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Using your laptop in public

January 20, 2015

Dear ScottWorld friends,

Happy New Year!

I am thrilled with the overwhelming positive response that I have received from all of you regarding the last 3 security-related newsletters that I have emailed to the list. 🙂 If you are not on our email newsletter list, be sure to sign up here.

Because you have loved these security topics so much, I am going to continue with a few more newsletters this year that are related to computer security.
But first, let’s review. You are now more educated than the vast majority of the public on matters of computer security.

SECURITY REVIEW FROM 2014

#1. It seems like most of you are now using 1Password to securely protect all of your passwords & other important private information, and are using 1Password to create unique passwords for every single website that you visit. Yay! This may be one of your best defenses against getting hacked or getting your identity stolen! If you’re not already using 1Password, please call us immediately for help on this matter!

#2. You now know to NEVER let anybody remotely control your computer, even if they claim to be from Apple or Microsoft. This is ALWAYS a scam. They are trying to take money from you (by claiming that you have a virus that they need to charge your credit card for), and they are also trying to steal your identity (by logging all of your keystrokes… including your 1Password master password). The ONLY time you should EVER let somebody remotely control your computer is if you personally know & trust the person, and if you would personally give them the key to the front door of your home. Please remember this, because 3 of our clients got scammed in 2014 by hackers in this fashion!

#3. You also know that you must change all of your online passwords that you haven’t changed since April 2014, due to last year’s Heartbleed SSL bug, which affected most of the web.

So today, we’re going to talk about another security issue that you might do all the time:

USING YOUR DEVICES ON A SHARED WIFI NETWORK

What do I mean by using your devices on a shared WiFi network? I mean: using your laptop or iPhone or iPad over WiFi in a location where other people besides yourself also have access to that same exact WiFi network. This could be a coffee shop, the airport, a hotel, a school classroom, a convention center, a restaurant, or even your own company’s WiFi network! Even if the WiFi network is protected by a password, it is still a shared WiFi network if other people know that password!

Whenever you use your laptop over a shared WiFi network, ANYBODY on the exact same WiFi network has the ability to snoop on ALL of the unencrypted activities that you are doing on your computer, and they can even take over your online identity. To see how absolutely frightening this is, check out just a tiny little sample of what anybody at your local coffee shop (or hotel or airport or classroom) can do to you: https://www.getcloak.com/blog/2013/07/15/lets-hack-things-firesheep/

And these security risks go way beyond browsing the web. These risks cover ANY unencrypted online activity that you do on your computer:
– Sending & receiving email with email accounts that aren’t secured by SSL.
– Connecting to a remote FileMaker Server that doesn’t have SSL turned on.
– Connecting to your very own website’s FTP server (instead of connecting to it via SFTP).
– And much more!

Luckily, there is a very simple solution to all of this:

USING A VPN (VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK)

A VPN protects your privacy & security by encrypting ALL of the activity that you do online. No matter what you do online, nobody on your WiFi network will be able to snoop on you at all! All of your online activity is private & secure!

A side benefit of using a VPN is that you can browse the web as if you were in a different country. So, for example, if you were traveling in Ireland and you wanted to watch an online movie via your Netflix account (which is prohibited in countries outside the USA), your VPN can “trick” Netflix into thinking that you are still in the USA.

Glenn Fleishman is a security expert for Macworld Magazine, and he perfectly explains the benefits of using a VPN here: http://www.macworld.com/article/2871286/how-and-why-you-should-use-a-vpn-to-protect-your-datas-final-mile.html

I agree with Glenn’s recommendations to use either Cloak or TunnelBear as your VPN provider of choice. You truly can’t go wrong with either one.

Cloak is more elegant & seamless than TunnelBear because it will AUTOMATICALLY turn on your VPN for you whenever you are on a shared WiFi network. Also, the creators of Cloak are diehard Apple fanatics, which shows in their perfectly-crafted apps for Apple users. Cloak also provides faster technical support responses than TunnelBear. However, Cloak is a bit more expensive than TunnelBear, and they are a U.S. company which retains your online activity for 2 weeks… which could be handed over to our good friends in the NSA, FBI, and CIA. You know, those agencies who seem to have forgotten about our Constitutional Right to privacy!

TunnelBear requires you to manually remember to turn it on whenever you are on a shared WiFi network, so that could be a deal-breaker right there. They also require 1 business day to get back to you with any technical support emails. But the absolute best part about TunnelBear is that they are located in Canada (so they do not have to report to the U.S. Government), plus they do NOT retain any of your browsing history at all. There is nothing for them to turn over to any 3-letter agencies, because they do NOT retain any of your information. They don’t even require your last name to sign up for service! Plus, they accept Bitcoin for payment, which keeps you even more private & secure!

So, you can’t go wrong with either Cloak or TunnelBear… as long as you are actively using one of them! If you need help getting set up with a VPN, be sure to let me know!

Sincerely,

Scott
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