Archives for November 2017

EasyVPNConnect 1.2.0 Just Released

Greetings to all our EasyVPNConnect users and thank you for making our launch a success.  We’d like to offer a special thank you to everyone who helped us beta test our custom application. The feedback you gave us was invaluable.

In addition to developing versions for Android, iOS, and macOS, we also continue to refine and improve the initial release of our MS Windows version. To that end, we have just released version 1.2.0.

EasyVPNConnect 1.2.0 fixes two problems found in the previous version and adds a new feature.  The problems fixed in this version are:

  1. Windows update breaks OpenVPN
  2. The application gets stuck on “Loading”

With this release, we are also introducing the option to participate in our beta program. This program is for people who are interested in helping us test pre-release software.  Problem fixes and new features appear first in beta versions of the software.

If you select the Enable Beta Updates option in Application Settings, the app will inform you when there is a beta update available, and it will prompt you to download and install it. Participation in the beta program is voluntary and if you ever want to leave it, simply un-select Enable Beta Updates.

If you currently have EasyVPNConnect installed on your Windows system and you have it enabled to check for updates, you will automatically be notified that there is a new version available and it will prompt you to download and install it.

If you do not yet have our application installed on your system, then head over to our download page: https://ironsocket.com/download

As always, contact us with any questions you might have.

https://ironsocket.com/support

Keeping Our Children Safe Online

Every parent wants to keep their children safe. Threats can lurk in unexpected places, though, and sometimes we get so caught up in the wonderful memories our children create, that we share those moments at a click of a button online with our family and friends. The numerous likes and loving comments are great, but are your shared memories secure?  The reality is that anything you put online will be there forever, and at some point, your data or your children’s will be compromised, breached, or hacked.  It is important to think about privacy and security when online.  We all need to develop boundaries and guidelines to follow when exploring the vast world of the internet.

When we look at our children’s security online, we’re concerned with three major categories of threat. First, and most serious, is the possibility that real-world predators may use material posted online to target our kids or to attempt to directly contact them. Second is the threat that our children may come across content inappropriate to their age, either by their natural explorations or because peers or predators lead them to it. The third possibility is that our kids my infect their own or family computer systems with viruses, malware, or other threatening software.

We can contain these threats most effectively if we treat our children as allies that help us to secure themselves, instead of adversaries that we have to keep under surveillance. If we work with our kids to avoid threats that we all know and understand we can effectively protect against them. If our kids see our concern as harassment or as an unnatural constraint on their freedom they are likely to take their activities underground and hide them, which can easily place them at even greater risk. Effective security for online kids rests on three pillars: educating them so they understand the threats, setting up systems to protect them and ourselves, and effective monitoring to be sure the systems are in use.

Have you ever wondered why most websites ask you to create an account?  The reason is very simple.  They wish to build a customer database which they then use to market and sell products.  Quite often, companies also onsell your personal information to other companies to generate more income.  While this is concerning, the real danger is that anybody can create and market a website these days.  Online predators target both adults and children for a range of scams and crimes.  Again, anything you put online will be there forever.  So next time you are asked to create an account, stop and ask if the website belongs to a reputable company, and if the risk of exposing more of your personal information is worth the service they are offering.  Be sure to teach your kids to never sign up for any website or mobile application without asking themselves the same question and seeking your approval first.

A good practice to ensure your children are safe online is to develop a list of things they can and cannot share.  Start with security settings on social media sites, where kids (and adults) are most likely to share information. The first step is to lock down their accounts so only friends can see their posts.  As their profile picture and background picture are automatically public, ask them not to use photos of themselves or your family.  Go to the “About” section and mark things like date of birth so only they can see it.  As a good starting list teach your kids to avoid posting personal identifiable information (PII), including their date of birth, address, identification cards, email address, birthplace and any phone numbers.  Remind your kids only to add friends who they know and trust outside of social media.  It is hard to ask your kids not to post “selfies,” but following and understanding these guiding principles is a good starting point.  If they do need to post pictures of themselves and their friends, then ask them to be aware of their surroundings when they take the photograph.  The background of a photo can reveal as much as the main subject.

The most common security issue you and your children will face online is malware, a malicious software designed to perform undesired actions on a computer or device without the explicit knowledge or permission of the user.  Malware may be used to gather or destroy information.  The most common type of Malware is the virus.  Never open a suspicious attachment on an email or in a message, especially if it comes from somebody you don’t know.  It is also common for kids to send and receive links via the various messaging applications they use.  Always teach them to look at the sender and establish if they know them first.  Then examine the URL of the link to look for clues as to what website it will take you.  For example, www.amazon.com is very safe and a well-known URL.  However, www.amazonx.cc looks very suspicious.  As a good guideline, tell your kids if they have any doubt, don’t click on the attachment or link.

