Vizio violates your digital privacy – at a high price! How to stop them

how to fix your Vizio TV for privacy settings tech expert explains

Sneaky Digital privacy policy fined by the FTC

So, breaking digital privacy news – Your SmartTV has been spying on you without consent for two years and they just got in trouble for it today. It’s a hefty fine by the FTC ($2.2 million) for Vizio, a lead manufacturer of televisions based here in Irvine. Over 11 million TVs were being tracked by default instead of having an opt-in feature. This is more common than you’d think, agreeing to be tracked is often hidden from you, buried deep in settings or a software update,  will auto-agree to give your consent.

Digital privacy Breach

This was no innocent accident either. Every moment of every show you watch got recorded. This info was then paired with IP addresses, wifi networks and metadata and matched to households to identify personal details, bundled and sold to advertisers. In this case, Vizio made money off of your private information as the product. Vizio didn’t identify users by name to the advertisers they were selling to, but it’s still a huge  breach of your digital privacy.

Smart TV’s: A Cyber Security Danger

Camera Access.  Many SmartTV’s have a cameras that can be set to record you.  That’s not what this fine was about, but it can happen.  That’s why safertech created CreepBlockers.  We have them on our SmartTV cameras, our Xboxes and of course all of webcams and cell phones.  Get them HERE!

 

And Here’s How to make sure your Vizio TV is NOT recording what your watching.  Opt Out:

Go to Menu →

System →

Reset & Admin.

Turn off “Smart Interactivity”

Make sure “Viewing Data” inside “Smart Interactivity” is turned off, too, if it appears.

The Bright Side

There’s a silver lining though. Vizio promised to make their tracking aspirations much more prominently featured and apparent, and be opt-out by default. Hopefully, this sets a warning and precedent for other manufacturers to stop being so sneaky and creepy!

Now SmartTVs allow you opt out of tracking, most streaming devices do not – so make smart purchases and be an informed consumer. Our next post will rate streaming devices for privacy!

Google Vault Saves Every Word! What You Need to Know About email Privacy and Cyber Security

Google Vault Privacy

Google Vault. It’s a Cyber Security issue no one is talking about.  Is your company email, Gmail?  Have they upgraded to include Google Vault?  Well, You probably won’t know if they have…but if email privacy matters to you, you’re gonna wanna find out. 

Here’s why: With Google Vault  . . .

Everything you type into Gmail – even Drafts can be saved.  When I say “Drafts” I’m not just referring to the ones you saved to your Drafts Folder.   Every iteration becomes a “draft’ or variant of that email and is saved to the Google Vault.  To be clear, its not just the email you click send on.  It’s everything you type to get to the click.  Typos, rethinks, anger, errors.  All of it.  Every single keystroke.

Who can see?  Every Google Vault has at least one Administrator, and it can be a number of people:  Your boss, the IT guy or another peer in the company. Essentially the Administrator has access and can search the Vault.

Digital Privacy: My Google Vault Story

Like millions of businesses, we use Gmail. It’s best in class, with great encryption and spam filtering and search. When it comes to technology and privacy, Google has advanced and secure Cloud infrastructure.

Our IT guy a few months ago suggested we upgrade to Google Vault so that we could archive old emails indefinitely – as a business owner, I value the ability to save company data and communications. Lots of archiving systems can do that…

But Google Vault doesn’t just save emails, chats, Hangouts,  files (PDF, DOCX and JPG, Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint) Google Earth and connected Gmail products…Recently, I accidentally discovered that with Gmail and the Google Vault  turned on – virtually everything an employee had typed, every iteration was saved – sometimes as many as 50 versions of one email!

A Peek Inside Your Not-So-Private Email

Let me show you a stunning screenshot of what I see when I search topic or name in Google Vault:

Google Vault

It looks worse then it sounds.

Being a bit of a privacy fanatic, I was compelled to demonstrate the inner workings of the Google Vault to my employees so we created a video demo. We watched as  keystrokes were typed while on or connected to the Gmail server were “vaulted”.  It was very unsettling to see that even when a “draft” was deleted from an employee’s draft folder, every word, mistake etc. stayed in the Google Vault.  Each iteration became a time-stamped “draft.” Working very much like a keystroke logger.

