7 Rules for Safer Online Shopping

For most people online shopping has become the norm.

Our busy schedules prevent us from trekking to the mall every time we need something, so instead we visit online retailers to fulfill our shopping needs.

Safe online shopping

But, not all online shopping destinations are created equal, and while many sites are trustworthy and legitimate, there are a number of fake online retailers that are just waiting to rip you off.

Luckily, a little online shopping savvy can go a long way to protecting you, your money and your identity.

Read through our online shopping rules below to keep yourself safe online.

  1. Stick to sites that you know & trust. Instead of starting your online shopping with a search engine, begin at a trusted retailer like Amazon, Target, Lowe’s or Macy’s. Search engines can lead you to places that are not trustworthy, especially if you venture past the first page or two of search results. Also, check the spelling of the site’s name (Amazon.com versus Amazn.com*). Many “copycat” sites try to get your money by looking “familiar”, and check the top-level domain as well (Amazon.com versus Amazon.net*). *These are fictitious examples.
  2. Use credit cards. Credit cards tend to be the safest option for online shopping because you have recourse. If an ordered item is never delivered or you find fraudulent charges on your card, the credit card company will work with you to remedy those issues and get you your money back. But, if you use a debit card or give access to your bank account, it can be a lot more challenging to get your money back after you fall prey to a scam. Check your statements regularly, and keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
  3. Keep a paper trail. Whenever you make purchases online, be sure to save any and all documentation that you receive via email in an email folder or, better yet, print hard copies of receipts, terms of sale, product descriptions, and any emails that you exchange with the retailer. Again, this will be helpful and necessary should you find yourself the target on an online shopping scam.
  4. Only shop with the “lock”. Any time you’re about to make an online purchase, look for the lock. Make sure that the site has SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. You can determine if it does because an SSL url will begin with https:// (instead of http://). Typically, a little lock icon will also appear next to the site’s url or in the status bar; another indication of a secure site.
  5. Shut down your machine. Do you typically leave your computer running and connected to the Internet 24/7? While that may seem like no big deal to you, it means that you’re leaving your machine open to cybercriminals all day and night. This gives hackers the opportunity to infest your system with malware and commit cybercrimes. Instead, after making a purchase, turn off your computer and protect yourself and your money!
  6. Don’t overshare! Only fill out the necessary (i.e. “starred”) information when making on online purchase. No online retailer needs your birth date, social security number, or other unnecessary personal data to complete your transaction. Don’t make it easy for online criminals, instead be cautious, don’t over share, and you’ll protect yourself from identity theft.
  7. Use a secure connection. Don’t conduct your online shopping while using unsecured public WiFi. This is an open invitation to hackers, peeping Toms, and identity theft. Instead, wait to make online purchases from a secure network like your home or place of work.

If you want to further protect yourself, your money and your identity while shopping online, consider getting a VPN. For more details about how a Virtual Private Network can improve your online experience, visit Ghost Path.

4 Questions to Ask BEFORE Buying a VPN

If you regularly use public WiFi, travel for work, worry about Internet security, or simply value you privacy, you’re probably considering getting a VPN (Virtual Private Network).

4 questions for your VPN provider

A VPN is essentially a protective “tunnel” that secures the connection between your laptop, smartphone or tablet and the Internet. This ensures that all your online activity is protected from hackers, peeping toms, or others with malicious intent who are using the same network.

But, before you got out and buy one, it’s important to consider your needs and usage habits so that you choose the best possible VPN for you!

