12 Tips for Internet Safety While Traveling

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 12.28.12 PMWhen we travel it’s often to “get away from it all”, yet we still like to be connected.

And, today, it’s getting easier and easier to stay plugged in no matter where you go thanks to the prolific number of networks that are available to us at coffee shops, airports, hotels, parks, cultural sites, restaurants and more!

But, when you travel, you’re even more at risk for online hacking because you’re often using a public or unsecured WiFi network to get online.

And, if you think just because you’re paying to use a connection or because it’s password protected that you’re safe, think again: “According to Marian Merritt, Internet safety advocate at Norton by Symantec (maker of Norton AntiVirus), the two main risks you face when using a hot spot are having someone track your online movements via the network you’re logged on to or trick you into using a “fake” hot spot, either by offering it up for free or mimicking the name of a legitimate one. In both instances, a hacker can potentially see your passwords, e-mail, social networks, bank accounts, documents, and more.” (Source: Travel & Leisure) Yikes!

The truth is, staying safe while traveling starts at home, well before the vacation begins!

If you’re wondering how to keep your devices, information and data secure even while traveling, we’ve got 12 tips for you.

Before Traveling…

  1. Back-up all your devices.
  2. Create temporary travel passwords, and make sure they’re strong and long.
  3. Turn on your computer’s firewall.
  4. Invest in a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt your communications and reroute all traffic through a private, secure connection.
  5. Don’t change the security settings on your phone. Generally your phone’s default settings are relatively secure.
  6. Turn off autofill and cookies. If your laptop or phone automatically enters your login info for familiar websites, be sure to turn that off before you travel.
  7. Handle all bank transactions from home, before you leave.

When traveling…

  1. Only connect using encrypted WiFi networks or a hard-wired connection, unless you have your own WiFi hotspot or use a VPN service.
  2. Never use public computers for logging into private accounts like email, Facebook, credit cards, or any other site that has access to your personal info.
  3. Switch off your phone’s wireless connection when you’re not using it.
  4. Cellular networks tend to be secure, so instead of suffering obscene roaming charges, purchase a data plan. Both Verizon and AT&T offer affordable global data roaming packages.
  5. Always use a site’s https address if available — https connections are safer and more secure than standard http.

How To Surf The Web Anonymously

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 3.01.18 PM

Have you heard that nearly everything you do or create on the Internet gets recorded somewhere, somehow?

Meaning that for every blog post you write and every photo you share, there’s a copy of it somewhere on the Internet. It doesn’t matter if you erase it, a copy will still be there for people to find. Not to mention the fact that our searches, sites we visit and other activities are tracked, too.

But what is more unsettling is that even if you just visit a particular Web site, you are often unknowingly giving out your personal information, such as your current location, what device you are using, and even where you go to after that. Kind of creepy, right?

Well, it gets worse…depending on where you live, this data may then be collected, sorted, analyzed, and even accessed and used by the government and other parties.

But, don’t worry — there is something you can do about it!

There are now Web services that allow you to browse anonymously. These services essentially act as the middle man between you and the Web site that you want to visit. This means that the Web site will not gain access to your private, personal information.

You have to remember, though, that while the destination Web site will not see your personal information, the “anonymizer” service, itself, may be keeping server logs that could record your data…and these logs could be subpoenaed. So, be sure to look for an anonymizer service that does not keep logs!

If you’re worried about protecting yourself and your data online, we’re here with some helpful solutions.  Read on to learn how to surf the Web anonymously.

Disable any extensions

Anonymous browsing services will protect you from people who have physical access to your computer. This means it will not leave anything about your history, and it will delete any cookies and private data when you close the browsers. Google, for example, has the Incognito mode for Chrome browsers.

However, there’s one more reason for you to use Incognito and other browser’s anonymous browsing mode: it disables any plugin or extension by default. Plugins and extensions can store private data and share these with the Web sites you visit without you even realizing it!

Without plugins or extensions running, you can be sure that Web sites cannot obtain data from them.

Get a second browser

Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and other well-known browsers are available for free. Even if you have a favorite browser for your daily activities, it makes a great deal of sense to use a second browser for sites that you want to visit anonymously.

