick I use to minimize the number of times I see those offensive posts. It also helps minimize the times that those people can see my posts and start trolling.

Other People’s Posts:

I am assuming that you still want to be Facebook friends, you just want to see less of some of the posts that makes your blood boil!  If you don’t want to keep in touch with that person, by all means, press the “unfriend” button.  Otherwise, follow these steps:

Bring up the person’s Facebook page and click on the down arrow next to the “Friends” button.

Facebook acquaintence list 3

Then click on “Acquaintances” and make sure the “Get Notifications” option is unchecked.

Remember that Facebook uses algorithms to figure out what to show you.  If you check out that person’s page, it is more likely that their posts will show up on your feed. Facebook needs to be trained!

If something does show up on your feed that you don’t want to see, click the down arrow on the right side of the post and select “Hide Post”.

Facebook acquaintence list 5

You’ll get another pop-up after clicking on “Hide post” that looks like this.  Here you have another choice.  Do you want to see less from that particular person? Or do you want to see less from their source.  Click on your option and continue on your way through your news feed.

Facebook acquaintence list 6

Your Own Posts:

Sometimes it’s good to minimize who sees your posts as well.  Now, that will be easy for you to do.  When you post a news story or your own opinion that may be controversial to some, you can select who gets to see it.  Click on the down arrow to the left of the “Post” button and select who can see this post.  If you select “Friends except Acquaintances”, then all the people you’ve categorized as Acquaintances will not see that post.

Facebook acquaintence list 7

I hope these tips help you keep your sanity through this election season!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Sharing Your Social Media Identity with the Government

Every once in a while I read a story that makes me say:

WHAT?

Today was one of those days.  According to this article in arsTechnica, the US Customs and Border Protection is considering adding a new field to their Visa application process.  They will be asking visitors to the US to provide their Social Media Identity.  Apparently it won’t be a required field, but if you leave it blank, it will look very suspicious.

“The agency says travelers coming to the US…. won’t be forced to disclose their social media handles, but leaving it blank obviously could raise red flags.”

Additionally, the verbiage associated with the request is very nebulous.  According to the article:

‘Here’s what will be asked: “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”‘

So, someone who is not paying attention may provide not just their ID, but might also provide their login and password info!

I have a couple of thoughts about this.

First, of course, is that anyone can find anything online, so adding a box on their form will just make the process a little easier for Customs to get your info.

Second, how will Customs keep this info safe?  How will they insure that someone can’t hack into their systems and capture the info – especially if some of those applications may contain ID’s and passwords?

why

Lastly, how will this help?  Call me cynical, but I don’t think someone entering the country with malicious intent is likely to be providing their “real” social media identity.

It is far too easy to set up multiple identities online.  Just look at me.  I’ve got an email for business, an email for personal stuff, an email for networking, and an email for signing up for stuff online.  It was easy to do this.  And once you have different emails, you can set up different social media accounts.

No, those folks will be providing their ”professional” social media account; the identity they use for LinkedIn to show that they are an upstanding citizen of their home country.  I fail to see how this new field on the visa application will keep out the “bad guys”.

What are your opinions about online privacy and multiple identities?  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

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Change Your Password!

In the last few days, we’ve had a bunch of calls from customers who have had their email hacked.  They are hearing from friends and clients that their email is sending out spam.  Some of them have been aggravated with us because they feel like their anti-virus should have protected them.  (Security software can’t protect you if someone else already has your password information.)

Here’s the deal.  Several years ago, LinkedIn was hacked.  Login credentials were stolen from approximately 117 million LinkedIn accounts!  Although this happened in 2012, one of the “bad guys” has recently decided to sell the credentials.

LinkedIn

According to this article from Tech Crunch:

Now, according to a new report from Motherboard, a hacker going by the name of “Peace” is trying to sell the emails and passwords of 117 million LinkedIn members on a dark web illegal marketplace for around $2,200, payable in bitcoin.

http://techcrunch.com/2016/05/18/117-million-linkedin-emails-and-passwords-from-a-2012-hack-just-got-posted-online/

CNN:Money adds their two cents:

Companies typically protect customer passwords by encrypting them. But at the time of the 2012 data breach, LinkedIn hadn’t added a pivotal layer of security that makes the jumbled text harder to decode.

