Safely Surfing the Web

in Blog/News/Science & Technology/Social Commentary by

Without it, you would not be able to read this article.

I wouldn’t have been able to research the information contained within, and further, folks worldwide would be disconnected in a way that most people my age can hardly even imagine.

I’m talking about the Interwebs, of course!

Fellow web-crawlers, our dear Internet is 28 years old as of this year, 2017. It has been twenty-eight glorious years of sharing information faster than anything else human history can recall.

With all of that information floating around in cyberspace, I figured it was time to educate myself on how to keep my own information secure from criminals, hackers, unwanted solicitation, and agencies that I never gave permission to. The following is what I found!

Before you proceed, I would like to give you a mission as you read. I challenge you, dear deep web surfer, to take the time to complete each point as you read it. Don’t just read this article and feel all safe and educated afterwards. The information will do you no good unless you actually utilize it.

You have a mission. I believe in you.

INFORMATION TO PROTECT:

1-Personal Information

Personal information is just that: information that you alone should have knowledge of, until you decide to give it away. That information should be given away to loved ones and friends and your own discretion.

This information is at risk in that if you leave it lying about, anyone could come around and do with it whatever they wish. You wouldn’t hand a stranger a piece of paper with your name, phone number, home address, kids’ names and where they go to school written on it. It’s much the same on the world wide web, you have to take extra steps to safeguard it from the hands of strangers.

2-Location

Whether it’s a stalker, a company, or an agency, some folks just don’t want others to have a tab on where they are at all times. Enabling your location data to be tracked on your phone or social media accounts is basically like giving the entities that own them the ability to know when you are doing, pretty much anything.

3-Credit Card Information

This one is simple to explain. Putting your credit card information on sites that aren’t known, trusted, or secured greatly increases the chances of that information being stolen and money taken from you. Even secured sites are at some amount of risk. Just know that anytime you shop online or in a store with your credit card, there is a risk involved, same as carrying money around.

4-Messages

Like location, keeping your messages secure is a matter of privacy. Even if you are simply talking about how your day went, it’s not anyone else’s business what the content of your conversation is, unless you choose to reveal it to them. If you are talking about things better left private, such as business ideas, surprises, embarrassing information, or personal details, do you really want it to fall into the wrong hands?

5-Software/Hardware

Viruses are malicious creations that serve to steal information, ruin your computer, and disrupt internet infrastructure systems like email services and various servers.

 

WHAT YOU’RE YOUR INFO FROM

1-Criminals

Thieves stealing money and identities, predators preying on vulnerable individuals, companies and agencies abusing our right to privacy.

2-Hackers

Hackers are the ones creating viruses that destroy your computer and take information.

3-Unwanted Solicitation

If you’re not careful about where you post information and pictures about yourself, you could end up seeing your photo on an advertisement one day, and unable to do anything about it.

4-Agencies

You may not realize it, but your phone service provider or favorite websites/services may be required by law, or voluntarily, giving government agencies what you thought was your private information.

 

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR INFO

1-Settings

a) Phone

Adjusting the security settings of your phone is a very important way to secure the data contained within. When you first set up your new phone, you will usually have the ability to choose many of your own security settings right then and there. Even if you have had your phone for a while, you still have the option of going in to your phone’s security settings and personalizing them. Every phone is different, but in general to get to these settings, you will find the settings tab (usually will look like a gear), then go to the tab that says “security.”

Some examples of how to set up these settings to the maximum security: not allowing your device to access your location, setting up a passcode to unlock your phone (can be a numerical code, a fingerprint, both, even an eye scan), then having your phone erase all saved data after a certain number of failed attempts on the passcode.

Anti-virus software is another way to secure your phone (here are some good ones). Androids need this more so than iPhones since Apple only allows you to download apps from the iTunes store. That being said, please note that jailbreaking your phone will increase your chances of obtaining a virus if you aren’t careful.

Update your phone’s software as soon as the updates are available. Oftentimes, these updates occur primarily in order to make sure that your phone’s security is up to date and able to handle the latest threats. The same advice is recommended for any apps you are using; update them.

