Updated Safe Gadget Security Tutorials – Security Alerts 2014

The following articles have been updated in 2014 to reflect new and important security protection schemes:

4/28/2014: A new Internet Explorer Vulnerability that has no patch, is being actively exploited by malware. US Computer Emergency Readiness Team suggests people stop using Internet Explorer. Windows XP users need to use an alternative browser like Chrome or Firefox.

If you have to run Internet Explorer, you should install the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit or unregister the VGX.dll as mention in Microsoft’s Security Bulletin

4/10/2014: Heartbleed Security Hole. Servers that use certain versions of OpenSSL software to create secure connections are vulnerable to a major bug. Lastpass has a page that can help you test websites for this bug. Flippie.io has one too.

4/7/2014: Users should change their passwords for the following sites due to the Heartbleed Internet Security Bug: fitbit.com, github.com, rememberthemilk.com, yahoo.com. Cnet has a nice list.

2/1/2014: If you own an Asus or Linksys E-series wireless router, make sure it has been updated to prevent the Moon worm. How to setup a Secure Wireless Router was updated.

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Welcome to Safegadget.com

Welcome to Safegadget.com, the one-stop website for securing your computer and gadgets. Don’t wait until you have become a victim of malware. While it is impossible to prevent all attacks, it is important that we all secure our systems so we aren’t easily hacked. This is akin to wearing a seat belt to prevent an accident.

We feature many different security tutorials.

Harden the Security of your Browser

Boost the Security of your Smartphones and Tablets

Learn how to perform the following Safely and Securely
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Secure Google Chrome Browsing

Google Chrome Browser

Google Chrome is one of the most popular web browser for Windows, Mac, and Linux. This makes it a large target for malware and cybercrime. We will focus on securing Google Chrome, and will significantly increase the browser’s security through add-ins and special hardening settings. We also recommend running under Windows Vista or Windows 7, so if you are running under an older version of Windows, we recommend you to upgrade or buy a new computer. Older versions of Windows like Windows XP were not built with security in mind.

Why Chrome?

Chrome is a much newer browser than Firefox or Internet Explorer.  It is not saddled with all the baggage of IE, where a change needs to be regression tested with many parts of Windows.  Firefox has been around for a while and is also slowed down with lots of historical code.

A recent security test from Accuvant Labs found Chrome more secure, primarily due to its Sandbox technology.

Secure your computer, web browser, Internet connection

Follow our guides to secure your Windows PC or secure your Macintosh by installing the right software, firewall, antivirus software, etc. Secure your mobile devices: iPhone, Android smartphone or tablet, iPad. Configure the settings and add plug-ins to you web browser so that it is more secure. Consult our tutorials for: Internet Explorer 9, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. Secure your Internet Connection: Wireless Network, Public Wi-Fi.

We recommend booting from a Linux CD or USB key when performing mission critical applications such as online banking, online trading, or online shopping.

Continue reading

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Major Wireless Network Security Breach – Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS Bug) PIN Brute Force Vulnerability – Reaver

Linksys wireless router, Linksys router, WRT54G

Updated January 2014 to cover a new TCP 32764 Wireless router Vulnerability.

A major security hole known as WiFi Protected Setup (WPS Bug) PIN brute force vulnerability (US-CERT VU#723755) has been recently found in virtually all modern Wireless Routers used in the home, resulting in a vulnerability that allows hackers to extract your WPA wireless security password in a matter of hours. Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) is a protocol that allows users to press a button on their Wireless Router and connect to their computers without typing in a long cryptic password. A hole in this protocol has been recently found and exploited, allowing hackers easy access to cracking most wireless networks.

Why is this a major security problem?

  • Virtually all wireless routers have this problem
  • Many wireless routers (Qwest Actiontec, etc) use the same unchangeable PIN 12345670, hackable in seconds
  • WPS is turn on by default to get certified by Wi-Fi Alliance
  • Wireless routers do not automatically update their software to get a fix
  • The number of PIN codes to test is only 11,000 instead of 100 million
  • Attack software is available

The biggest issue is that virtually all wireless routers sold in the last 4 of years are hackable. The manufacturers need to update their firmware for these devices in order to fix the security breach. Virtually all wireless routers do not automatically update their firmware. As of January 16th, 2012, no manufacturers have issued updates, leaving millions of wireless networks vulnerable. Adding insult to injury, options to disable Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) have been found to not do anything.

