Tech Sensibility: The Newsletter (May 2014)
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- To be secure online, make sure that your web browser plugins are up-to-date by using Mozilla’s “Plugin Check and Update” website at http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/plugincheck/. It will display all plugins that are currently installed in your web browser, and whether they are up-to-date or need to be updated. The website works for most web browsers, including Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome.
- Do not use the same password for all your online and web accounts. Create the best passwords for your most important services like a bank, credit card, and healthcare website.
- Avoid using your work e-mail accounts for personal use, and vice versa. It is unprofessional, and may cause you unnecessary grief. Companies perform internal security and audit reviews all the time, and your personal e-mail communication may get picked up as a part of such process. Additionally, assume that your work e-mail is being monitored – it usually is.
- Mobile phones lose most of their value in the first year. After two years, a new phone is worth only about a quarter of its original price. If you are looking for ways to save money, it is best to purchase last year’s model once the latest one is released. Then trade it in after a couple of years, and you will get back most of the cost of the phone.
- An easy way to back up your files is to save them to a folder that is automatically mirrored to a cloud. This way, you can open and close your files from a local folder with no delay, and as soon as you make any changes the files will automatically be backed up over the network to a cloud folder on the remote location. Services that offer such capabilities include Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox.
Encryption and Small Businesses
To protect your data if someone steals your computer or laptop, encrypt your hard drive with a full-disk encryption. Some operating systems already have this feature available. If yours does not, a third-party software can be used instead. You can similarly encrypt your external and USB thumb drives.
To protect your Internet traffic – for example, connecting from your home to office – you can use a virtual private network (VPN) to create a secure “tunnel” between your laptop and your office server. Data sent and received through this tunnel is encrypted and safe even if a third party intercepts it.
While many web sites offer support for encryption, they do not necessarily make it easy to use. Those web sites may default to unencrypted traffic, or a combination of encrypted and unencrypted traffic. With a web browser extension like HTTPS Everywhere, from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), your web browser will always use the encrypted version of the website, if one is available.
- Scientists have recently revealed that daily social interactions with strangers can have almost as much positive influence as social interactions with loved ones. In the study, participants started conversations with strangers during their morning commute, a time during which many usually spend focused on their smartphones reading or listening to music. Both the participants and the strangers with whom they interacted reported feeling more positive and upbeat than those who spent the commute in solitude. When asked in advance how they felt about approaching strangers, participants felt uneasy mostly about the possibility of being snubbed. Interestingly, the study found that we tend to feel more upbeat after fleeting social exchanges with strangers rather than those with loved ones, with whom we usually feel safe enough to display a more negative and unpleasant side. Of course not everyone likes to be disrupted during their morning commute. However, it is possible to reach a harmonious balance of reaching out to a stranger without infringing upon their personal bubble.
- If you ever wondered whether color has any impact on brain performance, a recent study may surprise you. It uncovered that setting your computer monitor to blue can greatly boost the part of your brain responsible for brainstorming and thinking outside the box. Conversely, adjusting to a red screen vastly impacts a section of the brain that is responsible for detail-oriented tasks like memorizing and proofreading. The color blue is closely associated with the sky and the ocean, and as a result may trigger people to be more open to new ideas and risk-taking, whereas the color red has been closely associated with danger (i.e., stop signs, ambulances) and may prompt us to be more cautious and pay more attention to detail.