Tag Archives: VPN

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.

 

African-Americans and Internet Privacy

Black people don’t like the idea of putting their business “in the streets.” Its a cliche that means we keep our affairs to ourselves and unless it concerns you then stay out of it. But black people are Internet users and we need to be concerned about our privacy there as well.

Recently some changes have occurred that need to be addressed if you go online. The Federal Communication Commission and President Trump have rolled back Obama administration rules that kept your Internet service provider from tracking your online activity and selling it to whoever wants to buy it. Basically its now legal to put your business in the streets of the cyber world.

You need to understand that its not just your business but the online activity of anyone in your home that uses your Internet connection. That includes your children. Why are they doing this?  Its all about targeting advertisements at you.

For marketers knowing what’s happening with you and in your home helps them to sell you to something. But it goes deeper than that. They can sell this information to the police or anyone willing to pay for your digital profile. Whats in your digital profile? Try financial data such as your online banking, shopping and credit data, personal health information, your browsing history such as what websites you visit including social media and porn, app usage, and your location. If you have children in the house what are they doing online? The cable company knows who their friends are and where they are, what school they go to and a lot more about what they do online.

But let’s take it deeper. You probably have cable television, phone service and even cellphone service from the cable company. If you have Comcast that additional service is coming this year.  AT&T is also offering this bundled service.   So what does that mean for your privacy? It means these companies know everything you are doing. What television shows you watch and record on your DVR and who you call on your home phone and/or cellphone.

Let’s get even deeper. Do you have a home security system provided by the cable company? How about a smart thermostat on your wall? Now the cable company knows when you come and go and can even see into your home if you have security cameras. The cable company, because it provides your internet connection, knows how cool or warm you like your home and its all for sale. Thats your busness in the street.

What can you do about it? Now is the time to learn about VPN’s. A VPN is a service that creates a private connection over the public Internet between you and the website you visit. Its called tunneling. The VPN service can scramble or encrypt you information so that not even your ISP can see it. Basically a VPN hides who you are, where you are and what you’re doing online.

VPN’s are relatively easy to install and use but there a few things you need to understand. They are not perfect. For example you may experience a slow down in your connection speed. VPNs don’t block ads or ad tracking. You need to block cookies and ads using your browser. To block ad trackers, try using a privacy-focused browser extensions like uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger. These will stop ad-trackers from following you around the Internet.

Most major browsers offer ad blocker extensions. You can find the best paid and free ad and pop up blockers at PC & Network Downloads.

But there is an easier step you can take to protect your privacy, simply switch web browsers. To make an immediate difference in your online privacy download and install the Opera web browser. This is currently the only available web browser that comes with a VPN. Opera also offers a mobile browser and a free standing VPN app along with other tools.

A few other things you need to know about VPNs. Finding one that is the “best” is a tough job. There are many available and not all are created equal. Some use outdated encryption technology and others keep logs of your traffic. This is where the work comes in. Why would you use a VPN service that keeps logs of your internet activity? Kind of defeats the whole purpose doesn’t it? You need to check their privacy policies before you purchase a VPN service. And by the way they are fairly cheap. About $50-$100 a year. Some sell lifetime subscriptions.

Right now the atmosphere in the Washington D.C is not conducive to protecting your privacy. And, to be honest, its damn near impossible. But you can keep some of your business off the streets some by  exercising a few measures and using a VPN is a good start.

Now you know.

 

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – Stop Credit Card Fraud

Black people shopping online this holiday season should be aware that fraud is rampant. Hackers are extremely savvy and know where and how to steal credit card data. So you need to be just as savvy. African-Americans should understand where and how they are vulnerable when shopping, in stores or online. Don’t let a techno-Scrooge ruin your holiday.

According to NASDAQ, nearly 32 million Americans had their credit cards breached in 2014. Forty-five percent of those breaches happened online.  Now is the time to learn online safety to protect your credit, your cash, your identity and your holiday season.

