I download very few apps. I have probably downloaded less than ten onto my current phone - just the weather, a pedometer app, an exercise app, Freedome of course, and a few others I consider necessary. I'm wary of the permissions they ask for and of not knowing what they are really doing with my data. I'm wary of Facebook too. I have a presence there, but I don't share much. I never, ever log in to any other service using my Facebook credentials. And after reading studies about how much your Facebook likes say about you, I'm even reluctant to like anything there. WhatsApp is one of the apps I consider necessary. It's by far my favorite and the one I use the most. So when I read the news last week that WhatsApp is going to start sharing my phone number with Facebook, although I wan't surprised, I reacted. I shared the article in all my social channels. And when I received the new Terms of Service message in WhatsApp later that day, instead of blindly clicking "Agree," I opted out of sharing information with Facebook. You can do this too, but you need to do it by September 25. This article shows you how to easily opt out, even if you've already accepted the new Terms of Service. After September 25, no one will be able to opt out. So what does the change in WhatsApp's policy really mean? WhatsApp promises no third-party banner ads will appear in the service, and they present this as a change that could, among other things, improve ad targeting in Facebook (and possibly all Facebook properties). But they also indicate they will explore marketing messages, saying, "Messages you may receive containing marketing could include an offer for something that might interest you." Our security advisor, Sean Sullivan, says the bottom line for WhatsApp users is that we can expect to begin receiving ads via WhatsApp messages. And that's whether we allow them to share our phone number with Facebook or not. "The difference is those who've allowed the phone number sharing will receive more targeted ads likely based on their Facebook Ad Preferences. And those who've opted out will receive more generic regional ads," he says. (Sean has also opted out.) To minimize ads you receive in either service, Sean recommends you manage your Facebook Ad Preferences by deleting unwanted sections. This could result in fewer Facebook ads, and possibly fewer WhatsApp ads as well. I hate to think of my WhatsApp experience bothered by ad messages. But I guess now it's clear why WhatsApp dropped their $1/year subscription fee in January. When you aren't paying for the product…you know the rest. If you’re looking for a less marketingy sort of experience, you could always try Signal or Wickr. Image courtesy of Sam Azgor, flickr.com
When it comes to technology, students are more connected than ever. But there also seems to be a serious disconnect between what kids and parents think about teens online activity. A recent survey of online teens conducted for the Cybersecurity Alliance found that 6 of 10 students had created social media accounts without their parents knowledge. But only 28 percent of parents suspected their offspring had secret accounts. This suggests a lot of parents are just plain oblivious of their kids' online sneakiness. And other findings are equally troubling. While two-thirds of parents expected their kids would report any online incident that made them uncomfortable, only one-third of students said they would report such incidents. And just under half of the teens said they'd seek their parents help for problems online compared to the 65 percent of moms and dads who expected their teens to share their online problems with them "most" or "all the time." This confusion between what teens and parents think about online conduct suggests that parents need to be more proactive in preparing their kids for the challenges of having access to the world through devices that fit in our pockets. One strategy is to establish a history of discussing technology with you by racking as many positive interactions related to online life before your kids are faced with a crisis. The better they feel about talking to you about tech, the better chances they'll reach out to you when they're facing a real crisis. What's a better excuse to talk technology than when you're send your kid back to school? Here are few topics of discussion to consider before the first class begins. Parental controls If you're worried about the content your younger kids can see as they use the family PC, you can manage that through parental controls feature. This gives you a chance to explain that you want to protect them from inappropriate sites and strangers so you can feel confident about them having fun the web. But parental control doesn't just have to be a negative. The power to control your kids' time online, means you can also set up online reward time -- such as an hour or two when homework is done. Apps Downloading an app to your mobile device could mean you're inviting strangers to access your phone. Some apps may demand access to your kid’s camera, microphone, contacts and photos. Use the Application Privacy feature to go through your apps together to see what kind of permissions are being accessed. Reviewing privacy settings of social networking sites also provides a chance for your kids to ask questions or express concerns. Privacy There are several apps your kids can use to make sure a mobile device's data stays private, even if it gets lost. You can use Android's locate, lock and wipe feature to help find a misplaced device or to delete all personal data in a worst case scenario. Make sure your kids know that connecting over "free Wi-Fi" can expose your data and possibly even your passwords to strangers. Avoid that by connecting via mobile networks or by using a VPN app. Also make sure that they lock their devices using an unguessable code. Security hygiene Some parents need basic security reminders as badly as kids do, whether they're just getting online or heading to university. So remind yourself and your kids to use strong unique passwords for all their most important accounts. Your passwords shouldn't use any words from the dictionary or anything someone could guess by looking at your social media. Remind them that "free" online is almost always a bad sign. Don't click on links and attachments in emails that you weren't expecting. And remind your kids that anything they post online, even on sites that promise to delete things after twenty-four hours, could be seen by anyone -- even your parents. An open and honest conversation reduces chances that a uncomfortable situation online will become a crisis. So before your kids go back to school, start talking about how important it is to you that they connect safely, especially when you're not watching them.
A little iPhone history was made this month -- a iOS device was infected by just clicking on a link. This sort of attack had previously only worked on devices where the owner had purposely installed a "jailbreak" hack. So before you do anything -- even read the rest of this post -- you should update your iOS software to the latest version of iOS 9, or iOS 10 beta, which has some nice new privacy features. Here's how this historic attack happened, according to The Verge: Earlier this month, an Emirati human rights activist named Ahmed Mansoor got a suspicious text. It promised new details of torture in the country’s state prisons, along with a link to follow if he was interested. If Mansoor had followed the link, it would have jailbroken his phone on the spot and implanted it with malware, capable of logging encrypted messages, activating the microphone and secretly tracking its movements. To our cyber security advisor Erka Koivunen, this is a glaring example of a threat that is not "advanced" -- as in APT, advanced persistent threat. Think about what goes into a real APT. "They do reconnaissance properly and understand what the victim is susceptible to. They have good timing and only create visible noise when it suits their interest," he told us. "And they have a plan B ready in case someone starts snooping their activities." Here, the the most exploitable iPhone vulnerability ever known has now been exposed and patched -- for what? It's a bit baffling to Erka who compares it to throwing "expensive exploits at this guy like kids throwing rocks." You just don't see zero-day vulnerabilities like this -- especially on what had been one of the more secure platforms available -- that often. This has some security researchers thinking: Perverse incentives: Should I take up political activism so I get more interesting 0day sent my way? /me wonders — halvarflake (@halvarflake) August 26, 2016 //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js So, if you haven't already, update now. And if you're involved in politics in *any way* whatsoever, realize that someone will try to hack you -- sooner or later. So beware of those links in strange texts and email attachments in general. [Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr]