Tag Archives: GPS

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Mobile Security and Accounts

Mobile security of your smartphone or tablet, is not rocket science. You can take simple steps to secure your devices and online accounts that protects you from being an easy target. Let’s start with your passwords.


You need to change them and do so on a regular basis. Please don’t be lazy about this simple task. Anyone who knows anything about you can probably guess your password. Especially if you d0 something stupid like use you dog’s name, the street you live on, your favorite shoe designer or sports team. People do these things and, to make it worse, they keep the same password for years. Or, dumber still, they use this same password on all their online accounts. So anyone who guesses it can then take over your life. How do hackers know you well enough to guess your passwords? Facebook! Never, ever, use the same password for multiple online accounts!

Change you passwords at least every six months. Use a lot of numbers and special characters and mix them up good. Your password should look something like this “L*gg46&#wEvF?.” Ugly huh?  And hard to remember too. Well try a password manager. They are easy to use and free. CheckThe Best Free Password Managers of 2017from PC Magazine.com.

Device safety

Do you know what your device is doing? It does all kind of things when you are using it, and when you’re not. Practicing good cyber security means understanding what your device is doing and how to spot trouble and stop it. Take the time to learn all about your mobile device.

Make sure you update your phone’s operating system and apps regularly. Companies are always finding flaws and security issues and they issue updates and patches when they do.

Online accounts

Consider this, any account you have online can be monitored to see what recent activity has occurred.  Ok, so who does not have a Facebook or social media account of some kind?To see what’s happening with your Facebook account click here.  Facebook offers all its users a page that will tell them if someone has been accessing their accounts. If you have a Twitter account click here, for Google click here.  These links will take you to the pages you need to monitor your account activity. Do yourself a favor and bookmark them for future use. It doesn’t take long to check these sites for unusual activity. And check them regularly.

You will also find ways to block any unauthorized activity on your accounts. Some apps and services allow you to set up alerts that come to you via a text message or email when something funny is happening to your accounts. They will also alert you when you log in from a new device or from a different location.

Check your apps

Another thing you need to do is check the app permissions on your phone or tablet. Apps communicate with their maker regularly. Most of the time its things like performance reports if the app crashes or updates. But trust me, it is communicating. You need to understand what your phone is doing and what permissions it has to access your data. Apps can do things like monitor your position using GPS, copy your text messages, access your contacts and spy on you using the on-board camera. Most people don’t realize how much data their phone and the associated apps give away.  Don’t just click on the “accept” link when an app asks for permission to access your phone’s features.  Investigate and ask yourself, why?

 Apps from third party vendors are a good source of trouble. Games, shopping apps, email apps, any app can be malicious. Hackers count on you not looking at the app too closely, especially the part about permissions to access things like your email, camera or GPS. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again!

You should also be aware of a new threat that is hitting mobile devices, it is known as ad and click fraud. It is a direct result of clicking on a link in an email or text message. Clicking on mysterious links is a s good way to introduce malware into your device.

Free Wi-Fi

Set up your phone to ask permission to join open wi-fi networks like you find at Starbucks. These open networks, or free wi-fi, are havens for hackers. When you are traveling make sure you know what the hotel or airport wi-fi name is. A new tactic for hackers is to set up their own wi-fi networks close to or inside the hotel. They give their wi-fi a name similar to that of the hotel’s. If you are not paying attention you might get on a hacker’s wi-fi. Hackers can see everything you do if you are on their phony network and that could be big trouble. Learn to you use a VPN or tether your device to your smartphone for secure Internet access. Better yet, get your own wi-fi hotspot. Many of the major cellphone service providers offer them.

Now you know.


App of the Week – Romex

RomexYou hear it and you see it everywhere you look; texting and driving. Yet some people simply don’t get the message that distracted driving is extremely dangerous. It could cost  you or someone else their life. It has already and it will again. That is why Romex MyFix is the app of the week.

The Romex app uses a smartphone’s GPS system to detect the speed the device is moving. If that speed is faster than four miles per hour, it locks the device. Simple yet ingenious.