First and foremost, by now you should have the new Chip & PIN or EMV cards. If not then you need to get a hold of your bank or credit card company and demand it. This new card is not perfect but it is far more secure than the regular magnetic strip cards. Of course it takes longer to process a transaction but isn’t it worth it to keep you money safe?

Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while shopping online.

  • Shop only at trusted websites and stores. Stick with the familiar retailers and more common internet sites.  Keep some cash on hand when you shop at unique stores or gift shops to avoid exposing yourself to fraud. Beware of misspellings or domain names using “.net” instead of “.com”. This a common trick used by cyber criminals to fool unsuspecting consumers. Check out “Is ThatWebsite Trustworthy?”

Google / TLS

  • Make sure you see “https” in the URL. Also look for the little green lock. You should be well aware of these things if you shop online anytime not just the holidays. And even if you are not shopping whenever you perform sensitive business online know what a secure website looks like.
  • Do your homework! Research the company or website before making a purchase in person or online. Check websites like Yelp.com or  Scamadviser.com to see what other consumers are saying. Look for a website’s customer rating. Check posts previous customers have written on the company’s website, blog, or customer feedback page.
  • Protect your privacy. Be suspicious of any store or website that asks for too much information. Information such as your PIN, birthday or Social Security number are strictly off limits. Only give up the minimum amount of personal information possible. Don’t store information on the website server. Some websites will ask you to register and keep your credit card number on file in a cookie. Decline this option of you can and purchase as a guest to the website. You may have to enter your information each time you buy but you are safer.  If you do create an account on a shopping website, or any website for that matter, make sure you have a strong and secure password. This makes it harder to be hacked or high-jacked by cyber crooks. Learn how to create a secure password.
  • Use filters that warn you of suspicious or fraudulent websites or web pages. Google Chrome is excellent for stopping you from visiting suspicious websites. Many anit-virus programs can do the same thing. Make sure your anti-virus/anti-malware is up to date.
  • Use a credit card versus a debit card when shopping online.  Why? Because credit cards offer protections from identity theft that debit cards don’t offer. Also credit cards offers you the option of contesting  fraudulent charges to your account where a debit card takes the money directly from you bank account. Its much harder to get back if something goes wrong.
  • Keep good records. Print a copy of your order confirmation, save email receipts, and write down any pertinent information in case it’s needed to contest a charge.
  • Never, ever shop using public computers! These computer are notorious for viruses and malware. They could be hiding all sorts of software to steal passwords and personal information. You have no idea who was there before you or what they were doing.
  •  Beware public Wi-Fi! This is a favorite hunting ground for cyber thieves. They can steal information by simply by being on the same network and watching what you do. But some cyber criminals are even providing free Wi-Fi in hotels and coffee shops as a trap for guests. Once you are on THEIR network you’re at their mercy. Be alert and know what network you are on and use a VPN to protect your Internet traffic from prying eyes.
  • As always check you bank account and credit card statements daily.  If you see any charges you don’t recognize, address the matter immediately. Don’t pay credit card bills until you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems. After that, you might be liable for the charges.

Happy Holidays!

Dangers of Public Wi-Fi

Cyber Security Awareness MonthOctober is National Cyber Security Awareness MonthThe African-American Cyber Report is dedicated to bringing the latest most relevant cyber security news and information to black people. The AACR answers black people when they ask; “What does that mean to me?”

Cyber security has become the single most urgent topic of our age. More people fear having their identity stolen than being robbed at gunpoint or murdered.

 As part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month the AACR is revealing the top cyber security threats of 2015 and the coming new year and how black people can guard against these threats.

Dangers of Public Wi-Fi

Free Internet! What a joy and convenience for business people and travelers when they can access the Internet at will without being charged. Free Wi-Fi is also a benefit to businesses that provide it to customers. Any location that offers Wi-Fi is often filled with people focused on their laptops.  But free Wi-Fi is also a danger to black people who are unaware of how open and free that network connection really is.