Here are 4 questions to consider before you buy a VPN:

  1. Do you regularly travel out of the country? Many of your favorite services, like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon on Demand, are blocked once you travel outside of the USA, and many decide to get a VPN to bypass these limitations. To ensure you get the right one for you, ask your VPN service provider if they have exit servers in the U.S. meaning that you can “appear” to be in the United States when you’re actually enjoying a cappuccino in Rome. (GhostPath VPN is totally equipped to help you bypass any foreign country limitation, so you can catch up on House of Cards even while you’re abroad.)
  2. Can it be used across all your devices? You may think you only need a VPN for your computer, but the truth is more and more Internet security breaches are occurring on our smartphones and tablets because they’re portable and we can easily use them in public (often on unsecured WiFi networks). (Our GhostPath VPN works seamlessly with laptops, computers, smartphones and tablets, so no matter what device you’re using, you’re covered!)
  3. Can I use it on my router? Using a VPN in conjunction with your wireless router is a great way to protect all of your internet connected devices in one fell swoop. (GhostPath supports using DD-WRT to connect to the VPN at the router level, meaning all your internet connected devices are protected. Keep in mind DD-WRT will only work if it’s supported by your router.)
  4. Are there any limitations? Make sure to ask about bandwidth limitations, as that can greatly impact your user experience. Also, ask if the VPN you’re considering works with all service providers. (GhostPath syncs with all major operating systems including Windows, Mac OS X, Ubuntu, Android, and iOS. And, there are no download limits, no throttling, and no maximum number of server changes! You are free to use our service however you see fit.)

Click here for more information on our VPN service.

 

Some questions inspired by this post from PC World.

The Actual Time It Takes Hackers To Crack a Password + Celeb Phone Hacking

How long does it take to break a password?Do you ever wonder how secure your passwords are?

In light of the recent celebrity phone hacking scandal which resulted in revealing pictures of 100 celebs being posted and shared online and via social media, you’re probably wondering how secure your own passwords are.

The hacker, in this case, “took advantage of a security flaw in Apple’s online backup service, iCloud. Many online services lock someone out after several unsuccessful attempts to log in, but not Apple’s Find My iPhone app and iCloud. That has been changed by Apple in the aftermath of the nude celebrity photo scandal. But with unlimited guesses, a computer program can generate and test thousands of potential passwords until an account is entered. It is called a brute force attack. The tendency of many people to choose weak passwords and to use the same password for each service helped. Once a celebrity’s Find My iPhone app password is discovered, the same password often can access iCloud. People might never know their accounts have been compromised.” (quote from CNN.com)

With that in mind, if your passwords resemble something along the lines of “123456” or “password” or you use the same password for all sites, you’re putting yourself unnecessarily at risk.

Smart hackers are adept at breaking codes in little time, and when you use a simple or common password, you’re opening yourself up to be the victim of online crime.

Here is the actual time it take a hacker to break a password:

  • Lowercase, 6 characters = 5 minutes
  • Lowercase, 9 characters = 2 months
  • Uppercase & Lowercase, 6 characters = 5.5 hours
  • Uppercase & Lowercase, 9 characters = 88 years
  • 6 characters with numbers & symbols = 8.5 days
  • 9 characters with numbers & symbols = 19,985 years

As you can see, adding a length and complexity to your passwords pays off BIG TIME.

Here’s a little tip, instead of using simple words for your passwords, use phrases. For example: “Time flies when you’re having fun!” becomes “TFlyzwhenurhavinFUN!”

A password like that won’t be cracked for millennia! 

And, be sure to use a different password or password variation for every site with a secure log-in.

For extra protection, look into a Virtual Private Network to protect your data and privacy on all your devices, anywhere in the world! Read more HERE.

For the full scoop on the celebrity phone hacking scandal, watch the video below.

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This post was inspired by an element of this infographic.

Back To School Online Safety Tips + Video

In between back-to-school shopping, end of summer activities, and gearing up for yet another school year, it’s important to talk to your kids (no matter what age!) about being safe online.

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Over the summer, warm weather, vacations, camp, and playdates keep kids busy (and offline), but the school year means that the Internet will yet again play a major role in their lives as they do homework, study, and do research for school projects. And, the more time they spend online, the more vulnerable they are to being preyed upon by cybercriminals.

To ensure that your kids are well-prepared for a safe and productive school year, use these guidelines below to discuss smart online practices. Then, watch the “Online Safety Tip” video with them — it covers some important topics, too!

1. Don’t Talk To Strangers Online.

This may seem like a given, but many kids view the Internet as a safe, protected place. And, because of that, they can often over-share personal data like their name, age, address or passwords. Teach your kids the importance of staying vigilant even when online, and you’ll protect not only them, but your whole family, from malicious threats.