Google puts it this way: “Messages are available in the vault as soon as they are received by Gmail.”

If you’re getting a bit nervous here, I’ve included some helpful work-a-rounds at the end of this article, but stay with me for a moment. If you want to see HOW EMPLOYEES REACT TO SEEING THEIR GOOGLE VAULT Click HERE

Google Vault Employers View

Google Vault is part of what used to be called Google Apps, changed to G-Suite back in September 2016. It’s collection of all Google’s powerful business tools and includes Gmail, Docs, Drive Sheets and Calendar. G-suite is a Cloud based enterprise that Google touts as an “All-in-one suite to communicate, store and create.” The Vault and can be added to Google’s basic Gmail  for $5.00 per user per month or it’s included in G-suite for $10 per user per month

Who Loves Google Vault?

For one – Employers.  It’s great for finding and retrieving valuable company information and data, even from closed accounts. The things hidden in drafts can be very revealing.

Who else loves it?  Lawyers.  Everything in the Vault may be “discoverable” – meaning it could be subpoenaed in a lawsuit or criminal investigation. It’s called e-discovery, the process of seeking and finding information in electronic format, in response to legal matters and investigations. Note that many archival systems can and do save company communication for the purpose of litigation.  Vault makes this super easy as it uses Google-patented search to access data in email and attachments(!) including Word .docs  power point, attached PDF’s, Hangouts, chats etc. and . . . everything typed onto a company mail that’s connected to the Gmail server.

eDiscovery

This is the part that really concerns me: The words you type into Gmail are saved—the thoughts your wrote and then deleted or wrote over—those are saved and may be  discoverable.  Now, truthfully, it would be a rare occurence for drafts in the Vault to be subject to search, but not beyond the realm of possibility if circumstances were compelling. If they were discoverable would someone be guilty or complicit by virtue of their thoughts?? I don’t know,  but I like to think my thoughts are just…well, mine, and subject to change.

UHH, But for How Long?

Incredibly, employers or administrators can set the time period for data to be retained up to 36,500 days!  That’s 100 years.

When an employee leaves, an employer can choose to delete the account or “suspend” it. If the account is suspended, the data REMAINS in the Vault, long after you’ve left that particular workplace.

What do Privacy Experts Say?

If the very idea of an employer being able to look at your email seems not right to you, listen to this.  I contacted Paul Stephens Director of Policy and Advocacy at The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.  He viewed Safertech’s Google Vault Video and though he was not aware of the detail of the Vaults functionality he offered this reminder:

“Almost anything an employee does on an office computer can be monitored. Courts often have found that when employees are using an employer’s equipment, their expectation of privacy is limited.”

I also reached out to a woman highly respected in the world of Cyber Security,  Dr. Dena Haritos Tsamitis, Director, Information Networking Institute at Carnegie Mellon University for her input and perspective:

“In the past decade, rapid advances in workplace technology have often come at the expense of privacy and security. On one hand, we have enterprise-level software and applications like Google Vault offering incredible opportunities for collaboration and communication. On the other, we have the threat of compromising the privacy of employees.The balance lies in an organization’s commitment to understand how these tools work and educate its employees on safe and secure practices.”
Excellent advice,  Dr. Tsamitis.  Of course,  my entire team is now well aware of our utilization of and the privacy implications of Google Vault.

To Be Honest

As an employer, TBH, I’m not stoked about seeing or saving drafts. Honestly, looking at a draft that wasn’t sent makes me uncomfortable.  It’s creepy. I feel like I’m spying and looking at thoughts and words that we’re not meant to be shared.  I realize I can choose not to search drafts and I intend to exercise that option—now that I’m done experimenting and researching for this article.

Digital Technology, Cyber Security, the Cloud and Privacy

If  Cloud-based Google Vault has the ability to save every Gmail written on its live server, that probably means that anyone writing in Gmail should assume that all words are saved-and/or could be stored and accessed. The same holds true for most if not all files stored in the Cloud.  More then ever, we should be very mindful of everything we do and put online. As I said in the Safertech.com Cookie Video, when it comes to ALL your internet moves, Privacy is Absolutely NOT Guaranteed.  Practice mindfulness when on-line.

