Tag Archives: tablet

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.

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.

 

Re-Sell or Donate Your Old Technology

pile-o-cellphones-702573-870x400Christmas is done and as always many of us found a new techno-gadget under the tree. Its a great feeling to finally get your hands on a new laptop, tablet or smartphone. But keep in mind that that old phone or computer could put some money back in your pocket or a get you a nice tax write-off.

Re-selling technology is a big business. Thanks to the combined efforts of the technology industry and gadget hounds. Gadget hounds can’t wait for the next new gadget to hit the market. And the manufacturers are happy to oblige. They quickly trade in a smartphone or other device just to have the newest thing on the market. The result is that millions of devices end up for sale as re-furbished. Great devices, nearly new, at a greatly reduced price.

But a trade-in is not always the best option. You won’t always get the best deal for your old phone or laptop. The profit margin for re-selling refurbished devices is huge because the buyers keep the prices low for buying your stuff and high for selling it. Its a simple game that benefits the re-seller. But re-selling your old smartphone or computer can get you a few dollars and giving it to charity can get you a nice tax write-off and a good feeling inside.

Here are the best places to re-sell your old computer for top dollar.

gadget salvationGadget Salvation – Gadget Salvation is accredited with the Better Business Bureau and has an A rating from them. Users of ResellerRatings  give the company an average 8 out of 10 score and the site is rated 4 out of 5 stars based on the 55 reviews on Trustpilot. The company will provide you with a shipping label for your device and pay using PayPal. But the website has a couple of issues you need to be ready for. First is that it may be difficult to find the make and model of your device and you may find more than one listing creating some confusion. The second is that they have a strict standard for getting the best price for your device. When they say ‘like new” they mean it. Gadget Salvation warns sellers that only about 1 in 10 devices are considered to be in “flawless” condition. Most used laptops only qualify for “good.” But their prices are still above average compared to other companies.

macmeanofferMac Me An OfferRemember the old saying; “If it sounds to good to be true it probably is?”  Well the price difference between their MacBook offers and the other sites will have you thinking it’s a scam. But Mac Me An Offer has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

This website requires that you complete some forms and be a little more detailed about the cosmetic and working condition of your computer. Then you have to wait for a price quote that comes via email. Of course the site only deals in Apple products.

amazon-logoAmazon.com – Amazingly Amazon will accept a host of devices for trade-in. You can trade in old smartphones, tablets, cameras, laptops,video games, wearable devices, MP3 players, TVs, movies and CDs, other assorted electronics and even books and textbooks. Your trade-in will not get you cash but you can get an Amazon gift card.

PCWorld.com has a great list of electronics buy back programs

Donating to charity is another great way to dispose of old electronics. Many charities put the electronics to good use buy re-selling them for a profit. Many homeless shelters use old computer and laptops to help the homeless find jobs, fill out job applications online, and various other tasks.

Some women’s shelters provide cellphones and computers to abused women as well. Check in your local area for shelters that are taking donations. Also check out the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  Most of these donations are completely tax deductible and the charities will provide receipts for your donation’s value.

Another place to donate old electronics is the World Computer Exchange. These computers are used in schools in under-developed countries and private education programs. These too are normally tax deductible.

There is also Cellphones for Soldiers.  This  charity accepts used cellphones which are refurbished and sold. A portion of the profits is used to purchase prepaid calling minutes for soldiers deployed overseas so they may call families back home.

Most charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries accept electronic donations.

Check out the MoneyCrashers.com website for more charities accepting electronics donations.

Now you know.

 

 

Fox’s ‘Empire’ to Stream on Hulu Plus

fox-empireFox’s new showEmpire is big! Really big!  In the history of television the show is unequaled.  In the 23 year since Nielsen began tracking TV ratings no other program has grown its audience show after show, week after week. Last week’s finale captured over 16.5 million viewers leaving CBS’s Survivor in the dust by 7 million viewers.

Streaming media company Hulu has grabbed exclusive streaming rights for all past and future episodes of this record setting program.  Currently the entire first season is available for Hulu Plus subscribers. Future episodes will stream on the service the day after it airs on Fox. Hulu Plus is the paid, commercial free version of the service.

facebook_share_thumb_default_huluplusThe streaming media business is an extremely competitive business. Hulu is not publicly traded so it is not required to release financial data.  Netflix, Hulu’s biggest competitor, ended 2014 on a high note with a 26 percent revenue increase and adding over  four million more subscribers. The company earned $5.5 billion last year.

Amazon Prime is the other big player in the streaming game.  Amazon is usually quiet about its subscriber base but recently announced it has over 20 million Amazon Prime members globally.  This subscriber base is bringing in an an estimated $1.7 billion annually according to Forbes.com.

Apple is also launching a streaming television service that would let users stream up to 25 channels to Apple mobile devices and the Apple TV set top box. According to the Wall Street Journal Apple is negotiating with broadcasters to offer a slimmed-down bundle of TV networks as soon as this fall. ABC, CBS, and Fox are reported on board.

