Weak cybersecurity — steps to protect your online activities

2020 has been one of the worst years ever with the blast in Beirut, fires in Abu Dhabi, Earth Quakes in Turkey, destructive floods in Indonesia, US-Iran crisis, Amazon rainforest wildfires, and the most dangerous of all — COVID-19 Pandemic. It’s almost as if calamity has struck every corner of the world.

And with this, we have seen a huge rise of people being more digitally connected than ever; indulging in remote working, online shopping, and video calling to keep things afloat. One of the biggest issues of this increased reliance on the digital world is that cyberattacks have skyrocketed, taking advantage of the general fear and uncertainty that the global pandemic has instilled in the minds of people.

From phishing attacks, ransomware, to online identity thefts, cybercriminals have taken this opportunity of the coronavirus pandemic to boost their malicious activities, both in scope and frequency. The FBI has reported receiving as many as 4,000 complaints in their Cyber Division per day.

This is a 400% increase in ransomware attacks since covid-19 became a pandemic. From the perspective of criminals, this unfortunate situation is like stepping on a gold mine, and with that, it has now become more important than ever to become more vigilant about your cybersecurity.

Here are 12 steps to increase your cybersecurity and protect your data from prying eyes, viruses, and malicious entities.

  1. Implement Two-Factor Authentication. Even if you are not security conscious about your email address and personal accounts, it is always a good idea to implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) on all avenues. It typically adds an extra layer of verification like a One-Time-Password (OTP) sent to your smartphone. You have to enter that code (valid for a limited time) to log in.
  2. Always Use Strong Passwords. There are a few protocols to follow when creating passwords for your accounts. This includes using variations of symbols, numbers, and lower/upper case letters, never copying the same password on different accounts and generally avoiding adding any predictable details in passwords. Bear in mind, cybercriminals have a lot of experience cracking weak passwords, so you have to be clever than them. Use a Password Manager to manage all your passwords.
  3. Install an Anti-Malware and Antivirus. Almost all internet-enabled devices, be it your smartphone, laptop, desktop, or tablet are vulnerable to being hacked, affected by malware/viruses, and dangerous spyware attacks. If you want to receive protection from them, you need to invest in a reliable Antivirus, Anti-Spyware, and Anti-Malware software. For Android, these are some tools that can help your personal security.
  4. Update All Your Devices/Applications. After installing the operating system, different applications, and network configurations, most people either turn off “automatic updates” or forget to keep their devices up to date with the latest patches, bug fixes, and product enhancements. Don’t make this mistake and make sure you actively implement software and system security updates to avoid being exposed to malicious entities and vulnerabilities.
  5. Decommission All Unused Services. If you upgrade to a better device, make sure to decommission the older ones, unless needed. This goes true for other limited-duration products as well. If you are not using them, retire the applications, logins, and user credentials associated with them. This will protect you in the circumstances any product/company suffers from a security breach, exposing your data simply for being associated!
  6. Avoid Clicking on Suspicious URLs. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the “coronavirus fearware” to introduce COVID-19 themed phishing attacks and ransomware to lure victims. Malwarebytes discovered a clever ploy wherein implemented a variant of the AZORult malware in coronavirus maps. This allowed them to steal data of users visiting the website, hence why it is advised to always look at URL carefully before opening them.
  7. Use a Security/Privacy Tool like a VPN. In addition to cover all aspects of system security, you need to invest in a reliable solution for online security. This is where a VPN comes in handy, changing your IP address, shifting your location, employing encryption, and assigning you a dynamic IP for protecting your anonymity online. You have to be careful when picking a VPN because providers often make claims that are later found to be false when the VPN is subjected to a thorough review and testing. But, as any unbiased review will show, well-reputed providers like NordVPN generally live up to their promises in terms of the features and performance they have to offer.
  8. Avoid Connecting to Public Networks. It may seem like a great idea to connect to a public Wi-Fi network when outside. The place could be a bar, restaurant, or a pub. What’s bad about this is that these places are vulnerable to cybercriminals who either hack into these networks or create a phony one, so that you hit the “connect” button and grant them the ability to snoop on your activity. It’s always safer to use your Mobile Data on public Wi-Fi instead.
  9. Don’t Overshare on Social Media. Many people don’t think before posting their details online, even going as far as adding their home address. Why would you do that? Refrain from publically posting your contact details or any extremely private information on social media, unless you are running a business. Cybercriminals use OSINT (open-source intelligence) to scour social media for potentially telltale information.
  10. Be Alert When Shopping Online. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have issued state-wide lockdowns with citizens practicing social distancing, as to avoid the spread of the virus. This has directly resulted in people relying on eCommerce websites for getting their groceries and other essentials. If you shop online too, always check the URL. Only open websites that utilize “HTTPS”, as the connection is encrypted via TLS/SSL.
  11. Inspect All Banking Transactions. If you do shop online a lot, it is vital that you be vigilant about all transactions occurring. In addition to being extra cautious when giving your credit card information online, make sure to inspect all transactions every month. This way, you can quickly take notice of any malicious purchases, and get in touch with the bank instantly. If you report within time, you may even get your money back.
  12. Don’t Ignore Aspects of Physical Security. Last, but not least, while being so encompassed with cybersecurity, make sure to not overlook simple security risks. In addition to physical restrictions on accessing your private computers/laptops, avoid security lapses like leaving behind your entry/access cards, keeping sensitive documents in the open, leaving crucial information on Whiteboards, or written down passwords on notepads.

