WARNING: ARE YOU BEING LAZY ABOUT CYBER SECURITY?
Do you care if your personal information is being collected?
Do you care that every picture you have posted is permanently on a number of servers?
Does it bother you that all of your data that you voluntarily give away in order to use FB and Twitter and Instagram and YouTube is collected and available to people you would NEVER give permission to see it if you knew?
Do you realize that your internet habits are creating a vulnerability that could come back to harm you?
I watched a really informative video live broadcast on Periscope by @RobMusic (on Twitter he is @RobMusic0), creator of https://Brax.Me, regarding Man in the Middle (MITM) and other issues of cyber security. I felt I needed to pass on some of this information.
I used to be lazy about Cyber Security, but the truth is, I had to learn the hard way that if we don’t take steps to be secure, we are asking for trouble. That’s just the world we live in, and we can ignore it, or we can do something about it.
Here is what I do.
I use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that I pay a modest fee for (up to $40 per year) and a new Mozilla app called TrackMeNot (TMN) (free, and still in development, but I love doing alpha and beta testing) with my Mozilla Firefox – kind of interesting, because TMN does a fake search thing to cover your activity with “noise”. These measures work well for my personal internet needs.
But when I want real security, still using my VPN, I also use TOR (obviously it’s Mozilla product, too). You have to read up on how to use TOR so you don’t inadvertently undo its benefits with your usual internet habits.
Don’t forget that you need a good anti-virus/anti-malware application, too, and you need to do your homework on which ones are not built with a backdoor into them so that they can be easily manipulated to get access to your data.
Why do these things? My reason is because I have been stalked twice (that I am aware of). One man stalked me for 20 years, and another for about a year.
One of the scariest things I found recently was a website for ancestry that had all my personal information for the past 30 years! It was like being doxed (having all of your personal information broadcast online in order to harass and expose you) but not knowing it. Fortunately there was the option to remove myself from this ancestry site in my various addresses and iterations, but who knows how many of these there are. We don’t realize that we are giving a very steep price for “free” services, and once we pay, even if we want to stop using the free services, the payment is irrevocable!
The man who stalked me for 20 years finally revealed himself and started asking me questions that revealed the depth of his spying, and he really scared me. At the time I didn’t know how he did it, though I worked with him in Long Island, NY, and he was a computer engineer who worked on military contracts, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise – he probably found my personal information on one of those sites. Or he could have simply known how to “follow” me and was so obsessed that he didn’t mind spending the time to do so.
BTW, I’m sure you wonder why these guys stalked me. The first guy was in love with me. The big surprise was his fixation on me – the fact that he had a weekly podcast for years and spoke about me nearly every week. SMH. Not sure how you do that when you have no input from a person for two decades, but there is no way to understand the motives of the heart sometimes.
The second guy was mentally unbalanced. Suffice to say I have learned to be more careful in many respects. That’s when I learned to be smarter online.
I was off FB for about 5 years after that, and when I came back, I used only part of my name and asked my family and friends online to not say my real name, and have been liberal with the block button.
I still maintain a web presence, and in fact, I have increased it. I’ve had one website for 18 years, and it has over 5 million views. I’ve added another website that is more specialized, and it is doing pretty well after about six months of use.
My blogs are on WordPress (WP), and my main blog is on my private domain with proper configuration by my domain server. WP needs proper configuration, just as TOR does – no matter what, you have to do the research. A plug-in that is an option on WP is WassUp. I used WassUp to learn where my traffic was coming from – at first it was just a hobby, because I knew a lot of them were bots or web crawlers compiling data for search engines – in the early days, you had to personally register each page on various search engines so they could come to your page, crawl over it, index it, and then it eventually became available on search engines. It was exciting to see flags from all over the world, representing my visitors. WassUp can tell you the page visited, and if it is a bot.
But then it got serious as I realized I was being stalked. I began to use WhoIs to look up IP addresses that showed up on WassUp because I was trying to track and locate my second stalker, who doxed me and went after my family. I eventually found out his name and location, but he was in Canada, so there was nothing I could do about it short of starting an international incident! I couldn’t get him to remove the stuff he wrote about my family (even though it was really inaccurate) so I had to walk away.
This is the reason I don’t show my full face, and I run my profile picture through a filter. It’s just one more step in securing my privacy and safety.
What does this have to do with everyone else?
The truth is, people generally will not do anything about Cyber Security until something bad happens. After my stalkers changed my life, I really had to step up my security. I use anti-virus, and VPN, I even use a VPN on my phone. I don’t do any financial transactions without a VPN. I don’t connect to any “free” Wi-Fi without a VPN. I take the warnings that my activity on a strange Wi-Fi may be monitored or captured by someone else, and I either don’t do it, or I use VPN to do it.
Unfortunately, email is not secure, and it is impossible to secure it at this present time. You can safeguard it against viruses, worms, Trojan horse programs, etc. However, there is always a MITM who collects and saves email – at the very least the ISP has copies of all your emails, and your government has access to all of it if they need/want it – regardless of your politics, this is the truth. If you work for a company that supplies Internet, be assured that there is at least one MITM that is employed by your IS/IT department, and they know what you buy on Amazon, and they can read all of your emails.
