Social Networking: Staying Safe on Social Networking Sites

Secure social networking on mobile devices

The popularity of social networking sites continues to increase, especially among teenagers and young adults. The nature of these sites introduces security risks, so you should take certain precautions.

What are social networking sites?

Social networking sites build upon the concept of traditional social networks where you are connected to new people through people you already know. The purpose of some networking sites may be purely social, allowing users to establish friendships or romantic relationships, while others may focus on establishing business connections.

Although the features of social networking sites differ, they all allow you to provide information about yourself and offer some type of communication mechanism (forums, chat rooms, email, instant messages) that enables you to connect with other users. On some sites, you can browse for people based on certain criteria, while other sites require that you be “introduced” to new people through a connection you share. Many of the sites have communities or subgroups that may be based on a particular interest.

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Web Browser Extensions Caught Spying On Chrome and Firefox Users

Representation of data transfer due to web browser extension spying.

Not too long ago, we warned users about why some online ads they see seem to be precisely targeted to their tastes and interests, including the spooky tendencies of websites remembering browsing and shopping preferences from visit to visit or device to device. It turns out that Avast and its recently acquired AVG, have been doing a lot of background spying and data pilfering through their “free” web browser plugins.

Data pilfering is widespread and very profitable, and data thieves seem to have no problem getting willing “victims” counting the number of people using “free” products that come with all kinds of terms and conditions. So much so that some even boast of the ability to provide “[I]ncredibly detailed clickstream data from 100 million global online shoppers and 20 million global app users” that advertisers can analyze “…however you want: track what users searched for, how they interacted with a particular brand or product, and what they bought. Look into any category, country, or domain.”

All from a user looking for a solution to protect them from online threats and installing a web browser extension that is supposed to protect them from such invasion of privacy.

As reported by the creator of Adblock Plus, Wladimir Palant, Avast has been spying on the users of their antivirus products, and appears to have been doing so for years, through their Avast Online Security web browser extension which is promoted as having the ability to provide “maximum protection” from spyware and other online dangers.

The sad fact is that sometimes, users are not even aware that they have the extension because the Avast Secure Browser has Avast Online Security installed by default and is hidden from the extension listing and cannot be uninstalled by regular means. (more…)

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How To Protect Online Data Privacy Using Enhanced Tools

Mobile device showing the various tools of data privacy attacks

In the first place, and speaking of data privacy, have you ever wondered why some online ads you see are targeted to your tastes and interests? Or how websites remember your preferences from visit-to-visit or device-to-device?

The answer may be in the “web tracking cookies” installed on your computer when you visit a website, and other online tracking methods like:

  • Device fingerprinting where information is collected about your device for the purpose of identification,
  • Cross-device tracking technology which enables the tracking of users across multiple devices such as smartphones, television sets, smart TVs, and personal computer, and
  • Cross-site tracking where companies collect data on where you’ve been and what you’ve done across multiple websites.

What is a web tracker?

A web tracker is a small computer program (called script) placed by a website on your computer and is designed to collect information about your preferences and who you are as you interact with the site. Sometimes this script is placed purposefully by the website you’re on, other times a script may be from a website you’ve never visited. (more…)

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Why Your Small Business Or Organization Needs An Email Policy

Mail envelope containing a documenton on a computer screen.

Email is an important and necessary part of your business or organization. It provides an economical and instant means of communicating with staff, customers, and vendors – that’s both simple to use and enables increased efficiency. An email policy is required to protect this necessary business tool.

An email policy is a legal document that details your organization’s definition of acceptable use for the company email system. It should indicate who emails can be received from or sent to, as well as outline what constitutes appropriate content for work emails.

In addition, having an email policy will:

  • Protect the Organization from Liabilities:

When all employees read and sign an email policy, it proves they are aware and agree to the information contained in that policy. Should an email be sent that is not considered appropriate content according to the email policy, the employee, not the organization, would bear the brunt of liability for any damages or suits brought as a result of their sending an inappropriate email. (more…)

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Mobile App Permissions: Are Users Really the Problem?

While there have been a lot of news-worthy events in the past couple of years involving corporate breaches, one thing has not changed. Users are still considered the greatest obstacle to information security. Whether it is phishing, opening infected attachments, or “just being stupid and lazy”.

Our focus in this article will be on the “stupid and lazy” part of this equation. We will take a quick look at the way users tackle mobile app permissions in the android market place otherwise known as Google Play. A cursory look at some apps on Google Play and the permissions required by these apps, and the ratings given by users, even to apps with seemingly over-reaching or meaningless permissions, explains a lot about why security will continue to be a problem for a very long time. (more…)

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Syncing Android Devices: Use Google or Die?

Is it just me or are mobile phone carriers being forced by Google to remove the local synchronization options from their offerings of Android devices? It seems that it is a lot more work syncing Android devices these days.

I have always used Nokia phones and that manufacturer provided the option to sync the data on the device with a local computer – laptop, netbook etc. Recent trends with Android devices are becoming troubling. (more…)

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