It is important to remember that working on your online privacy/security and making adjustments like the ones above are crucial for getting used to the new reality and the tricky cybersecurity atmosphere as of recent. As always, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Now, while these steps above may not get rid of every cyberattack imaginable, you can use them for making yourself a less visible target in the eyes of malicious actors. Therefore, if you have not started implementing them yet, it is high time you do.

A Non-Technical Parents’ Guide to Digital Tools for Kids Online Classes

Laaija's Desk

A new school season has started, and schools are moving online for the classes. There are lots of changes, and they are happening real fast, and all-at-once. Not all parents are ready to switch to a new lifestyle so fast, but we have to.

Schooling is going to be an entirely different experience for everyone involved — students, parents, teachers, and schools. It is not just about transitioning everything that happened offline in schools to the online world. It is a totally different approach, new thinking, and the eventual “normal.” Everyone involved will have to treat this in a new way — by the schools, teachers, and parents.

Today, I will try to focus on just a small piece of the more significant change — tools that will help kids be part of the new learning paradigm.

The Room, Space, and Lighting

You should try to have a separate space or a room dedicated to your kid to be part of the classes. The better lit the room is, the better. Try to have the light facing your kid — liting up her face and not from the back. A better option is to have sunlight coming in from an angle that is not too bright to the eye, but enough to light up the face. Try to avoid the sunlight shining directly onto the screen/monitor.

If you need artificial lighting, then a LED light lamp should do just fine.

Search for;

  • LED lamp
  • studio lamp

Devices

This depends a lot on the activities your kid will be involved in. Will it be just listening to the teachers, or will she be presenting at times, talking, and discussing with her friends and doing other digital activities during the classes? Let’s assume that the events will be a bit of all and better prepare for them than stand short when needed.

If your kid already has a device, use it and gauge the device’s performance before spending money on upgrades. Look for performance degradation of the quality of audio and/or video. It is always better to have much better quality audio than video.

New Device / Computer

Apple MacMini

If you have to buy new devices, and unless portability is crucial, invest in a desktop computer instead. Desktop computers allow for easier upgrades, have better performance, and are usually more economical.

I would personally suggest for a 16GB of RAM, and an SSD (Solid State Drive) instead of hard drives that have mechanical spinning parts. Don’t worry too much about the size of the SSD, a minimum of 200GB+ is suggested. You can always have a cheaper external drive for more storage. The other components will be good enough when you try the above particular configuration. If you are already thinking Intel, AMD, etc., then I believe you already know what you need.

If you’re more of a Mac Family and find it more comfortable, the cheapest MacMini would do just fine. If you can get an earlier generation MacMini or a refurbished one, it will still be suitable for a less expensive investment.

My daughter uses a 2012 MacMini with an upgraded RAM and SSD replaced drive. Well, Apple’s 2012 MacMini model is the last easily upgradable model. Please be advised that Apple hardware are tightly coupled and integrated with their software that an 8GB RAM might just work great.

Search for

  • Laptop with 16GB Ram, 256GB SSD
  • Computer with 16GB Ram, 256GB SSD
  • Laptop with 16GB RAM
  • Computer with 16GB RAM

Microphone

Even if you use a Laptop with a built-in microphone, I can guarantee you that they are not the best. Most software has become really good these days to filter out echo and other noises. However, a decent microphone goes a long way and will really help.

