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I have a small legal question. If a corporation follows you on twitter and they are your target market can you put them on your business cards to say that you are followed by these corporations?

While we cannot give legal advice, we think it is a great idea to share what companies follow you since it highlights your significance in the market place.  Note, however, companies can quickly follow and unfollow others on Twitter, and so we recommend avoiding placing this information on a business card that can become outdated and inaccurate just as quickly.

What are some good sites that highlight online scams?

The following is a list of SSP Blue suggested sites that contain helpful information relating to online scams: 

Have a safety, security, or privacy question? Ask Hemu.

How do I know what information is private?

When it comes to life online, we can't really assume that anything is private. The Internet is a very public space.  When something goes up on the Internet, the chances are very high that someone else can find it. We see this over and over on sites like Facebook: once something is posted, someone can see it. And, once it is published, it can be posted to, linked to, emailed, and essentially move freely throughout the digital world.  

 

The Internet has a very long memory. Days, months and years after something (like a picture) is posted will not erase the Internet's memory. A woman who is applying for a job at a conservative law firm might deeply regret having posted, 10 years earlier, a picture of a high school prank (or something worse). The Internet doesn't lose track of anything. A good rule of thumb is that, if you're posting it on the Internet, assume anyone and everyone can and will see it.

 

Have a safety, security, or privacy question? Ask Hemu.

Is mobile banking safe?

Mobile banking is a fast, convenient and often safe way to meet all of your banking needs.  There are two different "types" of mobile banking.  The first online banking option includes mobile device capabilities via smart phones or tablets.  The second kind of mobile banking involves banking applications installed on mobile devices such as the one provided by Wells Fargo.  Both options require authentication in the form of login and involve stringent security controls and data encryption.  Banking apps often log users out very quickly when the tool remains dormant and avoid storing any login information.  Mobile banking does, however, require considerable care on the part of the user.  For example: 

  • Pay very close attention to your mobile devices (close out open applications when not being used, clear password history, implement security settings and keep devices in protected locations) 
  • Put password locks on all mobile devices
  • Consider adding a "wipe" feature to devices that allows you to wipe a device clean if stolen in order to keep private information out of the hands of thieves
  • Be aware of roaming eyes when banking in public and utilize secure WiFi network services

 

Have a safety, security, or privacy question? Ask Hemu.

How do companies like Spokeo get so much information about me and is it even legal?

Spokeo, a data collection and aggregation firm, made headlines when the FTC levied an $800,000 fine for allegedly reselling credit information.  Spokeo, as with many other companies of the same kind, collects information from public records and social media sites.  It then aggregates this information into profiles to sell to subscribers.  Profiles may include everything from the number of children someone has to the addresses where someone previously lived. Aside from the violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act referenced above, there is nothing illegal about this kind of data collection.  This information comes from public records, such as those marking marriages, deaths or births, and social media websites.  While you cannot keep your public records private, there are some things you can do.

  • Carefully consider all content before posting it online, as it may be impossible to completely remove
  • Some data aggregators allow you to remove your listing from their sites to make it harder, but not impossible, for people to find (click here to see Spokeo's instructions for removing such listing information)
  • Use strict privacy settings on your social networks to make it more difficult for site crawlers to identify and catalogue personal information

 

Have a safety, security, or privacy question? Ask Hemu.

Do websites that host user-posted content like YouTube own uploaded videos and related content?

All mainstream, popular social media and video-sharing websites post ownership, privacy and usage policies in their terms of service and privacy policies.  The guidelines vary significantly since each service operates differently and provides distinct services.  YouTube, according to its terms of service, does not own the content posted by users.  Consequently, users retain ownership over their material.  However, you must first agree to the terms in order to upload video content, which requires you to allow YouTube to use this material for marketing purposes.  You also agree that any YouTube user may access your content at any time and from any location.  You maintain the right to delete videos from the site, of course, but YouTube may also keep a copy of the video on the server.  If you feel concerned about the content you share on these types of websites, keep these thoughts in mind:

  • Copyright or trademark material if you own the content and it represents a commercial concern
  • Only post content that you feel comfortable sharing (I like to warn consumers not to post any material they would not want their grandparents to see)
  • Read the privacy policy and terms of service
  • Remember that Google owns YouTube, so information shared on one service is shared across all services (this is laid out in the privacy policy)

 

Have a safety, security, or privacy question? Ask Hemu. 

