Security.

With the upcoming changes in Administration (basically, everything) coming up in the next couple of months, I’ve accordingly kicked my online paranoia ways up a notch. I’d like to share the additional security measures I’m taking to make sure my online presence is safe.

A couple of weeks ago I received word that my credit card number had been stolen again. This was disheartening because I take many measures to make sure I keep my financial safe. I use Apple Pay whenever possible, as Apple Pay uses a “bogus” credit card number during the transaction, never revealing my real number. I keep my cards safe in my wallet, I never write down the number and I always make sure I have a secure connection when I’m entering my transactional data for online purchases.  Since my credit/debit card is the one used for our family’s monthly recurring payments (online music, iTunes, etc), it’s out there much more than the other cards in the family. Nevertheless, my card number was stolen and I was issued another card earlier this month. I am keeping track of every site where I enter my card number.

I have added a couple extra layers of security for my online presence:

  1. I now use a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, service whenever I’m away from the house. My service of choice is PrivateTunnel (https://www.privatetunnel.com). There are free options available if you want to try them out.  Basically, a VPN encrypts your network traffic from Point A to Point Z. This makes it more difficult for others to sniff and log your network traffic when you’re on a public access point. My first and foremost rule, regardless of where I am (home, cell service, whatever), is that I am using PrivateTunnel whenever I am entering financial data online. There is a yearly subscription model that’s pretty affordable.
  2. I now use Boxcryptor for my “sensitive” Dropbox activity. If you’re not familiar with Dropbox, it’s a service that maintains copies of your files in your Dropbox folder in the cloud and seamlessly syncs them with all of your devices.  If I put ReadMe.txt in my Dropbox folder in my Mac, I can access it from any other computer (using a web browser) or grab it from my iPhone, iPad or any other computer I have registered with the service (Mac, Windows, Linux).  So I had a Linux computer, the contents of my Dropbox folder would be the same on all three computers with little effort from me. The issue is, the security is a little weak for my tastes.  Boxcryptor is a service the encrypts the data in specified folders within the Dropbox (or similar iCloud Drive) environment. Dropbox is storing encrypted data, not regular data, which makes it nearly impossible for others to access without your password. Like PrivateTunnel, Boxcryptor (https://boxcryptor.com) is available with a pretty reasonably subscription model.
  3. I have instituted stronger, dissimilar passwords for all my accounts. They all use special, upper case and numeric characters, and all are at least 15 characters in length. My password for my Boxcryptor vault is 26 characters long! Remembering these passwords can be a bit of pain so I use 1Password (https://1password.com/) from AgileBits. Earl uses the same program. My passwords are synced amongst my devices and the software makes it wicked easy to remember my passwords, use them when necessary and keep them secure. My only struggle with the software is to remember putting my passwords in the app and/or letting the app recommend passwords for me. After 35 years of having to remember passwords, it’s difficult for me to not remember them and rely on a software product. I highly recommend some sort of password management system for everyone so that we all use stronger passwords that are difficult to crack.
  4. Last, but not least, I am evaluating a new email service called ProtonMail (https://protonmail.com). ProtonMail uses encryption to store your email (similar to Boxcryptor explained above, but applied to the actual mailbox on the server) and if you exchange email with another ProtonMail user it’s automatically encrypted end to end. I’m still exploring this service but so far I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen.

I’ll admit that I’m completely paranoid when it comes to being safe and secure online. The idea of people sharing accounts or email addresses or whatever completely boggles my mind and makes me a bit crazy. I believe in preaching about computer security and sharing my knowledge when I can. 

Stay safe, be secure and happy surfing!

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