Free and open Wi-Fi is a prime hunting ground for cyber criminals. These networks are open and all the information flying through the air is like fresh hanging fruit to thieves. Hackers and cyber criminals are often sitting in the room, and probably at the table next to you, watching the Internet traffic moving through Wi-Fi hotspots. They are collecting information from users that include user names and passwords to websites, personal information from your computer or smartphone. Hackers are even capable of planting malware and viruses on computers without the owners even knowing it. The result is hijacked bank accounts or stolen identities

But if you think that is bad it gets worse. Even if you don’t use the free Wi-Fi you could still be in danger. Many locations, especially airports, offer free charging stations. Well hackers have found those and are hacking phones, laptops and tablets while they are re-charging.

Hackers are using small inexpensive computers called a “Mactan.” They secretly install these tiny devices at charging stations to hack personal devices including iPhones. It is particularly frightening when you realize that free charging stations are popping up everywhere and most are un-attended and insecure. Many times you can find free promotional charging stations at events where many people gather including conventions and sporting events. Beware! Anyone can slip a device inside.

How simple is it? Here are the steps;

  1. Build the “Mactan. Cost, about $50.
  2. Hide the Mactan inside a public charging station and wait.
  3. Someone comes along and plugs in a cell phone for a quick charge.
  4. The virus takes less than a minute to upload.
  5. Done! Your phone or laptop is now infected. The virus can now steal personal information or transmit the phone’s location to a hacker.

Alicia diVittorio, consumer safety advocate for mobile security company Lookout says, “There’s definitely a security risk associated with public charging stations. It can be an open channel for potential attackers. We recommend against using them.”

So how do you stay safe when using public Wi-Fi?

  1. Always use a VPN connection. This software encrypts your data and location from a hacker. You can find the best free VPN software here.
  2. Watch what sites you visit. Stay away from sites that requires a user name and password like your bank,  favorite shopping website, social media or email. Visit those sites from home or a safe connection.
  3. Be aware of your surroundings. Someone may be watching you. Make sure no “shoulder surfers” are watching what you while you cruise the net. Consider purchasing a privacy screen to take along with you. Or at least sit with your laptop screen turned away from everyone else. What about that guy who seems to always be in the coffee shop whenever you go there. Is he a hacker?
  4. Keep your device charged. Make sure your device is fully charged before leaving home and only use trusted power sources. A wall outlet is best. You may want to buy a charger for your car.

Now you know.

 

 

Back to School Tips for Black Students

canstockphoto26484013Fall is creeping up on students all over the nation. Fall means returning to the campus or classroom. In 2015, the number of black students entering college or returning for another year is rising again.  Black college enrollment is gradually catching up with whites. According to the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  70.9 percent of black graduating seniors enrolled in college in October 2014 compared to 67.3 percent of whites students.  2014 marked the first time ever that African-Americans enrolled in college at a higher rate than whites.

But there is still a problem. Young black men are not enrolling in college at the same rate as black women. According to Clutchmagonline.com black women are enrolling in college more than any other group. But don’t get it twisted; black men are attending college. Another myth we need address while we’re at it. It is not true that there are more black men in prison than in college. 

But college requires many things in addition to the desire to learn and better one’s self. It requires money. A college education is shamefully expensive. But what is truly heart breaking is the millions of dollars in scholarships and grants for minority students that are unclaimed every year. There is money available for black students. The AACR published this report revealing the scholarships available to minority students.

But college has other hidden expenses  that students and parents need to realize. These include:

  • On campus parking
  • Course materials, text books, lab equipment, technology and assorted supplies.
  • Taking longer to graduate, additional semesters and summer school.
  • Student social activities.
  • Clubs, fraternities and sorrorities fees.
  • Travel expenses for family visits.
  • Sports activities.
  • Dorm expenses, laundry, bedding, toiletries, etc.
  • Dining hall and meal plans, food.

