Tag Archives: information

How to Protect Your Privacy on Social Media

Guest writer Sarah Clare tackles the thorny issue of Internet privacy and offers spot-on advice  to help you keep your online information private.

imageThis week, social media was abuzz over reports that Instagram’s new terms of service allowed the photo-sharing site to hock its users personal photos for advertisements and other promotions. The story prompted outcry about the privacy that members can expect (or not expect) on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook, which purchased Instagram and which has a spotty history when it comes to its users’ privacy.

Understanding your rights and how you can protect your privacy on social media is important. The things you do online leave a virtual footprint that can be traced back to you for years to come. If you really want to protect your privacy on social media, here are a few things you can do:

Use a Dummy E-mail

One of the easiest ways that other users can find you on social media is by searching for your e-mail. You can make it harder, if not impossible, for people to find you by using a dummy e-mail. That way, only your close friends or family who you give the e-mail to can find your profile. Be sure to use an e-mail that does not include your name and that you only use for this purpose.

Use a Fake Name

Of course, even if you’re using a dummy e-mail, if you’re using your real name, anyone can find you. Make it harder for others to connect your profile to you by using a fake name. An easy way to do it is to simply drop your last name, using your first and middle name instead. Or you can use a nickname instead of your first name. Or you can make up a new name entirely.

Again, be sure you keep this name private and only give it to close friends and family who you want to know about your profile. Don’t use the name for any other purposes.

Set Privacy Options

Every social network has options for allowing you to control what you share with your network and with the public. You can control your privacy settings for your whole profile and for individual posts. Take the time to investigate your options and to set what you can to private. In many cases, you can lock down all your information so that it is visible only to your contacts (or even only to yourself).

Keep Business and Personal Separate

Most of us want to maintain some privacy online to protect our professional identities. You can help do this by using one profile for your private connections and another profile for your business connections. Of course, you would use your real name for your business profile and would share little to no personal information on it. You can then share personal information on your personal profile kept private through the previous steps.

Control What You Share

Of course, the easiest way to keep your information private online is not to share it. No matter what you do to protect your information, there will be some way for businesses or other people to see it. Keep your information private by keeping it offline, especially personal photos, information about your children, or thoughts about your political or religious beliefs.

Online privacy is a serious issue, and one which requires a greater level of personal responsibility as the options for connecting online continue to expand. These tips can help you to keep your personal information private while you connect with friends and business contacts online.

Sarah Clare is a writer and oversees the site projectmanagementsoftware.com, where she has recently been researching bug tracking software. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys cooking and scrapbooking.

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Filed under Guest Writers, Internet Safety, Online Privacy, Social Networks

Another Worm Worms Its Way Into Instant Messaging Applications

imageFrom the more things change the more they remain the same files:

AV-killing worm spreads via Facebook chat and IM clients – A rather industrious piece of malware that – among other things – paves the way for other malware by disabling AV solutions and software update modules has been spotted spreading via several Instant Messaging applications (ICQ, Skype, GTalk, Pidgin, MSN, YIM) and Facebook.

The victims receive a message from an unknown user, offering a link to a funny or interesting video. If they follow it, the malware in question downloads automatically from the linked site and is executed.

Nothing new here – as any one of the 10 or more articles I’ve  written over the years on using Instant Messenger applications safely will attest to. The following post (originally published September 4, 2010) will serve as a quick refresher on how to navigate the Internet safely while using an Instant Messenger client.

Tips For Using Instant Messenger Applications Safely

In a recent Symantec survey, which questioned computer users on the most likely routes cybercriminals use to drop malware on unsuspecting users, one resultant statistic made me sit up a little straighter. Just 3.9% of survey participants believed that Instant Messenger applications had a role in malware distribution.

Given the frequency with which instant messaging is used to distribute malware (recent statistics indicate almost 50% of worms use this method to spread), I was more than a little surprised at this unrealistic response.

The reality is, from a security perspective Instant Messaging applications can present considerable security risks. Security breakdowns can occur when these programs are used to share files, folders, or in some cases, entire drives. Instant messaging, unfortunately, is a primary channel used by cyber-criminals to distribute malware and scams.

Programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and a basket full of other IM applications, are extremely popular with users who want real-time contact with each other and (no surprise here), this makes them the perfect vehicle for cyber criminals.

