Author: Kent Lawson

SOPA, PIPA, and Why We All Must Care About Our Free Internet Rights

A few weeks ago I wrote the U.S. Congress a letter voicing my objection to the proposed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) legislation and have since determined that similar bill PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) is an equally bad idea. If passed, SOPA will work in conjunction with PIPA.

Both SOPA and PIPA represent a step toward an Internet where the U.S. government and giant corporations have the power to determine what you see when you Google something or type in the URL of a website they don’t like.

Do these bills sound ominous? They are.

PRIVATE WiFi urges everyone who values openness on the Internet and opposes censorship to let your congressperson know that you are against both SOPA and PIPA.

FaceNiff’s Achilles Heel: Virtual Private Networks Such As Private WiFi

Hackers have developed a scary new piece of software that allows anyone to steal unsecure social network accounts (such as Facebook and Twitter) using a rooted Android phone. A rooted phone basically means a person has administrative access to their phone, which is not standard.

This software is called FaceNiff, and all a hacker has to do is download it onto their Android phone and activate it. After connecting to any nearby wifi network, they can steal any unsecure Facebook or Twitter accounts that are using the same network.

security

Ask the Expert: The Year in Review

I have enormously enjoyed writing the “Ask the Expert” column this past year.

I started this column because I’m passionate about online security, and I wanted to share with you all that I’ve learned. Since we are near the end of the year, I thought it would be good to provide you with a reference of all the columns I have written.

Online Recognition: When Even Your Face Is a Privacy Risk

Imagine living in a world where you could instantly find out the average age of people at a bar, or view an ad specifically tailored for you when you walk by a billboard, or use a website that knows the name of every person in your uploaded pictures.

This may sound like science fiction, but these things actually exist right now. This is the brave, new world of facial recognition software, and it is evolving at an ominously fast rate.

While this technology has many benefits and some mind boggling applications, questions about security and privacy have not yet been adequately addressed. We may be entering an era when even your face is a privacy risk.

Ask the Expert: Why Are People Calling HTML5 a ‘Game Changer’ For Online Security?

Q: “I’ve heard some web experts mention something called HTML5. I know that HTML is the code used to build websites, but I don’t know anything about HTML5. Some people have said it’s vastly different from older versions of HTML. Can you tell me more about it and any security risks it may pose?”

A: As I mentioned in my piece on the InfoSec World Conference, HTML5 is indeed a game changer.

Marc Andreessen, the guy who helped invent Netscape, the first successful web browser, says, “HTML5 is a major step forward.”

While HTML5 can do things never before possible on the web, the security holes have not been fully addressed, so it’s important to know how you might be at risk with this new technology. Before we get into that, I want to give a little background on both HTML in general and HTML5 specifically.

Are Your Shared Files At Risk on a Hotel Wifi Network?

One of the things we’re always told to do when using public wifi in a hotel (or any other place) is to turn off file sharing. Okay, that sounds like a smart thing to do, but what exactly does it entail? And can someone on the same wifi network we are on actually access our files? Click the headline above to find out what you need to do before your next hotel stay!

wifi dangers

Boingo, the World’s Leading Wifi Provider, Calls Hotspots Inherently Insecure, Recommends VPNs

The “world’s leading” provider of wifi call hotspots inherently insecure, and that individual users need to take responsibility for their privacy and security. Indeed, their #1 recommendation is to use a personal VPN. Click the headline above for what this means before you log on in a wireless hotspot again!

Ask the Expert: Is ‘Anonymous Data’ An Illusion, Or Am I Always Safe Using My Credit Cards?

In our latest “Ask the Expert” series, CEO Kent Lawson discusses the idea behind anonymizing your data. This is in light of last week’s article detailing the privacy implications of Visa and MasterCard’s new campaign to sell consumer information they collect to online advertisers. While it theoretically makes it impossible to match any record with the person whose action it records, the anonymization process is an illusion. Why? Anonymization doesn’t work unless you remove so much information that the data becomes almost useless. Click the headline above to read some examples of this, and also to learn how to better protect your privacy.

What’s Scarier Than Ghosts, Goblins and Zombies? Visa and Mastercard

As you probably know, all the basic information about you (age, gender, location, income) have become commodities on the web – readily available to any company that wants to choose which ads to display to you – or anyone else who is just curious. But the quantity and level of detail which the credit card companies have about us represents a radically deeper threat to our privacy. This Halloween, I suggest you dress up your kids as Visa and MasterCard, then explain to your neighbors about the tricks that the credit card companies are planning. What are the tricks? Click the headline above to read more.

scareware

Scareware: How a Fake Internet ‘Security’ Company Conned Millions Around the World

Ever hear the joke about the hugely successful software company that was scaring folks into buying basically nothing more a malevolent cure for fake computer viruses? Unfortunately, that actually happened to very smart people, the same “tech savvy” folks who are careful about what information they download on their computers, and even among those who know better than to click on a “Win a free iPad!” link on Facebook. Wired magazine shares the story of two con men – who are still on the lam — who sold their scam software to millions of unsuspecting consumers. How did so many fall for this ploy? Click the headline to learn more.

Wi-Fi Alliance Strongly Recommends Personal VPNs When Using Wifi Hotspots

In a recent press release, the Wi-Fi Alliance, the leading global industry association devoted to WiFi connectivity, noted that 82% of WiFi hotspot users do not protect their communications. These users are vulnerable to having their private information intercepted by anyone in the same hotspot with an ordinary laptop and some simple software, readily available for download from the web. The Wi-Fi Alliance is urging consumers to realize that protecting their data when accessing a public WiFi hotspot is their own responsibility, and that they should not rely on the hotspot or website they are accessing.