Why is getting your wireless password bad?

There are many reasons why you do not want your wireless password hacked.

  • Others could use your Internet Connection Freely
  • Spam or other illegal activities could be sent
  • Everything you do on your network could be captured and read
  • Your online banking and trading would no longer be secure

Continue reading

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How to Setup a Secure Wireless Network Router

Linksys wireless router, Linksys router, WRT54G

Security has become an ever more important part of using a personal computer. Increasingly, the daily headlines include news of companies and websites getting hacked. It is important to learn how to properly secure your wireless Internet as well as secure your personal computer. This article focuses on how to secure your wireless network router so that you do not become part of the statistics. The wireless router typically includes a firewall that defines the perimeter of your network. Think of this as a fence, walling off your network from the Internet. Having a vulnerable wireless network allows criminals to possibly steal your data as well as Internet access. You could also become responsible for illegal downloading if your wireless Internet was compromised.

Cable or DSL Modem Direct Connection

Some high speed Internet connections allow you to directly connect your computer to the modem.  We recommend installing a network router in this situation to help protect the computer from external traffic. Install a wireless router and turn off the wireless capability if you do not need it.

Hardwired Ethernet Network

Secure wireless is an oxymoron! Using a hardwired Ethernet connection is much more secure than wireless Internet, a must for those looking for the maximum protection. Unfortunately, this is type of access is not possible for some devices (iPad, iPhone, etc.) and is far from convenient. Most users who demand the utmost in security and performance lay Ethernet networking in their homes and businesses. They may still run a wireless network, but limit access on that network to just a couple devices.

Which Wireless Router Hardware?

Wireless router hardware is available from many major manufacturers, including CiscoLinksys, D-Link, or Netgear. We suggest avoiding smaller companies because they may be slow to update the software (firmware) and patch security holes. Manufacturer’s models differ in wireless range, speed, wireless standard support (Wireless-N), and special features. Always make sure to update to the latest firmware available; bug fixes and enhancements were possibly added. Continue reading

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How to: Anonymous Browsing, Internet Privacy

Gold Baldwin Door Lock

Why should I be concerned about Internet privacy?

  • Do you like online ads following you around from site to site?
  • Can you discuss your health problems online without fear of losing insurance?
  • Do you worry about publishing private information that could lead to stalking, surveillance, or identity theft?
  • Does your work place monitor your Facebook or Twitter? Could you be fired over a post?
  • Do you live in a country where you could be arrested or tortured based on what you post online?
  • Did you know that third-parties collect information the government is not allowed to collect? The government has purchased this information too.
  • Companies such as FinFisher are selling hacking software to countries and corporations to break into people’s computers and monitor them.
  • Visit the EFF’s Panopticlick site to see what you are telling the world right now, before using the tools below.
  • Tactical Technology Collective has tips for journalists and activists on how to increase their privacy.

60% of people polled by the WSJ.com were tremendously worried about the loss of online privacy.

The Internet appears to facilitate privacy and anonymity, but in recent years has been a battleground that pits advertisers on one side and users on the other. It has become increasingly difficult to maintain privacy on the Internet because money has gotten into the game. As online advertising has grown, companies have sprouted up, attempting to optimize Internet advertising performance by combining advertising with profiling. While individual users may not be known by name, they have become ghost profiles that are increasingly matched up with appropriate advertising. If you have found Internet ads following you from site to site, you have been profiled and are seeing the results. In this article, we will examine many methods to enhance our Internet privacy and perform operations anonymously.

One of the main goals of Internet privacy is to make that people have the ability to make informed decisions about how they act online. Users should be told ahead of time how their personal information is used and shared.

The Real Cost of Free Content

While many users assume that most content sites are free, there is a hidden price being paid, the users private information. Most online advertising companies are tracking web browsing activity across many websites in order to build profiles of users. They cross-reference and trade information to generate revenue and better target online advertising and promotions.

