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Security & privacy

3 secrets “They” want to hide from you

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.”

In the world of conspiracy theories, the mysterious “They” really get around. They’re the ones behind most government cover-ups, dirty corporate doings, momentous events and other shady happenings.

However, “They” aren’t just behind conspiracy theories. There are some tech secrets they’re hiding from you, too.

These are really things that can happen, will happen or are happening now. Curious as to what those are and who is behind them? Keep reading.

1. Medical devices can be hacked

Insulin pumps, pacemakers and other hospital devices and implanted medical gadgets are a lifesaver for hundreds of thousands of people. And as they’re getting more advanced, they can do more impressive things like be controlled wirelessly.

This gives doctors and patients more control, as well as more feedback on how the gadgets are working. Unfortunately, that gives hackers an opening for mischief, and manufacturers aren’t anxious for you to know that.

As far back as 2007, then-Vice President Dick Cheney had a custom-made pacemaker designed to be immune to hacking from terrorists. So, this isn’t a new fear. In fact, around half a million pacemakers were recalled in September due to security issues.

Since then, the Department of Homeland Security has been looking at vulnerabilities in medical devices and working with manufacturers to fix them. It isn’t just medical gadgets – smart TVs, DVRs, webcams and printers are all vulnerable to hacking. Click here to learn more.

Of course, there’s no evidence that any medical gadgets have been hacked by anyone other than security researchers. Hopefully, manufacturers will use the opportunity to secure them before bad things start happening.

2. Facebook is selling your data to banks and more

I’m sure you already knew that Facebook collects your data for advertising purposes; it hasn’t been too shy about that.

Nowadays, however, almost everything you post on Facebook is being used for something you might not realize. It’s called targeted advertising, and it’s something built-in to Facebook’s algorithms so you’ll see more ads that you might actually be interested in.

This form of tracking is sometimes convenient. For example, if you’ve shared a link to one of your favorite Adele songs, you might be shown an ad later on about an upcoming Adele concert in your area.

However, more often than not, targeted advertising begins to feel a bit creepy – especially as Facebook continues to take these tracking behaviors to whole new extremes. Of course, Facebook spokesmen have said this tracking is only used to bring you ads that are more relevant and interesting. But as you pay more attention to the ads you’re shown, you might start to think twice about how much information you’re releasing.

It seems understandable that Facebook would have access to the basic information from your profile, such as your age, location, gender, educational background, birthdate, etc. But here are some additional things you might not realize you’re sharing through your posts.

  • Field of study/occupation
  • Ethnicity
  • Homeownership status and your property’s worth
  • Net income
  • Religious beliefs
  • Political affiliations

Beyond that, Facebook can gather information about your web preferences, such as the web browser you use most frequently, whether you access your account from your computer or your phone, which email service you use, and the types of services you use Facebook for (ie., games, Facebook Payments, Facebook Messenger and more).

By combining all of the data you choose to share, Facebook’s algorithms can come up with a pretty detailed idea of who you are and what you like. If you’ve just retired, for example, you may begin to see ads regarding travel packages or retirement financial services. If you’ve just moved to a new city, you may begin to see ads for local shops and restaurants.

Engagements, weddings, anniversaries, divorces, pregnancies, new purchases and other life events can all be factored into the ads you’re shown. The question is: Are you OK with that?

If you’re not, there is a way for you to opt-out of Facebook’s behavioral tracking. Click here and we’ll walk you through settings changes you need to make with step-by-step instructions and screenshots. You can also wipe your Facebook search history clean and follow these steps to lock down your Facebook account for maximum privacy and security.

3. Your webcam is watching you

Do you have a webcam built into your laptop or attached to a desktop computer? How about a smart TV with a camera, or a smartphone or tablet? Well, hackers, snoops and perverts don’t want you to know that they can use these gadgets to spy on you in your home.

To get on your computer, hackers use a remote access tool, or RAT. If you’ve ever had a tech support agent get on your computer remotely to change settings or try to fix a problem, they used a RAT.

Fortunately, RATs require your permission to let someone on to your computer remotely – the person can’t just take control. That means a hacker has to trick you into letting them on to your computer.

Hackers do this the usual ways: Fake email attachments, malicious links, Trojan viruses, phony tech support calls, and so forth. Once you’re tricked into running a file, clicking a link or inviting them on to your system, they can take control and do whatever they want.

The same goes for mobile gadgets and TVs. A hacker just has to trick you into downloading a malicious app. If they have access to your gadget, they might install a spy app.

One easy way to combat this is by covering up the camera when it’s not in use. Covering your webcam with tape when it’s not in use is one of the most effective low-tech security solutions you can do. It’s so effective, even Mark Zuckerberg does it!

Of course, if a hacker has access to your computer, they can watch you on your webcam when you are using it – and snoop around your other files. Click here to learn more about protecting your webcams from hackers and keeping your computer and other gadgets free from RATs and malicious apps.

5 security mistakes you’re probably making right now

As you can see, in this world of cyber secrets, you can’t be too careful about your security and privacy. Click here for 5 security mistakes you might be making right now.

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