All these expenses add up year after year and they are not normally covered by tuition. Some college tuition include meal plans but not all. Some will cover lab equipment and supplies. But you need to be aware of these costs and calculate them into your overall education budget. You can find ways to beat these costs here.

But before you even get a chance to pay for all those things and tuition you have to get into college. Many under-priviledged students find the cost of testing and admissins fees to be a major roadblack to geting into school. These fees can add up to hundreds of dollars before a student even gets admitted to college. Thankfully there are ways to beat those fees as well. Some states offer the ACT  or the SAT free of charge. Some states and universities don’t require either  for admittance into school. Some students may qualify for fee waivers allowing them to take those tests and possibly qualify for college application fee waivers as well. To check your qualifications for college application fee waivers the National Association of College Admission Counseling offers this formHere are more details on the ACT waiver requirements and the SAT has some info here.

You still have to buy the books. College text books are notoriously expensive. Betwen 2002 and 2013 the price of a text book rose 82 percent. Why?

You can bring down the price of text books.Occupy the Book Storeis a Chrome browser extension that allows you to shop for the same books you find at your college book store at online stores where you may find them cheaper. Other websites that help fight the high cost of textbooks include;

These are just a few websites but you can find many more by doing a simple web search.

Another concern that could be costly is the loss of personal information at school. You have no doubt heard of a data breach. Colleges and universities are not immune to this. As a student you need to protect your personal information at all times because you are a prime target for hackers. Schools can hold enormous amounts of data about students including their social security numbers, financial information of them and their parents, background information, medical data, and God knows what else.  Parents and students need to understand why student data is such a prized target of data gatherers.

So how does the student protect their pers0nal information at school? Here are a few tips.

  • Protect your technology. Never leave your laptop or phone unlocked and unattended. College campuses are often wide open and thieves know it. Whether you’re in the dorm or the library its easy for a thief to grab it and be gone. Don’t advertise the fact you are carrying a laptop. Laptop sleeves or carriers are clues and a target for thieves.
  • Install a tracking app that will help you track down your device in case its lost or stolen. Encrypt your files. This way even if someone gets access to your computer they won’t get your information.
  • Students are prime targets of malware and phishing attacks on their mobile devices. Students can protect themselves by making sure they are using different passwords on different accounts. One password fits all means a hacker gets it all if he can break or hack your password. And use a strong password or consider two factor authentication. If you have trouble keeping all those passwords in your head then use a password manager.
  • Don’t share your password with your dorm or classmates.
  • Be extremely careful with links and attachments in your email and text messages. Make sure to use a good anti-virus/anti-malware. You can find the best free anti-virus here.
  • Install apps only from reputable app stores. Make sure to scan files with an anti-malware product before installing. Remember, campuses are rich environments for computer viruses.
  • Many campuses offer free Wi-Fi. But who else is on that Wi-Fi? Hackers can monitor and collect information from free Wi-Fi and they do.  So be extra careful when using the school or any free public Wi-Fi. Make use of VPN software so that your web use is encrypted and keep hackers from electronically eavesdropping on you.
  • When using a campus or library computer;
    • Don’t log into accounts, especially banks or accounts that store financial information.
    • Don’t shop online because someone might get not only your login credentials but your credit card number.
    • If you do have to use a public computer make sure to change your user name and password for whatever sites you log into once you get back to your own computer.
    • Browse in Privacy Mode if you can’t erase your browser history and all cookies.

Students can be careless. They may feel that their information is not as vaulable as that of more established adults. Students don’t see the value of their information and this leaves them vulnerable because they don’t take information security seriously. But in reality it doesn’t matter how young you are, data and identity are valuable to cybercriminals. Remember AACR Internet Rule #5 “The currency  and commodity of the digital age is called information.”

For a young man or woman just starting out in life correcting the problems caused by loss of identity is a painful uneccessary experience. Protect your data!

It’s back to school time and students face many challenges to getting an education. Parents and students working together can make it to graduation day. Good Luck!

