Posts tagged “security

Let’s ask bigger privacy questions

With Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook facing incredible scrutiny from the United States government, to Apple’s Tim Cook calling out the company and industry insiders lining up to tell you to delete your Facebook account are we missing the larger issue with privacy?


Background

I’m here to argue that most consumers, especially those arguing against Facebook and standing up for other companies, care about privacy inside of pockets. What do I mean? Let’s look at those who side with a company, taking Apple and Tim Cook here or if you’re siding with any company without first taking into consideration privacy as a whole. Let’s ask some important questions:

  • Are all of your customer facing sites tracker free?
  • Do you encourage end users to utilize VPNs to mask their online traffic?
  • Do you offer dashboards with full insight to the data that is collected on your users?
  • How clear are your own privacy policies?
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The internet itself in 2018 is almost not private by default. It’s a sad reality, but it’s the truth. Seemingly harmless websites are stuffed with ad trackers causing slow page loads and hampering the overall experience all while gathering plenty of analytical data for the site owners to target you — even sites of publishers claiming to care about your privacy.


What to do

Do not trust any entity. There is no company on this earth, including Apple, Google, Amazon or others, that deserve your complete devotion to their security practices. You should scrutinize each and every company, especially those that say they value your privacy.  So what can you do in a world that is seemingly less and less private?

  • Always look for third party alternatives and don’t just settle for what companies offer.
  • Host your own solutions.
  • Research and stay up to date on the latest privacy and security solutions.
  • Engage your friends and family to encourage them to take on extra security methods.

Conclusion

This is a hard topic and one this will be increasingly difficult to manage and maintain as more and more online systems are integrated into our lives; however, with diligence we can maintain a decent level of privacy and security in our lives — it just takes time and effort.

Your Guide to VPN and Online Security

Privacy on the internet. At times, it’s almost blasphemous to think we can attain it, right? We hear about company A getting hacked and service B scanning all of your outbound data for reasons they don’t disclose all the time, then you have the government who thinks It’s ok to know your exact location, thoughts and details at all times — but I digress. So what can you do to protect yourself? Should you only open private sessions in your favorite browser (which conceals NOTHING from your ISP or network admin — you’re only fooling yourself), should we be terrified of the technological world around us and never take advantage of these mind-blowing tools around us? No, don’t be silly. Although, there are a wealth of ways to be tracked online without your consent or knowledge, there’s also a wealth of tech and tips to help keep you flying under the radar.
What are two helps?  VPN and increased scrutiny of your online habits.

What kind of tool is a VPN, really?  Source Webopedia: ” A virtual private network (VPN) is a network that is constructed using public wires — usually the Internet — to connect to a private network, such as a company’s internal network. There are a number of systems that enable you to create networks using the Internet as the medium for transporting data. It secures the private network as these systems use encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.”  Nowadays, with US citizens and those of other nations constantly being watched, a VPN is almost a must to maintain privacy and ensure that you can access the internet that YOU want to access — not one that your ISP or anyone says you should access.  What’s worse, now, is that many regulations that have been successfully put in place in the FCC to protect the privacy of consumers are on the brink of being reversed by politicians, who want to put more money inside these large corporations pockets.  Essentially, we are entering a state of extreme monitoring by government bodies that infringes on our rights in more than enough ways to count.
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So what VPN should you get?  VPNs come in a variety of “flavors” and tiers.  There are free options that can incorporate into your browser, via an extension, such as BetterNet.  In addition, there are other VPNs that require a yearly subscription, but offer far more server options (good if the servers you connect to are full of other users — more users equals more traffic going through that host, which can make your overall connection slower), more bandwidth, no ads and overall greater performance.  Some popular paid VPNs are PrivateInternetAccess, IPVanish, ExpressVPN, NordVPN and more (please find a valuable VPN article, Source: PCMag, here).

What’s an example of scrutiny?  Have you ever read a EULA (end user license agreement) to see how a company actually uses your data?  (Pro tip: Read every EULA you can, but do it efficiently.  Open the “Find” feature by hitting Ctrl + F on your keyboard and keyword search for things you are concerned about, such as “data”, “information”, “privacy” and “ads” to see what you’re really signing up for).  Companies are very clever and most people are so anxious to use the latest app or service that is free — they forget to read what they are giving up in order to get that service.  After all, it’s fun getting an inbox of unsolicited emails and having all moves you make on your devices tracked, right?  NOPE.

TLDR; We have officially entered an age where we all need to carefully watch what we do online, apps that we install and more.  It’s always been something to think about; however, at this point we are at the greatest risk of losing our right to privacy while traversing the internet.  The surveillance state is becoming something that could soon be upon us.  Please arm yourselves with the necessary tools to keep your data safe.

The Android Update Conundrum 2016

        More and more we are witnessing opinion pieces regarding the state of Android and the fact that updates (or lack thereof) puts Google’s mobile operating system in a bad place.  Here are the facts, if you do not have a Nexus branded device (a Nexus device is a consumer focused smartphone or tablet that Google partners with a OEM to create) you may not ever receive an update.  Samsung was notoriously bad for withholding OS level updates, which increase security and performance, from it’s devices — it has gotten better and in most cases many of the more popular OEMs have gotten better at providing updates to it’s consumers.  

Android updates pictured visually.


Let’s break down the current statistics on the version of Android running “in the wild”, please note that these numbers are based off of devices that access the Google Play Store.

Marshmallow (6.0) — 7.5%

Lollipop (5.x) — 16.2 & 19.4%

KitKat (4.4) — 32.5%

Jelly Bean (4.1,4.2, 4.3) — 7.2, 10, 2.9%

Remaining (4.0.x and earlier) — ~4.3%

(Find a graph of this distribution here)

The question here is, “Do operating system updates matter to the end consumer?”.  I will answer here bluntly — yes, a resounding yes.  Anything that potentially has the means to improve security, performance and overall stability of a device for free — you as a consumer should care about and not push away as if it is so annoying that you cannot standby for 5 minutes without your device to install the update.  One of the biggest issues is that the update process for most devices is painfully slow and arduous, partially due to carriers and partially due to the fact that OEMs continue to muck up the operating system with unneeded skins and apps that take away from the experience that Google has laid out by the reference device line — Nexus.

There is an interesting article on ZDNet that notes that “no one wants yearly Android releases” (find it here) that notes that the interest in updates has weakened.  TLDR; no one cares about the updates, OEMs only want to sell devices, carriers care about you giving them money, developers want to sell apps and Google only cares about new devices accessing the Play Store (note these opinions come from the article and are NOT aligned with how I feel about the Android udpate issue).  This is a fairly poor opinion to take on the system updates issue because it is clear that Google also wants consumers to be safe, hence why there are monthly security patches that are pushed out to devices.  The problem?  Only Nexus devices and the latest devices seem to adhere to this promise of the updates (even Samsung is getting better).  

What about everyone else?  Sorry my friends.

When it boils down to it, the update process on Android is seriously flawed, seriously.  Google has tried to make it better; however, sadly, it is too little too late as this should’ve been properly thought of and scaled out during the beginning phases of the operating system.

Bottom line:  If you want to have the latest version of Android either buy a Nexus device or always purchase the latest and greatest device.  I will strongly argue that security, performance and stability are a must; however, it is clear that not everyone shares this opinion.