Friday, January 27, 2017

Facebook Accounts Being Spied On

According to an article at, 1 in 5 Facebook accounts are being spied on! The reason will shock you, someone you know and trust may be accessing you Facebook accounts without your permission!

According to a recent study, conducted by a grad student at the University of British Columbia, 24 in five...of people surveyed admitted to secretly accessing the Facebook account of someone they know.

How did they access accounts? When you or I leave our computer or smartphone open for viewing it makes it easy for someone to gain access.

Preventing Facebook Snoopers

The ways to prevent this should be, but aren't always, obvious:

  • Don't leave your device unattended when other people are around.
  • Log out of your Facebook or other account whenever you are done using them.
  • Change passwords on a regular basis
  • Lock the home screen with a passcode
Facebook Activity Log
Facebook Activity Log

It wouldn't hurt to check your Facebook Activity Log. The Activity Log contains a listing of all your posts and activity, from the day you started using Facebook. It includes stories and photos you've been tagged in, and connections you've made with others by friending them or liking their page. Are all those activities yours? If not, someone may have snooped.  

Read study: Characterizing Social Insider Attacks on Facebook

Study excerpt:
"Facebook accounts are secured against unauthorized access
through passwords and device-level security. Those defenses,
however, may not be sufficient to prevent social insider attacks,
where attackers know their victims, and gain access to
a victim’s account by interacting directly with their device."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Bye, Bye Facebook: Part 2

I'm about a week away from pulling the plug on Facebook! As I wrote in Part 1 regarding my departure:
"I'm deleting my account because of Facebook itself. It's become intrusive, forces information on me that I don't least not from Facebook. There are too many in your face ads and notices; and Facebook follows your every move on the web. Facebook is not the only company that does this but, in my experience and understanding, it is the most egregious."

Deactivate or Delete Your Facebook Account?

You can "Deactivate Your Account" by going to Settings > Security > Deactivate Your Account. Basically, you're just putting your Facebook activity on hold, not pulling the plug. You can reactivate it whenever you want. Many people do this to take a breather from Facebook.

Unlike deactivating an account, when you delete it you will not be able to reactivate it or retrieve any of the content or information you added. Facebook delays the deletion for 14 days after your request. If you log in during this time, the deletion is canceled.

You can download a copy of your Facebook information prior to deleting your account. You can always open a new account in the future, but you must start totally from scratch, including refriending people.

Think long and hard before deleting your account. If you do, you won't be the first...nor the last!

How to permanently delete a Facebook account

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Online Pricing Discrimination

Companies track virtually everything you do online and they are changing prices based on your web browsing history. In other words, you could pay a different amount than I do for the exact same product.

There have been many reports about Pricing Discrimination. According to a recent one by CBS news, Online Pricing Discrimination, your internet search history can impact how much you pay for a product. Companies can track just about everything you do online including the websites you visit, what items you've purchased, your location or the type of computer or device you use. As a result, you may get different search results and even prices.

Companies have been gathering data on you for years. They call this "interest based information," Many call it discrimination.

How to stop companies from tracking you

To stop companies from tracking you use a device such as eblocker, use separate computers or browsers to shop, price-shop in “incognito” mode or, the easiest, clear your browser cache each time you shop online.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Smartphone Photos Can Pose Security Risks

When taking photos with a smartphone and some digital cameras, information may be embedded in photos that you might not want to share with anyone. It's called geotagging, and geotagging can compromise your security and privacy!

Many mobile phones and digital cameras have built-in GPS receivers. When enabled, these receivers embed information about the precise location where a photo was taken. There are some things you should not geotag such as private places: your home, your place of business, or your children’s schools and playgrounds. And by all means, never geotag photos of children.

Geotagging can tell others your whereabouts

Smartphone photo "details"
I inadvertently stumbled upon geotag information when checking the “details” in photo taken with my smartphone. I was shocked to see the exact address, state and country of the home where we were visiting, as you can see from the screenshot at the left (the street and city have been blurred out)!

The implications of photo geotagging can potentially have negative consequences when you upload images online. For example, if you post a photo of your children or your home, do you really want others to know the precise location and time?

According to the Snopes website, “When such photographs are shared with others (by posting them on the Internet, for example), it is possible that viewers can examine the Exif metadata stored with those images to find out information such as where the pictures were taken, and use tools that map the stored GPS information to specific locations (such as a particular house or school). This poses potential privacy and security issues, especially since some users may be completely unaware that their cameras are set up to store location information by default.”