Internet Browser Cookies

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How to use Wi-Fi securely in Hotels, Airports, and Beyond

Free wireless Internet, Wi-fi, sign

While SafeGadget has several tutorials geared towards using Wi-Fi securely, we still realize that this is a major problem area. On our recent trip, we encountered insecure Wi-Fi at several airports, hotels, and restaurants. This tutorial is designed to help all users utilize Wi-Fi safely and securely.

Free Wi-Fi is available in many locations, from airports, hotels, local café, Starbucks to McDonald’s and many other restaurants. Using these mostly unsecured, public wireless networks puts your information at risk. It is important to employ several safeguards when surfing at a public hotspot. If you are using a cybercafe’s shared computer, we would only use it to view information, not to even get your e-mail. Chance are high that it is compromised.

Many public wireless networks are completely unencrypted so that users can log on to them easily. Anytime you login to a free Wi-Fi hotspot that does not require a password, assume that a hacker can ease drop and see all information that is being sent and received.

Some Wi-Fi hotspots from vendors like AT&T and Comcast require you to log in with your username and password before you can get access. You need to understand that this is just access restriction and will not create a secure wireless connection.

This opens up a huge security hole as any hacker or sophisticated computer user could easily see all the sensitive data being transmitted. Passwords to online stores or email accounts can be easily captured by increasingly easy to use tools. In this article, we will help you access public wireless networks safely. Settings within your operating system may need to be optimized, additional software installed, and third party services may need to be subscribed to.

McDonalds Free Wi-Fi

Finding Free Wi-Fi Continue reading

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NSA PRISM Program – How to Protect Your Privacy

In June 2013, Edward Snowden revealed to the world that the US Government was spying on Internet traffic and other communication networks. The Government’s PRISM program run by the highly secretive NSA conducted all this work in an effort to prevent terrorism and crime.

The NSA apparently has direct connections through major Internet service providers such AT&T, Comcast, Verizon to copy all traffic passing through and can save it to its huge multi-billion dollar data warehouse in Utah. This has been going on for years and thanks to organizations like the EFF, we have learned about these invasions of privacy. The Government has stated it is using this information mainly on foreigners, but is the FBI using this data domestically?

The UK’s GCHQ is apparently doing the same type of snooping and even sharing information with the NSA.

The Government can see all your Facebook posts, read your email, see who you have called, among other privacy invading tasks.

Other services that are being watched: AOL, Apple, Skype, Microsoft, Paltalk, Yahoo, Youtube.

Specific areas:

  • Email
  • Chat- Video
  • voice
  • Videos
  • Photos
  • Stored Data
  • VOIP
  • File transfers
  • Video conferencing
  • logins
  • online social networking

This article covers how you can restore some of your privacy in an era of PRISM.

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Updated Safe Gadget Internet Security Tutorials – Security Alerts 2013

The following articles have been updated in 2013 to reflect new and important security protection schemes:

6/17/2013: Microsoft Azure, Linkedin, Twitter, Evernote have now added 2 factor authentication. Be sure to take advantage of this.

4/15/2013: ID Thieves are using the IRS and filing fake tax returns.

3/24/2013: Vudu got hacked. Again, if you use the same password elsewhere, change it. Each site’s login password should be unique, so if one site gets hacked, hackers won’t be able to access all your other accounts.

3/21/2013: Apple introduced two-step verification for Apple IDs.  You need 2 forms of proof to access Apple. Please turn this on right away.

3/4/2013: Evernote got hacked and reset everyone’s password. Again, if you use the same password elsewhere, change it. Each site’s login password should be unique, so if one site gets hacked, hackers won’t be able to access all your other accounts.

3/1/2013: Mobile payments systems lead to privacy issues and major concerns. The systems are becoming more sophisticated with the ability to collect more information about the user transactions and shared with more people.

3/1/2013: Determine if a website is safe or not before visiting it with sites like:

2/28/2013: Microsoft has been running advertisements educating people that Google’s Gmail reads your email to generate ads, eliminating your privacy. You can read more about it at scroogled.com.

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BuyVia – Your Smart Shopping Concierge for Tech Gear

Our sister site has launch, BuyVia!

The BuyVia iOS app and website bring together the strongest smart shopping arsenal available, making it easy to find the best products/deals possible across all of the devices people own – including smartphones, laptops/desktops and tablets – without tedious and time-consuming research.