November 29, 2012: Is it important to have a secure WiFi network?
A secure WiFi network represents a crucial part of Internet security. When a device switches to WiFi mode, it automatically scans all the available networks in a given area. Anyone may find and use unsecured WiFi networks. Unsecured networks leave you vulnerable to data hacking and cyber attacks, as other users may easily log on and see your every online activity. This means your banking information, pictures, addresses and hoards of other sensitive information become vulnerable when viewed over unsecured WiFi networks or even the computers accessing open networks. Thankfully, securing your wireless network requires minimal effort. For example: • Examine router security options (all routers contain preferences for setting permissions and levels of security that keep networks free from roving eyes) • Consider using a "hidden" network that requires any user who wants to join the network to enter the name of the network rather than simply choosing it from a list • Set strong passwords for your routers
November 22, 2012: What is a private browser or a private browsing session?
Most Internet users recognize the terms Internet cookies, online histories and stored content, but users often fail to understand the purpose behind these systems. In short, developers add cookies and tracking information to websites to provide quicker access to pages. When users return to previously visited websites, they load faster because the site remembers the user through assigned tracking information. This makes a lot of people nervous because every Internet action becomes logged in the browser and on the computer. In response to this, browsers now offer "private" browsing experiences by way of secluded sessions or an entirely private browser. This means that the browser itself, in the specific case of Firefox, does not track and save downloads, passwords, visited pages and cookies (other browsers have different settings). Keep these few things in mind if Internet tracking represents a concern for you: • Read information about private browsing for each browser you use (follow these links to information pages for the major browsers Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer) • Understand the difference between private browsing and anonymity on the Internet (websites continue to track you even if the browser does not) • Remain mindful of the content you view since others, including employers, may see your Internet traffic
November 15, 2012: How do I safely use vacation rental sites?
Vacation rentals through services like AirBnB and VRBO allow users to find affordable and comfortable accommodations for destinations around the world. While some discouraging stories about nightmare renters and scams exist online, many satisfied clients enjoy these services on a regular basis. There is nothing inherently unsafe about renting to or from contacts identified through these agencies. However, users must work to ensure the physical and monetary safety of all people involved by proactively responding to potential security issues and scams. Relevant protection measures include: • Check, double check and triple check the addresses and references for each listing • Look for reviews that go back a few years, or at least months, to help you avoid scams for fake rentals • Carefully vet possible renters by reviewing references, online background checks, etc. • Meet with renters and property owners before the start of a contracted engagement • Lock away valuables and anything that contains sensitive information like social security numbers or financial data • Ask for a deposit in advance of the period of occupancy and use secure methods for money transfers
November 8, 2012: What is a good way to stay safe on the Internet?
The list of online safety issues may appear disheartening at first glance. Risks related to phishing, password hacking, data misuse, cyberbullying and spamming represent relevant concerns for anyone accessing the Internet. By following these general principles, most online users safely navigate digital activities by reducing their exposure to hazards. • Refrain from sharing personal information, including phone numbers, addresses, passwords and banking information, with anyone online and maintain a healthy suspicion related to both the individuals contacting you online and the new websites you visit. • Utilize up-to-date anti-virus software to protect your computer and minimize data security risks. • For parents, consider enacting parental controls and spyware to track Internet usage, as well as engage in open and ongoing conversations with your children about inappropriate content and the sharing of information online. • Avoid visiting websites without data encryption symbols visibly posted on the site (the lock icon at the upper right corner of a Safari browser, for example, indicates an encrypted page for viewing). • Activate and update your personal computer’s firewalls. • Utilize strong passwords changed at regular intervals. Users may limit Internet risks by adhering to these general practices. It is important for all online users to continue developing their understanding of recent Internet dangers and to react proactively.
June 12, 2012: Is online dating safe?