Geotagging turned on by default

Geotagging is often automatically enabled on smartphones and smartphone apps. You can opt-out by shutting it off. You can view location and other information by selecting "Details" from the menu setting when viewing a photo on a Smartphone.

Digital camera GPS Settings can be accessed through the camera settings menu. Location and other information can be found embedded in images in what's known as EXIF data. Check your camera manual for details

Shutting off Geotagging

All location data unchecked in Smartphone camera app settings
I’ve turned geotagging off for most purposes and will only enable it, perhaps, if I take a a trip and won’t be uploading images until a later date. Taking photos at special venues, and uploading them while still there, not only tells others where you are but that you are not home.

You can shut off geotagging in the settings menu of your camera, smartphone and smartphone apps. In many cases, geotagging and location settings are turned on by default, so do make a point to check settings.

Some photo sharing and social websites, such as Facebook, automatically remove partial or all stored EXIF data and geotagging to help protect the privacy of users. Other sites offer privacy settings so you can opt-in or opt-out of letting EXIF and Geotag data be revealed to others. Check those settings!

 Removing Geotag Information

If you want to remove embedded geotagging information from photos, search online for free EXIF editors and apps. If you edit your photos in programs such as Photoshop, be sure to use the "Save for Web & Devices" (not "Save AS") menu usually found in the File menu. This will strip an image of the EXIF data. Check your software Help files for more information.

You don't have to worry about removing geotag information in photos if it's not there is the first place. Enjoy taking photos but, when you do, make sure you are not unwittingly compromising your security and privacy.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Intrusive Ads Killing Online Experience

I'm not against internet advertising, only the aggressively intrusive kind (see important note at the end of this article).

Ads popping up in your face after the article you're reading grays out! Sometimes the ads cover an entire page. Banal ads, some so outlandish and obnoxious turn they your stomach. The veracity of some of the information provided is suspect. Pop-up, pop-under, moving, following you up and down a page as you scroll; they flash, vibrate, rotate, make acrobatic movements, video audio going on automatically...even ad blockers don't seem to work like they used to.

And let's not forget malvertising - malicious advertising that delivers malicious code. According to the Malwarebytes Lab website, malware " hits you without your knowledge, often lives on reputable sites, and most of the time, delivers one of the most dangerous forms of malware today. Practice safe Internetting, and you could still be vulnerable."

Below are just a few random examples of internet ads. At the end of this article is information about the Acceptable Ads initiative, which "seeks to create sustainable middle ground between the user’s choice to use ad blockers and the continued need to support free online content with advertisements." There is some hope!

Important Note: Not all internet advertising is intrusive. Certainly website owners need advertising revenue to pay the expenses of their site. But you can gain control. For example, the Adblock Browser lets you choose whether or not you want to see ads when you surf. It allows you to block all ads but also gives you the option to see Acceptable Ads, straightforward, nonintrusive advertisements.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bye, Bye Facebook: Part 1

It is after much thought and with ambivalent feelings that I've decided to delete my Facebook account.

I will do so by the end of this month (January 2017) so it gives Facebook friends time to download any photos I may have taken of them or for their business, should they wish to do so. Once I delete my account, all my photos will be gone, including any of mine that appear on a friend's Facebook page via tagging.

I'm deleting my account because of Facebook itself. It's become intrusive, forces information on me that I don't least not from Facebook. There are too many in your face ads and notices; and Facebook follows your every move on the web. Facebook is not the only company that does this but, in my experience and understanding, it is the most egregious.

Does this mean I'll be totally disconnecting with friends? Of course, not!  I will continue to stay connected through the more traditional and less imposing, ways: phone, email, writing, etc. These are the methods I've used long before the advent of Facebook, and plan to use long after my parting with Facebook.

I will be sharing more of my thoughts at a later time about why I consider Facebook so odious.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Keep Google Allo From Ease-dropping

According to Edward Snowden, the NSA-contractor-turned-whistleblower, considered one of the worlds foremost experts on privacy, the Google Allo chatting app, “records every message you ever send and makes it available to police upon request.” Authorities would need a search warrant.

Allo does support end-to-end encryption, however Google was criticized by Snowden and other privacy advocates for setting it as off by default. According to Wikipedia, "end-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages. ... The systems are designed to defeat any attempts at surveillance and/or tampering because no third parties can decipher the data being communicated or stored."

Unless you use "incognito" mode, messages sent back and forth with the app will be encrypted between it and Google. That means Google has access to what is said in those conversations. Using "incognito" mode means that only you and your message's recipient will see the text.