Hackers use two methods of delivering malicious code through IM: delivery of virus, Trojan, or spy ware within an infected file, and the use of “socially engineered” text with a web address that entices the recipient to click on a URL which connects to a website that downloads malicious code. Viruses, worms, and Trojans then typically propagate, by sending themselves rapidly through the infected user’s buddy list.

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The following is a series of sensible tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.

As with any other application you use on the Internet, having the knowledge that allows you to use it safely, and being aware of current threats, will make for a more positive experience when using these wildly popular applications.

Don’t click on links, or download files from unknown sources. You need to be alert to the dangers in clicking on links, or downloading files from sources that are not known to you. Even if the files or links apparently come from someone you know, you have to be positive that it really was this person who has sent the message.

Check with your contact to be sure the files, or links are genuine. Remember, if you click on those links, or run those attachments without confirmation, you run the risk of letting malware into your computer.

Use only secure passwords, and be sure to change them regularly. The longer and more varied they are – using a variety of different characters and numbers – the more secure they will be.

Protect personal and confidential information when using IM. Revealing confidential or personal information in these types of conversations, can make you an easy target for Internet predators.

For added protection when using a public computer, ensure that you disable any features that retain login information to prevent other users from gaining access to your instant messaging once you leave.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, however do so only when absolutely necessary. Cyber criminals are always on the lookout for accounts to target.

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Filed under Don't Get Hacked, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Interconnectivity, Malware Alert

Clinical Decisions – Smartphones, Healthcare Providers, And You

imageBy some estimates, 70 percent of the population in India and 64 percent of the population in China had cell phones in 2011. The numbers are growing steadily around the globe, proving that even in times of economic uncertainty, the tech industry is expanding.

What’s amazing is the speed of development. The curve of technology is now pointed exponentially upward to the extent that new advancements will come at an alarming rate in every field, from entertainment to industry to healthcare. Technology companies are addressing challenges related to global health and wellness, private communication and financial fitness—among other things.

Communications giant Qualcomm developed 2net—a platform that depends on the cloud for storing and sharing medical information. The secure connectivity solution is designed to work across multiple devices and applications providing consumers with reliable storage and retrieval.

With the August 2012 release of their new 2net App SDK, the doors are now open for innovative developers to engage in the advancement of mobile medical technology. Via 2net Connect APIs, developers can access a consolidated data stream on data-enabled platforms like Android, iOS and Microsoft.

What does this mean on a practical level for different smartphone users, though?

Physicians and the Medical Community

New advancements already provide faster, sharper imaging features for physicians. Sharing radiographic images with commentary allows doctors on opposite sides of the globe to consult each other concerning difficult medical cases. Secure connections open the door for pharmaceutical discussions regarding prescriptions and inventory replacement.

In the future, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be able to issue global alerts instantly. Developing nations may be able to request assistance from skilled surgeons and researchers, via live links with more secure settings and clearer video support. A virtual interactive comprehensive medical library may one day be available with instant language translation. The possibilities are limited only by vision and imagination.

Individuals

For citizens at large, the number of applications to manage personal health and wellness is growing daily. Vital stats tracking is available that will help people monitor and record important information to share with their doctor. Technology is already being used by thousands of consumers that want to take charge of their own health. Cell phone apps can help manage readings for the items below and many more:

  • Temperature
  • Heart Rate
  • Blood Oxygen Saturation Levels
  • Blood Sugar Levels
  • Breathing Patterns
  • Weight

In addition to health trackers and monitoring applications, cell phone users stay connected to support groups and medical providers. Applications to manage personal health records can be life-saving. Accessing a complete and thorough electronic record during a crisis or after a dramatic injury eliminates unnecessary time spent trying to remember all medications and past illnesses, speeding up access medical care in the emergency room.

Personal technology for entertainment and communication’s sake has been the cornerstone of the market for some time; however that’s not to say we can’t use our mobile computers for other practical benefits as well.

Innovators pushing the boundaries of what mobile applications and smartphones are capable of have the opportunity to enhance the daily lives of people everywhere. Healthcare is only one facet of life working to be improved, others are sure to follow.