Back up your files. I use OneDrive and DropBox to back up the files from my phone. Then, whenever those are full, I move them all to my external hard drive. Backing up your files ensures that if your phone is lost, stolen, or crashes, you won’t lose your memories or your files used for business purposes.

The most secure thing you could possibly do if you are not a tech-guru is to purchase the purported ultra-safe Blackphone.

b) Computer:

Firewalls are one great way to keep your computer from accepting information from the internet that is considered a high risk for being unsafe. Here are some that you can consider. Most good firewalls will cost you a little bit of money.

Anti-malware can be used to protect your computer from “malicious software.” Even if you have a firewall, it may not always be enough to protect your computer from attachments sent in emails and other threats. Here are some anti-malware options that come highly recommended.

Update everything. Just like with your phone, your computer’s updates mostly serve to fix security issues.

Back up your data. I personally use an external hard-drive to save all of my files that I am finished editing or working with. Then I delete them from my computer. This saves space on my computer and makes sure that all of my files are safe in the event that my computer crashes or is attacked.

Here is an article for more information:

ASK LEO

2-Knowing the law

It’s such an exciting time to be an internet-using, active & informed voting citizen of the United States right now, as policy is being created AS WE LIVE AND BREATHE RIGHT NOW as to how to govern the world of the wide web.

I *firmly* believe that as someone who enjoys utilizing the tools that the internet has to offer, I deserve to have a say in how it is regulated, and you do too!

The Federal Privacy Council is a name to know. It has a legislative membership list of committees and subcommittees related to privacy and surveillance issues.

There are a couple bills to keep an eye on:

-Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008

-The Email Privacy Act

As it stands now, internet and phone service providers do not have to have permission to give your information out to be used for advertising purposes.

Not to mention the fact that the information can also be given up if it is thought that it is going to be used to stop any illegal activities. Here is the analysis of a case that is a few years old. It explains what information police are able to glean from your phone if they choose. Here is a broader analysis of what phone companies can give to police to help aid an ongoing investigation.

It is time for states to begin creating their own regulations as to what the police and feds are allowed to take, and how they will be allowed to use it.

***TAKE ACTION!!!*** If you are interested in preserving the freedom of the frontier that is the world wide web, you must realize how important it is that you take action to protect it! If you don’t, who will? This article is EXTREMELY helpful in giving you easy instructions on which of your elected officials to contact about this issue, and what some of the technical jargon you will need to include is.

Additionally, here are several other articles that will give you plenty of information to get you started on where we stand with governing the Internet, and Internet privacy:

a) NCSL
b) THE HILL
c) NEWSY
d) SNOPES
e) PROPUBLICA
f) YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF TED TALKS

4-Personalizing Web Use

Know where it’s okay to use a credit card. You can tell if a website is secure by looking a a couple of things. The first is the title bar. That is the part of your screen at the top where the name of the website exists. If it starts with “https,” that means it is secure.

Another thing to look at is the domain name. Some websites will mimic the name of well known websites to make you think that it is that certain site. They can even make their webpages look like the sites that you know and trust. Be sure to check the domain name to make sure that it is spelled correctly.

This article has some other pointers.

Website owners need to take precautions to protect their information by securing their websites. The following information is advice that I got from a customer service representative from GoDaddy, which is the service I use to house my domain and to host it. He recommended that I 1) use WordFence which is iTheme’s free malware security plugin, 2) Check for updates from my hosting, theme, and domain registration site once a week, 3) use Word Fence which is iTheme’s security, 3) use Sitelock which is a paid service which will remove and prevent harmful attacks to your website, and 4) try to hack into hackmywordpress.com, a website that a GoDaddy customer representative created. That site uses the security precautions mentioned above and challenges people to try and hack into the site. So far, according to the representative I spoke with who is friends with the creator, no one has been able to do it.

For messaging, you can use an application that sends encrypted messages. For phone messaging applications, some that come highly recommended are Signal and Wickr. Signal was created by the head of security of Twitter, and Edward Snowden endorsed it.

If you have completed all of these steps, you may consider yourself a cyber security ninja warrior that few hackers or viruses can even mess with!

Congratulations for making it through this article, and for taking the steps to protect yourself and your personal information against the dangers of the world wide web.

You may now surf in peace.

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