By second browser, we mean a browser that you do not use to open e-mails, access your social media accounts, and do your online shopping, among other usual activities online.

Why?

Because some anonymizer services – which may include those of your favorite browser – could still leave cookies on your machine, which could be used to find out who you are.

Use a Web proxy

If you only wish to anonymize select activities (and if you do not mind the slow speeds), you might want to check out Web proxies.

All you need to do is go to a Web proxy site, enter the URL you want to visit, and voila! You’re there…anonymously!

Be reminded, however, that some content may not display when you use a Web proxy. Forms may also not get submitted, such as when you are logging into your Web mail service.

A better option would be to use manual proxy servers that work like a Web proxy, but in this case, you will need to set your browser to use the proxy’s IP address.

Do not login

You’ve probably noticed that today there are countless sites that require you to use (or create) a username and password in order to read a complete article or use other functionalities of the Web site. Or, perhaps, they ask you to connect to the site using Facebook or Twitter.

Why?

Because the site wants identifying information about you.

Think twice before logging in or registering on any site with which you’re unfamiliar.

Don’t want to create a username & password, but still want access to the site?

Check out BugMeNot.com to see if they have log-in credentials that you can use instead.

Use TOR

TOR is short for The Onion Router.

What it does is simple: your browser will be performing the same data requests, but it will pass through a series of TOR servers, and at each of these transmissions, your data will be encrypted. This way you can access all your favorite sites without being “followed”!

Get a VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. These networks enable you to browse anonymously by hiding your IP address and replacing it with that of another server.

When you use a VPN you can rest assured that your data is secure and safe from hackers, cyber scams, identity theft and phishing email fraud.

5 Simple Steps To Keep Your Home Wi-Fi Secure

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 12.16.32 PMDo you have Wi-Fi in your home?

Chances are the answer is “yes”.

Today, Wi-Fi is essential because of the growing multitude of devices that only work if connected wirelessly, like mobile phones and tablets.

Even most desktop computers use Wi-Fi for their internet connections nowadays because it’s just simpler to connect to Wi-Fi than it is to run an unsightly network cable across the floor.

All of this Wi-Fi is great, but is it safe?

We’ve all heard horror stories about some unsuspecting family who has a criminal next door that uses their Wi-Fi to do some ghastly deed, ultimately resulting in legal trouble for the victimize family. Now, in all likelihood, that won’t happen to you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the proper precautions to ensure that your home Wi-Fi is as safe and secure as possible.

Here are 5 simple steps you can take to secure your home Wi-Fi connection:

Encryption – One of the easiest, quickest ways to protect your home network is to encrypt it. In fact, most routers support encryption already, just be sure to use either the WPA or WPA2 settings — they provide the best level of security. Once you encrypt your network, you’ll have to enter a password whenever you wish to connect, but that minor inconvenience definitely outweighs the headache of getting hacked.

Change Passwords – Many routers come with preset passwords for working with the device settings, and this password is different from the password that you use to access your Wi-Fi itself. Hackers often know standard default passwords and then are able to manipulate your router. Be sure to change the router’s device password after installation.

SSIDs – Another safety measure you can take is to set your router so that it does not broadcast your service set identifier a.k.a. SSID, which is your network’s name. Once you disable your SSID broadcasting, your network’s name will no longer be visible on nearby computers and devices. This means that only people who know your network’s name will be able to find and access it.  

Firewall – Most wireless routers come with built-in firewalls, however sometimes these firewalls are turned off when the router is shipped. Double check that your router’s firewall is turned on.

Disable Remote Admin – Often routers allow you to access the router remotely and administer changes. Unless this is a feature you need and are very familiar with, it’s often best to disable it so that hackers cannot gain administrative access to your Wi-Fi network for their own personal gain.

To learn how GhostPath VPN can protect your privacy online, click here.

How To Protect Your iPhone From Peeping-Toms

DeathtoStock_Wired9Did you know that any time you use public WiFi with your smartphone you are putting yourself at risk?

That’s right — public WiFi is a playground for hackers who are just waiting to access your secure data.  But, here’s the good news…

You can do something about it!

