Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hacking of Children's Tech Toys

This just came to my attention from the BBC. They are sharing warnings about hacks of VTech products. Click on the link below to read the BBC article.

Parents urged to boycott VTech toys after hack

As more of our devices are connected to the internet, from home appliances to tech toys, we need to be much more aware of both the advantages and disadvantages of such connectedness. If you do an online search for the "internet of things" you can learn much more about this phenomenon.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Concerns About Very Young Children Using Technology

A lot of people express concern about the use of technology by children of various ages and many studies have been done based on those concerns. Neil Augenstein recently reported for WTOP on a survey commissioned by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association  which showed that human interaction is too important to early communication development for a child to be spending a lot of time on devices.

“The most rapid period of brain development takes place before age 3,” says Judith Page, president of ASHA. “The primary way young children learn is through verbal communication that technology simply cannot duplicate.”

The article indicates that, in spite of what appears to be significant concern about both the time spent using devices and the hazards of personal audio devices to hearing, there aren't enough limits being put on the use of such devices.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Common Sense Kids Action

Through this blog I have frequently shared links to helpful information from the Common Sense Media organization. This time I am sharing an entire article about a new program in the CSM offerings. It is called Common Sense Kids Action and below is the introductory letter.

Building upon the existing efforts of Common Sense, Kids Action is building a movement of teacher and parent advocates to create a uniquely powerful voice for the next generation. If we want to succeed as a nation in the 21st century, we MUST focus on our kids' education -- providing them with the skills and opportunities needed to be successful adults and leaders in a technologically advanced world. This means high quality education and technology in classrooms across the country; online privacy and safety at home and at school; quality early childhood resources for all children; and efforts to reduce child poverty. If you want to be part of this movement to put kids first, let us know so we can continue to update you with our progress and engage you in a positive conversation about shifting our nation's priorities towards our kids.
Improving the lives of our children will take imagination and cooperation from federal, state, and local government officials, as well as business groups, technology companies, and passionate advocates. Standing with parents like you we will focus on our key initiatives, and work with leaders across the country to advance policies and programs that will provide every child with the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century.
For the past eleven years, Common Sense has stood with you and your families to make sure children are protected in a connected world. We hope you will now stand with us as we expand our efforts to ensure that all kids have the opportunity to succeed and build bright futures.
Join us by signing up here.
Jim Steyer

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Are you helping or hindering the hackers?

Warnings about internet security are all around us and repeated frequently.

But are we listening and, better yet, doing something about it?

An article I discovered today from CBC News updates and summarizes the status of hacking activity. It's a bit long but worth reading to see how we may be unwittingly making life much easier for the hacking community. With so much of our lives spent, recorded, and archived online we would be wise to do more about protecting ourselves.

The article also contains a link to another article on ransomware. You may have heard this word in the news recently since a few coastal Maine police departments were the subjects of this type of hack. It could happen to any of us, any time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top 10 from the FTC - Online and Phone Imposters

You have probably heard of all of these but, unfortunately, unsuspecting and trusting folks are still getting scammed. I just discovered that the Federal Trade Commission has a consumer information blog and they have posted a list of the top ten imposter scams from 2014.

1 - IRS Calling          2 - Prize Patrol          3 - Your computer has problems        

4 - Dangerous software alert from Microsoft Tech Support          5 - Fake FBI

6 - Computer Lock-out          7 - You've won a government grant          8 - Medical benefits scare

9 - Deportation Threats          10 - Fake Caller ID

More information on these types of scams is available on the FTC blog. Check it out. You can also browse the topic "privacy & identity" blog posts by clicking on a link on the right side of the web page. Looks like there is more helpful information there.

I guess the best advice is, "Be skeptical. Be very skeptical."

Friday, March 27, 2015

Are you taking charge of your online security?

As our lives get more bombarded with opportunities for digital devices and connections to the internet to assist us with our daily tasks, and daily entertainment, we also need to pay attention to the admonishments to be mindful of privacy and security. An article I recently read updates those concerns. I will share a few quotes here. If you would like to check out the entire article (not very long) by Shanton Cheng, Associate Professor in Information Systems at University of Melbourne (Australia) click on this link.

Mr. Cheng is reminding us that we need to be much better informed about online activities and not expect entities like businesses and governments to do all that is needed to protect us.
     "Going online without understanding the basics of how the internet works is like getting behind the wheel without knowing the road rules: you might still get where you’re going, but you could be a danger to yourself and those around you."
At the very least we should know:
     "the basics of our browser settings"
      and "the privacy settings of any apps and software we might be using."
We should be aware of:
     "the conditions of using any cloud services"
     and "what we are sharing online."

These are pretty much the tip of the iceberg when it comes to keeping ourselves safe in the digital world. We should also be thinking about aspects of "the internet of things." More on that later.

Friday, January 30, 2015

How secure is your data?

Although the "day" has passed it is still worthwhile to share this reminder from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Below is their press release. Take a look. There may be some fairly easy ways you can make you data and your lives more secure.


Data Privacy Day Logo
Data Privacy Day, recognized each year on January 28, is an international effort focused on protecting privacy, safeguarding data, and enabling trust. Data Privacy Day encourages everyone to weigh the benefits and risks of sharing information, understand what their information can be used for, and take steps to protect themselves and their identities.
Here are the most common ways people put their personal data at risk:
  1. Using weak passwords. Are your passwords part of theworst passwords of 2014 list? This list was compiled by analyzing the passwords found in large data breaches. Do not choose an easy-to-guess password, and do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
  2. Keeping devices unprotected. If you are separated from your mobile device, you do not want anyone to be able to access all the data from your device, including data stored in your apps. Put your devices out of sight when you walk away from them and password-protect them.
  3. Sharing too much information online. From including your birthdate, phone number, and address in your social media profiles to posting pictures of when you are on vacation, sharing too much online can give people enough information to access your accounts or your home when you are away. Wait until you’re home from your trip to post pictures.
To help protect yourself and your family, start with these tips from the national cybersecurity awareness campaign, Stop.Think.Connect.™:
  • Secure your devices. Take advantage of lock screens, passwords, and fingerprint scanning capabilities to secure your smartphones, tablets, and computers.
  • Set strong passwords. Make your passwords hard to guess, and change them regularly.
  • Think before you app. Many apps request access to information stored on your mobile device, including your contact lists, pictures, and location data. Determine if you really want to share such information before downloading the app
  • Do business with reputable vendors. Before providing any personal or financial information, make sure that you are interacting with a reputable, established vendor. Attackers may try to trick you by creating malicious websites that falsely appear to be legitimate companies.
  • Customize the settings on your accounts. Many accounts include default settings that promote more information sharing. Check your account settings to ensure only the information you want to share is visible to those people you want to share it with. Use the National Cyber Security Alliance’s Check Your Privacy Settings page to get started.
For more tips on safer online behavior and how to protect yourself and your data,