2. Don’t Post Anything You Wouldn’t Want Your Parents & Teachers To See.

A great rule of thumb is to teach your kids not to post or share anything online that they wouldn’t feel comfortable with you or their teachers seeing. Even if they think they are sharing something in a private, closed forum, you never know who might “share” it, and who may end up seeing it in the end!

3. Use Long & Strong Passwords.

Inform your kids about the importance of using long, strong passwords for all their accounts. A hacker can crack a 6 letter, all lower case password in mere minutes. Instead, encourage them to use passwords that are 8+ characters long and include a combination of upper and lower case, numbers and symbols.

4. Monitor Online Conversations.

It’s essential to keep tabs on your kids’ online conversations via IM, email and social media. For this, you can use parental control software and also talk to your kids about appropriate vs. inappropriate online discussions. A sit-down family chat around the dinner table will do wonders!

5. Make Sure All Devices Have Security Measures In Place.

Kids access the internet in a variety of ways and at a variety of locations. That’s why it’s vital to consider putting safety precautions in place that will protect them in as many instances as possible. Install antivirus software with a strong firewall, and consider using a VPN to further protect your data and identity from cybercriminals.

Online Safety Tips: Send Kids Back-To-School With Cyber-Security

For more info about using a VPN to protect you and your children, check out GhostPath’s services HERE.

How To Access Blocked Websites

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 11.03.04 AMLast week, we investigated blocked content and websites throughout the world, and the list was staggering!

[Missed that blog post? Read “What Content is Blocked Throughout The World” here.]

If you travel abroad for work, have to deal with strict office restrictions, or are frustrated by “blackout zones” on sites like MLB.TV, we’ve compiled a list of easy ways to bypass these setbacks so that you can access any website you choose.

  1. Use a proxy browser extension – The easiest (though somewhat slow and unreliable) way to gain access to blocked websites is via a proxy browser extension like Hola or Stealthy. This will enable you to visit the website using a proxy server based in another geographic location, thus freeing up the blocked content.
  2. Get a VPN – A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is an effective, faster, more reliable way to bypass country restrictions. A VPN will mask your IP address and geographic location so that you can visit any website you choose from anywhere in the world. Read more here.
  3. Try a translation service – Check out a translation service, like Microsoft Translator or Google Translate. These sites will display a website for you without you having to visit the page directly, thus acting like proxy server. This method is not 100% foolproof, and not nearly as reliable as a VPN, but it’s a potential workaround if need be.

Tired of restrictions? Try GhostPath VPN for just $10/month with our no-risk 7-day money back guarantee!

Are You At Risk For Facebook Hacking?

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.06.52 PMDo you know if you’re at risk of having your Facebook account hacked?

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t really give Facebook hackers much thought as you peruse friends’ photos, post updates, and scroll through your Newsfeed. But, the truth is, social media hacking is a lot more common than you might think! And, if you’re not taking some basic precautions, you might be putting yourself at risk, too.

In 2011, 1 in 10 social network users reported that their accounts had been hacked, and in 2012 the frequency increased to 1 in 6. (Source: Norton Cybercrime Report 2011, 2012.)

In order to protect yourself, your accounts, and your personal, private information, here are 7 simple techniques that you can use to ensure that your Facebook account does not fall prey to hackers.

1. Never share your login or password information.

This may seem like a given, but you’d be surprised how many people freely share their logins and passwords with friends and family members. Though your family and friends likely have your best interest at heart, they may unknowingly post, share or communicate information about your account that could put you at greater risk.

2. Create passwords that are LONG and STRONG.

If you use the same easy-t0-remember password for all your accounts, this is a big no-no. It’s recommended that you change your password every few months and create passwords that are both LONG and STRONG. A great way to do this is to use an acronym of your favorite song title or lyrics. For example, if you’re a Billy Joel fan, you could transform some lyrics from his 1976 hit, “New York State of Mind”, into a great password such as ImInaNYSofM1976 — no one’s going to guess that!

