10 ways to protect your digital life

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Last week Jeff Bedser, CEO of Princeton Internet Crimes Group (PICG), spoke at the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s July Membership Luncheon. Throughout his time with PICG, he’s seen it all. The mistake most people make, he said, is viewing the virtual world as fun, private and without consequences.

Ask yourself these questions: Do you post photos from your phone? Does your Facebook profile show that you’re married, and to whom? Do you tweet when you’re on vacation?

If you said yes to any of these, then you may be in danger of an attack. Take the following precautions before you update your status, tweet, instagram, pin, or whatever else you people do these days in the crazy expansive world of social media.

1. No geotagging. Geotagging often occurs on cell phones because they have global positioning software installed. Geotagging does not usually happen with digital cameras, so try to upload photos from a device other than your phone. You can disable the geotagging feature on your phone, but you may have to check it often, as updates often enable it without warning.

2. No personal information. Your name? Okay. But your address? Where you ate dinner last night via foursquare? Your birthday? Maybe not. Hackers can easily guess the answers to security questions through the information that you’ve publicly posted.

3. Create obscure passwords. It may be super annoying to sift through a messy stack of papers until you find ‘FjF#!jklowI128’ written on a notepad, but a complex password will deter hackers from working their black magic on your account.

4. Lie. When accounts require answers for personal questions, such as your address, simply lie. Create fake information when possible to maximize security.

5. Use a fake name. When purchasing and setting up a new computer, tablet, smart phone or wireless router, name it something other than, well, your name. Once again, the more ambiguous, the better. Bedser says that the device’s identity is tagged in meta-data, which is then attached to things like pictures and documents.

6. Delete all spam. DO NOT OPEN IT. By simply opening an email your computer or network could be at risk. Play it safe, and if you sense something fishy, just delete it.

7. Use anti-virus programs and update regularly. Self explanatory.

8. Do not connect to unsecured wireless networks. Mooching off of a wireless hotspot during your layover is mighty tempting, but resist. Hackers can access your personal information if you use their network.

9. Never send personal information via email, even if the sender looks legitimate. This is a common online scam that can come across as totally official. Hackers will copy bank statement letterheads and logos to trick online users into verifying information like social security numbers and addresses.

10. “If your children are on Facebook, you should be on Facebook.” Watch out for your kids and create acceptable use policies for your family. Keep security measures in check and don’t be too prideful to ask for help when you feel over your head.

Did you attend our July Membership Luncheon? If so, what did you think? Do you feel like you got a lot out of it? What would you like to see at lunches in the future?

Mac: really virus-free?

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 This is a guest blog post by Anisha Gupta, President of Stellar Phoenix Solutions

Mac’s reputation for being virus-free has outlasted the reality.

For decades, Mac users enjoyed a major advantage over Windows users ‒‒ a general immunity to viruses, worms and Trojans. Apple Inc., in fact, has long cashed in on its reputation for being largely invulnerable to security breaches.

But times have changed. In recent months, Mac users have become familiar with the Flashback virus, a malware program that has infected more than 600,000 Macs worldwide ‒‒ about 1 percent of all Macs, according to an article on eWeek.com. Apple quickly came under fire for failing to foresee a set of flaws in Java that failed to detect malicious code.

Complicating things is the rising popularity of various handheld Apple products ‒‒ most notably the iPhone and iPad ‒‒ that put the Internet directly into consumers’ hands.  And, Macs have risen to a vital plateau ‒ they now account for more than 5 percent of the market, which, according to the U.K.-based tech website IT Pro, is the threshold that makes the development of viruses, worms and Trojans worthy to scammers.

Mac’s reputation for being virus-free has outlasted the reality. Over the past year, Mac users have become increasingly familiar with malicious codes, such as the Trojans Tsunami and Revier/Imuler, and the phony antivirus program Mac Defender. And though the number of reported Flashback infections has sharply dropped, the fact is, Mac systems are vulnerable to attack and will continue to be so. Apple has taken the threat seriously and implemented new security features designed to ward off infectious software. And the company has told its customers to keep its anti-virus software up to date.

But many Mac users continue to have a false sense of security. As far back as 2005, Toms Hardware reported that a major Mac virus was inevitable. A year later, the first breakout of OSX/Leap-A, a worm written specifically for Mac OS X, hit the scene. By the end of 2008 Apple confirms, You Need Anti-Virus For Your Mac. Apple says the following in a technical note: “Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple antivirus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult.

One of the problems is that many Mac users are former Windows users who have not learned how to effectively operate Mac platforms. So they install Mac-usable Windows programs into their systems, opening themselves up to attack. According to IT Pro, approximately 1 in 5 Macs harbor some kind of Windows Trojan and as many as 1 in 36 Macs harbor Mac OS X-specific malware infections.