The short answer here is yes...but precautions are necessary. Recently, three of the online dating industry's giants, Match.com, Spark Networks and eHarmony, agreed to work with the California Attorney General Kamala Harris to lead the way in providing greater protections to their customers. Some of these sites already have robust safety practices in place including screening profiles and pictures, working to prevent fraud and scams and providing safety tips to consumers.  All the technological functions are quite useful but the safety tips are the best ways for consumers to help themselves.  The Internet can provide anonymity and a sense of closeness at the same time. We tend to take for granted what we see on websites and believe anything people say about themselves. Unfortunately, scammers, hackers and attackers can exploit that trust if you’re not just as cautious as you already are in the real world.  Follow some of these tips for a safer online dating experience:

  • When meeting someone for the first time, consider a group date and make a habit of meeting in well-lit public places
  • Use common sense: if your new online friend that you haven’t met in person yet suddenly gets stuck in prison and needs your money to get him out, trust your gut and keep your money
June 8, 2012: Are all these updates that you get reminders for everyday really necessary?

Absolutely. When a security alert pops up on your computer or smartphone to ask if you'd like to update your software or device, always accept. Hackers and attackers are constantly pushing out new viruses and pieces of malware to invade your lives and bank accounts. Experts employed by these software companies dissect the viruses and release updates designed to thwart attackers. The updates are an essential part of keeping your privacy and safety intact.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about updates and safety:

  • Updates are far faster than they used to be and take up less of your computer resources.
  • Security updates don’t work unless you actually install them to update your software. 
June 7, 2012: How can I keep my computers and devices secure from hackers and attackers?

Keeping all your devices safe is imperative for personal security. Generally, devices fall into two categories: fixed and mobile. To ensure that your PC is secure, there are some relatively easy steps that to take. Hackers and attackers usually exploit weaknesses and holes in operating systems and in software.

Here are some tips to close to those gaps in security for fixed devices:

And for mobile devices:

  • Adhere to precautions for fixed devices since phones and tablets are mini-computers
  • Make sure to take active anti-theft measures
  • Don't save passwords in your phone or mobile device

Practice smart surfing and usage on your mobile and fixed devices. Take some time to activate and maintain security measures, and you can and will feel more secure.

Why do security experts recommend a different password for every site?

We all have signed up to numerous sites that collect our personal information and require a password to use the site: banks, airlines, social networks, shopping websites...the list goes on. It’s too easy to start using the same username and password for every site.  Each time we do, we put ourselves at a greater risk of just how much info we can lose if only one of these sites was hacked into.  So, think of passwords like you do your keys – you use a different key for your house, your car, your gym locker, your bank locker, etc.  Apply the same real world practice to your online world.  Here are some tips on security and password protection:

  • Chose a different password for every site that matters. See our blog for more hints
  • Use password storage devices. Check out CNET's list of password storage managers for more info. 
  • Be clever when chosing your passwords. Microsoft has some good tips here
How do I know what information is private?

When it comes to life online, we can't really assume that anything is private. The Internet is a very public space.  When something goes up on the Internet, the chances are very high that someone else can find it. We see this over and over on sites like Facebook: once something is posted, someone can see it. And, once it is published, it can be posted to, linked to, emailed, and essentially move freely throughout the digital world.  
The Internet has a very long memory. Days, months and years after something (like a picture) is posted will not erase the Internet's memory. A woman who is applying for a job at a conservative law firm might deeply regret having posted, 10 years earlier, a picture of a high school prank (or something worse). The Internet doesn't lose track of anything. A good rule of thumb is that, if you're posting it on the Internet, assume anyone and everyone can and will see it.

When it comes to life online, we can't really assume that anything is private. The Internet is a very public space.  When something goes up on the Internet, the chances are very high that someone else can find it. We see this over and over on sites like Facebook: once something is posted, someone can see it. And, once it is published, it can be posted to, linked to, emailed, and essentially move freely throughout the digital world.  

The Internet has a very long memory. Days, months and years after something (like a picture) is posted will not erase the Internet's memory. A woman who is applying for a job at a conservative law firm might deeply regret having posted, 10 years earlier, a picture of a high school prank (or something worse). The Internet doesn't lose track of anything. A good rule of thumb is that, if you're posting it on the Internet, assume anyone and everyone can and will see it.

