“Back-up”, I say, and “Back-up often.”

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

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They say death and taxes are the only things that are inevitable. I’d venture to say that at some point in your life, you can also count on losing data. Everyone does.

The story of how you lost your data might be a good tale… a malicious hacker up to no good randomly unleashes a ransomware attack on your computer. You no longer have control of your PC or Mac. You know, the computer with all your financial documents, family photos and important work presentations, it’s now encrypted and unless you pay ransom in the form of bitcoin, you will never get it back. Truth be told, even if you pay, you might never get it back…

Of course, there are less dramatic ways to lose your data. Your hard drive could simply die. A virus could infect all your files. Your basement office could flood. Water damage would pretty much be the end of your computer hardware. Your home could get broken into and your computer stolen. You child could drop your laptop, irreparably damaging it. Hey, your house could burn down with your computer in it. OK, that’s a little dramatic again.

The point is, no matter the details of how you lost your data, the solution to eliminating or at least drastically limiting the consequences, all rests with you. If you back-up your data on your computer on a regular basis, tell that hacker a few short expletives and go reformat your computer. Your data is safe. Flood, fire and theft can too have limited consequences. Unlike data, hardware can be replaced.

There are many ways to ensure your data is backed up. Here are just a few options:

– Use your device provided backup options
– Use cloud storage services like Box, Dropbox, etc.
– Use backup specific services like Earthlink Online Backup, Carboninte, etc.
– Use local backup options like USB drives

Be careful out there. The digital world is filled with minefields. Remember to stop clicking stupid links from unverifiable or suspicious sources. You might find yourself with a nasty virus. So, follow my advice and be prepared for any of a number of situations where your data could be compromised:

“Go now. Back-up your data. And back it up often.”

 Clumsy children and hackers, beware. You have lost your powers of destruction.

 

 

Be Good Online. Almost Everything On The Internet Is Traceable… …And The Internet Has A Good Memory

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

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As we all know, the power of technology has created convenience and connectivity never known before. Used for good, technology is an awesome and beautiful thing. Used carelessly or for malicious purposes, technology is a terrible beast that cannot be tamed. To keep technology working for your own benefit, you must accept that everything you put into the world-wide web – every comment you make on social media, every photo you post, every review you offer, really, just about anything you do online — is permanent. That’s right, nothing, and I mean nothing, is private.

So, repeat after me, ‘The Internet is FOREVER.’ I want you to remember these four words each time you engage on social media, email or anywhere on the Internet. Let these words guide all your online actions. If you must, tape this message onto your phone and on every computer in the house. I’m serious. Why? Because this reminder can save you from embarrassment, conflict and a whole lot worse. Let me show you how…

CONTEXT — One of the biggest tensions within online communications is that the meanings and implications of what you say online is very different from what can be more fully understood in a real conversation. A face-to-face dialogue offers clues where we can infer how we are being understood or get greater insight into what someone else is saying. Multi-dimensional signals, from visual cues like facial expressions or body language, to auditory cues like tone and level of voice, provide real-time clues that inform how we should behave and respond. By comparison, our conversations online are one-dimensional. You cannot reliably infer context in the digital world.  This means that what you say in anger or annoyance or how you react to provocation can be easily misunderstood.

MAGNIFICATION — Online communications are amplified. They are easily seen by lots of people who don’t have any perspective as to who you are personally or as to what made you upset. No doubt, the trail of what you say and do online can and will leave strong impression about you – but perhaps not the one you intended.

FACEBOOK — Pretty much every person on the planet Earth, OK, getting more specific, about 1.86 billion Facebook users, can see every comment you make, what you like and link to and your personal photos if you don’t have any privacy settings on Facebook. But even if you are on top of privacy settings, shares and screen shots can magnify what you say and do beyond your intended audience. Plus, if you have been generous in how you define a Facebook friend, you may not know every friend’s political point of view, affiliation, relations or workplace. You cannot predict how they will interpret what you say or what they will do with that information. Take heed, what you say on Facebook can have unintended and lasting consequences.

TEXT MESSAGES — Even if you delete a text conversation, it’s entirely traceable. Stored by your phone provider, police and legal proceedings can easily unearth every text you have ever sent.

EMAIL — If you have ever sent an email in anger or frustration and then, faced with regret, deleted it, you have done nothing to end the cycle of online communications. Simply put, once an email is unleashed with the unmitigated power of the send button, it is permanently etched into the everlasting memory of the digital world. The person who received the email, the people they forwarded it to, office servers that make nightly automatic back-ups, and yes, here too, police and subpoena procedures can access every email you have ever sent.

