Happy Data Privacy Day!

Today marks Data Privacy Day all across the globe. It is a day when people everywhere are reminded of the importance of keeping personal information safe online. After the attacks on Sony, JP Morgan, and Staples, and many other large corporations and with the rampant use of stolen payment credentials, data privacy is now more important than ever. And it can only get worse as more and more everyday items are being connected to the internet.

Individuals and businesses need every data protection reminder they can get. Thankfully, security is starting to keep up with the ever-changing technology. According to USA Today, Michael Kaiser, director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, said the future of cyber security is right around the corner.

“There’s a ton of stuff coming, it will address fundamental, ecosystem-wide flaws in the system,” said Kaiser.

The future protection tools may include software or gadgets that know if it’s really the right person logging in to a device.

While online tools and gadgets are important, they will never take the place of personal responsibility and staying smart online. There are countless ways an identity can be stolen. This can be a headache for consumers. However, a worse headache would be when all of your bank accounts are drained by hackers. Here are catmandu’s best tips for protecting your identity and your data:

  1. Don’t put anything you wouldn’t want seen online. This includes watching what you write in private emails and messages, in a Google Doc, anywhere. Think about the embarrassing Sony Executives’ emails.
  2. Don’t use the same email or pin number for every account. If one gets hacked, they all get hacked.
  3. Turn on two-step verification for any account that allows it.
  4. Be wary of ALL emails, especially those with attachments, and NEVER give out login credentials or credit card numbers via email no matter who is asking.
  5. Unfortunately, you have to think before clicking any link online. Install a free antivirus like Avast, which will place a handy green checkmark beside links that are okay to click.
  6. On your phone, always require a passcode. It takes no technical skill whatsoever for someone who finds your lost phone to steal valuable information. Also, install an app that allows you to access your phone remotely and erase its content if necessary.
  7. When connecting to Wi-Fi, be sure that your home connection requires a password. When using a public connection, don’t engage in transactions you want to keep private like online shopping or accessing your bank account.
  8. Protect yourself with a good firewall and security software. This is the cornerstone of stopping hackers from gaining access to your devices. The slogan of Data Privacy Day says it best: “Stop. Think. Connect.”
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Critical Vulnerability For Flash Player Users

Adobe Systems reported this week that Flash player users may leave their system open to vulnerabilities if they do not immediately update the player, reported ArsTechnica.

 

Here’s how the malware works: A weakness in the Flash player allows hackers to implant websites with a malicious code. Then, people with vulnerable computers access those websites. This allows hackers to install backdoors that can be used to steal passwords, monitor keystrokes, and infect systems with more malware. Eventually, attackers could take control of the entire system and corrupt the memory on that computer.

The problem affects computers using Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows 8.1 and below, according to this Adobe security advisory. Users with automatic Flash updates began receiving the latest version on January 24th and users with manual updates can receive the latest version here.

Users can also protect themselves by enabling the click to play feature in browsers which stops the Flash player from running without consent, according to PCWorld.

If you think your system is affected, bring it to catmandu immediately.

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Healthcare.gov Shares Your Personal Information

An individual’s age, zip code, income level, whether or not they smoke or are pregnant, and more information is now the knowledge of third party websites that will use the information to serve consumers ads online. The Associated Press reports that the website can obtain a computer’s IP address, which, when mixed with other information can locate a person’s address or name. Researchers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have confirmed that sites such as Google, Yahoo, Twitter, YouTube, and many more have received this personal data. The site Doubleclick, which has obtained information, has the ability to match this data up with an already vast collection of online reading and buying habits, thus creating a detailed account of an individual. Healthcare.gov is sending this data even if a user has turned on Do Not Track, according to Gigaom.com. The third party sites are prohibited from using the data for their own use but the Obama Administration did not explain how they would monitor and control the use of the data. Instead, Administration spokesman Aaron Albright said that the government is only using the personal information to create “a simpler, more streamlined and intuitive experience” on Healthcare.gov. (AP) This all comes in the wake of President Obama’s new plans to protect personal data online and make corporations responsible for the data they store. The dangers go deeper than information used to serve advertisements. If one of the third party sites was breached by a hacker, millions of individuals’ private data would be exposed and as the world has seen in recent events, the possibility of this happening is extremely high. “You don’t need all of that data to do customer service,” said Theresa Payton to AP, former White House chief information officer. “We know hackers are just waiting at the door, salivating to get at this data.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends installing Privacy Badger, which will block these third party connections.

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The Dangers Of Dumping Electronics

If you’re like most people you probably have piles of old and broken laptops, printers, televisions, and cell phones gathering dust in your home. You have a sneaking suspicion that you shouldn’t simply throw these items in the trash can. That sneaking suspicion is right. When thrown away, these electronic items end up in landfills, polluting the earth for years to come.

So what exactly happens to the electronic waste (e-waste) that gets hauled off by the trash truck?

Every year millions of tons of e-waste end up in landfills. In 2011, 41.5 million tons of e-waste was generated and 70-80 percent of it ended up in landfills, according to Wired. There, the computers, phones, printers, etc. will release their toxic chemicals like mercury, lead, and cadmium both into the ground and into the air, and eventually into our water supply.This affects not only humans but also plants and animals. These chemicals, when released in the air, have been known to cause cancer, reproductive problems, and nerve damage, according to Susanne Dittke, an environmental consultant for EnviroSense.

The good news is that e-waste doesn’t have to end up in landfills. It doesn’t have to pollute the earth or our bodies. Here in Amarillo, TX, all you have to do is drop your devices off at cat-man-du. We partner with KB Recycling to make sure your electronic waste is either reused or properly disposed of. It takes a knowledgeable, trained professional to take apart an electronic device. Many parts of an old computer, for example, can be reused in a new computer, thus reducing the consumption of natural resources, according to techdump.org.

Be smart when it comes to recycling. If you can’t bring your waste to us, make sure the place you bring it to is reputable. E-waste recycling has become a lucrative business, with many companies selling their waste to China or India and making a huge profit, according to Greenpeace International. Make sure the company tries to refurbish items first.

Bringing your old T.V., computer, printer, phone, or other electronic device to cat-man-du doesn’t take much effort but it could have profound impacts on the health of the planet and the people on it. Choosing to be responsible for your own consumption is not a choice, it’s an obligation.

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Hacker Group Anonymous Declares War

The infamous hacker group Anonymous has declared war on jihadists over the Charlie Hedbo attack. Anonymous stated in a video posted on YouTube that the Islamic extremists are the “enemy of the freedom of speech” and that they will be shutting down social media sites and websites related to the terrorists, according to CNN.

The group stated in the video, “Freedom of speech and opinion is a non-negotiable thing, to tackle it is to attack democracy. Expect a massive frontal reaction from us because the struggle for the defense of those freedoms is the foundation of our movement.”

Some believe, however, that taking down the social media sites of the jihadists could make monitoring the terrorists more difficult, according to the BBC.

Anonymous is usually an enemy of authority and government. They have shut down sites related to policies they disapprove of. This includes government sites, child pornography sites, and the sites of large corporations likes PayPal, Sony, Visa, and Mastercard, according to Daily Mail. Support for the hacker group is divided. Some see the group as “hacktivists,” doing good for the world while others see the group as cyber terrorists.

Anonymous is based world-wide. Over the years, dozens have been arrested in the US, UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Turkey.

Anonymous shows us that the wars of today, and of the future, will not only be fought with guns and bombs, they will be fought in cyberspace. It is becoming increasingly important to protect yourself online.

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