The solution in three words: Virtual Private Networks.  Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, serve to protect you, your data and your identity in a number of ways, but the most important thing to understand about VPNs is this: VPNs secure the Internet connection you are using so that all of the data you are transmitting is encrypted.  This makes it more secure from hackers and other people who are trying to see what you are sending or receiving.

More specifically, a VPN is a collection of computers or networks that are joined together over a public network such as the Internet.  You can use a VPN to connect your data centers, or to access your home network without the need to log into a computer on the same local area network.  A VPN could also be used to secure transmissions and messages if you are using an untrusted network that is open to the public.  So, as you can clearly see, VPNs offer you a world of benefit in the smartphone era.

Here are a few more reasons why VPNs are so vital for smartphone users:

1. Having a VPN allows you to access your files and other data on your network even when you are away from home, your office or when you are traveling.  A lot of companies are letting their employees use their own devices for work, and having a VPN is a great way to keep your transactions, messages and data safe.

2. Use VPN when you are on public Wi-Fi.  Public Wi-Fi puts you at risk, and you never know who may be trying to hack into your phone.  Having a VPN on your iPhone or Android will keep you safe when you are connecting to a public Wi-Fi in a coffee shop, airport, hotel or elsewhere.

3. VPN allows you to be more secure.  If you use your smartphone for work, you will appreciate that VPN easily makes your transmission, e-mails and other communications safe, encrypted and secure.

4. If you are using your iPhone or Android to download files, you should also use VPN.  This is also true if you are paranoid about BitTorrent files.  Sometimes, just having a torrent-downloading app on your iPhone could put you at risk, but a VPN will protect you against that potential problem.

5. With VPN, you can use your smartphone to watch your favorite TV shows back home.  When traveling, you can connect to a VPN and check out your TV shows, sporting events or even watch Netflix online, even if it is restricted where you are.

MLB.TV Blackout Workaround from Ghost Path

MLB.TV Blackout Workaround

MLB.TV is far and away the best sports streaming service that we’ve tried. The software and product are both great.

Our only complaint is the antiquated blackout policy that prevents us from watching our favorite teams, even though they are hundreds of miles away. The notion of a team’s “home region” is overreaching. For example, I’m a Braves fan. I can’t watch Braves games on MLB.TV anywhere in Georgia, the Carolinas, or North Florida. It’s probably the same for Tennessee and Alabama, but I haven’t personally tried there. The idea is that if you’re in the home region for a team you should be able to see the game on the team’s TV station on cable or satellite. The problem is that you have to have cable, which kind of defeats the purpose for having MLB.TV.

That’s where Ghost Path VPN comes in quite handy. By connecting your computer to our VPN you can make it appear as if you’re located somewhere else. For example, to get around a Braves game blackout I would connect to a VPN endpoint outside the southeast, like Denver. Once you’re on the VPN then you can use MLB.TV as you normally would.

MLB.TV on Mobile Devices

Unfortunately using VPN on iPhone, Android phones, iPad’s etc. won’t work. MLB.TV requires you to use location services (GPS) on your mobile device as a means of determining your location, and Ghost Path can’t help with that.

About Ghost Path

VPN means virtual private network, which is what we do at Ghost Path. Ghost Path VPN allows you to bypass geographic restrictions, like those used in MLB.TV.

We offer a 7-day money back guarantee here at Ghost Path, so it’s risk free to try out our service. VPN accounts start at just $10/month.

MLB and MLB.TV are trademarks of Major League Baseball. The Braves is a trademark of the Atlanta Braves baseball club.

 

Now Accepting Bitcoin Payments

Bitcoin VPN

We’re excited to announce that we are now accepting Bitcoin payments for our VPN service. Bitcoin is a great way to pay for our service while keeping your identity private. All we need to process a Bitcoin payment is an email address that we can send your username and password to.

All About Bitcoin

If you’re new to Bitcoin then there is a bit of a learning curve. Here are some of the best Bitcoin resources that we’ve found:

  • Bitcoin.it is a wiki with everything you need to know about Bitcoin.
  • Coinbase is an easy to use Bitcoin wallet. Great place to get started.
  • Bitpay is our Bitcoin merchant.

