Archive for October, 2011

Cyber Security Awareness: Are you?

By Christopher Burgess, Guest Blogger

This October marks the start of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) in the United States.  If you’re reading this piece you are on a social network and have a modicum of interest in your online security.  Throughout the month (as I have for the past few years) I will be publishing snack size tips that you may wish to share (family, friends, colleagues, or whomever) so that all have a leg-up on keeping their online activities enjoyable, but also safe and secure.

FACEBOOK:
Do you use Facebook?  With over 500 million subscribers perhaps the right question to ask is how many of your friends or companies aren’t using Facebook?  Do you have your privacy settings locked down?  Do you review what Facebook’s constant changing of your privacy capabilities (not all of which are detrimental, but many certainly expose your information to more persons than perhaps is wise or desired.   Take for example the newest change, that of “subscriber,” according to Facebook’s explanation, subscribers aren’t individuals you friend, but rather individuals who subscribe to view and read items you post.  And those individuals may have your best interests at heart or they may be acting from a purely malevolent perspective.  To put it in the bluntest of terms, if you have the “subscriber” option open in your Facebook settings, know that you do, because anyone with a Facebook account can then view, retain and compile your information.  If you do choose to open up subscribers to your Facebook account, and I do understand why many may wish to do so, ensure the information you are sharing is information you are comfortable being used in any manner imaginable from the negative extreme of stalking you, your family or your employees to the positive extreme of new business or connecting with long-lost friends and family.
In sum – keep an eye on the Facebook’s changes and how they can affect your privacy, safety and security.

Be safe, be secure,

Christopher

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Game On! Eight tips to stay safe while playing online games

By Christopher Burgess, Guest Blogger

Do you or your children participate in online gaming, using your PC, smart phone or game box?  Then you need to make sure you understand what’s going on, especially behind the curtain, when you configure your “game” settings.

Game-Name:  Choose your game-name in such a manner as not to divulge your age, gender or location – SeattleSeaGal1998 – may indicate to other gamers that you are a female, in or near Seattle and were born in 1994, thus 13 years of age.  A more appropriate userid maybe Astr0id or Treetop.

Passwords:  Let’s start with making sure that the password you choose for your game is first and foremost unique to that game, is a strong password which has at ten or more characters, is not a word (in any language) and utilizes symbols, numbers and letters in both upper and lower case.

Profile setup:  Never include your personal identifying information which would allow another online gamer to physically locate you.  While 99.44% of all online gamers are on the up and up, there is a small minority that are not there for the game, but to identify and target individuals for their own nefarious purposes.  You don’t get to decide if you are being targeted; the miscreant does, so keep your personal information to yourself (ALWAYS).  Read the small print on privacy and breach notification (if the gaming company loses your data how will they notify you?)

Computer:  Ensure your security software is up-to-date each and every time before you hit the play button.  You can do this by activating the software and checking the “recent updates.”  Also, if possible don’t use a device containing the family banking, accounts, email, or ancestral tree as the gaming device.  Realizing it isn’t possible for all to have such a dedicated device, ensure that your personal family financial and identifying data is locked down on the shared hard drive.

Players:  As noted above, not all players are on the up and up and some competitive players may use techniques and interaction which make you uncomfortable.  Know how to disengage, block and report such individuals before you ever encounter one so that you know what to do should it occur.

Camera:  Turn-off the webcam.  If you don’t know how, either unplug the webcam or put a piece of paper over the lens.  There is no need for anyone to see who you are, what your environment is like and whether or not you are with others or alone.

Downloads:  Never accept a download from another game participants and be especially cautious when thinking about accepting a “cheat” program as more often than not, these are the vehicles by which malware (viruses, keyloggers, data destruction, data collection) can find its way into your otherwise secured device.

In-Real-Life:   Don’t meet your online gaming contacts in real-life without parental permission and presence.  There is little way to verify the intent of a stranger met online.

So enjoy your gaming, but do so wisely and with due caution.

Stay safe and secure,

Christopher

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Location, Location, Location

By Christopher Burgess, Guest Blogger

The meshing of online with physical environments is best exemplified by the seemingly ubiquitous influx of location-based services.  Such services may, in exchange for your announcing your presence (checking in) offer you, their customer a discount, fame as a frequent visitor, or other inducements to announce to your following (and beyond) that you not only use the merchant’s services, but you also are proudly telling others that you are present at their establishment.  Clearly makes sense.  Merchant builds an identifiable clientele, will to announce on a regular basis their presence within.

From my optic, as long as you know the answers to the following questions, then you have the necessary information required to measure the risk versus gain of announcing your physical location to the virtual/online world.

  1. Announcing where you are is also announcing where you aren’t, is that a problem?  For you or your family?
  2. How does the location-based service provider store your personal information (profile)?
  3. What security and privacy surrounds your profile data?
  4. How is your location data shared with your “friends?”
  5.  Can an individual not known to you access your location without your knowledge?
  6. If you look at your check-in’s can you discern a pattern of when and where you will be at a given time?  Can others?
  7. How can your data be collated by someone, other than yourself?
  8. Can your data be collated without your explicit permission?
  9. If your data is collated or archived by others would you know?
  10. Are you able to review your check-in’s and remove or edit these?

Location based services are here to stay, have great viability and absolutely increase the interaction between individuals and merchants, as well as serve to identify individuals with similar interest.  Know that well-intentioned services have a positive side, but also may also be used to your detriment.  If you are satisfied with the answers to the aforementioned questions, then make your decision to share or not to share.

Be safe, be secure,

Christopher

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