If you’re still a Windows XP user, you’re probably singing a sad song knowing that after 12 long years Microsoft will end its support for the world’s second most popular operating system on April 8, 2014.
Microsoft warns you that if you continue to use its OS first introduced before the iPhone even existed “your computer will still work but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses.” And if that isn’t enough to encourage you to upgrade or get a computer, maybe the fact that “you can expect to encounter greater numbers of apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP” will.
But given the millions of PCs running the OS and the scarce amount of time and resources many people have, some people will certainly be XP users well after its “expiration date.” If you’re going to be one of these daredevils, our Security Advisor Sean Sullivan has some suggestions.
“Folks that continue to use XP at home can do so with some reasonable amount of safety, but they absolutely need to review their Internet and computing habits as April draws near,” he told us. And he broke down 7 ways to avoid the trouble from the criminals who will surely be targeting these unsupported systems.
1) Install an alternative browser — not Internet Explorer.
2) Review the third-party software you’ve installed and uninstall anything that isn’t needed.
3) For the third-party software that you keep – consider disabling or uninstalling the browser plugins. Or at least set the browser to “always ask” what to do about things such as PDF files. (Personally, I always download PDFs to my desktop and open them from there. I don’t want the PDF viewer plugin installed, and I don’t like being in the habit of opening certain file types in my browser’s window.)
4) Have an up-to-date security product with antivirus and firewall installed.
5) Keep your XP computer connected to a NAT router, which will act as a hardware firewall. (Practically speaking, this means you shouldn’t be roaming around outside of your home with an XP computer. Don’t plug into a university network for connectivity – keep your computer at home on a trusted network.)
As you can see, living in the past may not make life easy. But if it’s your only option, you should at least try to stay as safe as possible.
[Image via Patrick Hoesly via Flickr.com]
UK child protection charity the NSPCC this week published research into children’s online porn-viewing habits. The results are shocking. One in ten 12-13 year olds are worried they are addicted to porn. This goes beyond children stumbling across inappropriate content, though could be how the addiction started. Tackling the issue head-on, the NSPCC has published advice for parents and calls on the government to educate children in the dangers of online porn. It notes that its discussion forums on the subject get 18,000 hits per month. You can see its advice here. There is no silver bullet to tackling this issue. Your approach will depend on your child. A two-way conversation with them to educate them to the dangers is as important as using technology to limit the risks. So, from a technical perspective, what can you do to protect your children from online porn? The simplest measure is to activate parental controls on your internet security software. This will take two minutes, but will protect your child for years. How do parental controls work? Parental controls are a very useful way to adapt a smartphone, tablet or computer’s settings to only allow content and usage which you, as a parent, feel are appropriate. Suitable content F-Secure’s parental controls start with giving parents the option to choose settings which are appropriate for either a teenager or a younger child. These allow different categories content. For example, it’s unlikely you would want a child of any age viewing information about dating, gambling, drugs, violence or porn – so these are blocked by default (but can be unblocked if you wish). However, teens are not automatically blocked from using email and social networking. Time-limits Time-limits are a very useful tool to curb the amount of time a child spends on different applications on their smartphone or tablet each day. You may choose to only allow an hour of time of Facebook, compared to unlimited access to Wikipedia. On our desktop version, you can also set homework time, by only allowing access to educational sites during certain times of the day when you know your child should be working and are worried about online distractions. There is also the capability to set the amount of time the child can spend online for that week – a particularly useful tool during school holidays. Call blocking For mobile phones, call blocker is a handy tool for parents of children who are being bullied. Incoming calls from specific phones numbers can be blocked, meaning the dialler will receive an engaged tone and then disconnection, with no option to leave a message. Numbers can be added to this blacklist from the incoming call register or the contacts database. Parents can also gain access to the list of blocked calls which have been received. Locate, lock and wipe Our anti-theft feature means a phone can be located when lost – or when a parent wants to check on their child’s location. Of course, this should form part of an open discussion with the child, so they are aware of the phone’s capability. It also means that, should a phone be stolen or lost, the phone can be locked and the data deleted remotely, meaning it can’t fall into the wrong hands. Our parental controls are password-based, which means they can’t be circumvented by a tech-savvy child. Of course, the password needs to be strong for this to work, but that’s another blog post!