Hulu used its advantage to get Empire. The streaming service is owned by Twenty-First Century Fox,  the Walt Disney Co., and Comcast’s NBCUniversal. But even though Hulu would appear to have a fighting advantage over Netflix and Amazon Prime the war over streaming rights is hot and expensive. Netflix picked up The Blacklist for a reported $2 million per episode. It grabbed rights to Gotham before the show even premiered.

Hulu will not be outgunned in the streaming war. Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins announced the company is extending its relationship with CBS. It has also signed an exclusive deal for ABC’s Nashville and improved it’s children’s selection with exclusive access to Fraggle Rock spin-off  The Doozers.

Some content will be available to all Hulu subscribers for free. This includes CBS’s Everybody Loves Raymond and Wings. 

Hulu offers 1,650 shows, 2,500 movies, original programs and broadcast favorites including:

  • Scandal
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  • The Mindy Project
  • Glee
  • Blue Bloods
  • Elementary

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Netflix offers over 9,000 titles and original programs along with these popular television shows:

  •  Mad Men
  • Breaking Bad
  • The West Wing
  • Friend
  • 30 Rock

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Amazon Prime offers the following programs and original content:

  • Justified
  • 24 Live Another Day
  • Falling Skies
  • The Good Wife
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Americans

Breaking It Down

What you see happening is the death of three different forms of video entertainment. Cable, broadcast television and movie rentals are all dying! The streaming media business is offering everything the consumer needs and wants on demand, anywhere they want it, and on any device they want. For black people this means saving yourself a lot of money by getting rid of your cable or at least reducing it to basic service.

Let me explain. Broadcast television has slowly been dying since the invention of the VCR. If not for live sports they would be gone already. Why? Because broadcast television held to a rigid schedule. All programs were aired on a certain date and time. The VCR changed all that allowing you to record your program and watch it when you wanted to. Cable came along offering movies and more adult oriented programming. Television has been fighting, with some success, to compete. But it is a struggle.

Cable television had the same problem but they were airing programs a few times a day so if you missed a show you could catch it later. But some cable bills are as much as $300 a month. And there is the DVR. That costs too.  Yeah, if you could master the technology you could access your DVR away from home using a computer or laptop. But again, it is expensive. Have you seen the cost of the data plans lately?

And let’s not leave out Red Box movie rental. That big Red Box is slowly becoming a big red coffin. Same as BlockBuster and those other movie rental stores.

Streaming media like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime do it all. Now you can pretty much watch any movie or television show anywhere you want anytime you want. Even on your smartphone.  You are completely in control of your time and entertainment choices. Cable can’t do that. Television can’t do that. Red Box can’t do that. And they sure as hell can’t do it for less than $10.00 a month as these services do. Cut the cable and save your money.

 

Online Price Discrimination

ID-100188375African-American people are extremely sensitive to discrimination. No matter what form it takes it is ugly and wrong. Unfortunately discrimination has found a home on the Internet. Its called price discrimination.

We have all had it happen to us. You search for a product or service and find it at one price but then later, sometimes only minutes, the price will change. We have all heard that you should search for flights on certain days and at certain hours to get the best deal. But Internet pricing is discriminatory, even predatory, according to factors that will surprise you.

Research from Northeastern University analyzed how online stores customize prices according to a shoppers digital habits and demographics such as their ZIP code.  The study revealed  major e-commerce sites including Home Depot, Wal-mart, and Hotels.com list online prices that are all over the map. Not only that but in some situations prices are customized based on the behavior of a particular shopper. This behavior includes whether you are shopping on a  smartphone or desktop. The report was presented this at the Internet Measurement Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

“Going into this, we assumed the project would be risky—that we might not find anything,” says Christo Wilson, an assistant professor of computer science at Northeastern and one of the study’s authors. “There have been incidents in the past where companies have been caught doing this, and the PR was very bad. We thought that sites wouldn’t be doing anything. We were more surprised that we found something.”

Some companies whose sites were studied complained that the study methodology was flawed. Northeastern researchers did admit to one mistake but believe that the study provides insight into how your shopping experience can change depending on personal factors.

The actual searching and shopping was performed by 300 people recruited through the crowd sourcing site Mechanical Turk. Researchers had them shop online and perform product searches on 16 top e-commerce sites. The study tested these sites for personalization based on the browser a web shopper might use such as Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari.  Also tested were operating systems; Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, and whether or not a user was logged into the site as a regular customer with an online account.

What the research is looking at is the ability of e-commerce sites to tailor what you pay based on what they know about you. That’s discriminatory. For example does you zip code indicate an certain income level?  Does that mean you can or will pay more? That’s predatory.  Are you paying more for a plane ticket based on your profile on a travel website. That’s predatory. Or what you post on Facebook? That’s discriminatory.

How true is this? We already know that online advertising is targeted at you based on your web searches and other online activity. We also know that Facebook will follow your activity and travels on the Internet even after you log off the website. Merchants use cookies to monitor your activity on websites as well. Another fact to consider is that African-Americans and people of color are more likely to use mobile technology for banking and shopping than white Americans. Your digital profile is out there. Could prices be set based on that? It seems so.