According to the Center for Disease Control in the U.S. at least 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured everyday in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. The CDC’s definition of distracted driving is  “… driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving.”  StopTextsStopWrecks.org reports that 44 States, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.

If Romex detects your phone moving faster than you can walk or run the app disables the screen. This makes it impossible for you to respond to calls, texts, emails, social media, and all the other crap you do on your phone that could get you killed. If you’re a passenger using the Romex app you can set the app to a different mode so that you’re not subjected to a trip without your phone.  But we know that there is a stubborn and stupid driver that will disable the app.

Right now Romex is offering its app to corporations wishing to ensure that their drivers aren’t using their phones while driving the company car. But it expects to release a general version to the public soon.

The Romex app will cost money to download, but could save drivers money on insurance premiums. Romex is currently looking for an insurance partner. According to sales director Steve Arscott, “One good incentive for a young driver to have it on their phone is they would get a rebate on their insurance policy.”


App of the Week – ManDown

mandownNothing is more terrifying than being alone and suddenly needing emergency help. Thats why ManDown is the App of the Week. 

Smartphones are now part of outlives. And with a smartphone and the ManDown app you are never alone. The ManDown app alerts family, friends or colleagues automatically if you have an emergency even if you are unconscious. The app send out emergency notifications via text, phone or email.

The ManDown app monitors your movements and can be set for minutes or hours up to 24 hours. If the user does not move for a set amount of time a pre-alarm warning will activate. If the phone is not moved your smartphone go into a full alarm mode. In the full alarm mode the phone sends out a local, audible alarm. The phone also sends out a text, email and phone call to selected emergency contacts. That message will also provide your GPS location.

Many elderly people enjoy an independent life. But with age comes hazards and sometimes this can have family members worried. Falls in the home is a major cause of injury to the elderly. ManDown can help ease the worry of family members.

But ManDown is useful for many people including;

  • Fire and police first responders.
  • Military personnel.
  • Workers in potentially hazardous situations.
  • People who work alone such as postal workers, utility workers, security guards and convenience store clerks.
  • Physically or developmentally handicapped people living alone.
  • People with health conditions
  • Children
  • College Students
  • Caregivers and baby sitters
  • Hikers , campers and and people who enjoy activities in remote locations.

Unlike other personal emergency alert monitors ManDown has no monthly fees. The app also has a SOS button the user can activate when in need and when activated constantly monitors the users GPS location.

ManDown is $2.99 and available for Apple and Android.

Teen Driving Worries? There’s an App for That

canstockphoto22566500Any parent will tell you their greatest fear is the day their child gets behind the wheel for the first time.  Their child is moving beyond their control and watchful eye. They are entering the jungle called life and the open road. They are driving. Fortunately there is technology and apps for that.

For parents, especially African-American parents, driving opens a terrifying stage in their child’s life. An encounter with the wrong police officer can be deadly. For those fears black parents with teen drivers, and themselves, there is the Driving While Black app. This app educates and prepares them and their child to survive encounters with police officers. It provides tools that allows them to document the encounter for later reference, immediately notify parents if they are stopped and legal information. Driving while black should not be a lethal task but we know it happens.

But we also know how teens tend to behave in a reckless manner and suffer from basic inexperience on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 16 to 19-year-olds are nearly three times more likely to have an accident than drivers ages 20 and over. In the U.S. most teens dream of the day they begin to drive. And eventually they will want a car of their own. So the IIHS offers this list of safest used cars for teens.

But as long as they are driving mom and dad’s car parents will want to monitor and educate their child about driving. Now General Motors is offering a new way for parents to track their child’s behavior behind the wheel.

GM’s new product, “Teen Driver,” and will be available in the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu.

Parents can program “Teen Driver”  to track how far their teen has driven,  how fast they drive, record any speed warnings issued during a drive, stability control events, anti-lock brake events, forward collision alerts and forward-collision braking events if the vehicle is equipped with that option.