In This Connected World: Writer Beware.

Remember, if you use Gmail at work, you may have no idea if your employer uses Vault on their end. So, first things first – ask! Ask HR, ask the IT guy. We’re not sure what your employer is obliged to tell you -but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

I contacted Google about eliminating the option to save drafts. A customer service representative of Gmail verified that there is no option to “not save” drafts at this point, but did offer me the opportunity to suggest the change to developers. So I submitted the idea to Google as they directed through the Features program.

THE Privacy FIX

If your work email is served by Google and you suspect Vault is enabled, and you’re concerned about privacy and cyber security, there are a couple of ways to limit what’s being recorded:

Option 1. Disable Drafts in “MAIL” If you’re using a mail “client” like the Mail program on Macs or Outlook on PC’s, you can choose to disable store draft messages on the server IF you use IMAP so you are not typing directly into the Gmail’s digital net. Take a look:

 

Apple Mail

 

However,  Mail comes with Apple’s privacy policy so please REVIEW to make sure with all that you are agreeing to there.

Option 2:  IF you have an older version of Microsoft Office you’re Golden.  It used to be the apps were never connected to the internet. Type into TextEdit or Word.   Compose to your delight in those apps, cut and paste directly into your Gmail or Mail Client.  This option works only on Non-cloud based.  You can do this with the new versions, but you run the potential of the version being saved on Microsoft servers, depending on your settings.  

Option 3: Disable Internet connection:  You Compose, delete, type over and write anything you want and then, when that draft is in final form, you can reconnect to the internet and send or save just the final draft on the server.

Prior to disconnecting from internet, you can open Gmail.  Then,  disable internet and Gmail allows you to “compose” as many different emails as you’d like.  Each time you click “COMPOSE” a new window pops up.   You can also compose in a mail client or use Word or Stickies or text edit and then cut and paste to Gmail or your mail Client.

Love this idea because you are also using your device free from WIFI! Note, anytime you use airplane mode you are not connected to the internet, or WIFI or Bluetooth or Web browser, so there’s no way to be typing directly on to a server.  Bonus for your healthy lifestyle: There’s no cell phone radiation, WIFI radiation or Bluetooth radiation either.

And finally, if you are concerned about Cyber Security, be sure to check out CreepBlockers webcam covers.

Stay safe out there-

xo August

What You Need to Know About Your Laptop and Smartphone. Webcam Covers Matter!

If you saw Snowden or listened to Obama or even Trump! –you Know this–all too well!.  It’s way way crazy that this has to be a cyber security worry.  But bottom line:  Cover your webcam.  We’ve got the coolest and best quality ones. Creep Blockers

Creep blocker

Why?

Well, there’s literally hundreds of articles and videos online that talk about hackers using Remote Access Technology or “RATS”. These articles profile how the government – or an admirer or Stalker! – is putting spyware on your computer and accessing your camera or your mic to listen in and take a look. Totally creepy!

Even 60 Minutes did a demo on a story about how China is stealing the IP of big business. So, is all this true and is there anything about it? Well, yes, it seems to happen and there are some precautions you can take. Like updating software, using a firewall and antivirus software. And then there’s basic and easy privacy security steps you can take—like covering your microphone and computer.

Zachary Quinto said, “It’s not paranoia; It’s mindfulness”, and I LIKE that! It’s exactly why I’ve covered my cam and microphone for years.

And it’s why I’m encouraging you to do the same – I mean really, your business is your business, right? And I applaud anyone who takes measures to keep it that way.

But, do camera and microphone covers work? Well, yes, the camera cover is pretty straightforward. Cover it with something opaque and sure, you can’t be seen…but sticky residue might harm your lenses and can look unsightly. The microphone is a bit more tricky, because 1) The microphones are often difficult to find and 2) Usually there’s more than one so you need to cover all of them 3) They are often embedded, hiding from the ability to cover them efficiently.