3. Don’t click Newsfeed links.

Never click on suspicious looking links to games, apps and other ads that you’re unsure of that may pop-up in your Facebook Newsfeed, and avoid allowing 3rd party applications to access your information when you sign-up for something.

4. Add a second email.

In the “General Settings” section of your Facebook account, had a secondary email in case your account is ever hacked. In the event that your account is compromised, Facebook will send recovery info to both email accounts so you have a better chance of recovering your information quickly and restoring your account security.

5. Only “friend” friends.

Only accept and extend friendship to individual that you actually know. When you accept a stranger’s friend request, you give them access to your personal information, so it’s always best to never post any sensitive, personal or financial details about yourself.

6. Follow Facebook’s advice.

Facebook offers step-by-step instructions that you can follow that outline “How to Prevent Your Facebook Account from being Hacked”. They suggest enabling login notification, checking your active sessions, and enabling secure browsing. Learn how to do all 3 here.

7. Beef up your online security.

Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a fantastic way to beef up your online security in general and will sure-up not only your social media accounts but all your online activity including emailing, browsing and accessing sensitive sites like banking or credit cards.

A VPN is kind of like a secure tunnel that contains all your data and info, and the tunnel is comprised of an encryption ring that hackers cannot decipher, meaning everything that flows through the tunnel, including your social media activity, is safe.

VPN’s are also extremely valuable if you routinely access your social accounts from low-security networks like coffee shops, airports, hotels, restaurants, or any other public WiFi hotspot.

For a risk-free 7-day trial of GhostPath’s premier VPN service, click here.

Summer Internet Safety Guidelines For Kids

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.57.27 AMYour kids are home and enjoying summer vacation, and that means they’re likely spending many more hours plugged into digital devices and online.

And, though the internet can offer countless entertaining, social and even educational opportunities, it can also be a menacing place for children of all ages. Without guidelines and supervision, your children could be exposed to cyberbullying, inappropriate or hateful content, and many other dangers.

That’s why preserving open communication and setting up usage guidelines are so very important.

If you’re wondering how to best protect your kids from online dangers this summer, here are 7 tips to help you!

  1. Enjoy offline family time every day. Every day include some activities that do not revolve around the computer, TV, or any other digital device. Plan a day trip to an amusement park, enjoy a picnic, play a game of catch, or work on a craft project together.
  2. Set a good example. Whether at home or on vacation, set a good example for your kids. Don’t constantly check your emails or messages, put the phone away at the dinner table, and “unplug” often. Your kids will mirror your behavior.
  3. Centrally locate the computer. Putting the computer is a central location in your home is a great way to monitor your kids’ online habits. Also, outline if children are allowed to take smartphones and tablets into their bedrooms or if all “screens have to be seen”.
  4. Establish usage guidelines. Define the rules early and be consistent. Set a time limit for phone and internet usage, define what is acceptable behavior and what is not, and teach them privacy rules.
  5. Have open conversations. Discuss with your children the meaning of privacy and what is and isn’t appropriate to share online. Also, talk to them about online threats so that they begin to understand why having guidelines for internet usage are important in the first place.
  6. Offer alternatives. Suggest that your kids take part in activities outside of the house, like summer camp, sports, or arts & crafts. This not only will keep them offline, but it will provide them with mental and social stimulation.
  7. Put it in writing! Click HERE to download the Common Sense Media Agreement create by Time Warner. This contract includes 3 sets of checklists for kids of various ages as well as conversation guides for parents. If you want to establish healthy online boundaries with your children, this media agreement is a great resource.

Protect your family’s online privacy with GhostPath’s VPN service.
To try it out, click here & enjoy our 7-day money back guarantee!

Watch Out! Do Not Fall For World Cup Scams

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.43.45 AMHackers and scammers capitalize on big events — and the FIFA World Cup is no exception.

And, as you would expect, there are a number of scams out there aimed at World Cup fans.

These scammers are hoping that eager soccer enthusiasts will let their guard down enough so that they can get their money, access their data, and steal their identities.

But, being vigilant goes a long way!