Kids love playing computer games, including the increasingly popular interactive online games.  These online games often allow you to play against other players from around the world.  As with all things online, you can never be sure exactly who is interacting with your kids.  It may be kids their age halfway around the world, but it may be an adult in your area.  Playing age appropriate online games is ok, but remember that most come with a chat facility, which anonymous predators can use to gain personal information from your children.  There have even been reported cases of predators arranging to meet children they talk to online.  If your kids play an online game, you should disable the chat function or be sure they are not using it.  At least when they are using Facebook messenger, for example, only messages from their friends come through assuming you have the highest level of permissions in place.

It’s important to educate our kids about the dangers of sharing information online, but we also need to monitor their activity.  Checking your children’s social media activities, and then refining your agreed safety guidelines with them, should be a weekly occurrence.  You don’t need to invade their privacy by reading all their messages from their friends, but you should at least check that their messages are all from people you have agreed they can interact with online, such as family and schoolmates.  Perhaps you can spend time together playing an online game, which will give you something fun to do together and provide a better understanding of both the content and potential chat messages that your children are seeing.  Make a simple checklist and set yourself a reminder once a week to follow it.  For example:  Check Facebook posts, scan messages to check senders, check Twitter posts, check Instagram posts, check web browser history for recent pages visited, check email for subscriptions and suspicious links.  Keeping that level of security may seem a little over the top, but once in place, you can scale this back as needed.

We have spoken about the dangers of creating accounts online, posting certain content in public places, exposing personal information online, and awareness of malware such as viruses and the hidden dangers of playing online games.  Education, following basic guidelines, and checking on a regular basis can help you protect your children from cyber predators.  As parents, we want to enjoy the great memories our children create while keeping one eye on protecting your family’s data and staying safe in this digital world.  Be sure to share what you learnt with other parents as well.  As a community, we should be working together to educate each other and our next generation.  Next time you go to share a memory online, pause for a minute and consider if you are comfortable with this remaining in cyberspace forever.

Cyber-security Highlights – November 20th

 

Every Monday we bring you a review of the previous week’s hottest cyber-security and online privacy news articles.

Here at IronSocket, we work to continually call attention to the risks and threats to our online privacy and security that we as individuals face in our connected lives. We are 100% committed to helping our customers stay safe and secure while online, both through our VPN and proxy services as well as through education.

Here are the top articles we have fished out of last week’s news tsunami.

A Living Guide for Online Life

The Motherboard guide to digital security is a web page that gets regular updates.  This is a good page to bookmark for future reference.  The important points are:

  • Keep your apps current with the latest patches
  • Use a password manager to create strong passwords and store them securely for easy access
  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Use anti-malware software
  • Use a VPN
  • Backup your important files
  • Don’t overshare on social media

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/d3devm/motherboard-guide-to-not-getting-hacked-online-safety-guide

 

Macs Are No Longer Safe

It was really just a matter of time before cyber-crooks turned their attention to the boutique computers.  This is a thorough review of the things one should do to secure macOS.  It goes beyond protecting yourself from hackers and covers privacy topics as well.

https://www.computerworld.com/article/3237187/apple-mac/lock-it-down-the-macos-security-guide.html

 

Do I Really Need a VPN?

Well, we think you do.  Here are ten good reasons to get one that include the usual securing public Wi-Fi and avoiding government censorship.  It also describes other lesser-known reasons like getting better prices on things by changing your location and online gaming.

http://www.techradar.com/news/10-reasons-why-you-need-a-vpn

 

Creating a Privacy Strategy

Here’s how one person approaches the challenge of maintaining privacy online.  Simple and straight-forward, he sets a good example for the rest of us.

https://blog.samihonkonen.com/my-strategy-for-increased-privacy-40967ed72903

 

You Are Not the Customer – You Are the Product

Here is a solid run-down of what kinds of businesses/services/devices track you and the types of information they track.  A good rule of thumb is to be very suspicious of anything that is free.  It’s a sure bet that they’re collecting your information and selling it to someone else.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/304848

 

That’s all for this week. As always, if you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to write to us. Our cyber-security experts are here to help you stay safe, secure, and protected while online.

Black Friday & Cyber Monday SALE — Save 50%!

Our Black Friday / Cyber Monday Sale Extended to January 10!

It’s that time of year again! We’re very happy to announce our annual Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale.

Existing subscribers and new users can now save 50% on all types of subscriptions.

Existing subscribers follow these steps:
1) Log in to your account on ironsocket.com
2) Go to the pricing page: https://ironsocket.com/pricing
3) Create a new subscription
4) Apply the code 2017BFCMSALE on Step 3 of the payment process

Once you have paid, please contact customer support and they will manually update your current subscription with the time from the new one.

Use the coupon code 2017BFCMSALE to save big (just click the link or the banner and the coupon will be applied automatically.)

If you have a Windows machine, be sure to check out EasyVPNConnect, our new custom app!

Hurry, this sale will end on December 10, 2017

Cybersecurity – Being Safe at Home

We live in an age of technology, and protecting your personal information is more important than ever.  Almost all of us have vital personal and professional information on our computers, and often in social media accounts as well. We also keep pictures, videos, and other memorabilia almost exclusively on our computers and other devices. Many of us are not IT professionals, and keeping up with the ever-evolving threats to our data, security, and privacy can be a real challenge.