Here is my suggestion, in order of preference;

  1. Pop Filter Microphone with a stand, either on the desk or clipped/screwed to the table.
  2. Lavalier Microphone that can be clipped to your kid’s top/shirt.
  3. The last option is an audio headset (speaker + microphone). However, they come in the way of your kid studying or listening to the teacher.

Search for

  • Microphone kit
  • Lavalier Microphone
  • Headset
  • Microphone with Stand

Speaker

If your device or computer comes with a speaker, stick with it. Otherwise, any desktop speaker should do the job. If you have already invested in a Headset, then a separate speaker may not be necessary.

Search for

  • Desktop Speaker
  • Computer Speaker

Webcam / Camera

Video is needed but not as crucial as a Microphone. Your kid can get away with a not-so-good video, but her voice/audio should be the best possible. So, depending on your budget get for something you can afford. If your kid has a Laptop, stay with the built-in webcam but invest in the external microphone and audio setup.

Search for

  • Logitech Webcam
  • 720p Webcam
  • HD Webcam

UPS

Invest in a entry-level UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). A UPS is used to protect hardware such as computers and other electrical devices where an unexpected power disruption could cause data loss, or damage to the devices.

Software

Besides the usual software that she will need, as suggested by the school, try to get some additional life-skill software-tools that will come handy. Some of the basics include but not limited to;

  • A calendar. Teach your kid to schedule class video calls, homework submissions, peer-to-peer meetings, etc. You should also have access to it, so you can help when needed. Google Calendar is a pretty good option.
  • A TODO app. Try to stay with the basic simple listings and not overwhelm them. A lot many people have wasted countless hours trying to hunt for the best TODO app, the best ways of using it. So, just stick to simple listings and checking items off. Better yet, stick to the physical Sticky / Post-it Note.
  • A Password Manager. It is high time to teach your kid to use a Password Manager. Some of the good ones are 1Password (paid), Keepass (free, open-source), Bitwarden (free, open-source, paid)

Upgrades

The next best upgrade after the basics are taken care off, would be, to separate their activity/study computer from the video device — have a device such as an iPad, a Tablet or a Phone just for the video calls/classes and a desktop or a laptop or a Raspberry Pi as their study computer.

Should Businesses Accept Cryptocurrencies – an Infographic

Bitcoin

Plenty of major companies like Subway, AT&T, Expedia, Dish Network, and Microsoft have recently decided to accept cryptocurrency. These are large corporations that have the resources to experiment with relatively new technology.

But should the average business, or small business, accept cryptocurrency?

A high population of the world has heard of or are familiar with Bitcoin. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to use it. Only a few percentages own it. An even smaller number use cryptocurrency.

There are more than 40 million cryptocurrency wallets out there. Cryptocurrency usage has soared in places such as San Francisco, New York, and Tampa — and in places like Canada (the first country to regulate the digital currency), the Netherlands, Slovenia, Israel, Switzerland, and countries with volatile currencies, like Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

To give you a perspective, there are almost 300 million active users of PayPal worldwide and about 1 billion Visa and 900 million MasterCard credit cards in circulation. Cryptocurrency has to catch up when compared to these other digital ways to pay.

It is widely thought that if small businesses make the necessary investments in cryptocurrency infrastructure, then cryptocurrency usage will rise enormously. But there are plenty of pros and cons for businesses to consider before they take that leap.

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Pi-hole – Blocking Ads at Home

Pi-hole

Pi-hole is a DNS sinkhole that protects your devices from unwanted content, without installing any client-side software. The best part of Pi-hole is that it can work off cheap hardware such as a Raspberry Pi.

Last month, I bought a Raspberry Pi 3-MODB-1GB and a 16GB MicroSDHC (MicroSD) Memory Card. That was enough to run an Ad Blocker Service for the whole home.

Raspberry Pi-4

Raspberry Pi

  1. First, we need to set up a Raspberry Pi (official guide).
  2. Get a microSD card with a capacity of at least 8 GB. I suggest getting a 16GB one for some extra room, just in case. The price difference isn’t worth saving. Plug the microSD card to a desktop computer and follow the steps to Setup the microSD card (official guide) and thus unzipping the Raspbian operating system content to the drive. Install the Raspbian operating system via NOOBS.
  3. Plug in the microSD Card, monitor, keyboard, and a mouse. That’s it. Power it up.
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to finish setting up the Raspbian operating system. Restart and the Raspberry Pi is ready to setup Pi-hole.