This guest post is contributed by Grady Winston. Grady is an avid writer and Internet entrepreneur from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising – implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

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Filed under Cell Phone Apps, Connected Devices, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity

Lift The Hood On Your PC – Take a Peek With These 5 Free System Information Utilities

imageIf you think developing information, including diagnostics, on your computer’s operating system and hardware is a tough task, you can relax. Here are 5 small, free applications, that make it easy to probe your computer system and create a detailed profile which can include hardware, installed software – motherboard, CPU and GPU specs, remaining drive space, and your operating system security hotfixes – and a lot more.

Belarc Advisor 8.2.7.14:

Belarc Advisor is a free program that automatically generates a detailed audit report of the hardware and software on your computer. It records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, and drive specifications.

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The report also includes a comprehensive list of the software installed on your system, as well as software license numbers and product keys. In addition, it lists the status of the Microsoft hotfixes on your system. If any hotfixes need reinstalling, you will be advised of this.

The results are displayed in a formatted HTML report. The report is clearly formatted for ease of understanding and divided into appropriate categories. Hyperlinks within the report allow you to quickly navigate to different parts of the document, find out more about a particular hotfix entry, or see where a listed software product is installed.

All of your PC profile information is kept private on your PC and is not sent to any web server.

System Requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, 2003, XP. Both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows support.

Download at: MajorGeeks

LookInMyPC 2.10.3.158

LookInMyPC is a free application which, like Belarc Advisor, records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, drive specifications and so on. But, it digs much, much, deeper.

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The following graphic shows a very small (I do mean very small) portion of a scan result, run on my test platform. The data shown here is pretty standard stuff.

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System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003/8, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.

Download at: MajorGeeks

A portable version is also available.

SIW (System Info) 2011.10.29i

SIW is an advanced System Information utility that analyzes your computer and gathers detailed information about system properties and settings and displays it in a very comprehensive manner.

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The data generated is divided into major categories:

Software Information: Operating System, Software Licenses (Product Keys / Serial Numbers / CD Key), Installed Software and Hotfixes, Processes, Services, Users, Open Files, System Uptime, Installed Codecs, Passwords Recovery, Server Configuration.

Hardware Information: Motherboard, CPU, Sensors, BIOS, chipset, PCI/AGP, USB and ISA/PnP Devices, Memory, Video Card, Monitor, Disk Drives, CD/DVD Devices, SCSI Devices, S.M.A.R.T., Ports, Printers.

Network Information: Network Cards, Network Shares, currently active Network Connections, Open Ports.

Network Tools: MAC Address Changer, Neighborhood Scan, Ping, Trace, Statistics, Broadband Speed Test

Miscellaneous Tools: Eureka! (Reveal lost passwords hidden behind asterisks), Monitor Test, Shutdown / Restart.

Real-time monitors: CPU, Memory, Page File usage and Network Traffic.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000

Download at: MajorGeeks

Speccy 1.17.340

Speccy (from our good friends over at Piriform – the CCleaner guys), is not quite as comprehensive as the applications described previously. Even so, you can count on this free application to provide you with detailed statistics on every piece of hardware in your computer. Including CPU, Motherboard, RAM, Graphics Cards, Hard Disks, Optical Drives, Audio support. Additionally Speccy adds the temperatures of your different components, so you can easily see if there’s a problem.

Typical info screens.

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System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista and XP (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: MajorGeeks

PC Wizard 2012.2.10

PC Wizard has been designed for hardware detection but, it really shines in analysis and system benchmarking. It will analyze and benchmark CPU performance, Cache performance, RAM performance, Hard Disk performance, CD/DVD-ROM performance, Removable/FLASH Media performance, Video performance, and MP3 compression performance.

Typical info screens.

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System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: MajorGeeks

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Audit Applications, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools

A Breath of Internet Fresh Air –The Wall Street Journal Discloses Its Tracking Cookies

imageWhen, on the odd occasion, I write on Internet privacy – especially when I rant on the invasiveness of Tracking Cookies – reader comments are generally supportive. But, not always and, certainly not all readers.

For example – following a recent article – Collusion – Internet Trackers Are All In It Together – a reader wrote the following comment:

Bill, I’m curious to know what you consider to be “insidious” about a tracking cookie and what privacy rights do you think are being violated?