Put on the defensive, LinkedIn is now scrambling to try to stop people from sharing the stolen goods online — often an impractical task. The company is also invalidating all customer passwords that haven’t been updated since they were stolen.

LinkedIn said it’s reaching out to individual members affected by the breach. This particular hack affects a quarter of the company’s 433 million members.

http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/19/technology/linkedin-hack/

Since many people use the same password on their other online accounts, the hackers can potentially access other accounts as well.

Our advice?  Change your passwords for LinkedIn and other social media sites today.  If you use the same passwords for other online sites, change the passwords for your email and banking accounts too.  (If you didn’t have a LinkedIn account prior to 2013, you should be safe.  This time.)

Changing your passwords on a regular basis is always a good idea!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

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Staying Safe on Social Media

Social Media, whether you’re using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any of the other sites, allows you to easily connect with friends and keep up-to-date on what is going on in your life. It sometimes seems very intimate and you feel safe sharing the details of your life with all 473 of your closest friends. DON’T! Social Media is a very public way of communicating. There’s nothing intimate about it!

  • Remember to set your privacy settings to an appropriate level for each post. If there’s no personal information, set it to “Public”. Otherwise, set it to “Friends Only”, or “Family only”. Remember to use the “Acquaintance” setting for people that are not close friends. Spend some time to set up groups of people so that you can target your posts to specific people only.
  • If you’re leaving home on vacation or only for a weekend, make sure you have someone checking on your home. If you don’t have someone monitoring your home, then don’t post anything on social media which could indicate that you are away from home for an extended period of time. (You can post all of your photos when you get back!)
  • Never respond to anonymous requests via social media. I have a friend who asked me how to respond to a private message she received on Facebook. The message was from a young man who thought her profile picture was beautiful and he wanted to get to know her better. I get messages like that on Twitter and Pinterest too. Here are examples of some messages I’ve received – If you ever get messages like this, click the spam button or report the sender:
    • “Hello,I am Abyan,I like you to contact me in my Email”
    • “Hi pretty, it’s good to come across a beautiful woman like you here, you are beautiful and elegant , I like you and I would like to get acquainted with you .Get in touch so that we can commence communication”
    • “OMG your in this http://facebook.com/2742803?EpicFailVideox … LMFAO”

Have you encountered any scams with Social Media?  Please share them in the comments below and let others know what to watch out for!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

Beware of Click Bait!

This morning, I was doing one of my morning rituals which includes reading through the recent posts on Facebook, and found that a friend of mine who lives on the east coast, liked a story. I worked with him many years ago. He was the manager of a major project which I worked on for many years. This was the largest project in my career, and I know that this system is still “alive” today because I have served a local customer twice who is dispatched by this system. Since I respect my friend, and he doesn’t casually like everything, the things that he does like tends to get my attention. The first thing I did was to like the story too.

The story told of a mother beating her son on national television because he was participating in the recent riots in Baltimore. My friend liked it, so it must be legit. I clicked on the link to the story, which went to a blogsite which I had never seen or heard of before. The content of the page had only a brief retelling of the title of the story, plus several advertisements, but there was no link to the salacious original video that grabbed my attention. Since I didn’t see what I expected, I thought this was a problem with the tight security settings of my daily browser (Firefox, with several add-ons), so I copied the URL from my “high security” browser and pasted it into my “low security” browser which works with everything (Internet Explorer), and fetched the page. The same page was displayed, but this time with many popup advertisements (pop-over and pop-under) which were really concerning to me. There was no salacious video or a link to it. I shut this down fast.

Still being interested in the salacious story, I went to YouTube and searched for the general words of the title of the story, and found several direct links to the video – without additional advertisement or commentary.

In this case, I fell prey to “Click Bait”. I saw a story that interested me, thought it was legit, and clicked on it. It wasn’t legit. I will be doing a total system scan of my computer to check for any residual nastiness.

If you think you’ve fallen prey to “Click Bait”, the best thing to do is to scan your machine for anything malicious. If you need help, give us a call!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has  been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area. They can provide remote service throughout North America.