BuyVia’s iPhone & Android (coming soon) app allow users to scan barcodes, compare prices, set up alerts, and more.

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Android Smartphone Security, How to securely use your Android Smartphone or Tablet

Android Smartphone,Samsung Galaxy 2, T-Mobile

Google’s Android operating system powers many popular cellphones including the popular Samsung Galaxy S4. Most Android Smartphone users do not think very much about security.

Why is Android more susceptible to attack?

  • Open nature of Android system
  • Multiple App stores
  • Apps are not checked

The Android Smartphone is part of Android’s open ecosystem, making viruses and malware more possible than closed platforms like the iPhone. As the Android Smartphone has grown in popularity, the smartphone has become more of a target by hackers and criminals. The DroidDream and Plankton Android malware infected over 250,000 phones before anyone discovered their malware. Google removed over 58 malicious apps from this single malware. A recent survey has shown that only 30% of Android Smartphone users installed security software on their phones. Malware can grab private data or use the phone to communicate externally.


Carrier IQ is a controversial piece of software that can show you what certain Android phones and spyware can do if the carriers allow it.

It is important that Android Smartphone users immediately become more vigilant about smartphone security. Our tutorial covers the Android Smartphones running most versions of the Android operating system.

The NSA and Android

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How to: Safe and Secure E-mail

Spam, can of spam less sodium

Every computer user uses e-mail. Security breaches make headlines almost daily. With more and more people going online, consumers are worried more than ever about keeping their e-mail safe and secure.

E-mail is the major way most malware is transmitted across the Internet. E-mail is the largest attack vector against large companies, as it is far more difficult to physically infiltrate a company. In this article, we will help you use e-mail more securely.

Secure your computer, web browser, Internet connection

Follow our guides to secure your Windows PC or secure your Macintosh by installing the right software, firewall, antivirus software, etc. Secure your mobile devices: iPhone, Android smartphone or tablet, iPad. Configure the settings and add plug-ins to you web browser so that it is more secure. Consult our tutorials for: Internet Explorer 9, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. Secure your Internet Connection: Wireless Network, Public Wi-Fi.

The Golden rules of the Internet:

  • Do not trust anyone
  • If it is too good to be true, it probably is
  • Don’t install software from anonymous sources
  • Don’t automatically hit “yes” to any pop-up
  • If it looks suspicious, run

Secure Your Router

1. Configure your wireless router for optimal security. Consult our article How to set up a secure wireless router for details. For maximum security, access your e-mail when connected by a hardwired connection such as Ethernet.

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iPad Security, How to securely use your iPad

Apple iPad, tablet computer

Most iPad users do not think very much about security. The iPad is part of Apple’s closed ecosystem, helping to prevent viruses and malware from wreaking havoc. As the iPad has grown in popularity, the tablet has become more of a target by hackers and criminals. It is important that iPad users immediately become more vigilant about tablet security. Our tutorial covers the iPad, and iPad 2.

1. iPad Software Updates

Apple upgrades the iOS software for the iPad from time to time. Updates include additional functionality as well as security bug fixes. It is important that users apply updates immediately. Before iOS 5 users needed to connect their iPads to a computer in order to update the tablet’s software. Needless to say, this was inconvenient and led to many iPads with obsolete software.

iOS 5 allows updates to occur without the iPad being connected to a computer, allowing users to stay current far easier. We recommend all owners of the iPad and the iPad 2, upgrade to iOS 5 immediately. iOS 5 in fact includes many security fixes.

If you Jailbreak your iPad, you need to be extra careful with regards to security as iOS updates are much more difficult for you. Be careful where you obtain your Jailbroken Apps as malware is much more prevalent.

2. iPad App Security

Apple’s App Store reviews all submissions before adding them. All iPad apps must be authenticated and signed which helps to ensure they haven’t been tampered with or altered. This helps prevent malicious apps from infecting the App Store. Apps are prone to security vulnerabilities, that are fixed by updates. Keep apps updated regularly and remove apps that you do not use. Regularly use the App Store app and select Updates. iOS 7 adds the capability to auto update your apps. Be sure to use this function. Apple has the ability to remotely remove malicious apps from your iPad.