How do I protect myself from unwanted contact online?

How do I know what information is private?
Protecting yourself online is important for personal safety. One of the best ways to avoid contact from an unwanted party is to carefully monitor your profiles on social networking sites.  To allow users to have as much fun as they do, the sites must be able to facilitate large volumes of communication. This can lead to unwanted contact and may not be desired by most users. 
Here are some tips to better protect yourself online:
Turn up privacy settings on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc
Consider blocking and reporting unwanted communications with certain users
Carefully consider all friend and connection requests
Set your account to only allow people to communicate with you if their email is known or if they know your full name (this is possible on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn)
Only give your IM screen name to people with whom you work closely or know personally
Take some time to make sure that your privacy settings are up to snuff and that you're being careful on social networks. This will keep unwanted visitors from contacting you.

Protecting yourself online is important for personal safety. One of the best ways to avoid contact from an unwanted party is to carefully monitor your profiles on social networking sites.  To allow users to have as much fun as they do, the sites must be able to facilitate large volumes of communication. This can lead to unwanted contact and may not be desired by most users. 

Here are some tips to better protect yourself online:

  • Turn up privacy settings on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Consider blocking and reporting unwanted communications with certain users
  • Carefully consider all friend and connection requests
  • Set your account to only allow people to communicate with you if their email is known or if they know your full name (this is possible on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn)
  • Only give your IM screen name to people with whom you work closely or know personally

Take some time to make sure that your privacy settings are up to snuff and that you're being careful on social networks. This will keep unwanted visitors from contacting you.

Mac vs. PC - which is really the most secure?

The most important thing to know about computers is that there is no such thing as perfect security. Hackers and attackers work hard to exploit weaknesses and gaps in software and personal usage. Computers and operating systems are, essentially, only as secure as the people using them. 
Often, Macs are considered to be safer than PC's because less spyware and fewer viruses currently target Macs. This, however, is because Macs account for less than 6% of the market share.  PC's are targeted more often because there are more of them in the world. As Apple computers become more common, more spyware and viruses are being created for them.  When viewed from this perspective, we can see that there is no real answer to the "which is more secure" question. 
The most important aspect of computer safety is the user. Here are some tips to keep your machine secure: 
Update your browsers 
Run security updates 
Don't click on unknown links  
Do not download attachments in emails from unreliable senders
Be vigilant and you will keep your machine safe. 

The most important thing to know about computers is that there is no such thing as perfect security. Hackers and attackers work hard to exploit weaknesses and gaps in software and personal usage. Computers and operating systems are, essentially, only as secure as the people using them. 

Often, Macs are considered to be safer than PC's because less spyware and fewer viruses currently target Macs. This, however, is because Macs account for less than 6% of the market share.  PC's are targeted more often because there are more of them in the world. As Apple computers become more common, more spyware and viruses are being created for them.  When viewed from this perspective, we can see that there is no real answer to the "which is more secure" question. 

The most important aspect of computer safety is the user. Here are some tips to keep your machine secure: 

  • Update your browsers 
  • Run security updates 
  • Don't click on unknown links  
  • Do not download attachments in emails from unreliable senders
  • Be vigilant and you will keep your machine safe. 

How do I know if the website I'm using is secure (good for online purchasing)?

Making secure purchases online is very important. One purchase on a poorly protected website can lead to thousands of dollars in unwanted charges or theft of an entire identity. Fortunately, the Internet has ways of showing you whether the site you're using is secure or not.  First of all, if a website is processing private and secure information (like banking transactions), the URL in the address bar will read "https" rather than "http." (The "s" stands for secure.) Sites that process sensitive information have SSL Certificates. If a certificate has lapsed, you will be warned automatically. If a site does not have an SSL certificate, DO NOT purchase anything on it. There are also certifying agencies and companies that provide certification for websites, such as VeriSign. Look for the VeriSign logo on a website's payment or check other page to be sure that the site has been approved.  You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to be sure that you're using a site that is legitimate.