BUT, I’ve discovered that – at the very least -you can muffle the really clear sound reception that can be discerned when your phone is just laying around or is in your pocket. Consider your mic to be on and listening at all times (because it probably is.)

I tried all kinds of materials, bandages, duct tape, other kinds of tapes (Post-Its, etc.) During that time, I became really frustrated and annoyed by hearing about so many friends reporting that they saw their camera light on (by ITSELF.) I was inundated with anecdotes about people who took their phone inside a movie screening or to an AA meeting. Get this – they were immediately served ads for that movie or promotions for vodka and whiskey! Completely unfair and creepy!!

I just had to come up with something cool and easy to use. Something that even my not-concerned twenty-something daughters would like enough to use every day and that would actually enhance their phone or Internet experience.

So I created CREEPBLOCKERS. High-quality reusable decals made with a material that has just enough cling to stay and no tacky tape that could harm a camera lens or microphone.

The best creative minds in our advertising agency got together and came up with over 60 awesome icons that come in two variations of design packs: “Sweet” edition has adorable choices from sunglasses, puppies, biceps and hearts specifically for your phone camera and fabulous computer cam covers that warn “Not today” or “Nope” and “No Papparazzi Please”. We offer cheerful and inspirational statements such as “Dance Like No One’s Watching “and “Oh, Hello Beautiful” to make you smile and brighten your day. Plus, we made sure we had large and small microphone covers and pieces you could custom-cut should you need.

The decals can come off easily when you Skype or FaceTime and then it go right back on for continued privacy. These safe, reusable stickers are available on Safertech.com, –We’d love to hear about your experience and journey using Safertech’s technology to give you peace of mind. In any event, we’d love to hear about and know that you are taking the smallest steps to safeguard your privacy. Even putting your device away – away from your conversations or your continual whereabouts would give you at least some of your well-deserved privacy.

Try it, my friends! Here’s to worrying-less in our wireless world!

xo

August

How to Stop Google, Bing and Yahoo from Tracking You

Cyber Security Easy Basic

Most of us do one thing on our tablets, phones and computers that tells so much about us—about what were thinking what were reading, what we want, what we need—and we do it a lot—in fact, I bet you did it to get here—to learn a bit more about your privacy– and that’s SEARCH.

Search Engines are Searching YOU!

Did you know that most search engines like Google, yahoo, Bing collect and store lots of the information you give them, like your name, email address, telephone number, credit card AND what your searching for. They all have published privacy policies that say exactly what they’re collecting and what they use and do with that information. Just search Privacy Policies and you can read them—or find the links after this video on Safertech.com The policies tell you they can share your information with partners, third parties or law enforcement. By the way, the sites you end up clicking on in a search—receive the search terms you’ve used too.

Bing, Google and Yahoo Privacy Policy’s BELOW!

So, that’s alot of information about your Search activity that’s being shared by Yahoo, Google and Microsoft!  I’ve got the Privacy Policys in the research section below for your review.

Meanwhile if you would like to try a Search engine that makes it a policy NOT to track what your searching for–Check out this link:

The Top Search Engines to Protect Your Privacy

 

Privacy on the Internet is absolutely NOT guaranteed

Remember if  you’re concerned about your Search engine OR your Browser collecting information about you, please be aware that every time you log on, your computer is sending information about itself over the internet and usually that information is saved–Somewhere.

It could be saved by the browser you use–like Firefox, Safari or Chrome or Explorer.  It could be a search engine like Google, Bing Search or Yahoo Search OR  information can be saved via COOKIES placed by every site you visit!

OH MY!!  But, it’s really not that hard to navigate.  Check out this COOKIE HOW TO VIDEO

It’s actually pretty easy to search, shop, visit etc with mindfulness.

xo,

August

Snowden SPEAKS – about the future of politics new privacy policy

BIG NEWS: Edward Snowden speaks immediately after the 2016 election results. He was mic’ed into a theatre on 11/10/16 in Moscow to talk about Trump’s election and the future of privacy.