Continue reading

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iPhone Security, How to securely use your iPhone

Apple iPhone 3GS

Most iPhone users do not think very much about security. The iPhone is part of Apple’s closed ecosystem, helping to prevent viruses and malware from wreaking havoc. As the iPhone has grown in popularity, the smartphone has become more of a target by hackers and criminals. It is important that iPhone users immediately become more vigilant about smartphone security.  Our tutorial covers the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5.

1. iPhone Software Updates

Apple upgrades the iOS software for the iPhone from time to time. Updates include additional functionality as well as security bug fixes. It is important that users apply updates immediately. Before iOS 5 users needed to connect their iPhones to a computer in order to update the smartphone’s software. Needless to say, this was inconvenient and led to many iPhones with obsolete software.

iOS 5 allows updates to occur without the iPhone being connected to a computer, allowing users to stay current far easier. We recommend all owners of the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4, upgrade to iOS 5 immediately. iOS 5 in fact includes many security fixes.

The original iPhone and the iPhone 3G cannot be upgraded to iOS 5, and should be updated by connecting to a computer as often as possible.

If you Jailbreak your iPhone, you need to be extra careful with regards to security as iOS updates are much more difficult for you. Be careful where you obtain your Jailbroken Apps as malware is much more prevalent.

2. iPhone App Security

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Free Antivirus, Free Internet Security Software

Windows 7 Security Software, Security Essentials

Here are some resources for free internet security software from major vendors. Most of the software is free for home users, while businesses need to purchase a license. We divide the free software into different categories including internet security suites, antivirus, antispyware, and intrusion detection and prevention.

Kaspersky Anti-Virus is often free after rebate.

1. ISP Provided Free Security Software

Subscribers to certain internet service providers get access to free commercial internet security software. There’s no need to pay a dime for top notch security software.

AT&T – Free McAfee internet security software.

Century link – Free F-Secure suite.

Charter - Charter security suite.

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How to Safely use Twitter

Twitter Logo

Twitter is becoming more popular everyday. With millions of people to be targeted, Twitter is definitely a battleground for security and privacy. This website has become a worldwide hit and consequently has become a target for those intent on spamming, spreading worms, and stealing private information. In this article, we will cover many techniques to allow you to safely use Twitter.

Secure your computer, web browser, Internet connection

Follow our guides to secure your Windows PC or secure your Macintosh by installing the right software, firewall, antivirus software, etc. Secure your mobile devices: iPhone, Android smartphone or tablet, iPad. Configure the settings and add plug-ins to you web browser so that it is more secure. Consult our tutorials for: Internet Explorer 9, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. Secure your Internet Connection: Wireless Network, Public Wi-Fi.

It is important that you follow the tips above to ensure your computer is secure. There have been Twitter Spam Attacks caused when malware infects a computer and gives control of the user’s Twitter account to a spammer. The spammer then posts messages on Twitter offering everything from Free items to pictures of celebrities, all appearing to be posted by the infected user. If one of your friends clicks on the offer, they instantly get infected, repeating the cycle of malware propagation.

Access the Real Twitter

Always make sure you are at a real Twitter log in page when you access their site. Do not count on Twitter links in email or on web pages to access the real Twitter website.

Think before Clicking on Links

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Secure Firefox Browsing

firefox browser

Firefox is one of the most popular web browser for Windows and other platforms. This makes it a large target for malware and cybercrime. We will focus on securing Firefox, and will significantly increase the browser’s security through add-ins and special hardening settings. We are avoiding earlier versions of Firefox and recommend users to upgrade to the latest version of Firefox. We also recommend running under Windows Vista or Windows 7, so if you are running under an older version of Windows, we recommend you to upgrade or buy a new computer. Older versions of Windows like Windows XP were not built with security in mind.

Secure your computer, web browser, Internet connection

Follow our guides to secure your Windows PC or secure your Macintosh by installing the right software, firewall, antivirus software, etc. Secure your mobile devices: iPhone, Android smartphone or tablet, iPad. Configure the settings and add plug-ins to you web browser so that it is more secure. Consult our tutorials for: Internet Explorer 9, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. Secure your Internet Connection: Wireless Network, Public Wi-Fi.