Pi-hole

Pi-Hole

  1. There are three ways to install Pi-hole. Follow the one that works for you – Install Pi-Hole (official guide).
  2. Follow the on-screen instructions. You’ll just be pressing the RETURN key a lot.
  3. Pick your choices of options along the way. Do not forget to pause at the last screen and record the admin password and other details.
  4. The final step is to point your Internet Router’s DNS (just one, delete the others) to the Pi-hole IP (remember the screen from the earlier step).

Pi-hole have a really nice web-enabled Admin dashboard which can be accessed inside your Network via http://pi.hole/admin or //[Raspberry Pi’s IP address]/admin/ or http://raspberrypi.local/admin/.

Pi-Hole Dashboard

Pi-hole works pretty well without much fanfare that you might be left with a feeling that you’re missing something. I’ve been running Pi-hole as the Ad-Blocker for my home and seems to be working good so far.

Go, have fun.

Libra – Cryptocurrency by Facebook, an Infographic

Libra is a cryptocurrency designed using blockchain technology. It is built by the most popular social media giant Facebook. The main motive behind developing Libra is to emancipate millions of underbanked and unbanked people by offering them similar financial opportunities.

Libra will give their users the best transaction experience with unimaginable speed on minimal or no charges. Users can transfer money from their home to any part of the world. Libra is compatible with mobile and all you need is a basic data connection.

Blockchain technology is a decentralized programmable database that helps in backing the more constant currency and has the capability to act as a medium for transacting money to millions of people all over the world.

Libra is a self-reliant association formed to control and regulate the flow of Libra, it is an organization aiming to offer basic financial infrastructure and to introduce a universal currency to empower millions of people. Libra Association is a compilation of validator nodes, such as academic entities, international corporations, and social impact partners.

An allocated system of the Libra blockchain looks after the transactions and ownership of Libra. While transacting Libra, there is a slight chance of attacks on the system and here Blockchain helps in defending this kind of attack using LibraBFT.

A secured and well-written software will help you in protecting the Libra Blockchain. Move a new programming language that is used in developing Libra. It is a safe and responsive programming language for Libra Blockchain. It is an applied bytecode language used to implement smart transactions and contracts.

People have different views on cryptocurrencies, but Libra can be trusted easily as it is backed by a reserve that includes stable liquid assets, which helps in keeping the value of Libra stable.

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30+ Cryptocurrencies in Four Words or Less

The word “crypto” in the cryptocurrency is referred to as complicated cryptography which allows for a particular digital token to be generated or stored, and to transact securely, also typically and anonymously. Other than this important “crypto” feature of the currencies, it is a common commitment to the decentralization. The cryptocurrencies are typically developed as a code by teams, which has built-in mechanisms for its issuance which is often, maybe not always through a process called “mining” and few other controls.

Litecoin

Litecoin is based on the open source global payment network which is not controlled by any of the central authority and it uses “scrypt” as the proof of work, which can be decoded with the help of the CPUs of the consumer grade. Although Litecoin is similar to Bitcoin in many ways, it has faster block generation rate and therefore offers a faster transaction confirmation. Other than the developers, there are many growing numbers of merchants who accept the Litecoin. As of today, Litecoin had a market cap of around $2.63 billion and per token value of about $43.

Ethereum

The applications of the Ethereum run on its own platform-specific cryptographic token called Ether. Ether acts as a vehicle for moving around the Ethereum platform, and it is sought by the mostly developers who are looking to develop and run the applications inside Ethereum, or now by the investors who are looking to make purchases of other digital currencies using the ether.

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Meeting Startups at Conquest, 2019

I’m one of the mentors at the Conquest, 2019. I met up with some of the Startups.

Aayush

Aayush built a cost-effective ingestible battery-less electronic Health Pill that transmits data via a patch that can be easily applied on the body. That patch communicates with a Smartphone App and helps in the prediction and prevention of Heart attacks and Sudden Cardiac Arrests.