To activate Teen Driver parents unlock the feature by creating a PIN in the “settings” menu of their available MyLink system. This then allows them to register their teen’s key fob. The system only records when that key fob is in use.

To download and review the full report parents just enter a password on MyLink. This tool can used to help a teen polish their driving skills. Parents could also spot potentially troubling behavior such as speeding and sudden hard braking.

But many parents can’t wait or afford a brand new 2016 Malibu. For those parents there are options available now.

If you currently own a late model GM car there is the OnStar emergency communications system. This service can locate their car on a map using GPS. OnStar will also inform the owner when the vehicle has an airbag deployment.

Ford Motor Company sponsors the RoadReady app. The app is an extension of The Parent’s Supervised Driving ProgramThe RoadReady app allows parents to track and log driving habits during their child’s learner’s permit process and is available on Apple devices.

Travelers Insurance offers IntelliDrive a plug-in device that records driving behaviors. Parents can see  the location and driving history of their teen. Parents get a weekly report on their teenagers driving habits that include speed, acceleration, braking, and driving hours. Most importantly parents will be alerted via text or email of unusual activity such as when their child goes beyond set boundaries. The technology is limited and is only available in several states.

Progressive Insurance Snapshot is also plug-in device that records driver behavior such as acceleration and braking as well as daily miles driven and the time of day the driving takes place. Progressive does not market the device as a way to monitor teens but it could certainly be used that way. But there are a few things you need to know about Snapshot.

Cellcontrol blocks your teenagers cell phone while driving. If someone tries to tamper with the device  it sends a text or email alert to a designated administrator. Cellcontrol is currently available on BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile 5 and 6.

Parents can learn about other technology for monitoring their teens driving habits by visiting these sites.

USA Today: Apps Etc. Monitor Teen Drivers

Consumer Reports: How to Track Your Teen Drivers

Now you know

App of the Week – Waze

Black people love their GPS. Not everybody remembers the bad old days when you had to know how to read a map to get somewhere you were not familiar with. And of course those maps could not tell you about traffic problems. That is why Waze is the App of the Week.

Waze works by creating a community of everybody on the road working together to avoid traffic hazards. For those of you who don’t know this is called crowd sourced traffic information. And this community, or crowd, is 50 million drivers strong and all over the world. Its the next step up from GPS.

Traffic is the first thing that comes to mind with the Waze app. Nobody likes the idea of sitting in traffic. Many GPS systems provide traffic updates but not in real time like Waze. What makes Waze really special is the way it blends human intelligence and technology to work for the driver.

Waze users contribute to the community by driving with the app open on their phone. This allows the app to passively contribute traffic and other road data. Users can be more active by alerting other “Wazers” of road hazards such as accidents, police traps, or other road situations. This can save the user time and money by navigating around the problem. The police are not exactly fond of this feature but we will get to that later.  This  crowd sourcing helps other Wazers to get an early heads-up about what’s up the road “awaze”. Waze also uses the local community as active map editors creating the most up to date local road map possible.  But you can also use the app in an anonymous mode to be completely invisible to other Wazers.

But Waze gets better. It has the ability to learn your routes and be a step ahead of you as you drive. Your trip is mapped and kept on the servers so that roads on the Waze system are always up to date. Most commuters usually have more than one route to work or home in their head. But the question is; “what is best route for me right now ?” Waze works by  remembering your route after  3 or 4 trips.  Waze collects this information and learns your optional routes.  That’s how Waze answers the question; “what is best route for me right now?”  

Waze is also a social app. It matches your friends from your phones contact list with those who are also using Waze and lets you know.  Waze will also notify them you are using Waze as well. This is known as the “system suggested” friends. You can approve of the friend connection or not. There are obviously some privacy issues there and Waze allows you to disable the feature. You can also use the messaging feature to contact other Wazers privately using the MyWaze messaging feature or talk to everybody by using the Map Chat feature.  