Here are some ways these World Cup scam artists try to trick you:

#1 Free Prizes & Tickets

Anytime you get an email promising free World Cup tickets — or free anything — from someone you don’t know, you should be on high alert. One of the more common free ticket scams encourages people to click a downloadable zip file which then unleashes a virus that enables your computer to be taken over by a remote administration tool (RAT). Others ask you to click a link or fill out a questionnaire with your personal information.

#2 News & Highlights Reels

Breaking news and World Cup highlight reels are being used to entice recipients to open malicious attachments and downloads. Again, be on high alert should you receive an email which encourages you to click or download something in order to access info about the cup.

#3 Free Online Streaming

These scams show up not only in your inbox but on social media sites as well. Often these scams will ask you to complete a survey or download & install software. Again, be cautious & use your head! If something sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

(There are ways to safely and securely live stream all the FIFA World Cup action online. Read more about that HERE.)

 

How To Watch The 2014 FIFA World Cup Online

Watch the World Cup Online

One of the world’s greatest sporting events — The FIFA World Cup — is underway, and many of you us want to watch it online.

But how? 

Fortunately, in 2014, it’s easier than ever to cut-the-cord, and watch all the World Cup games online.

And, we’ve made it extra easy for you to do away with cable with this flow chart (below) that you can follow.

World Cup Flow Chart for Cord Cutters
click for full-size

Flowchart for Watching World Cup Online

IMPORTANT: If you’re watching the cup using either ITV in the UK or CBC in Canada, then you’ll need to use Ghost Path to connect through one of those countries. Why? Because both ITV and CBC have geographic restrictions in place, so you need to be connected through their respective home countries to be able to use the service. But, Ghost Path enables you to bypass those restrictions so you never miss a game!

Ghost Path’s VPN service is just $10/month (or $5 a week), and you get instant access.  Click here to start watching the World Cup online now!

How to Break Through the Great Firewall of China

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 11.45.59 AMChina has the largest number of people connected to the internet — more than 600 million in fact.

Yet, despite the prolific use of the internet in one of the world’s biggest economies, freedom of information is hard to come by thanks to the communist government’s attempts to block all information that it considers to be politically incorrect or anti-cultural.

This makes it a real challenge for business people and travelers to access common and popular websites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as many others that people access on a daily basis.

These sites are blocked because the Chinese government simply can’t control how people exchange information on them. The censorship tool that China uses is widely known by the nickname “The Great Firewall of China”, or the Golden Shield Project.

In today’s post, we want to offer you some resourceful tips that will enable you to break through this censorship wall so you can access your favorite websites if you plan to visit or currently reside in China.

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows you to circumvent these blocks by encrypting your data and sending it through secure virtual tunnels so that you can access social media sites as well as location-specific sites such as Netflix. Even better, most VPN services extend coverage to various electronic devices such as your laptop and Smartphone.

But first, let’s delve into the tactics that The Great Firewall of China uses block websites:

  • IP blocking
  • DNS filtering and redirection
  • URL filtering
  • Packet filtering
  • Connection reset

The cool thing is, with a VPN service, you get protection from all these tactics because the service hides your IP address and data, giving you the needed security to access the internet without compromising your access or privacy.

Once you sign up for a Virtual Private Network, you will have to choose your subscription plan depending on how long you will need the service. You can even choose a free service or one with a money-back guarantee to ensure you like it before you commit!

Here’s a step by step guide on how to get your preferred VPN up and running:

  1. After signing up for your preferred subscription method, download the VPN client onto your desktop or phone and install it. This typically takes a couple of minutes.
  2. Sign in via the VPN client user interface using your username and password. (These will be emailed to you once your subscription is active.)
  3. Log in and connect to a server of your choice.
  4. That’s it! Now, you’re all set to surf anonymously and with maximum privacy!

Most VPN services stay secure even in the event of a connection drop, meaning that you have that peace of mind knowing that you’re covered at all times.

With the help of a VPN service provider, you can easily bypass “The Great Firewall of China” and enjoy unlimited access to all your favorite and necessary websites!

To learn more about VPN services or to try it out for yourself, click HERE.