In the digital world, your words can be taken out of context. Your anger can become a defining characteristic; your actions can implicate you; and your digital reputation can shape the opportunities you gain access to. Our illusion of privacy, that private account settings and access controls will protect us, is misinformed. The reality is that anyone within our social or professional circles can take a screenshot of a private post to share as a digital image file or make a copy of a confidential document.

Be good out there, the Internet is listening.

Must. Have. Wi-Fi. Must. Have. Wi-Fi.

By Ben Halpert, Founder Savvy Cyber Kids, an EarthLink partner

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When it comes to Wi-Fi access, kids can make it seem an awful lot like a life or death issue. They sound like weary characters in a movie who have been crossing the dessert for days, exhausted, parched and only asking for one thing to survive…water, um, no – Wi-Fi.

For today’s youth, Wi-Fi is life and access to it has become such a necessity that an Internet meme added a Wi-Fi layer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

But children are not alone in their reliance for pervasive Wi-Fi access, are they? Whether for work or recreation, we all need Wi-Fi and we need it now!

Our reliance on Wi-Fi was created because data access and usage charges for mobile devices via traditional cell phone providers was expensive. Only recently have many carriers begun offering unlimited data plans (even if they come with speed throttling after a specific amount of data is used, usually impacting only those that stream media such as movies on a daily basis).

Like individuals and families, businesses have the same monetary constraints associated with Wi-Fi access. The result is that we have all become accustomed to thoughtlessly gaining access to Wi-Fi in coffee shops, airports, stores, and other public locations – without hesitation and without consideration of security.

Criminals have long-recognized this as an opportunity and have not wasted any time in using our reliance on Wi-Fi for both our personal and business use to their advantage, exploiting the weaknesses inherent in wireless technologies and gaining access to our most valuable assets – our information.

It is trivial task for anyone, with proper the motivation, to learn how to setup a fake access point with a webpage that looks just like the hotspot you “think” you are connecting to. No doubt, you can recall the steps you take to gain access at a Wi-Fi hotspot…you either enter an email address or simply click an acknowledgement of terms of use. Once you are connected to the “wrong” Wi-Fi network (you wouldn’t know that, by the way), everything you send and receive can be intercepted. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other mischievous attacks that focus on Wi-Fi environments that we will not be covering here.

To be safe from this and other types of attacks, here are some actions you can take to protect your personal information and your company’s sensitive data when you are using a public Wi-Fi service.

  • Only connect to the official hotspot that is being offered in your location. Ask for the Wi-Fi network name so you know what the right one is.
  • Don’t connect to other networks that are available and open for use.
  • Once connected, launch a virtual private network (VPN) client or app. Using a VPN will help protect the data you are sending and receiving while connected. An example of a free VPN app for mobile devices (Android and iOS) is Opera VPN. For computers, Opera offers a free browser you can download with their VPN built into it (for both Windows and Mac).
  • Move off the public Wi-Fi and use your device or mobile data plan (unlimited plans keep getting cheaper and cheaper as the cell phone carriers battle for customers).
  • If you don’t use VPN, it is best to refrain from doing mobile banking, investing, or other important transactions via Wi-Fi.
  • Make sure you are running some type of anti-virus software on your computers (yes, Macs can get viruses too). Avast is one free option that runs on both operating systems if you are not already running similar software.
  • Remember that reminder you received to update your software on your computer and device? Make sure you install all those updates before connecting to public Wi-Fi.

So the next time you feel the insatiable desire to connect and feel like the free Wi-Fi you have found is like a mirage of cool, refreshing water after a walkabout on the dessert, stop, think and remember these important guidelines to keeping Wi-Fi safe.

 

 

Keeping kids safe when connected


Today’s children are growing up connected, which brings both benefits and risks. What can you do to help your children stay safe?

Risks

  • Conduct: Lack of physical presence can create a powerful sense of anonymity
  • Contact: Lack of physical presence causes kids to easily trust others on the other end
  • Content: Children can post too much or over-share information without realizing dangers of identity theft or malware

Staying Safe

  • At Home: Educate about online behavior and monitor online activity
  • Outside the Home: Emphasize the same etiquette when online outside the home
  • Online Etiquette: Teach kids that their posts could go viral or get publicized, and to evaluate their posts in this light
  • Use parental controls on browsers and phones to block objectionable or dangerous content
  • Run malware protection software to provide another layer of protection