A fair enough question, I think. I’ve reproduced my response below, and while not all of this response is apropos to this current article, I’ve italicized those points that are. You’ll see why in a moment.

When a Tracking Cookie is not obvious to a casual Internet user and, when that cookie often cannot be deleted without the aid of a specialty cleaner, (a Super Cookie for example), then it fits within my definition of “insidious.”

I suggest to you, that if, on those occasions where a Tracking Cookie is installed on a user’s machine, if full disclosure was made as to its usage, an educated user, given an opportunity to reject the placement of such a cookie, might in fact, reject the cookie.

As for my privacy rights? I have the right not to be tracked, not only on the Internet but, as I go about my daily life – by it’s very nature, tracking is a breech of my right to privacy. Most assuredly, I have the right not to be tracked without my express permission. Moreover, I have the right not to be tracked in secret. It’s this behind closed doors nature of Internet tracking, that I find most offensive.

The solution, it seems to me, is fairly simple. If a company wants to track me (and, I fully understand the business need to generate revenue) – then, that company needs to be above board. Anything less than full disclosure, as to the intent and purpose, is unacceptable.

It’s no accident that the privacy issue continues to rage. Nor is it an accident, that politicians have taken up the cause of Internet privacy.

As I wrote in the article – “every business organization has the right to generate income and make a profit”. But, too often, on the Internet, the bullshit baffles brains theory is in full bloom.

Again, in the article, I made the observation that “It’s fair to say, that many users do not object to being tracked.” A true state of affairs, I think, But, I’m not one of those users.

So, my position is – it is not unreasonable to expect that a website I chose to visit should disclose relevant information on Tracking Cookies, resident on the site. A pipedream you might think – but, maybe not.

On a recent first time visit to The Wall Street Journal’s technology blog AllThings D – I was taken aback (blown away really), by the following notice. You can expand the graphic to it’s original by clicking.

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A note about tracking cookies: Some of the advertisers and Web analytics firms used on this site may place “tracking cookies” on your computer. We are telling you about them right upfront, and we want you to know how to get rid of these tracking cookies if you like.

This notice is intended to appear only the first time you visit the site on any computer.

So, no pipedream. Disclosure can be done – it should be done. And, kudos to The Wall Street Journal for recognizing its obligation to do so.

Can we expect then, that this form of disclosure will become the new norm on the Internet? I doubt it – fixed attitudes, especially those that routinely generate income, are difficult to reverse.

Your negative views of Tracking Cookies, or mine, are unlikely to have a significant impact. Even so, from my personal perch, I’ll continue to peck away at those sites that abuse my right to privacy.

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Filed under Personal Perspective, Point of View, Privacy

System Explorer and System Security Guard – A Review

https://i1.wp.com/careeroptionscoach.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/iStock_000013997777XSmall-focus-magnifying-glass.jpgDepending on which version of Windows Task Manager you use, you may find that it provides you with usable information – or not. Windows Task Manager is most commonly used to display information on all processes running on your computer, as well as advising you of the CPU and memory usage stats for a given process. Additional selective information on running applications, performance, local area connection and information on users, is also available.

But, back to running processes for a moment. What if you need additional information on a running process – or, processes? How, for example, would you determine which processes are safe if you rely on Windows Task Manager?

Running Windows Task Manager in Windows 8 (a major improvement over previous versions), as I’ve done for the following example, is not particularly useful since the only option is a raw online search. Which, in a real sense, is a hit and miss affair. Give it a try with your version of Windows Task Manager – you might be surprised to see just how cumbersome it is.

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Instead, taking advantage of one of the built-in features in the freeware application, System Explorer, is a much more appropriate solution. In the following example, the selected process can easily be checked at VirusTotal, and at VirusScan, directly from within System Explorer.

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It’s unlikely however, that you’ll have to take this extra step – since System Explorer has been designed to automatically rate, and provide details on processes that are listed in the developer’s extensive database.

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Further information can be obtained by clicking on the “See More Details” link which will open the database reference at the developer’s site, as shown below.

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System Explorer is not a one-trick pony since it has the capacity to provide detailed information on Tasks, Processes, Modules, Startups, IE Add-ons, Uninstallers, Windows, Services, Drivers, Connections and Opened Files. For this review I’ve focused on the security aspect and next up is System Explorer’s “Security Scan” which is easily launched from the GUI.