To create a Ghost Path VPN account with a Bitcoin payment you can go to our Pricing page and choose your plan. Then choose Bitcoin when asked. As always, we’re here to help if you run into any problems.

Staying Safe While Using Panera Wi-Fi

Using Panera Wi-Fi

Like many of you, I spend a decent amount of time working at public wi-fi hotspots, particularly at Panera Bread. Panera Wi-Fi works well and is generally reliable. It’s also susceptible to packet sniffing, just like any other public Wi-Fi. That’s why the following precautions when working remotely.

VPN

It goes without saying that I use Ghost Path VPN anytime I hop on public Wi-Fi. Unless I need to connect to a specific location I  just use the default ‘Closest Locations’ settings in the Ghost Path VPN client. That will generally give you the best speeds because the software chooses the nearest VPN gateway and connects there.

I also use Viscosity’s VPN client occasionally for quickly connecting to a specific server or for doing competitive VPN research.

Hardware

I use Apple hardware primarily, so my laptop of choice is my 11″ Macbook Air.  I also keep my iPhone and Galaxy Note 3 with me and use VPN on those as well if they’re connected over Wi-Fi.

Bonus Tips

  • Always try to sit in a place where no-one can see your computer screen.
  • Avoid phone calls at Panera; you never know who could be listening.
  • If you can afford it you should get a portable LTE hotspot and use that instead of public Wi-Fi. I use a Mi-Fi from Verizon and couldn’t be more pleased. It’s about $40/month I believe.
  • Even if you’re using a VPN, don’t do your banking or anything super-sensitive on public Wi-Fi.

Why You Should Consider Using a DD-WRT Router

Wi-Fi Security

DD-WRT is third-party firmware designed to upgrade and enhance the functionality of OE wireless internet routers by replacing the router’s original, integrated firmware. The big question is, “Why would you want to replace the original firmware?”

The problem with the original firmware is that router manufacturers often intentionally limit their product’s full capabilities. The limitations are designed into the preinstalled firmware. DD-WRT does not impose those limitations, allowing your router to become powerful enough to rival those used in enterprise IT environments. Using a DD-WRT router unleashes a variety of ways to realize enhanced performance and functionality. Even better, it doesn’t cost you a dime.

Benefits of Using DD-WRT

It’s one thing to have expanded power, but the real benefits are derived from knowing how to harness it for your benefit.

If we were to list all the benefits you can enjoy from using DD-WRT, the list would be longer – much longer than we have space or time to list here. So, is a short list of what we consider the top features and benefits of DD-WRT:

  1. IPv6 support. With IPv4 addresses becoming increasingly scarce, you’ll appreciate DD-WRT’s built-in IPv6 support.
  2. Advanced Quality of Service controls are available on some DD-WRT builds.
  3. A highly configurable and very powerful firewall that is based on iptables firewall construction. You can easily edit the iptables firewall via DD-WRT’s interface.
  4. DNS controls such as DNSmasq, which allows simplified DNS configuration behind the firewall and makes host-name lookup faster. You also get support for DNS providers such as No-IP, TZo, DynDNS and others.
  5. The access point is visible only to your wireless clients, preventing inadvertently giving access to each client’s shared files.
  6. Easy access to multiple source access-control solutions such as WiFiDog, HotSpot System, ChilliSpot and others.
  7. Extensions, extensions, and more extensions. You can add functionality far beyond the original limitations of the router, such as external USB connectors.
  8. DD-WRT plays well with VPN. Instead of configuring each of your devices to connect to a VPN (*ahem* Ghost Path) you can configure the router itself to connect over VPN, protecting all devices on your network.

The best thing is that DD-WRT is FREE! Well, at least for now.

Securing Your Entire Home

Because your home network gains the power of an enterprise-level router, you also get better security. No more neighbors stealing your Wi-Fi connection!

For one, DD-WRT ignores unrequested packets that go through your WAN port, making it difficult for a hacker to even know that you have a network there. It even provides better protection against Trojans, which do not pass through your Internet connection, hence, bypassing your firewall.

You gain a range of security protocols to make your Wi-Fi secure. There’s WPA that even supports RADIUS, there’s TKIP, AES and a combination of both. There’s WPA2 and WEP. You can choose the safest options: WPA + AES, WPA + TKIP + AES. Or, if you are feeling generous, you can disable these protocols and give Wi-Fi access to those who can see your network. Setting up security for your DD-WRT router is very easy, using its Web-based interface.