Now you know.

 

 

How Not to Get Hacked in Six Easy Steps

canstockphoto22219067Getting hacked is so easy that it is almost comical. Black people need to be aware that most hackers take advantage of human kindness, weakness, curiosity and even stupidity to get inside computer networks. Hacking is simple when the victim is willing to give the hacker a helping hand. Understand how easy it is not to get hacked and you’ll feel a lot better and safer online.

Step 1) Don’t take the bait! Phishing is the first simple step to getting hacked. A Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report revealed 23 percent of phishing recipients open malicious messages and 11 percent open attachments. The report showed that it only takes 82 seconds from when a phishing campaign is launched to when people start biting on the phony lures.  One of the the cardinal rules of email security is to not click on any link or download attachment that you are not absolutely certain of what it is and where it came from. If you receive an unexpected email with a link or attachment then call the person who sent it to you if you know who it is. Ask them what they sent you. Avoid any cute pictures, prayers, or jokes. That is how malware gets in your computer along with getting your email on spam lists. If you don’t know who sent it then delete instantly.

Step 2) Don’t fall for the phoney phone call! Much the same as phishing, the simplest way for attackers to gain access to users machines is to just ask for it. The age-old method of social engineering is still reliable.  This is when a hacker talks their victims out of information sometimes without the person even knowing it. On the phone they pretend to be an executive or someone in authority. Sometimes they smooth talk their victim into giving up information using compliments and encouragement. Or they may bully their victim and frighten them into doing or saying something they shouldn’t.

One of the most popular and effective scams is the IT support scam. A caller contacts the victim posing as IT help and asks for the user’s login and password. Sometime they will tell you things like your computer has a virus and it is spreading to your friends and family. Sometimes they may pretend to be a fellow employee or business partner and ask the employee to open a specific document that is actually something like a remote access Trojan or other malware.

Something to think about is that anti-virus software makers do not make outgoing calls to alert an individual that their computer is spreading viruses. Never, ever, share your user name and password with someone on the phone you do not know. Finally, if they claim to be working in the same company with you make damn sure they are who they say they are. Do not open any attachment or click on any link unless you know for sure that it is your company’s IT department you are dealing with. Most companies suffer hacking attacks as a result of employee actions. And most companies will not hesitate to fire you if you violate computer security rules.

Step 3) Stay up to date! Users are often hacked because their systems are not up-to-date and patched for common attacks. Hackers know what software is vulnerable. They look for computers that are using old outdated software to attack. The simplest way to protect yourself is to make sure your software is up to date. Learn to set your computer to perform automatic updates of all software. And stay up to date on the latest scams. According to Verizon hackers are still finding vulnerabilities in computers that are as much as eight years old.

Step 4) Get a strong a password!  Is your password just stupid? An easy to guess user name and password is simply begging to be hacked. Your user name and password is the key to your computer and all the information contained therein. In addition easy to guess user names and passwords also allow access to your bank and other sensitive online activity.  A good strong password is vital. You may even want to switch to two factor authentication if you conduct sensitive business online.

Step 5) Use caution on free WiFi! Researchers with Cylance recently provided solid evidence why you should consider taking an extra security step when utilizing public WiFi connections.The company strongly suggests using VPN on public WiFi networks.  Cylance discovered 277 hotels, convention centers and data centers in 29 countries used routers  with known vulnerabilities to offer WiFi to guests. Public and free hotspots are wide open for starting man-in-the-middle attacks and other means of establishing footholds in unsuspecting users’ machines. Hackers love to hang out in Starbucks, Panera Bread, public libraries and other places that offers free Internet access. They are waiting and watching you log into your bank account.

Step 6) Don’t put your business in the street!  You talk to much! Social media such as Facebook is another favorite hacker hunting ground.  Hackers do their homework.  The information you share on social media sites is exactly what makes a hacker’s jobs easy.   Sharing the name of your pet, your birthday, place of work and special relationship makes it easier for an attacker to guess passwords or the answer to password reset challenge questions.  For example the question “What city were you born in?” is an easy one to answer just by looking at your Facebook page.

