Tag Archives: wifi

Encryption Apps: Smartphone security is a concern to all

A growing number of apps are popping up promising to encrypt your emails, messages and more. There are several places where encryption can play a role on your smartphone device.

A growing number of apps are popping up promising to encrypt your emails, messages and more. There are several places where encryption can play a role on smartphones – securing voice, messages, chat, emails, files and pictures, basically any file or data in transit.  What are the pros and cons of these new features and apps and how do they work?

Let’s take a look at voice encryption, which I know may sound like something from a spy movie. Voice is complex to encrypt because both of the parties talking to each other on the phone would need to have the same app that offers voice encryption.  Voice encryption apps, like Cellcrypt and Guardlock, require the user to register, add or accept an invite from the other party. This extra step can complicate communication for the average user and their motivation to use it is probably around a “I’ll worry about it later or it’s just not important to me” level.

When it comes to encrypting data, if your phone is secured with a PIN and you have not changed the encryption defaults then your data should be safe. If you’ve been following the developments of the Apple vs FBI case surrounding the data on smartphones, you know that newer smartphones are by default encrypted and that it’s difficult to break. But once the phone is unlocked by the user, they are immediately open and the data is then accessible and potentially at risk from theft if the phone is accessed by a third party, even remotely. Think of it as an encryption layer over your entire house, with the downside being that once you get in through the front door, you can move around relatively easily.

Let’s talk about apps that offer encrypted storage. You drop the files in there and lock it with a pin, much like locking away files in a vault.  The benefit here is that you can make a judgement of what data is sensitive and store it accordingly, in the same way you would with physical documents by placing them in a safe. Examples of apps that do this are Vault-Hide and Vault!.

There are many chat apps that offer encryption in the same way as those encrypting voice encryption– both parties need to have the same app downloaded with a connection to the other person.  This is so that they can send message and files/photos to each other without someone in the middle intercepting them. Some of these also offer the ability to lock the app with a pin, so the beauty of that is even if someone unlocks your phone they are not going to see what you’ve been chatting about in that app.

Beware of apps promising encryption that do not have a pin/password to unlock the app, for the above reason.  If someone can access your phone either physically or remotely while in an unlocked state, then there is potential for them to access the app and see your chat and file transfers. Examples of encrypted chat apps are Whatsapp or Theema; however, Whatsapp does not offer the added protection of a password or pin.

The other place where caution is needed is on WIFI networks at public places such as coffee shops and libraries.  We connect to send and receive data and if we don’t have a VPN installed on the device, then our apps could be sending that private data in plain text to unknown services and would-be thieves.  There are simple and widely available tools that allow for someone to gain access to your data via a public WIFI.  Adding a VPN ensures that when data leaves your device, it’s encrypted and protects all data and app communication, although notes that this protection does not extend to voice. One good VPN to use is Hide My Ass!, part of the AVG family of apps, that obscures your location.

Now, if you want to take the ultimate step towards absolute privacy, you can purchase a Blackphone.  CBS’s 60 Minutes had a good episode that talks about the Blackphone and its ability to do everything I’ve mentioned above.  A “must-have” for anyone wanting to be like a character in a spy movie!

Cleaning Up Your Online Identity

Spring is here! Out with the old and in with the new – a new opportunity to put winter clothes away .Why not clean up your digital life as well?

In my previous blog, I talked about cleaning up your cell phone.  How about cleaning up your online identity?  It’s an important piece of your digital life.  Here are 5 steps to scrubbing your online identity:

  • Google Yourself – You are your own personal brand image. So what are people saying about you and what have you said that might be public? Google yourself to find out where you’re mentioned and what images have been tagged with your name.  Then you can work to clean up what you find.
  • Delete old email accounts – Are your friends receiving weird emails from you? Sometimes the source is that old email address you used a dozen years ago and never check now.  Your contacts are still in the account and vulnerable to hackers and the password you used back then is probably not as strong as it should be. Deleting old email accounts stops hackers from abusing your identity to attack your friends and family.
  • Review old social media posts – Determine if what you posted when you were 18 is still appropriate for you today and consider what an employer or even your kids might think when they see them. And it’s not just about you, if there are pictures of friends that may have been funny at the time, consider taking them offline as well.
  • Strengthen passwords – Use secure passwords to guard yourself against hackers and other vulnerabilities. There are free tools like Dashlane that help you manage your passwords and guide you to make them stronger.  Use different passwords on sites as you never know when your favorite e-retailer could get compromised and you don’t want your password making your whole digital life vulnerable.  For an added layer of protection, you should also turn on two –factor authentication so your smartphone can identify you with your fingerprint or with face recognition.
  • Scrub your history – your surfing history that is. Safeguard your personal information and your location online with a VPN (virtual private network).  VPN protects your data from snooping by encrypting it and it also stops snoopers on public WiFi networks from grabbing your data. A VPN will also hide your location preventing websites you visit from targeting with unwanted ads.  You can download a free one from HMA! here.
  • Check privacy settings – Now that the past is cleaned up, make sure your future posts are in check by managing the privacy settings across your social media platforms and online accounts. There may have been changes to the settings and privacy policies in recent product updates, so ensure you have the level of privacy protection that matches the level of your online activity.  Go and review the settings today.