You should know that Facebook can play with your emotions. If you're reading this you're probably aware that your Facebook feed doesn't simply serve you the latest posts from the friends and pages you follow. Given that most of us follow hundred -- if not thousands -- of people, places and brands, a real-time feed would dramatically change the Facebook experience. And it would likely greatly reduce engagement, which is the site's life force. But if you do know this, you may be in the minority. A new study from a team of researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, California State University, Fresno and the University of Michigan found that most of a group of 40 Facebook users, 62.5 percent had no idea that their feed is filtered by the world's largest social network. And not knowing that actually seemed to have negative affects on users' psyches. “In the extreme case, it may be that whenever a software developer in Menlo Park adjusts a parameter, someone somewhere wrongly starts to believe themselves to be unloved,” the researchers wrote. The study used a tool to create an unfiltered feed that showed them what they'd been missing. While they weren't thrilled how Facebook decided which friends posts they'd see, "[m]ost came to think that the filtering and ranking software was actually doing a decent job," Fusion's Alex Madrigal writes. In 2014, Facebook partnered in an academic paper that revealed it had manipulated users feeds to adjust how many positive and negative posts they saw. It found that moods were contagious. Positive feeds led to positive posts and vice versa. Users agree to such manipulation in Facebook's terms and conditions -- which you clearly know by heart -- but the revelation still led to a huge backlash. In the recent study, participants found that being aware they were being fed stories by Facebook's algorithm "bolstered overall feelings of control on the site" and led to more active engagement. So if you didn't know a formula was guiding your interactions before you probably already feel better. But there's more you can do if you want to make sure Facebook is showing you the things you actually want to see. 1. Be proactive. Go directly to the pages of the people, companies and artists you want to see more of then engage. Like posts or comments. Comment yourself. Share posts. Facebook's motivation is to keep you on the site as long as humanly possible--and it's very good at it. If it's not showing something you'd enjoy seeing, it probably would like to. So let it know. 2. Choose "Most Recent" posts. In the left column of your home page, click on the arrow next to "News Feed". If you select "Most Recent", your experience will likely be less filtered. Though you still should not to expect to see every post that ends up on the site. 3. Go to News Feed Preferences. Click on the down arrow that's on every Facebook page and select News Feed Preferences. The goal here is to unfollow anything you're sick of seeing so you get more of what you do want. Or re-follow people or things you've missed. 4. Tell your feed what you like. Facebook wants you to take an active role in adjusting your algorithm. That's why every post in your feed has a dim down arrow that you can select. If something really bugs you, tell Facebook you don't want to see and Unfollow the person or page. If you really love it, you can "Turn on notifications" which guarantees that every future post ends up in your notifications -- that little globe on the top navigation. Your notifications can act as a secondary newsfeed to make sure you don't miss posts from your favorites. 5. Switch to Twitter and Tweetdeck. If you want complete control over your newsfeed, you're never going to get it on Facebook. Even Twitter is moving away from this method of feeding content for a pretty simple reason, it needs more engagement. Given that Facebook and Twitter employee dozens if not hundred of programmers and experts paid to make their sites captivate you, they figure they're better at it than you. If you want to prove them wrong, Twitter's Tweetdeck app, which works in your browser, still offers unmediated newsfeeds so you can feed your own brain. Twitter isn't quite as personal or ubiquitous as Facebook -- but it is the next best thing. Try it out and see if you feel more loved. Cheers, Jason [Photo by Geraint Rowland | Flickr]
Online surfing has been around for a while now, and it keeps getting better as technology continues to improve. Websites are better, responsive to different devices, more interactive, and feature a more diverse range of content. All in all, online surfing has managed to stay cool for a very long time. In fact, during a recent interview, Mikko Hypponen specified online surfing as the thing that he’d miss the most if the Internet were to suddenly disappear. The Internet may not suddenly disappear tomorrow, but it is in danger of slowly eroding. While technologies have been steadily improving what people can see and do online, other interests have been trying to develop new ways to regulate and control people’s behavior. Questions about what you can see and do online used to face technical constraints, but now these are transitioning to issues about what other people want you to see and do. Noted anthropologist and author David Graeber recently remarked in an interview with the Guardian that control has become so ubiquitous that we don’t even see it. Geo-blocking is a regulative measure that seems to confirm Graeber’s views. PC Magazine concisely defines it as the practice of preventing people from accessing web content based on where they are (determined by their IP address). Geo-blocking and other types of regional restrictions are used by both companies and governments, and for a variety of purposes (for example, enforcing copyright regimes, running regional sales promotions, censorship, etc.). Freedome is a user-friendly VPN that gives people a way to re-assert control over what they can see and do online. It encrypts communications, disables tracking software, and protects people from malware. It basically gives people the kind of protection they need to surf the web while staying safe from the more prominent forms of digital threats. It also helps people circumvent geo-blocking by letting them choose different “virtual locations”. Virtual locations let people choose where they want to appear to be when they’re surfing online. So if a user selects Canada as their location, the websites they visit will think they are located in Canada. If they select Japan, websites will think they’re in Japan. I’m sure you get the idea. Choosing different virtual locations lets web surfers bypass these geo-blocks so that their access to content remains unrestricted. They can watch YouTube videos reserved for American audiences, access Facebook or Twitter when vacationing in a country that blocks those services, and avoid other measures that attempt to prevent them from enjoying their digital freedom. Freedome recently added Belgium and Poland as new choices, giving Freedome users a total of 17 different places to surf from. But the list needs to keep expanding to keep the fight for digital freedom going, so the Freedome team wants to know: where do you want to do your online surfing? [polldaddy poll=8754876] [Image by Sari Choch-Be | Flickr ]