We recommend booting from a Linux CD or USB key when performing mission critical applications such as online banking, online trading, or online shopping.

Firefox includes the following security oriented features:

  • Instant Web ID
  • Do not Track
  • Private Browsing
  • Clear Recent History
  • Customized Security Setting

The Golden rules of the Internet: Continue reading

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Secure Internet Explorer 9 Browsing

Internet Explorer 9 IE9

Internet Explorer remains the most popular web browser for Windows. This makes it a large target for malware and cybercrime. We will focus on securing Internet Explorer 9, and will significantly increase the browser’s security through add-ins and special hardening settings. We are avoiding earlier versions of Internet Explorer and recommend users to upgrade to Internet Explorer 9. It requires Windows Vista or Windows 7 to operate, so if you are running under an older version of Windows, we recommend you to upgrade or buy a new computer. Older versions of Windows like Windows XP were not built with security in mind.

Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET)

Internet Explorer users should definitely install Microsoft’s free Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit. It helps beefup IE’s security. It even prevented the major Zero Day IE vulnerability of April 2014.

 

Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10

In 2012 is a new version of Windows and a new Internet Explorer promising tighter security. ForceASLR will be added, making more applications use the randomization code protection of ASLR. High Entropy ASLR will be added to take advantage of the larger memory address space of 64-bit Windows 8 PCs.

Secure your computer, web browser, Internet connection

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How to Prevent Spam Text Messages

Apple iPhone 3GS

The only thing worse than spam in your email box is a spam text message on your cell phone or smartphone. For the last 20 years spam has been clogging up our email, and now it is in full bloom on our phones. Spam Texting needs to stop.

How do Spammers get Phone Numbers?

There are several sources of phone numbers for text message spamming.

  • Internet postings
  • Random phone number generation
  • Auto dialing robo calling

The Dangers in Spam Text Messages

Just like email spam, offers made in unsolicited text messages are full of bogus offers like free iPads, prizes, or gift cards, etc. Clicking on any link or calling a phone number listed in the text message can result in the following:

  • Malware being installed on your phone
  • Unauthorized charges billed to your phone
  • Recurring items added to your phone bill
  • Private information being transmitted to cyber criminals

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How to International Travel and Maintaining Computer Security Tips

Apple iPhone 3GS

The International Travel Security Problem

Many of us travel internationally but few realize how important computer security can be when we visit other countries. People doing business in countries like China and Russia (or any other country for that matter) need to pay strict attention to their technology security protocols to prevent the real and growing threat of high tech espionage. There have been instances of people returning from abroad and having their laptops or smartphones compromised. A mobile device used internationally and later hooked up to the Company’s network provides an excellent infection vector. The folks intent on stealing information could be government or corporate based.

Learn how to use your iPhone or Android Smartphone in China

How to Protect Yourself When Traveling

Some people might find the following list a bit paranoid, but you never can be too safe. People that work for major corporations, government, or security firms need maximum protection from attackers. There are tools that can detect the location of a mobile device to within 100 feet and can target phones by the phone number, IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number and intercept all communications from the mobile device.

  • Leave your cell phone and laptop at home
  • Buy a phone and SIM card in the other country
  • Beware of any SMS message especially if they have links
  • Do not bring any sensitive data or passwords
  • Use temporary or loaner cell phones and laptops which will be erased when you get home
  • Make sure all gadgets are fully up to date and have security software enabled. The best encryption should be utilized
  • Never let your electronics out of your site
  • If your device gets inspected at the border, it should never be connected to the Company’s network again
  • Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi altogether
  • Disable microphones and cameras
  • During meetings, turn off your devices and remove their batteries. (Prevents possible recording)
  • Use a VPN with heavy encryption to connect to the Internet
  • Use Google Voice to create a “throw away” voice accounts
  • Do not connect to your Company’s or government’s network while abroad
  • Use coded language when discussing sensitive matters
  • Cut and paste passwords to prevent keylogging
  • Change any and all passwords you used on the trip, immediately
  • Enable two factor authentication for services that support this; Facebook, Gmail, eBay, etc.

Following the safeguards listed above will help prevent hack attacks against yourself and your Company. The measures may sound extreme, but the danger is real.

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