The Most Dangerous Thing You Can Do While Online

There are a lot of things I could do to put my PC in danger.  I could join an unsecured wireless network or open an e-mail attachment from a person I don’t know or fail to update my system software or search for free movies—especially naughty movies.

All of these things put me at risk of being exploited by cybercriminals. So I just don’t do them. Yet I have to admit that I’ve needlessly put myself (and others) in danger while on the Internet.

Yes, I used to text and email while driving. Since texting while driving became illegal in my state this summer, I stopped (with one or two exceptions). But until yesterday, I had no idea how dangerous poking at my little phone with my thumbs truly is.

According to a new study, drivers distracted by their cell phones killed 16,000 people in the United States from 2001-2007. Even as traffic deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the 1950s, deaths caused by distracted drivers have risen by 4.1%. And distracted driving fatalities increased dramatically starting in 2005—right around the time texting became a mainstream activity in America.

Statistics show that if I text while driving, I am 23 times more likely to get in an accident. Texting makes my reaction times as slow as a man twice my age. And what’s scariest of all is that reading texts is more harmful to my driving than writing them. This suggests that as our phones become increasingly connected to Facebook walls and Twitter and YouTube, they become increasingly dangerous in the hands of a driver.

And the problem is only getting worse. The researchers behind this study predict that distracted driving will increase 19% for every 1,000,000 new cell phone users.

These numbers may be too optimistic. Our cell phones are becoming more intelligent, more addictive and more distracting all the time. And as features like video chat become standard, the potential for distraction multiplies exponentially.

I love my phone. I admit it. But now that I’m aware of how negatively it impacts me, I’d be a fool to use it while driving.

Stay safe,

Jason

CC image by Jason Weaver

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F-Secure employee wins Inventor of the Year

20 Patents in 14 Years: How An Award-Winning Inventor Finds His Groove

We wouldn't be F-Secure without the talented and passionate researchers in our Labs. And today we'd like you to meet one whose inquisitive nature has driven him to become an inventor - and a prolific one at that. In his 14-year career with F-Secure, Jarno Niemelä has racked up an impressive 20 patents to his name and has filed 100 patent applications in total. His achievements recently won the title of "Salaried Inventor of 2014" from a group of Finnish inventors' organizations. I sat down to chat with Jarno about where he gets his ideas, and his advice for others. What area do your inventions focus on? I mostly focus on methods to help detect malware on a system, or methods of preventing malware from entering the system in the first place. How do your ideas come about? Inventions mostly happen in the evening when I'm not at work, and not even trying to think about it. I'll be working on some problem at work, and usually a day or two later, when I'm doing something totally unrelated on my own time, it hits me. I understand the problem and come up with a solution. The gym is a really good place for inventions. What motivates you to keep on inventing new solutions?   Inventions just happen, pretty much. Whenever I'm able to define a problem, I'm usually always able to come up with a solution. I am lucky to be researching in areas with problems that others have not yet solved. I'll be honest, I don't really like patents that much personally. The fact is though, that companies without patents would pretty much be at the mercy of the competitors. So in my view, patents are basically company self defense. Patents keep things in balance. Were you curious about things growing up? I've always kind of been inventive. You cannot learn to become an inventor, it's either something that's in your nature or it's not. And then you need to hone the talent and learn how to work within the patent framework. Another thing that is very important is good basic education and knowledge about the field. I owe a lot to Metropolia University of Applied Sciences where I studied for my engineering degree. Do you have any advice for people who have this inventive nature and are interested in filing patents? It all starts from defining and understanding the problem. Without a thorough understanding of the problem, you can't come up with a solution. Also, when it comes to patents, it's important to know what has previously been done in your area, and be clear in exactly how your invention is different from those. Otherwise your patent can be easily rejected by the patent examiner. And finally, patents are a long process so you need patience. It can take three to five years to get a patent approved. So this is not for hasty people. What is that rock you're holding? It's my trophy, a piece of Finnish bedrock! Inventors are the bedrock of new products. Do you have any certain goals for your inventions? Before I retire I would like to have at least 50 patents to my name. - Well, he's off to a great start. Congratulations, Jarno! Follow Jarno on Twitter  

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Should you use a VPN?

The EFF has put together a handy guide on choosing the right VPN -- virtual private network -- that explains in simple terms why you'd want to use this type of software.   "It enables a computer to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if it is directly connected to the private network—benefiting from the functionality, security, and management policies of the private network," the guide explains. It goes on to clarify the three reasons people typically encrypt their data. Most people already using a VPN do so for the two reasons: They connect to a corporate network remotely or are attempting avoid Internet censorship in countries like China and Iran. But even if you're not using a VPN for business or digital freedom, there is a simple reason why you'd want to use a VPN. "You can also use a commercial VPN to encrypt your data as it travels over a public network, such as the Wi-Fi in an Internet café or a hotel," the EFF writes. I put together this flow chart that explains whether you're a candidate for this third reason to use a VPN: “A good number of open wi-fi providers take the time to tell you in their T&C that there are inherent risks with wireless communications and suggest using a VPN,” F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan said after we conducted a public Wi-Fi experiment. “So if you don’t take it from me, take it from them.” And even if you aren't on a public network, you may want a VPN to protect you from ubiquitous tracking elements like a perma-cookie. You can try our super simple Freedome VPN solution -- which also includes tracking protection and the ability to set up virtual locations -- free. [Image via Trevor Cummings | Flickr]

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