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As you can see in the following screen capture – running processes are checked online against the developer’s extensive database.

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The following screen capture shows a small portion of the 808 processes compared against the developer’s database.

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Additional information on any specific process can easily be obtained by clicking on the “Details” link, as illustrated below.

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One aspect of this application which I found intriguing is the “History” function. Running this function allows the user to view and develop information on currently running processes as well as those process running earlier but which are no longer running.

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System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7.

Download at: System Explorer Net

Note: also available in a portable version that is just right for geeks on the go.

System Security Guard

System Security Guard, in a broad sense, is very much like the “Security Scan” built into System Explorer. System Security Guard however, as a stand alone small security utility, is designed to run at system startup and automatically scan running processes. As well, all new processes, as they are launched, are scanned.

The results of the initial run with System Security Guard shown below.

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For this review I set the application to run at startup, and the following graphic represents the results following a week or so of automatic running. You’ll note that the application has identified 4 “Threat Files” – which, in reality, is the same file which has been flagged 4 times (each time the application was launched).

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The application (CurrPorts), was flagged for good reason since it behaves in a way similar to that of a remote access Trojan. That is – it connects to the Internet in a peculiar way.

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For illustrative purposes only, I ran the file against the developer’s database. However, since I use this application frequently throughout the day, I’m aware that this is a safe program.

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System requirements: Windows XP, Vista and Win 7.

Download at: the developer’s site.

A big “Thank You” to regular reader Charlie L. for referring me to these applications.

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Malware Protection, System Utilities, Windows Task Manager Replacement

The Paralegal in You: Protecting Your Privacy from Social Media

imageMore than 800 million people around the world share their photos, their latest activities and their innermost thoughts on Facebook on a daily basis and Twitter has more than 100 million active users. While no one can deny the power of social media to connect people with friends and family and to advance political causes, individuals still need to be wary of their personal privacy when using social media.

The obvious concern for many people is that employers and potential employers can gather information that could hurt their careers. Since employers even tend to discredit applicants with online paralegal certification versus an applicant with certification obtained through a more traditional means, there is no telling how having privy to your social media persona could hurt your chances of securing a job.  Not only should individuals be careful of posting inappropriate party photos online, but they may also need to remember not to post their golf score from the day they called in sick to work.

More troubling for many people is that Facebook and other Internet sites use their searches and posts to create a profile that can then be used by advertisers to direct their appeals to their interests. According to a New York Times article, Facebook says they do not share personal data with advertisers. The Federal Trade Commission, in a settlement in November 2011 with Facebook, now requires Facebook to subject itself to regular privacy audits for the next two decades. Facebook will also need to keep its users informed about how their personal information is shared.

While Facebook says it does not share personal information with them, advertisers have embraced social media as a prime method of reaching potential customers. According to The Washington Post, Facebook earned a profit of $668 million in 2011 and had revenue of $3.7 billion, most of it from ads that target users based on their personal data.

In addition to advertisers and employers, other organizations may be trolling Facebook and Twitter for unprotected information. Police departments and detectives have found suspects through their use of social media. Some experts believe life insurance companies may begin searching social media for information about the habits of insurance applicants to be sure they are not lying about avocations such as sky diving.

Consumers of social media can take steps to protect their privacy, but these steps will not necessarily prevent the storage of personal information about individual’s search habits, online shopping or shared photos. In an article in PC World, several steps are recommended for social media users to protect their privacy. First and foremost, everyone needs to think carefully about the information they share in the context of who may be reading it. Even with privacy settings, it is best to assume that anyone can read anything posted in social media and that the information will stay available forever. Avoiding embarrassing or obnoxious comments should be rule number one for every social media user.

Some users assume that when they post something on Facebook, only their friends will see it. However, if a friend comments on your post, a friend of that friend can often trace back the conversation to the original post. Reviewing and frequently updating the privacy settings on a Facebook account provides a barrier to others easily accessing information, but will not prevent information from leaking out to those who are determined to see it.

Guest Author Bio:

Fiona Causer is currently a student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies.  She enjoys writing and seeks to use it as a vehicle to convey ideas and engage others in discussing relevant issues of our day.

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Filed under FaceBook, Guest Writers, Privacy, Twitter