The Health Pill uses MicroSensor Technology that can be swallowed by a person. The pill enters the Gastro-Intestinal Tract in the stomach and becomes electrically activated when it reacts with the digestive acids present in the stomach, thus generating a natural electric current. The embedded Bio-Medical sensors once activated, record specific physiological Health metrics from the body. These health data are transmitted to an app via a Wearable Transmission Patch that can easily stick to the body.

These data are stored in the cloud which is can be accessed by family members, friends, caretakers, and doctors who have access to the data. The app monitors health data round the clock and simultaneously identifies, analyzes, and can warn about 9-11 minutes prior to a Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Emergency Alerts are sent to the victim, predefined members, and to the nearest Hospital along with the current GPS location of the victim.

Aayush built a unique microsensor technology, which is cost-effective, smart private healthcare technology that can be used without the need of doctor’s assistance. Aayush plans to license their product and technology to various hospitals, once their patent is granted.

Xplorazzi

Xplorazzi is building an automated tool which will take retail shop shelf images and CCTV video feed to create Planograms.

Planograms are a crucial part of today’s retail stores. It can be done manually to comply with audit requirements or use software that is an additional cost to the retailers.

Xplorazzi uses imaging technology, deep learning, and sales data to build a smartphone app that will aid retail stores to do items assessment. This will create a consistent visual record to automate the process and use the details for Audit, Assortment Analysis, Stock Management, Shelf-Space availability, and Dynamic Analysis Reports.

Untangled Cloud

Untangled Cloud makes it easy to work across multiple Cloud providers such as Amazon’s AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure.

Untangled Cloud provides analytics and tools to help Startups and SMEs make better decisions while choosing the right cloud service providers. They help in upskilling teams to learn more about the services of various cloud providers. They also plan to build tools to help migrate from one cloud provider to the other easily and seamlessly.

Pigeon

Pigeon is “Zapier for Notifications.”

Pigeon has built an easy to use system that helps businesses manage user notifications & preferences across multiple channels — emails, apps, instant messaging apps, and text messages in one place.

Pigeon targets 3 distinct areas;

  1. Content Management System (CMS) for Notifications: Normally, notification messages are coded in by the developers. With Pigeon’s online Email, Push & SMS editors, marketing & sales teams are empowered to make changes themselves, resulting in faster iterations and can avoid wasted dev cycles.
  2. User Preferences Manager: Users are used to applications like Facebook that provide a high degree of control over notifications. With Pigeon, your users can choose which devices they would like to receive notifications, the time and even control the types of notifications. Pigeon handles all the processing for you. Developers don’t need to re-create this and can focus on their core business logic.
  3. Event-Driven Notification System: With our unique event-based model, Pigeon empowers marketing & sales teams to control the logic of the notifications online. Developers simply hook various events through the app.

Loka

Loka is a hyper-local vernacular QnA app for consumers & local businesses.

Loka’s hypothesis is that about 90% of Indians do not speak English and would rather use a vernacular language that they are comfortable in. They want to bank on that fact and build a community of local businesses and consumers that communicate in vernacular Indian languages.

Loka wants to be the growth-hack platform for local businesses and consumers to ask questions and get answers from their neighborhoods in their local languages.

PROI

PROI is developing a hardware-based POS system for retailers that aims to build a data-driven analytics solution.

There are 10-15 million retail stores in India. But the retail sector is very traditional and unorganized. There is no Inventory and Supply Chain Management system, no data-driven In-Store Management and Forecasting and no large scale retail data provision for the hyperlocal market. In order to organize this industry, PROI will be collecting the data and setting the path for future collaborators. They plan to connect the entire Supply Chain – Retailers, Manufacturers, and Hyper-Local Markets.

PROI aims to help SMEs to compete at the same level as the big players in the industry by providing them the capability to make data-driven decisions and optimize their supply chain. They follow a bottom-up approach while approaching the Hyperlocal market environment.

5 Tips for Paranoid People on the Internet

Internet Security

Do you remember that old quote, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you?” It seems like it is becoming more and more relevant every day. Almost weekly, a new scandal emerges from Big Tech, detailing the wholesale trading and theft of our personal information. But aside from all the headline-grabbing, one-off incidents, the much bigger concern is the day to day invasions of our privacy that are just standard policy for many of these companies.

In fact, it’s how they make most of their money.

Add to this the ever increasing and complex systems of government surveillance and tracking (most of which we’ll probably never really learn about), and you can be forgiven for feeling like you’re being watched every second you’re online.