Again, DD-WRT’s built-in VPN connectivity allows you to automatically send all your network traffic over the VPN, greatly increasing security.

Need to Know

There are some things that you should know before trying, installing and using DD-WRT firmware for your router. First, using DD-WRT invalidates the manufacturer’s warranty support for your router. This is no different than what typically happens when you make performance-enhancing changes to your car. You will not be able to call Linksys, D-Link, NETGEAR, and others, if something were to go wrong with your router. Be sure to research the ramifications as well as the benefits before you modify your stock firmware with DD-WRT.

Second, it is entirely possible that your router will be bricked, turning it into a lovely paperweight. As with modifying anything, there is always the potential for suffering other unintended consequences. So, again, do your homework and weigh the risks before installing DD-WRT.

Third, manufacturers aim to make it easier for non-technical users (un-geeks and anyone over 55) to tinker with and install their routers.

The grass may be greener on the DD-WRT side of the fence. Just be cautious when scaling the top of the fence and be especially careful of what you land in.

How to Keep Your Children Safe Online

The Internet is an information playground. All we need is a click or two here and there to get any information we need. But it is more than just a source of information.  It is an open source of information.  The information is out there where anyone who wants to can access anything they want to at any time they want to.  That is precisely why the internet can be dangerous, especially for your children. Without proper guidance and supervision, they can be exposed to all forms of online danger.

The Growing Problem of Child Identity Theft

Over the years, there has been a significant increase in the number of children who have fallen prey to online predators. We don’t have to be shown studies; we only need to watch the news. There’s always news about a teen or two committing suicide because of cyber bullies, or children being victimized by sexual predators. What’s just as alarming, however, is the increase in child identity theft.

Identity theft is an issue we usually associate with people who have fat bank accounts and high-paying jobs. Many fail to realize, though, that children are prime targets for identity theft because it is easy to obtain their Social Security numbers without being detected for months (and even years). Children use their iPads, mobile phones and other digital devices so frequently that it makes them easy prey for thieves trying to access and use their personal information. According to a recent report, the incidence of child identity theft is now 51 times higher than that of adults.

The heart of the matter is “What can you, as a parent, do to protect your children?”

Protecting Your Children Online

One of your primary responsibilities is to keep your children out of harm’s way. You would do anything and everything necessary to make sure that your child is safe in all situations. Here are things that you can do to safeguard your child’s safety online.

  • Know what personal information your children have with them. Guide your children until they become familiar with every detail. Then make sure that you keep that personal information in a safe place. The best way to secure personal information is to memorize it. Both you and your children should know their personal information by heart.
  • Constant reminders will help. Continually remind your child about the dangers of giving personal information to strangers. Train your child to give personal information only to people both of you know personally.
  • Social network and download warnings. Warn your children of the dangers of posting personal information (especially their Social Security number, contact information and location) on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Online file sharing (like music) and downloading of free games can also post dangers because of embedded malware used to grab private information.
  • In school: Be aware of how your child’s personal information is used. Talk to the principal and your children’s teachers. Ask them how, and for what purposes, students’ personal information is used. Who has access to those files?  How does the school maintained and disposed of their files? When you ask these questions, be wise enough not to accept answers like “Only their teacher sees their information.”  Be persistent.  Also, do not attach personal data like Social Security numbers to school forms unless absolutely necessary.
  • Be aware of your child’s online activities. This doesn’t mean you need to spy on your child! Just be sure that you get involved with whatever it is that he or she does online. Ask about online activities or updates about his or her Facebook or Twitter friends. Tell your children about online privacy, the need to have strong usernames and passwords, and the problems with spam, malware and inappropriate content. Encourage your children to be open with you, especially when there are suspicious messages or content in their email or social networking accounts. Illustrate using specific examples to help your children understand better.
  • Implement strict rules. Compose a list of rules that your children have to follow. Set a specific number of hours for online usage. Enumerate sites to which they are allowed to go. You might list examples of suspicious messages and content. You should also consider blocking some websites. Your list of rules should be posted somewhere near the computers your children use.
  • Use software or tools you have installed on your computer. Both PC and Mac computers have built-in tools that can protect your children when they are online. In PCs, you can enable “Family Safety.” Depending on your operating system, go to Control Panel and click Family Safety (Windows 8). For Macs, you can use “Parental Controls” (go to System Preferences and click Accounts).
  • Set an example to follow. Practice what you preach. They are watching you, and they will more likely do what you say, when they know that you do what you say.

