Technology Update for March 20th

Today’s themes are security and privacy. I hope these tips can make a difference for you.

1. Make sure you have a real billing passcode with your cellular provider

For years cellular providers have used the last 4 digits of your Social Security number as your billing passcode.  However, they also allow you to set your own passcode (some sequence of 4 to 8 numbers).  PLEASE set up your own passcode with them if you haven’t already. Do you know who is at the other end of the line when you give the last 4 of your SS# time after time? Of course not.  They might be a rogue employee or an overseas contractor looking to do you harm.  I recently heard two first hand accounts of customers (who happened to be with T-Mobile) who had their cell phone numbers transferred (aka “ported”) to another service without their authorization.  With access to their phone number, the criminal was then able to access their bank account via a code that was text messaged to them on the “new” phone.  You can only imagine the transactions that followed.  This was possible because the bad actor knew the billing passcode on the cellular account with the original provider.  It was the last 4 digits of the Social Security number.  I have been told that you can also set up your own billing passcode with other companies like Comcast.   Stop using the last 4 of your SS#.  Act now.

2. Facebook data collection nightmare

The free service they have provided you for over a decade is not free. Chances are, your data has been mined repeatedly since you signed up for the most used social network.  By no means am I calling for a mass exodus from Facebook.  I have clients who post no content of their own, but use it to stay in touch with family, their community, and organizations they support.  There are practical and very positive uses for Facebook.  However, you’ve likely seen the news over the past few days.  Facebook claims to have been exploited by a data analytics firm that relied heavily on its site for their business model.  Frankly, the practice has been going on for years (with many partners) and Facebook has been a willing provider when it suited their interests.  Think of all of the games, apps, and surveys you have logged into with your Facebook account.  Parts of or all of your entire Facebook profile have been shared with those 3rd parties.   It is time for you to tighten the belt on your Facebook profile and privacy.

3. Net Neutrality:  Bye Bye

Are you worried about the FCC doing away with Net Neutrality protections?  The end is near.  Your internet service provider may not be able to know what you do on secure (https) websites but they will be able to sell the data of which websites you go to and use this info for their own marketing purposes.   If they take their newfound latitude to an extreme, they could even create tiers of internet service based on usage.  Ok, so you want to use You Tube and Netflix?  We will charge you more!  You can block your provider from seeing your traffic, period.  Use a VPN – a virtual private network.  A VPN is a service (think of it at as a small program) that runs in conjunction with your internet service.  It is easy to turn on and off or just leave on automatically.  There are only two VPN’s that I can recommend faithfully.  They are Private Internet Access and Tunnel Bear.  These services work on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.  They cost approximately $4 to $5 a month.  Put the brakes on further exploitation of your data.

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