What the test revealed was that if you shop using your smartphone some online stores actually pay attention to what kind of smartphone you use. Home Depot and Travelocity.com websites were the target of the research but they both deny this activity. Researchers admitted to a flaw in the study methodology pointed out by Travelocity.

However, Travelocity admitted to offering a handful of mobile-only offerings on smartphones and tablets that don’t appear on searches performed on desktop computers. Why? Its a tactic used to encourage the download of the the mobile app. A Travelocity spokesperson told Wired.com that results aren’t cheaper by design but sometimes are since Travelocity smartphone users might be looking for a place to stay at the last minute. Results that appear on mobile devices appear to bring down the average price the spokesperson explains. But Travelocity claims the pricing for the same specific properties remain constant across platforms.

Wilson and his team of researchers were able to highlight other forms of price discrimination on some websites but were unable to determine the root cause of the price variations. Among those most notable are Sears and rental car websites. “We tried different browsers and different platforms. We tried logging in and logging out,” Wilson says. “But it looks like there’s something else in there that we haven’t figured out yet.”

Northeastern researchers don’t believe that cookies are all bad. According to Wilson on sites like Cheaptickets.com or Orbitz.com, users who are logged in will often be shown “members only” pricing that, on average,  saves the member $12 on hotels. But if buyers cleared their cookies before conducting the search, they wouldn’t be logged in and wouldn’t see that discount.

Wilson and the Northeastern team avoided Amazon.com and eBay.com. These online marketplaces, explains Wilson, allow sellers to list their own products and used items making things too complicated.

Considering the discriminatory pricing found by this research how does the consumer get the best offer for your money? Wilson points out that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. “Every site we looked at was doing something different—changing different things based on different information,” he says.

There are some guidelines for searching and shopping online;

  • Perform searches on all platforms you have access to. That means your regular browser, an incognito or anonymous browser, and your smartphone or tablet.
  • Plan ahead and take your time to observe price fluctuations.
  • Be extra thorough asking a friend or relative in a different zip code to do the same thing and see what results turn up.
  • Incorporate every money saving tool you can. That includes coupons, credit card discounts, adjusting time and date of travel. Use frequent flyer miles and credits. Ask about credit union or employer discounts.

This way of shopping may be tedious and much different from your mall stores with clearly marked prices, coupons and discounts but it’s an unavoidable part of our digital lives. If you shop online in any form you might as well get used to it. “All online retailers are watching each other, and it’s a race to the bottom,” says Wilson. “The only thing that changes between online stores and brick-and-mortar stores is the pace at which that happens. It’s faster online.”

Now you know.

 

 

 

 

Is Your Router Wide Open?

When it comes to the Internet black people are sometimes unaware of the little things that are happening all around them.  For example how many black people knew that there are maps online that can show every house and every WiFi network and even the devices that are on the network in your home?

Everything in your house that is online has two distinct numbers. One is a MAC address and the other is an IP address. These are exactly what they say they are, addresses. A MAC address or media access control address is a unique set of numbers assigned to each device on a network. It is a permanent number that is assigned when the product is manufactured. Sometimes it is called a physical address.

The other number or address is the IP address. An IP address is a unique set of numbers separated by periods that identifies each computer using the Internet Protocol to communicate over the Internet. Your laptop, your printer, your set top box, your smartphone, your tablet and your router all have a MAC and IP address. And that is where the problem begins.

Every home that connects to the Internet has a router. Its the front door to your home network. Its the entry and exit  for everything on the Internet you ask for and many things you don’t.  You probably leave it wide open.

The router can be hard wired and all your equipment is connected to it via a wire of some type. Or it can be a wireless router that allows the devices in your home to connect via radio waves. That router is the only thing standing between you and the jungle we call the Internet.

A wired and wireless router

The one thing you need to know about that router is that it has a password and if you have not changed that password then any hacker can, and may have already, been on your home network.

Anyone can get the password to your router simply by going to any one of several websites that have a list of default passwords. One of the sites that reveals default passwords is Routerpasswords.com. This site allows you to search by the brand name of the router. Just select the brand name and the password is revealed. Another website for router passwords is Portforward.com and there is PCwintech.com. The message being; it is easy to get your router password if you have not changed it.

The next question you may ask is how would someone know what router is in my house? That is a simple answer as well. They simply go to a website that displays maps of home networks. Yes; I said that your home network is located on a map on the Internet. Wigle.net will show you what networks are on in any neighborhood in the world! Simply go to the site and enter the needed information and you will probably find your own network. Not only will you find your home network mapped out but your equipment may be identified by brand name. Google has mapped every WiFi network in England.

Here are a few steps you need to take if you have not already. First get a hold of your Internet provider and ask them to help you rename your router to keep it from revealing who you are and where you are. Don’t use any information that will tell people who that router belongs to. Something simple such as an odd mixture of numbers and letters like JK44RC578. Then change your password so no one can break into your network. Its the simple things that will protect you.

Now you know.