Keeping your child safe online requires a lot of resolve and persistence. This shouldn’t be a problem for any caring parent. Prevent your children’s futures from going down the drain. Start protecting them now.

Safe Online Shopping for the 2013 Holiday Season

Safe Online Shopping

With Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, it is safe to say that the holiday shopping craze is about to begin. While thousands will be rushing to line up outside stores in the wee hours of the morning, millions more will choose to stay at home and do their shopping online.

Online holiday shopping is definitely a more convenient option, because you won’t be crushed by mobs of shoppers at the mall. It does, however, pose some risks of its own, especially in terms of online safety. Scammers and online predators prepare for the holidays by devising schemes intended to drain your pockets – sometimes, for life. It is important for you to know how to protect yourself from these online predators.

Keeping Safe While Shopping Online

How do online predators attack cyber-shoppers? Basically, scam artists steal or hijack your personal information by “phishing.” When they succeed, they are able to access your log in information. Potentially, all of your online accounts could be compromised. They may also send spam messages to your email inbox, enticing you to click on links that connect you to an alluring, but bogus, website. Any personal information that you provide on that site will be used to empty your back account, or max out your credit cards in an instant.

To ensure you are not a victim of online scams, always follow these important guidelines:

  • Protect your computer or mobile device by installing anti-virus software, anti-spyware and/ or a spam filter. Make sure that your firewall is activated and secured.
  • Don’t click anything sent to you by email unless you expected that message. Do not click on links that come from unfamiliar sources and that lead to unknown websites.
  • Look for misspelled words in emails or website addresses. Take note of the website address and see if it has a proper URL extension. For instance, phishers can lure you to click www.paypa1.com instead of www.paypal.com. See the difference between the two URLs? The first one is not legit because it’s misspelled. It has a “1” instead of an “l.”
  • Do not click on the link.  Type the address into your browser manually to make sure that it is not a compromised site
  • Go to websites with an https padlock; not those with an http. An https on the address means that the site is encrypted, protected and safe to visit. Also, a website should have a validation from a Certificate Authority. If your computer or device has a first-class anti-virus software, it will detect websites that are not validated. The browser usually turns green if the site is secure.
  • Shop only on websites that you trust. Contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to check on the reliability and safety of online shopping sites. Trusted sites have the BBB Trustmark seal. Make sure that the seal is updated and valid by clicking on it. Additionally, you should also take time to read the privacy policy of every website you enter. Go for online shopping sites that have been trusted for years, like Amazon or eBay, and websites of your favorite brick-and-mortar stores.
  • Do not allow yourself to fall prey to offers that are “too good to be true.”  If you find designer clothes or brand new iPads offered way lower than the retail price (like 80% off), do not immediately jump on the deal. Chances are this is a scam. This is one of the many ways spammers spread their “disease” online. Use common sense.  The only free lunch is a turkey sandwich in which you are the turkey.
  • Do not use one password for all your online accounts, including your emails and social networks. Choose a different password when registering with an online retailer – not the one that you use for your email or, especially, your bank account.
  • Use a credit card or a prepaid card. Online purchases with a credit card are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. You’ll get protection in case of stolen personal information and unverified use of your card. Credit card providers are also vigilant in terms of detecting suspicious activities. Likewise, prepaid cards offer a similar level of anti-fraud protection. Aside from helping you stick to your personal budget, you’ll also get protection from identity thieves and scammers.
  • Get to know your rights as an online buyer. There are laws regarding maximum shipping time, cancellation of orders and refunds.

Keeping yourself protected while doing online holiday shopping is easier, if you are well-informed. Read online safety blogs and visit tech websites. Use common sense and stay alert. Happy Holidays!