Tune up your Online Security in 2017

If you listen to news, you probably heard about a number of data breaches last year. Companies like Linkedin, Yahoo, Adobe, and Dropbox where all hacked, with user information being compromised. If you haven’t changed your passwords in the past year, I encourage you to do so right away, especially if you use the same password for multiple accounts. To check if any of your accounts have been compromised, visit pwned. To check and maintain the security of your iOS/Android device, use Lookout.

Linkedin and Dropbox, which I log into with my gmail account, both revealed data beaches last year.

Protecting yourself online is a hot topic in Tech. This is likely due to frequency of data breaches, and the inadequacy of passwords to protect our accounts. The Guardian has an article on 8 things to do to protect yourself online, with instructions for how to do most of them, which Techrada has a slideshow of 10 items. I’ve compiled a list of 12 recommendations from the two sites:

  • Use unique passwords for all  your accounts. – This is important because when one service gets hacked, only that service will be compromised if you’ve used a unique password.
  • Use a password manager. – It’s difficult to create strong passwords and to remember them for all our accounts. A password manager can automatically generate strong passwords for you and store them for when you need to log in.
  • Use a random password – another reason to use a password manager. Hackers can try to guess passwords using various algorithms, which may be the same one that you use. Curious about your existing passwords? Test them here.
  • Turn on two step verification. – If someone is able to hack your password, make it impossible for them to log in unless they have access to your sms system, phone, or another of your devices to confirm their identity. Get help with this here.
  • Lock down Internet of Things. If you have any Smart devices, change the default passwords so that someone can’t hack into them using the default password.
  • Kept your software up to date. – Often updates are meant to plug security flaws that may allow a hacker access to your data. Turn automatic updates on where possible, especially for your browser, OS, and plugins like Adobe Flash.
  • Use a stronger password on your phone. – Use a 6 digit password and set your phone to wipe after a wrong password is entered 10 times.
  • Never respond to an email or to a phone call with private information. If you get such a request for your data, use your usual communication channels to contact the company yourself to determine if there are any problems with your account.
  • Turn off tracking. Adjust your browser preferences to request that you not be tracked, or add a browser extension to disable tracking. You can also use Private Browsing or Duck Duck Go as your search engine.
  • Fully Encrypt your hard drive. – This protects your data in case your laptop is stolen while it’s turned off. This is a good reminder to turn off  your laptop when you’re traveling with it.
  • Look for the padlock before you lock in or register. – Make sure that https is on, which is a secure browsing protocol.
  • Back up to an external hard drive. – Most of us have experienced a hard drive failure. Avoid this devastating experience by making sure you mirror your hard drive onto an external hard drive. Keep it plugged in, or plug it in on some set schedule.

Related Links

Featured image: Steal Password, CC BY-SA 4.0, by Psyomjesus

Safety and Security on Facebook

Facebook is still the most popular social network for teens. My (unscientific) research done by talking to teens about their use of Facebook reveals that they still use Facebook in addition to apps like Snapchat, but they generally use social media differently than their parents do, using it more for personal communication than to share things with the whole world.

Facebook still officially requires users to be at least 13 years old, and users can report children who are under 13 years old. If your and/or your child is new to Facebook, make sure that you take a look at the Parents Portal. The site includes a number of parenting tips of parents in the digital age, a section on using Facebook and staying safe, parenting tips, and expert advice from groups around the world.

Instructions for those new to Facebook

List of resources in the security center

The broader safety center also includes safety tools and resources, bullying prevention information for teens, parents and educators, and a help center, in addition to the Parents Portal.

I recommend that you take the time to explore this resource to learn how to use Facebook, and how to keep yourself and your family safe online. Even if you’re not new to Facebook, it’s a good idea to regularly complete the security and privacy checkups to make sure that your settings and online habits are as you wish them to be.

5 Tips for Online Child Safety Over the Holidays

With lots of free time over the Winter Holidays, we can anticipate spending a lot of time using technology devices, be they tablets, smart phones, computers, Apple TVs and other streaming devices. Children may also be spending more time with technology. When I ask children about their activities at home, Google, YouTube, Minecraft, and various other tools are mentioned. In anticipation of the increased technology use that children will experience over the holidays, here are 5 tips:

  • Set clear, and firm guidelines for children’s use of technology, and establish technology free zones or times.
  • Incorporate technology with the physical world, using Robotics or other tools. Use Tynker or Tickle to program one of a variety of devices.
  • Turn on Parental Controls or Guided Access for your device. (Instructions for iOS, and Android)
  • Turn on Restricted Mode and other security settings or use YouTube with your child. (See instructions based on your device.)
  • For any apps or websites that your child uses, check whether or not it allows communication between users. If communication is allowed, ensure that communication is moderated/filtered, and that users have to have an account instead of being able to use the site/app anonymously. This will provide a trail for any issues of appropriate use, that your can report to moderators.

It’s important to help children be safe, and responsible online. Otherwise, the consequences can be mild or dire. Lost time that should have been spent doing homework instead of scrolling through Facebook is a mild consequence, while a child taking her own life due to online bullying is dire. Sometimes, we place too much of a disconnect between the virtual world and the physical world, believing that one is real and the other one is isn’t. As you talk to your children about their technology use, remember that technology is part of our real life. Be careful that the language that you use doesn’t enlarge the disconnect that exists between our online and physical worlds.

Read More on the topic:

Common Sense Media’s Parent Guide to YouTube

Manage you Google Account with My Account

Google has introduced a new page to let you manage your security and privacy settings across Google products in one place.Google settingsThere is an incredible amount of information on the various pages hyperlinked, and it can be a bit overwhelming if you are not technically inclined. I suggest completing the Security Check-up and Privacy Check-up.

The security check-up checks your recovery information, connected devices, account permissions and gmail settings. The privacy check-up checks your Google + settings, phone numbers, Youtube settings, account history and Ads settings.

Mac Trojan Attack

Over 600,000 Macs have been affected with the Flashback trojan which obtains the usernames and passwords that you have stored on your computer. This could have happened without your knowledge by visiting an infected website. To find out if you’re infected, please follow the instructions at http://mashable.com/2012/04/05/mac-flashback-trojan-check/. We recommend that you use Sophos Antivirus which you can download at http://www.sophos.com/en-us/products/free-tools/sophos-antivirus-for-mac-home-edition/download.aspx. Apple released an update on April 3 to protect Macs against this trojan. It is good practice to perform Mac security updates as soon as possible. Please go to Software Update and install all updates for your Mac.