How Secure is Your System (Internet of Things)

Recently I read an article in PCMag about how secure is the Internet of Things? by Eric Griffith. Great article and kudos to him. This is a summary with my takeaway.

Let's be clear about the term "System" in this blog title. System could include anything in your house that is high-tech such as a microwave, toaster (yes, some of the more expensive ones qualify), TV, PC, tablet, smartphone (these last 3 obviously), car (definitely), and I won't go on, but you get the idea. A more definitive term and buzz-phrase is The Internet of Things.

It is now possible for hackers to hack into the above mentioned items you own. Yes, common household items are fair game. What used to be the realm of PCs has slowly transitioned to the aforementioned. So the bottom line is, how secure is it?

Alex Balan, Bitdefender's Chief Security Researcher at NSA says to look for a Bug Bounty program. Companies that subscribe are having specialized companies investigate their products for a potential hacker's exploit. Since they tell the company if there's a problem and how to fix it, if your product's company is listed, you're fairly safe, since the company is taking measures, including paying very large fees to uncover any unknown bugs.

Who are some big-time companies having their security vulnerabilities checked? Would you believe the U.S. government Dept of Defense? And there are other heavyweights including Microsoft, Google, United Airlines, Facebook, Yahoo, and Apple.

Technology is here to stay, but as with many good things, there often exists a mixed bag.

 

Windows 7 Support Ending

In yesterday's blog, I omitted an important thing you should be aware of concerning Windows 10. If you use Microsoft Office, you can get Windows 10 free. Here's an article that describes this as well as some new Office features:

How to Use the New Office App with Windows 10

In addition, I've included some important points about the Windows 7 support ending, as posted yesterday:

Microsoft will be ending its Windows 7 support in January of 2020. With that said keep in mind the following as well:

  • You can upgrade with a full license to Windows 10. Windows 10 is a great operating system; I've been on it for over two years and I love it.
  • When support ends you can still use Windows 7 although your PC will be vulnerable to security issues. You won't be receiving any more security and feature updates from Microsoft.

 

Android Cell Phone Tips

Android phones constitute well over 50% of the cell phone market so I assume that many of you have an Android phone. I thought about some key things on using an Android phone that I believe will help you get more out of the phone while enjoying maximum security and communication efficiency.

I've made a list of six things that include security, organizing your data, improving communications, as well as preventing unnecessary data fees. Let's begin with security.

Set Up a Pin Code for Top Data Security

One of the best things you can do to secure your phone is to set-up a pin code so that if you lose your phone, nobody can access your data, or even worse, be a victim of identify theft. To set-up a pin code, go into Settings, then select Security, and Screen Lock. From there it's just a matter of setting up the Pin. 

Installing Anti-Virus Software Can Protect Your Lost Phone

Not only does a good anti-virus program for your Android phone protect it from the usual virus problems, it will also warn you when you’re about to click on a possible dangerous link or inform you about spyware snooping on you.  In some cases, the anti-virus program will even end a process for optimum performance. AVG has an excellent anti-virus app for Android phones that is free and it does a great job in performing the above mentioned duties.  Besides this protection, if you lose the phone, it will lock it down, track the location through the GPS, and can even wipe your data if you feel  there’s no hope in retrieving the phone and you don’t want your phone data compromised. To install AVG you can download from the app store. AVG is also an excellent anti-virus program for your PC, and the download and virus definition updates are free.

Back-up Your Data and Settings 

You can lose data and your settings on your cell phone just like you can lose them on your PC. It makes sense to back-up your data to the Google servers so you can do a restore if you have a problem down the road. To back-up your data, go to Settings, and select Backup & reset.  A new window will open; select the choice, “Back up my data.” To fine tune this process, select the choice Backup account.  The “Set backup account” window will open with a list of any google accounts you’re using. There will also be a choice for adding another account.  If you select that choice, it will ask you if you want to use an existing account or create a new one.  If you select existing account, you will then be asked to login with your username/password. After a successful login, you will see a window, “Account sign-in successful,” along with all of the accounts that are synched. Your specific phone may not have these exact words, but the process will be very similar.

You can also back-up other data such as music, pictures, and videos using 3rd-party software.  One popular program is AirSync from Doubletwist. It costs five dollars but does a great job backing up your data and synching your data with your PC.  You can also use Google Music and Piccasa, which will do a good job backing up your data and it’s free.

Use Folders to Organize Your Apps

I have a lot of apps on my smartphone. I'm sure you have quite a few as well. I got frustrated one evening when I could not locate an app due to the sheer number of them listed on the screen. It was from that experience that I decided to create a few folders and organize my data.

To create a folder, on some phones just simply go into Settings and select folders. However, on many Android smartphones, you don't have a menu for that choice. You create the folder by laying one app on top of another. If you drag an app icon over to another app icon and drop it on top of it, the phone will automatically show both apps in a box with "unnamed folder" below. Just click on the unnamed folder to name it whatever folder title you want and then depress the Done button. 

Clear the App Cache When it Misbehaves

One of the frustrating things with phones is an app that is out of control. It seems to raise havoc with the phone, and crashes frequently. Rather than going to the extreme to uninstall it, first see if clearing the cache corrects the problem. Much of the time, it will. To clear the cache, go to Settings, then Applications, followed by Manage Applications, followed by selecting the misbehaving app. Clearing the cache will not have any effect on your settings so you can do this procedure with confidence. 

Avoid Paying Extra for Exceeding Data Limit

If you’re on a limited data plan, it’s important to know how much data you’ve used. To view your data usage, go to Settings, then select Data Usage. You will see a list of all of your apps that consume data with the amount used thus far. You can also view each app settings but the important item is the choice to limit the app’s usage. Check the box, “Limit mobile data usage.” You can also specify what is the cutoff point. If you only want to focus on limiting one specific app, since each app is listed, select the app and a new window will open for designating what data limit you want to assisgn.  Just check the box, “Restrict background data.” Doing this restricts your mobile network data usage but will allow you to use WiFi if it’s available. Remember, using WFfi does not count toward your minutes or data usage. 

It really only takes a few minutes to implement the above tips. Keep in mind that some Android menus will be worded slightly differently, depending on the manufacturer. I'll provide more Android cell phone tips in future posts.