Fortunately, there are plenty of people who feel the same. Many are finding ways and creating tools to help all of us stay safe and maintain our privacy while using the internet. The quick, simple steps that follow will block you from the most invasive spying and tracking on the internet, boost your privacy, and keep you safe.

1. Purge your Facebook

There may be no other organization that has become more notorious with invasions of privacy as quickly as Facebook. In just a couple of years, Mark Zuckerberg and his company seem to have completely fallen from grace in the eyes of many politicians, security experts and, indeed, users. They have been (justifiably?) blamed for stoking genocide in Myanmar, Brexit, numerous mental health crises, and even destroying the foundations of human society.

These examples may seem extreme, but there is no denying that Facebook has capitalized on the monetization and manipulation of their customers’ personal data like no other company operating today. The most simple step you can take to avoid Facebook’s reach is to delete your account (Instagram too, which Facebook own). If this isn’t possible, there are few ways to reduce its impact on your internet browsing. Here are a few browser extensions that will quickly limit many of the platform’s tools for tracking your activity and boost your privacy.

  1. Disconnect Facebook
  2. uBlock and
  3. Newsfeed Eradicator

2. Use Tor Browser

While Google claims that incognito mode will keep your browsing activity and identity private, it is still part of the Google ecosystem – so you can never be completely sure. You might want to try alternatives to Google Chrome, Safari, and their competitors by using the Tor Browser. Tor is a web browser dedicated to maximum online privacy. Using 3 layers of encryption, Tor completely masks your identity by anonymizing your location, browser, and activity and batching it all together with every other Tor user. So essentially, you become lost in the virtual crowd. This also means that the more popular Tor grows, the more effective it is at hiding you.

Tor is one of the most popular tools amongst online activists, journalists, political dissidents in repressive governments, and security experts. Follow their lead and start using it today.

For ultimate online privacy, combine Tor with a VPN.

3. Use a VPN based outside of the 14 eyes

Installing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on your devices is by far the easiest and most effective step to take if you want to increase your online privacy. You can’t be spied on if they can’t find you – and that’s where a VPN comes in handy. A VPN uses military grade encryption, IP masking and other tools to hide your online activity while on both private and public networks. This helps keep your location hidden, your data safe from leaking or theft, and your browsing activity secret from corporate and governmental tracking.

To go a step further, make sure that your VPN provider is outside the jurisdictions of the 14 Eyes surveillance alliance.

4. Try to avoid using Smart Home Products

It’s actually quite surprising that the recent story about 1,000s of Amazon employees listening to customers through their Alexa devices didn’t receive greater news coverage. Maybe it just shows how desensitized we’ve all become to such stories. It also shouldn’t be too surprising to anybody concerned with online privacy. Since the earliest days of smart home devices, security experts have been warning us about the ease with which they can be hacked and used to spy on households. Companies like Amazon may only be listening in for marketing purposes, but plenty of criminals are using them to track your routines and steal your identity.

The most effective way to be sure nobody is spying on you in your own home, through your smart devices, is to avoid using them altogether.

5. Start using Cryptocurrency for Payments

If you can ignore all the hype and noise around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies’ rollercoaster prices, and focus instead on its core principles and uses, you’ll understand how it is a great tool for online financial privacy. Aside from companies tracking your online purchases and using this to manipulate you into buying more stuff, online financial fraud is one of the biggest, ever-present aspects of using the internet. From the very first online transactions, conmen, fraudsters, and thieves have been finding ways to extract money from your bank accounts and credit cards.

One way to shield yourself from this happening is to separate your online transactions from your bank accounts. This is one of the many uses of Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. Despite what many people will tell you, Bitcoin is not 100% anonymous. However, by using a Bitcoin address to pay for online goods and services, and taking extra measures like shuffling your purchases amongst multiple bitcoin addresses, you can add a layer of privacy to your online transactions not possible with traditional banks and credit cards.

It can sometimes feel like maintaining privacy while using the internet is a crazy, unrealistic dream. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. By taking the simple, quick steps outlined here, you can easily boost not just your online privacy, but also safety from hacks, data leaks, and other forms of cybercrime. Using the internet will feel a lot less like you’re under siege from advertisers, governments and other shady figures, and free to browse in complete anonymity.