Even though your online identity is squeaky clean, don’t wait until next spring to do a digital clean up.

To learn more about me and receive the latest news from AVG:

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How to have the safest phone in the world


Avast SecureLine VPN keeps you safe when connected to an unsecured Wi-Fi

Unsecured networks can expose you to a hacker who can easily read your messages, steal your logins, passwords,  and credit card details.

The danger is that you never know when it could happen, or where, so having a way to secure your device when connected to an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot is the best protection.

How to avoid the dangers of open Wi-Fi

To avoid the potential of a snoop stealing your private information, you basically have two choices: Stop using unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots or make sure you always have a secure connection by using a VPN (virtual private network), like Avast SecureLine VPN.

A VPN sounds extremely techie, and it is, under the hood. Avast mobile security developers created SecureLine to give you a secure and reliable private connection for your data between computer networks over the Internet. Your outgoing and incoming data is encrypted and it travels in its own private “tunnel” and is decrypted at the other end.

When you use Avast SecureLine VPN, everything you do is anonymous. We don’t keep logs of your online activity, and thanks to SecureLine, no one else will either.

Get a 7-day free trial of Avast SecureLine VPN

Avast SecureLine VPN for Android and iOS takes all that tech goodness and puts it in a simple-to-use app. All you do is tap a connect button, and the app does the rest.

Install Avast SecureLine VPN on your iPhone or iPad and try it free for 7 days.

Install Avast SecureLine VPN on your Android smartphone or tablet and try it free for 7 days.

After you install Secureline, click connect and choose a server from 27 locations in 19 countries, or let SecureLine choose the closest one. You can turn the secure connection on and off with one click.

Prevent strangers from using your Wi-Fi network

If you’re running an open Wi-Fi network, you’re opening yourself up to risk in several ways.

  1. You could be liable for crimes someone commits using your network: it’s your Wi-Fi network, so it’s your name that will show up when the police start looking.
  2. You’re exposing your PC or mobile devices to hackers:if anyone can join your network, they can find all the other devices connected to it too.
  3. You could be paying for other people’s use of bandwidth:if you thought your data plan was expensive, imagine what it could look like if your neighbors start streaming movies at your expense.
  4. You could be violating the terms of services from your Internet Service Provider: they are selling their connection to you, not your neighborhood.

Basic ways to secure your home Wi-Fi:

Most of these security measures can be done by connecting to your router’s settings.

  1. Change your network name: Don’t use any personally identifiable names for your home network, like your own name or business name. It just makes it easier for someone to target you specifically. Use something that’s random or private.
  2. Use WPA2 encryption: Your router likely has settings for various forms of encryption, but stick with WPA2, the strongest variant.
  3. Make sure you use a strong password:Use a long password, at least 20 characters long. That seems long, but you can write it down on a sticker and place it on the router itself.

These basic tricks should help you keep your home Wi-Fi network safe from uninvited guests…

What is a VPN and why should you use one?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts and transmits data via a connection to remote servers over the Internet — this enables your data to remain secure and private while it travels from one place to the other.

It’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to help maintain your data security and privacy when online, but if that’s not enough, here are some other great reasons why should consider using one:

  1. Shop and bank online in safety
    Thanks to the encryption used on VPNs your data is secured against any unauthorised access from scammers and hackers, which means you can access financial services and shop online with peace of mind.
  2. Protect your privacy and data on unsecured networks
    If you’re regularly connecting to multiple wireless networks, especially free public Wi-Fi, then you’ll have no way of knowing who’s monitoring or logging the data that passes through it. A VPN will ensure that all your confidential data is kept as it should be — confidential.
  3. Access services in other geographic locations
    If you travel abroad, you might encounter regional restrictions to internet content or services that you would normally be able to access in your own country. A VPN masks your actual IP address, which would otherwise reveal your geographic location, and instead uses the VPN server IP address — especially useful if you rely on specific content and services for doing business or staying in touch with family while travelling.

If you’re not already using VPN and care about your data privacy and security as much as we do, download AVG Safe Surf.

Is free Wi-Fi Safe?

Public networks are so convenient, they’ve popped up everywhere: cafes, airports, shopping centers. They’re almost everywhere.

But be warned: since your data is traveling through the air—sometimes completely unprotected—hackers could be listening in.

Bad guys could:

  • Eavesdrop on what you are doing
  • Steal your passwords
  • Intercept your communications and alter them, aka a Man-in-the-middle attack

When you’re connecting to an unknown Wi-Fi or network, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who owns the network?
  • Who else is on the network?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions, don’t do sensitive things like shop or bank online. Wait until you’re home or on a network you trust.

If you absolutely must access your bank accounts or shop for things, use a VPN like AVG Safe Surf to stay protected.