I really wish that there was a solution to the email situation. But I’ve had to resign myself to the fact that with everything I write online, including email, I understand someone else is reading it without my permission. That’s a necessary mindset, though it creates a lot of frustration. In the end the only things that are really truly safe are the thing is you never say, or only say to God. All of your devices can be eavesdropped on, and unless you take wise steps to secure your own personal data, photos, financial information, opinions and deep dark secrets, these bits and pieces of your life are out there for someone with bad motives to exploit!
By the way, NEVER DO BUSINESS INVOLVING MONEY ON A WEBSITE THAT IS STRICTLY HTTP!! MAKE SURE IT IS HTTPS! That means it is encrypted so that your financial information and passwords are not stolen. And CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS FREQUENTLY, USING CHARACTERS AND SYMBOLS AND NUMBERS THAT DO NOT IDENTIFY YOU.
This is just a little of the background on why security is so important to me, what I personally do to protect myself and my information, and why I’m very serious about sharing this information with you.
For a few months now, I’ve been getting to know Rob B., creator of the Brax.Me app that works on phones and laptops (https://brax.me) and I’ve listened to a lot of his videos on Periscope, and he has over 40 years in computer programming and cyber security, starting in the medical field where securing medical information was his priority. I take his warnings seriously, and I’m computer/internet savvy enough to realize that if we don’t take all the measures we can, then we might as well leave the doors unlocked with a sign that says “Please come in and take what you want”.
If you have ever been stalked, you understand. But you are not powerless!
Here are some tools to help you:
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), but be sure you research it first (see below for Rob’s recommendation of a VPN). A VPN masks your location by routing your connection through servers in different locations.
- Use an encrypted Social Network. I use and highly recommend Brax.Me because it is encrypted, and it is secure. I even have the option to use End to End Symmetrical Encryption (E2E) on top of the provided encryption for chats so that nobody, not even Rob, the creator of Brax.Me, can see what I am talking about with someone. As someone who is entrusted with the secrets and problems of others, this is extremely important to me. (Rob explained that he likes that option because as a defender and protector of Free Speech online, he likes the fact that he cannot be forced to give information that he does not have).
Brax.Me is where I am building my “internet residence” and I invite you to come and visit and see that it is so much safer than anything you have done online so far. There are rooms you can create – I have three on Brax.Me – and you can create communities – I have a community there. You can create private, locked rooms that add people by invitation only and they are unsearchable (cannot be discovered without invitation) for talks about things with like-minded people. The content is not recorded, it is not shared. When you close a chat, all traces of that chat disappear. It is safe, and Rob is constantly improving things there. If you would like to come see what it is about, please visit me at Pastora Covert’s Place https://brax.me/room/pastoracovertsplace.
On Brax.Me, there is a room dedicated to helping Newbies learn how to navigate and the community is very friendly; people want to help. There are rooms on Cyber Security where you can get up to speed on the latest ways to make sure you stay safe out there.
But Brax.Me is so much more. You can run a radio show there, or do your broadcasts on Periscope and simultaneously have secure chat on Brax so that your comments are not viewed on Periscope! That’s a great way to avoid the inevitable trolls on Periscope!
You can upload documents to rooms and share videos. You can blog, you can join groups that reflect your own interests, but nobody can follow you the way they do on other apps. You join a room to see what’s in it. You leave a room if you don’t like it. You can block people, you can invite people. You have so many options, and once you get used to the format difference, you will see that there are many possibilities!
Those of you who know me, you know I won’t sell something unless I believe in it! I can tell you that I will be leaving Twitter very soon, I’m doubtful about ever broadcasting on Periscope, and I’ll only maintain a presence on FB that relates to my ministry. But I will only share my private information on Brax.Me, under circumstances that I can control, because I have had the chance to really research it, and I know that my information will be safe.
If you want to know more about about Brax.Me, go to Rob’s website: https://whatthezuck.net/whatthezuck/
If you want to use a truly safe VPN, here is what Rob has to say about that:
“A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the number one defensive tool against Man-in-the-Middle attacks, HTTPS spoofing (by employers), and location tracking. This is the most important item in your toolkit.
“My preferred VPN is Private Internet Access (PIA). It has provided very good speed for a very reasonable price of $39.95 a year. It is one of the least expensive VPN providers. They are in 25 countries and allow 5 simultaneous devices (including mobile). They have been transparent with their logging policies and have strongly stuck to their guns on not providing logs even to law enforcement.”
Here’s the link if you want to buy the VPN through Rob Braxman. It would be a good thing to do, because he doesn’t charge for the use of his social network app, Brax.Me, and it would be kind to support his efforts – the cost is the same, no matter whether you buy through him or directly from the source: https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/pages/buy-vpn/wthezuck
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I’ll do my best. Thanks for reading.
Stay safe, my friends.