As a Waze user you can collect points and move up in the ranks from a Baby Wazer to the ultimate Waze Royalty. Along the way to these illustrious rankings you collect points that are translated into Candies. In all honesty I really don’t see what the value of these mystical prizes are. My question is do they relate to some form of credibility for a Waze user? To me it actually seems to be some kind of game. You be the judge.

Another feature of the Waze app is that users  can point out cheap gas stations on the maps.

But there is one issue with the Waze app that have cops pretty upset.  With this app users can alert one another about the location of police officers, speed traps and other law enforcement activity. Many police officials believe the app can be used by criminals to avoid the police or worse, target them. The National Sheriff’s Association has requested that Google, who owns Waze, remove the police sighting feature before they take legal action. Some critics have said that the government does not like the Waze police spotting feature because it could significantly reduce the number of tickets written and the revenue that comes from that source.

Some police officers believe that the app can be a benefit by letting the public know where the cops are and increasing their visibility. But others feel that it is a serious danger to police safety. The debate will be interesting.

Waze is free and available for Apple, Android and Windows platforms




Prepare Yourself for Cyber War

canstockphoto22219067Cyber warfare is real and it’s happening everyday. How long do you think it will be before you become a victim of a cyber attack? Answer; not long. Next question; are you ready?

If you have not heard about the Sony hack then you are not paying attention. If you think it won’t ever affect you you’re in trouble. Its really just a matter of time.

Black people can’t afford to remain ignorant of what’s happening in cyber space and how to respond to it. In order to avoid becoming  a casualty you need to understand what a cyber war can do to your life in an instant.

The cyber war battlefield is everywhere. This includes personal computers, smart phones, bank accounts, 401(k)s and other money management accounts, ATMs, drinking water, gasoline pipelines and stations, electrical plants and yes, nuclear plants, dams, point of sale systems in stores, traffic lights and anything connected to the Internet .

The likelihood increases everyday that the next war this nation fights will be waged on computers aimed at crippling the systems that keep the government and daily life functioning normally. In the worst-case scenario the nation could suffer a catastrophe such as the loss of major sections of the power grid perhaps an entire region of the country. We could see the erasure of millions of bank accounts, manipulating or hijacking tens of millions of identities, or disruption of air traffic control and transportation systems throughout the nation. Or all of the above at the same time

That war is here. Most recently someone, allegedly the North Koreans, hacked Sony Pictures. This was followed by someone shutting down the entire North Korean Internet. Now a group known as Lizard Squad has attacked both Sony and Microsoft. The war is upon us…now! You better get ready.

“There’s a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyber attack.”  – Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and former director of the CIA.

What can you do to make sure you survive the next attack?

A) Don’t get caught without cash. ATM machines may be shut down and store computers  may not work. You may not be able to use credit or ATM cards. You should keep at least $500 dollars cash in a secure place in your home. When the financial system is attacked cash will be king. If you have a family you may need more. Don’t keep all your money in one account, spread it around. Keep your savings account in a different bank than your checking. With a little luck one of them may be working.

B) Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times. You may not be able to buy gas for few days or have to drive some distance to find it. And when you do find it could be very expensive.

C) Keep emergency supplies at home. Basics like non-perishable foods, a few cases of water, blankets, simple medicines, extra prescriptions, flashlights, batteries and battery powered radios, maybe charcoal or extra fuel for the barbecue grill. If you live in a cold climate at least one source of heat that does not require electricity with fuel to last a week. Also keep an emergency supply kit in your car with enough food and water for at least 24 hours.

D) Make sure you have basic tools for emergency purposes. Matches, a sewing kit, a fire extinguisher, shovel, a can opener, plastic bags, disinfectants and sanitizers.

F) Pay attention to the needs of babies, children and pets and the elderly. Something like a child’s favorite toy in time of stress and insecurity can be a big help. Prepare a back pack with some treats they like, books, games or even some school work to keep them busy. This can help re-assure a child.  Keep this back pack ready with the rest of your supplies

If you have an infant be ready with extra diapers, medicines, proper clothing and food.