This information can be used against you in order to create an extremely effective spear phishing message. Learn to stop sharing so much information on social media. The more you give away the more that can be taken away.

Now you know

 

Improve Your iPhone Security

Stolen cell phones are a big problem. Every year millions of cell and smartphones are stolen and most are never recovered. According to Business Insider 44% of smartphones were stolen simply because owners forgot them in public places like Starbucks. Fourteen percent were stolen from a car or house that was burglarized. Only 11% of victims had a smartphone stolen off their person. And the most common place a smartphone is stolen?  Restaurants 16% and nightclubs 11%. Only 5% are stolen as a result of street crime such as having it snatched from your hand while using public transportation.

Public theft of smartphones, especially iPhones has become a huge problem in places Like New York where 18% of all grand larcenies last year involved Apple products. As a result Democratic Rep. José E. Serrano has introduced a bill that would require all phones sold in the United States to feature a “kill switch” technology.  That technology allows consumers to wipe their data and shut down a phone completely when it’s reported stolen making it useless and of no re-sale value.

The state of Minnesota and California have already passed a law requiring all smart phones be equipped with a kill switch in case of theft. The law applies to smartphones made on or after July 1, 2015 and sold in California after that date.

According to Consumer Reports, more than 3 million smartphones were stolen in 2013 and the biggest cities had the most thefts.  Theft of smartphones rose by 26% in Los Angeles since 2011. Smartphone theft was up by 23% in San Francisco in 2013.

iPhones are extremely popular and the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are in heavy demand. If you own any iPhone you need to make sure its secure against theft. Even if you lose it you need to know the data is safe until you can locate it using an app such as Find My iPhone. So lets look at ways to secure your iPhone in case, just in case, something happens.

1) Get a real pass code. First things first; change that four digit access code on your phone to something more secure like a pass phrase. And not one anyone can guess. Mix those numbers, letters and characters up. Now another super security option that’s available to you is the “erase data” feature. This option will wipe everything from the iPhone’s memory after 10 failed pass code attempts. But remember this is permanent. Once the data is gone its gone…forever!  So if you forget your password often you might not want to use this option.

Here’s how you do it. Go to “Settings” –> “Passcode” (or “Touch ID and passcode”) –> “Require passcode: immediately”; “Simple passcode: off”.

Settings1

2) Don’t let your lock screen dime you out. It really doesn’t matter if you have a powerful pass code if someone looking over your shoulder can see it.  Yeah, its nice and quick to glance at your screen to see what text messages, emails and other information that hits your phone. But these messages can also contain sensitive data like confirmation codes, private appointments, financial data or some other intimate communication. So keep that lock screen from broadcasting your business.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Passcode” (or “Touch ID and passcode”) –> “Allow access when locked” section.

3) Use two step verification for iPhone and iCloud. Quick question; do you have pictures that you only want that special someone to see? Well as you know some celebrities have had those images compromised. Don’t let that happen to you. I strongly recommend you add this layer of security for your Apple ID and iCloud. You can set up two-step verification on one or more of your devices. Two step verification means you will receive a 4-digit verification code using either SMS or the Find My iPhone service. Using the second verification means any time you sign in to manage your Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes, iBooks, or App Store purchase from any device you’ll need to verify your identity by entering both your password and a 4-digit verification code.

How? Go to https://appleid.apple.com –> “Manage your Apple ID” –> “Password and Security” –> “Two-Step Verification”.

4) Siri talks too much. Even if your phone is locked she can talk and who knows what she might say and to whom.  You don’t have to shut her up completely. But securing your phone means preventing Siri from speaking from behind a locked screen. Siri will talk with anybody so you have to teach her not to talk to strangers.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Passcode” (or “Touch ID and passcode”) –> “Allow access when locked” section –> “Siri: off” and “Settings” –> “General” –> “Siri” –> “Allow “Hey Siri”: off”.

