Each week, I receive tons of questions from my listeners about tech concerns, new products and all things digital.
Sometimes, choosing the most interesting questions to highlight is the best part of my job.
This week, I received questions about pacemaker hacking, smart TV upgrades, how to set up a personal VPN and more.
Do you have a question you'd like to ask me?
Q: I’m really concerned that a hacker can get into a pacemaker and insulin pump to turn it off or make it do things that will harm the person. Am I freaking out over nothing?
A: This kind of cyber attack is the stuff of nightmares – to have your pacemaker deliver an unexpected shock, or to be deprived of insulin at a critical moment, and all of it is carried out remotely, by some stranger with a laptop.
If you doubt that such a thing is possible, just listen to my podcast, where skilled hackers reveal precisely how they pulled this off.
Upgrade regular TV
Q: I have an old dumb TV. How do I make it almost a new smart TV?
A: Smart TVs are a hot commodity, and there are a lot of reasons you might want this television-computer hybrid, primarily if it responds to voice commands.
But smart TVs have two significant drawbacks: security concerns, which have dogged the industry since they were first released, and that they're so darned expensive.
Luckily, there are ways to replicate the benefits of a smart TV without having to shell out so much cash. You're not changing the TV itself, but some affordable add-ons can give you set some added intelligence.
Q: Do you need a VPN? How do you set one up?
A: In fairness, you don’t need a VPN. But if you value your security, or you work for a company that values security, you’re wise to invest in a VPN.
A “virtual private network” is designed to cushion your computer and devices from snoops and spies. A VPN may sound complicated and confusing, but it's very inexpensive to purchase (some are free) and easy to use.
A VPN is also helpful if you’re traveling in a country where there are restrictions on internet usage; you can safely use programs like Google and Facebook in, say, mainland China.
End social media rants
Q: Talk about politics is excellent but the constant posts are driving me crazy. How do I turn off the politics on Facebook?
A: I terminated my personal Facebook account never looked back. The reason? Facebook didn't make me happy.
Facebook is still the primary form of social media for hundreds of millions of people, and I won't begrudge them that pleasure, but I understand entirely how those political rants (and junk-memes, and threatening comments, and unwanted friend requests) can get tiresome.
Facebook has a lot of faults, but its designers do recognize the need to shield yourself from hurtful language and hostile monologues. You can take simple steps, of course, like "unfollowing" friends without necessarily unfriending them.
But if you'd like something a little more comprehensive, there's a plug-in that could solve your political problem for good.
Q: I love listening to audiobooks on my phone. Is there a legal way to get some for free?
A: Most audiobook fans assume that Audible and iTunes are the only game in town. Don’t get me wrong: the iTunes library is oceanic in scale, and you can find pretty much any audiobook ever recorded.
The Audible app has become a powerhouse of books, podcasts, and exclusive original content, often recorded by major celebrities.
But if you don’t feel like paying for each book individually, or you’re not keen on Audible’s subscription program, there are plenty of ways to stream or download books for free.
Not only is this legal; in some cases, this is the mission of the organizations that record them.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call her national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen or watch to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim's free podcasts.