The Dangers of Public WiFi

Woman looking at Security Cameras

WiFi is a miraculous invention that allows for simple and effective public internet usage over a wireless connection. With so many public establishments offering free wifi, it has become very easy to simply log in while you’re sitting at your local coffee shop and browse away.

Of course, there are some dangers that every user should be aware of while using the internet, especially if they are using public wifi. Although many public wifi providers employ stringent security measures to help curb illicit activity over their services, the use of public wifi still poses a very real danger to those who browse on it unawares.

So what kind of things should we be aware of when we’re using public wifi? What kinds of risks are we taking when we log on to public wifi hotspots unprotected? And what are some of the ways we can protect ourselves? The solutions can range from simple habit changes to finding the best VPN services out there to help protect your connection.

What are the risks?

The most obvious risk that goes along with unprotected wifi usage is identity theft. Hackers and other malicious actors are very proficient at scraping identifying information from little slip-ups in public and are ready to use that information to access your bank accounts and other secure services.

Another thing that you’re at risk of is the loss of privacy. People may be able to gain access to your private emails, documents, pictures, and video without your knowledge. Certain types of attacks can even give hackers access to your webcam and microphone long after you’ve logged off of the hotspot you were using!

These types of things can be very scary and unwanted, so it’s definitely important to try and curb these risks whenever you use public wifi. The first step to protecting yourself here is to stay informed. Knowing is half the battle, so you’ll want to know exactly how these hackers and no-goodniks plan on stealing your data.

How does this happen?

There are a number of crafty ways that hackers have of getting into your stuff and stealing what they want. Being aware of these strategies is going to be your main weapon against unsafe wifi usage. Keeping these sorts of malicious strategies in mind whenever you use risky wifi hotspots will cause you to act more cautiously as you connect and browse.

  • Malware and spyware. This is malicious software that actors will try and illicitly install on your machine. With stuff like this, the possibilities are endless. The malware may just brick your computer, or it could hijack part of its processor for international espionage. Spyware is bad too and allows the attacker to mine data from your machine and potentially access sensitive information.
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks are an attempt by a hacker or other entity to place their access in the middle of a connection that their victim believes is secure. The best way to think of this is to consider it similar to eavesdropping. The methods behind this can range from brutish to ingenious, but the end result is typically a loss of sensitive information.
  • Malicious hotspots are wifi hotspots set up by hackers or other no-goodniks with special hidden settings that give them access to traffic moving through the hotspot, and potentially even the devices that connect to it. This one can be especially insidious because any hotspot you connect to in public can potentially be compromised. One thing to look out for is hotspots with names that don’t look right, or that are simple misspellings of trusted establishments.
  • Snooping and Sniffing is similar to malicious hotspot usage but doesn’t require a compromised hotspot in order to work. Basically, hackers use special software kits designed to allow them to spy on wifi signals. Using this method, attackers can potentially gain access to everything you do online, so it’s important to always be vigilant.

There are a few easy steps you can take to make your connection more secure right off the bat;

  • Disable any file sharing settings on your device. This will stop your computer from automatically sending and receiving files, which obviously makes it that much harder for malicious people to access them.
  • Only use websites with “HTTPS” next to the URL. These websites employ encryption for security purposes and are safer to log into over public wifi channels.
  • Always remember to turn off your wifi and Bluetooth when you’re done using them. This will prevent your computer from automatically connecting to illicit hotspots and compromised devices.
  • Use a VPN. A virtual private network, or VPN, allows you to tunnel your connection through a private secure server. This lets you keep your identity safe while browsing and can also have other perks like unblocking region-locked content. The best VPN services also have malware protection features.

What the Crypto: The Availability of Cryptocurrency

Over the past several years, cryptocurrencies have suddenly become quite popular. People from all parts of the world trade and invest in it, and some even make millions. The market value of each cryptocurrency also bolsters the fact that they are not going anywhere soon.

There are more than 2,000 cryptocurrencies available in the crypto market, set at different prices. You can get familiar with the top 25 by taking a look at the infographic provided below.

The prices are determined by how popular the cryptocurrency is and how many people are trading with it. The more people that trade, the higher the value.

The most popular and oldest cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. It was created in 2009 by a pseudonymous cryptographer. It has the best value because one Bitcoin sells at over $6,500, making it the most expensive cryptocurrency. At some point in 2017, one Bitcoin sold for as much as $19,000. However, it seems to have stabilized at the current price.

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