5) Don’t automatically sync to the iCloud.  Keep in mind that Internet rule # 6 says nothing is ever deleted. And as some celebrities discovered this is very true. Those nude images, though deleted from their phone were floating blissfully in the cloud waiting to be stolen. Not just the pictures but all the data on your phone, contacts, messages, notes, documents, pretty much anything stored on your phone. Automatic back up to the cloud is set on default in iPhones and happens the minute you plug in the charger. So the smart thing to do is to not automatically sync if you have one or more Apple devices and don’t really need to sync them daily.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “iCloud”.

Settings2

You can turn off auto sync to the iCloud.

6) Stop automatically connecting to known WiFi networks. iPhones are set to connect automatically to known WiFi hotspots without your permission. While this may seem like a really cool feature because you don’t have to do anything to switch from mobile Internet to local WiFi. But wait! Cyber criminals set up their own fake wireless hotspots in coffee shops, restaurants and hotels all the time.  You might not even know your iPhone is connected to the malicious WiFi network. The cyber criminal can steal all of your data while you sip coffee and read the paper. So you need to be aware of this or turn off this option.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Wi-Fi” –> “Ask to join networks: on”.

7) Start using VPN.  Virtual Private Networks is almost a requirement if you want extra security on your iPhone in different wireless networks, including unknown ones. Some VPN services are free but not all. But the few extra dollars spent here is fairly cheap for keeping your data protected.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “General” –> “VPN” –> “Add VPN Configuration…”. All the information you need from here will be provided by your VPN provider.

8) No more cookies. Cookies are small files that are deposited on your phone or device by all websites. These treats may record information about you, your computer,  your smartphone, and your preferences. They allow websites to keep you logged in or display targeted ads. Unfortunately they may be very helpful to cyber criminals since they can hold credentials and other sensitive data. Cookies can be very helpful  but turning off cookies might become a bother. But think of how much more secure your data will be. 

How?  For Safari: Go to “Settings” –> “Safari” –> “Privacy & Security” section –> “Do Not Track: on”, “Block Cookies: Always Block”; For third party browsers: see similar browser settings.

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9) AutoFill, another snitch.  If somebody steals your iPhone they may be able to log in as you on a number of sites. How? Because the AutoFill option will fill in the missing user name and password. Told you AutoFill was another snitch.  Switch it off! Yeah; its inconvenient but well worth the hassle.

How?  For Safari: Go to “Settings” –> “Safari” –> “General” section –> “Passwords & AutoFill”; For third party browsers: see similar browser settings.

10)  Apps; yet another snitch. If you really want ot be shocked take a minute to read the permissions on some of the apps you download.  These apps are collecting a mountain of data. Some game apps collect information such as your location, your contacts, your pictures, your phone service provider, etc? Why? What does this app need with all your data? Remember this is a game app?   You probably have Facebook or a Google app as well. These are some of the biggest information collectors. I am convinced that a lot of apps are designed to keep you busy while they spy on you. This tip may be extreme, but if you have followed all the other recommendations offered why not go ahead with this last one. Apple’s iOS 8 offers a significant number of features and data types that just about any app can access. You need to block this. Stop these app providers from knowing everything you do and everywhere you go.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Privacy”. Turn off all location services. Keep them off until you want ot use an app that needs the service. Go through Privacy settings one by one and turn off everything you don’t need or apps that are using this feature that you want to stop. It takes some time but it will keep some of your data secure.

This article is more about protecting you and your personal information than what you paid for that smartphone. Any device can be replaced. Try to replace your credit or money in your bank account. Or try to explain to your credit card company why you should not have to pay for those charges on your credit card. Or worse try to convince your bank you are really you after your identity is stolen. You have enough information on your iPhone that, if lost, any of these things can happen to you. Don’t let it.

Now you know