For the elderly make sure you have extra medicines they may need, hygiene products such as adult diapers, special foods, clothing, glasses, hearing aids, medical supplies. You can also prepare a back pack with these items as well.

Pets need to eat and drink too. Make sure you have a way to secure your animal to keep it from roaming. And keep treats for them as well. You may need to transport a pet so keep that box handy.

Pay attention to personal hygiene. Make sure you have soapy wipes, toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, etc. Another nice luxury to have is a camping toilet.

G) Entertainment This is no trivial matter. There could be some long boring hours ahead. Have a way to fill these hours helps to avoid frustration, tension and boredom if the grid is down for more than a day or two.  Card games, board games and other forms of entertainment can make enduring a crisis much easier.

H) Community and Communicate. Work with your neighbors set up a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program. Divide responsibilities for things like a neighborhood watch for suspicious individuals, first aid and sharing of resources and information.

When it comes to communication you may be out of touch with family members in the affected areas or you may be the one out of touch. This is normal. The Internet, landline phones and cell phones maybe out of service for days. Don’t panic.

I) If you have to move Sometimes there are circumstances where you or you and your family will have to move from your home for safety and security. This is where you will need a full tank of gas in the family car. You will need blankets or sleeping bags and food and water and most importantly a place to go. Know where there are emergency shelters. Pay attention to any traffic information that is being broadcast and have a GPS device available. You might actually be able to use it.

Hopefully the situation will not become so bad you have to arm yourself but you never know. Act as you see fit. In many emergencies there are people who take advantage of the situation to commit crimes such a looting or burglary and even violence. Be prepared and act with restraint but protect you and yours.

J) Have A Back-Up Plan And Be Flexible –There is a saying in the military; no plan survives an encounter with the enemy. When your plan is disrupted, what will you do? It is imperative for you to have a back-up plan and to be flexible. The worst thing you can do is believe your plan is infallible.

You may have seen some or all of this information before. If so then you know it is very similar to what you need to do to prepare for a major storm or other natural disaster. You need to pay attention because I can almost guarantee that this will happen and it will be a very uncomfortable situation until it gets straightened out. You should be prepared to survive for at least three days without outside help and possibly longer.

Now you know.




Internet Spying: Your Home is Full of Snitches


Courtesy of Image go

A lot of African-Americans are going to be extremely surprised by what I am about to tell you. Your home is full of snitches. Everything in it is spying on you. And not just your home. Your car is a snitch as well.

Black people are extremely averse to having our business in the streets. We believe in minding our own business and reminding you to stay out of ours. But we live in the information age and things have become very open and complicated. Technology has gotten to the point where you can’t do much or anything or go anywhere without someone knowing exactly what you are doing. 

AACR Rule #11, Information is the currency and commodity of the digital age.

Let’s look at the devices in your home that are telling your business.

1) Televisions – Black men love a big screen television with all the tricks and features. You gotta have it to watch the game. But these new smart TVs can and do track what you watch. Electronics manufacturer LG makes televisions that not only spy on what channels you’re watching but sends the names of files on thumb drives connected to the set back to LG. Hackers can also hack some models of Samsung smart TVs and use them as instruments to steal data from your network and all the devices connected to it. And are you ready for this? Hackers can even watch you through the webcam built into the television.

2) Your DVR/Cable-Box/Satellite-TV ReceiverNow even if your television is not spying on you then your cable box may be doing the job. Those set top boxes do more than bring you cable television. They can also provide your Internet service. So everything you watch on television and do online is recorded somewhere. Cable providers can track what you are watching and recording. They use this information to target ads more efficiently. Did you read your service contract? You may have agreed to allow the cable company to sell this information and even turn it over to the government.

3) Kitchen Appliances – Yeah; the newest refrigerators and other high tech kitchen appliances are connected to your home network allowing for great convenience and energy savings. But there is a catch; spying and security risks. So what can a kitchen appliance tell someone about you? How about when you wake up in the morning. That connected coffee maker is a snitch. If you have a refrigerator with a barcode reader it will tell someone your shopping habits. Smart kitchen appliances have had known security vulnerabilities for some time now. Can you believe there is a documented instance where hackers were using a smart refrigerator in a malicious email attack. I’m not joking! Hackers successfully used a smart fridge to send out malicious emails.

