What is https and why should you care? That’s the topic for today’s post!

HTTPS is a protocol for secure communication, widely used on the Internet. When you enter data into  website (i.e name, address, credit card number), the owner of the website has to “send” this information somewhere for processing. HTTP on the other hand is a unsecure protocol for communication.

Let’s use an analogy to illustrate: if an armed guard needs to transfer money from his truck to a bank, he could simply put the money in a paper bag that anyone can open (think HTTP), or he can put the cash in a safe that only the bank has the combination to unlock (think HTTPS).

HTTPS is the protection of exchanged data while in transit. wikipedia

HTTPS is not 100% foolproof because keys/combinations can always be hacked; but, when you see this designation on a website you can be a little more sure protection in is place.

Feel smarter? If you know to look for HTTPS before entering personal data into a website, I’d say you are!


There is no Online Safe Zone

macIn case you haven’t noticed, computer hackers are taking over the world! Surely you’ve heard of Anonymous, the “invisible” group threatening to release all sorts of information. I’ve said this so many times – the next “war era” will not be using bombs or grenades, it will be done online! And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s already started. Before we get into the details, here’s a simple truth: “Everything you do or say online can be used against you.” That disclaimer should be tied to every smart phone, computer or tablet issued in the entire world.  People who are smart enough to know how to program a computer (and exploit it) can make all of our worst nightmares a reality. You remember – there was the Target data breach (40 million cards affected), then came Home Depot and even more recently the US Government and Ashley Madison (online affair site – those hackers made good on their promise and exposed cheater’s names, credit card numbers and home address).  Even Hillary Clinton’s camp is  not smart enough to know that emails CAN ALWAYS be recovered.

SIDE NOTE: I’m no fan of Hillary Clinton by the way. Charles Barkley was on Mike and Mike this morning. When asked who he would vote for at the moment, he said “No Democrat impresses me.” I agree!

Now, back to the subject at hand – I’ve always said, the dumbest criminal is the one who incriminates him or herself. Why photograph illegal activity? Or post it online? Or insinuate it? Or leave a paper / digital trail. Just not smart people!!! Even a PRIVATE Instagram account will not hold up to a WARRANT from a JUDGE. Facebook just LOST a case when it tried to challenge the legality of warrants requesting personal data from it’s members.

I ran across this article by The Verge, I knew it was worth sharing:

PSA: Everything you say and do is public: five rules for living with the internet

  1. Assume everything you do and say will be made public.
  2. Do not be seduced by privacy settings and passwords, which are temporary illusions that distract from the reality of the previous point.
  3. Understand that context and data are often one in the same. When you enter information on the internet, assume that you include the who (you), the what (the data), the when (the time of data input), the where (the site on which the data is being placed), the how (the device on which you input the data), and the why (the purpose of the site).
  4. Believe that all of your credit card transactions are being kept in a colossal, searchable ledger that one day will be made available for all to study.
  5. Believe that data does not disappear when you delete it.

Stay in the KNOW!


Behavioral Advertising

338207-browser-wars-browser-wars-chrome-vs-ie-vs-firefoxLet’s get to the nitty gritty here – What is behavioral advertising? It basically means that “someone” analyzes your the things you do online (i.e. clicking on a certain link or visiting a certain site) to gain information about you (and your behavior) in an attempt to advertise their services or products. For example, let’s say you go to Nordstrom’s website and search for a handbag. You find one you like, then click on it – it’s a pink handbag. After looking at the pics or maybe reading the reviews, you decide it’s not the right handbag for you. A few minutes later, you visit Facebook and miraculously, you see that same pink purse (and maybe other similar pink purses) highlighted in the “Things you might like” section or in the ads on the side of the page. How did that happen? You have just experienced Behavioral Advertising! This freaks me out. I absolutely hate it. It’s like someone is stalking my every move on the internet. Well, they are! (see also Buh-Bye Facebook)

“Some of the ads you receive on Web pages are customized based on predictions about your interests generated from your visits to different Web sites. This type of ad customization is sometimes called “online behavioral” or “interest-based” advertising.” This definition is according to the Digital Advertising Alliance Consumer Choice page. The good news is that you can find out all the companies that are collecting your behavioral data (not that you care) and OPT OUT. Personally, I could care less who these companies are! There’s no need for me to pick and choose who gets to track me and who doesn’t! Scroll all the way to the bottom on this page and select Choose All Companies, as shown in the image below.

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 10.09.37 AM

Few tips: 1) Before you do this, you need to ensure that cookies are enabled on your browser (If you don’t know what cookies are, read my post Online Tracking). If you don’t really care and just want to get it done for the sake of this exercise, instructions (with pictures) on how to enable cookies for all browsers can be found here here. 2) If you use multiple browsers (Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox), be sure to do this on each and every browser, including your mobile devices!

Happy no-behavioral-advertising Browsing!

Google Fiber

Google Fiber is coming to town! Atlanta, Nashville, Kansas City, Charlotte, and Raleigh-Durham get ready!!! The service includes “super fast internet and HDTV“! They’re calling it FIBER-hood. One Google employee noted, “The US today ranks 14th in internet speed.” Places like Seoul, Tokyo and Zurich all have faster internet connections than we do! If you live in the City of Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, College Park, Decatur, East Point, Hapeville, Sandy Springs or Smyrna you’re on Google’s Atlanta path!

Google is working with the cities and utilities to review infrastructure, roads, underground utility paths, etc. to build a brand new super fast network so this process will take a while. The teams plans to lay enough fiber long enough to cover the distance from Atlanta to Canada and back. Here’s the announcement from Atlanta Mayor Kaseem Reed – you can find the video on YouTube and the press release here.

While construction has not started, you can look at prices & features currently available in cities like Austin to get a sneak peak.



Net Neutrality

Tnetneutralityhe days of free access to all Internet sites may be over. We all currently have this luxury due to a Net Neutrality rule that has been in place for quite some time. Last week that ruling was shot down by a judge, which means the Internet, as we know it today many no longer be free. I ran across an article in Ebony does a great job explaining the potential impact by comparing access to Internet sites (all of which are completely free and open at the moment) to your cable company and how it charges premiums for channels, like HBO. Imagine paying more based on the sites you visit. The article explains that the change could manifest itself in many forms:

  1. Tiered service, where for data-intensive sites like Netflix may cost more.

  2. Higher costs to businesses that require consumption of large amounts of data, also like Netflix, which means their added costs could be passed on to consumers.

  3. Additional costs for entities that provide mass, open access (like cities and coffee shops)  or may even charger per user. Again, this option may be passed on to the consumer as well, maybe in the form of even more expensive coffee.

So with either option, the impact is the same: consumers will pay more. But remember, these changes are only speculation at the moment. The topic is so controversial, I doubt you’ll see an extra line item on your bill labeled “Netflix access fee”. More likely, maybe Starbucks will require you to watch a 30-second ad that covers their added costs before can freely roam onto its Wi-Fi network. Or maybe while you wait to get your oil changed, the Ford dealership will require you to take a survey ranking new features it’s considering adding to its vehicles (market research). Whatever the approach companies take, it will cost you in either time or money. For now, we can all sit back, relax and enjoy a little comic relief, on the subject courtesy of the The Colbert Report.