You don’t have to be a professional to protect your home computer and network.  A few accessible guidelines and practices can protect your data from almost all common threats.  Protecting your personal information also goes beyond just securing your home computer and network.  Most people now have a significant social media presence as well.  You can keep your information safe while still enjoying your favorite social media sites.  Securing your home computer and social media presence will help safeguard you against cyber-security issues that affect us all today.

The most common issue for home computer users is Malware, a generic term for malicious software designed to perform undesired actions on a computer without the explicit knowledge or permission of the user.  Malware may be used to gather or destroy information.  There are many examples of Malware, such as Viruses, Spyware, and others that the average home user may not have heard of like Worms, Trojan Horses, Keyloggers, and Rootkits.  For now, let’s focus on the main two.  A Virus is a program that can replicate itself and spread from one computer to another by attaching itself to an existing program.  Spyware is a program that self-installs on a computer and covertly gathers information about a person’s Internet use and passwords.  There are various free antivirus software solutions you can download.  Many of these also protect against spyware and some of the less known malware issues as well.  In 2017 some of the leading software solutions include Total AV, McAfee, Adaware Antivirus and Amita Antivirus.  Once you have downloaded your chosen anti-malware software, you can schedule it to run at your convenience. It is also a good idea to run a manual virus scan on a regular basis as well.

Now that your computer is safe from Malware, we need to take steps to secure your personal information when using email or browsing the web.  Most popular sites offer HTTPS connections at least some of the time.  While this sounds like a fancy technical term, it simply means that information you send over the internet is encrypted, protecting any messages containing sensitive information such as passwords, credit cards and pin numbers from being intercepted.  If you use Gmail or any other popular email tool, you can go into the security settings and select “always use HTTPS.”  Even social media sites such as Facebook allow you “browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) when possible.”  When using online banking or any website that contains your sensitive or personal information, always be sure to check the connection is secured using HTTPS.  How to check?  Simply look at the address in your web browser.  If it says HTTPS at the start, then you know you are secure.

Most operating systems (e.g., Windows) include a built-in firewall to monitor incoming and outgoing connections.  You can use a firewall in combination with anti-malware software and secure browsing settings like HTTPS to provide security for your home computer or network.  On a Windows computer, locate your firewall settings in the Control Panel under System and Security. Click on Windows Firewall, then click Turn on Windows Firewall.  Note: you may be prompted to enter your administrator password.  You can find these settings in System Preferences, then Security & Privacy on a Mac.  This simple step takes seconds to perform but is very important in a complete home computer secure setup.

How many of us connect to public WIFI when at a café having our morning coffee to browse our favorite social media site?  There are basic steps you should take to protect your data when using public WIFI.  The first step is to turn off sharing.  You may share your music, printers or files while at home using your private network, but be sure to turn this sharing off before connecting to public WIFI.  Another method of protection is to download a VPN, a virtual private network that routes your traffic through a secure network even on public WIFI.  There are many free VPN services, but only a paid service guarantees the connection’s integrity.  Another good tip is to avoid connecting automatically to WIFI hotspots, a simple setting that you can change on your smartphone or tablet.  Most modern phones have this option disabled by default.

In addition to protecting your home computer and taking care when using public WIFI, it is always a good idea to address the security of your data within your social media accounts.  The most commonly used social media application these days is Facebook.  You can change your settings to limit who can see your posts, pictures, and videos and even monitor those who can send you friend requests.  The best security, however, is never to accept friend requests from people you don’t know personally.   Remember that your profile picture and profile background picture are always public for anyone to see.  Facebook and most other social media sites won’t let you lock these elements down.  Because of its professional orientation, LinkedIn is probably the most important site to consider when securing your personal information.  Often people include details such as their phone number, email and even their home address!  Be sure to be careful who you add on LinkedIn as well.  Provide only basic information for prospective employers.  They can always send you a message for further details.

Whether on social media, your home laptop or personal network, password security is probably the single most important step you can take to prevent cybersecurity issues.  The rules around password strength vary depending on which application or device you are using.  But as a standard rule, always try to use a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers (never your PIN number), and special characters.  Never use any personal details in your password.  For example, using your date of birth or children’s names is definitely a bad move.  This information is often accessible via a simple google search.  Be sure to change your password on a regular basis as well.  Make it something simple that you can remember but try to ensure it is also something only known to you.   Finally, using unique passwords for different accounts can help if one of your accounts is compromised.  Keeping track of multiple secure passwords can be tricky, however, so using a password manager such as KeePass or LastPass can help keep you safe and secure.

Protection against Malware attacks, HTTPS settings while browsing the internet or using your email, VPN software, firewall settings and securely using public WIFI are the essential elements needed to secure your home computer or network.  Combining these with basic password best practices and ensuring your social media presence is also secure should enable you to prevent cyber security attacks and protect your personal information from falling into the wrong hands.  You don’t need to be an IT expert to keep your information safe.  Armed with the basic principles of cybersecurity, you can use your home computer and social media sites safely.