4) Cell Phones – If this comes as a surprise to you then you clearly have not been paying attaention. Your cell provider may be following your everymove, call and text. This information includes whom you communicate with and your location. This also includes the various apps you load on to your phone. Haven’t you heard about Angry Birds That and other apps may track other more detailed activity. Some apps will sync your phone contact list with the app the providers’ servers by default.

5) Your Webcam or Home Security Cameras Malware on your computer can operate your computer webcam  and record you or your family. That’s right. That webcam may be busy taking photos or video and you think the camera is off. Some notable people have found themselves the target of blackmail from a hacker who captured compromising images. Miss Teen USA was blackmailed by a hacker who took control of her laptop’s webcam. The hacker photographed her naked and demanded more images. Your home security cameras are vulnerable as well. Malware on computers could intercept transmissions from your home security cameras. These cameras are attached to your network and allow you to watch your homes from anywhere. Once hacked a criminal can see you’re not home or, more frightening, who is at home.

6) Your Telephone – You got the bundle right? Phone, internet and television service all in one. All using your home network and router. Easy pickings especially if you have not changed your router default password. Look at your phone bill. Every call, every number you dialed and every incoming call is listed and how long you were on the call. Its all there. And the provider has it too. See #1 & 2.

7.)  Lighting, Home Entertainment System, Home Security System – Can you turn on the lights from your cell phone? Open the garage door? What about your home alarm system? All these things are controlled via the Internet. Very convenient.  But ask yourself if this information is available to outsiders?  Is your security company recording your coming and going? What about your home entertainment system? Do you have a DVD player that streams Netflix? Do you stream music over your home stereo? This information is  relayed to manufacturers of the equipment as well as the supplier of the music or programming. Remember that anything that connects to the Internet can be hacked.

8) The house thermostat (s) Internet connected thermostats are now on the market. These devices provide convenience and energy savings. And the energy companies learn your habits and preferences. Google’s recently purchased the Nest thermostat maker. And keep in mind that Google is a notorious information collector. Your utility company may offer comparable devices to help you save on your energy bills. But what else is that thermostat or better versions that are sure to come telling your utility company?

9) Your Medical Devices This should definitely shock you but its not anything new. Medical devices such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other medical devices can and have been hacked. But even if they have not been hacked these devices may still be spying on you. Some pacemakers can transmit patient status information over the Internet allowing the doctor to monitor the patient.  Could this information be intercepted? What if a hacker transmitted phony information to the doctor? Also known as a man-in-the-middle attack.  And please forgive me thinking like this, but what if a hacker took control of a pacemaker or insulin pump? Would that be the perfect murder?

10) Your car – You have GPS don’t you? What about Bluetooth? Pandora radio? What about EzPass or other toll taking devices? Wherever you drive you can be tracked. Cars are the latest target of hackers because more and more come with Internet connectivity and some even act a WiFi hot spots. But what about how you drive? Some insurance companies are now offering devices that track your driving habits in exchange for insurance discounts. Progressive insurance uses a device called a SnapShot. It tracks your driving habits for 30 days and then adjusts your rates accordingly.

11) Your gun! – America loves its guns and it seems everyone has one at home. Is this a privacy issue? As firearms technology advances we may see the day of the  “smartgun.” A weapon that is computerized with various safety features meant to prevent accidents and unauthorized use. Such as by a child or someone other than the owner. Look for these on the market soon.  But can these devices be used to spy on the owner? Can the gun be remotely disabled by a hacker or law enforcement? Would the government be interested in such a high tech measure? Could a citizen or criminal be tracked by following his gun? Could a stolen firearm be tracked or how about illegal gun sales. And what would the NRA say about it? Stay tuned!

Now You Know