Snowden began by being asked about eponymous film. He was it was surprisingly accurate and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was so warm to him. He reminds the audience that there is a ongoing FBI investigation so he can’t explain specifics about certain whistle-blowing aspects of the film.

When asked if Trump’s election made his situation better or worse, he said the whole issue isn’t about him or one single person or individual. Snowden quotes the Fourth Amendment (the right to privacy) which says the government can’t just meddle in your affairs without asking a court first. Snowden brought up the fact that Obama campaigned on a platform of ending national mass surveillance. Obama did not fulfill his promises, so that we “should be careful on putting in too much faith…or fear” in any one individual or politician.

Snowden brought up the Patriot Act, which says that USA business must cooperate with government surveillance. This is timely because of the recent Yahoo scandal, with the email provider spying on their customers and furnishing the government with even more secret customer info than what was required. In fact, Great Britain is passing a new bill that allows mass surveillance even way more than what the US requires of business.

Snowden gives the example of the FBI going after the privacy app Signal, a company that cloaks texts and phone calls in encryption. Signal wanted to fight the gag order that stopped them from informing their customers that the company was being forced to turn over to the government their customers information. Snowden says NSA’s growing ability to spy has never been effective at stopping terrorist acts. Snowden says that espionage isn’t about countering terrorism – that’s its about power and the classic bait-and-switch. For instance, using laws made to counter-terrorism, the NSA was spying on Islamists radicalists pornography habits and Australia was doing similar spying on political foes for secrets that would benefit seafood trade in Indonesia.  Take for example –  NSA mass spying did not stop the Boston Marathon bombings -what stops terrorism is good old fashion police work. When you collect EVERYTHING, nothing is relevant because you get DROWNED in information. 

Snowden says he isn’t against targeted surveillance with warrants,  that is warranted against individuals who are grievously hurting other people.  What he is against,  is spying on the masses. He says even if mass surveillance did stop terrrorism and all murder even, we wouldn’t necessarily want that anyway. He said that would halt progress because government spying could enforce every single law at all times. If that was true, things like gay marriage, women voting etc would have never been able to have been talked about, fought against and overridden.  His belief is that technology is not always a good thing for mankind.

Snowden tips:

  • –Use Start Page, not Google because Google indexes everything forever. Weigh threat versus convenience.
  • –Encrypt your devices. Android lets you protect your phone more, in case you lose it.
  • –Use two step authentication.
  • –Use the Tor browser. (Note:  I’ve read that you may be labeled a “suspicious person” if you use Tor,     Tor is designed to keep your internet moves Private) Please See my video on BROWSER SPYING
  • –It’s a quick and fun way to see how Google Yahoo, Bing etc get your information when you use their browsers.
  • –Support privacy and civil rights groups, like the ACLU.

However the point is, Snowden says we shouldn’t have to do this. This means he’s advocating we get involved and speak up:

“Privacy isn’t about something to hide, it’s about something to protect. Privacy is the right to the self. Privacy is the foundation of all of the rights. That’s like saying, i don’t want freedom. I don’t want liberty. But I think we can do better. I think the rights we’ve inherited are a blessing.”

He said politicians don’t need privacy; they already have power. If you are a minority, if you are a little disenfranchised or a little bit different, then you may  consider protection. Snowden was asked if we care enough about privacy in present day. The patriot answers: “I think we do. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we’ve been dis-empowered.” Snowden advocates for awareness. He understands that we can’t all be experts on privacy and security but we CAN support groups that DO understand, that are fighting for your rights, that we can send them money and support them other ways

The moderator reminds the audience that Snowden IS willing to return to America and stand trial – in the circumstance that he gets a fair trial. Snowden would agree to turn himself over to his homeland  if he is tried by his a jury of his peers. However, the government charged him under very specific circumstances (the Espionage Act). This act was supposed to used against foreigns spies, but is really being used for domestic journalists and outspoken critics of surveillance and would preclude him from a jury trial. The government said they can’t promise him a jury – only that they are willing to agree to not torture him. He talks about wanting to come home but he wants to be an example for standing up and doing the right thing for people   European lawmakers called for protection against whistle-blowers yet he says the Obama administration has been the most secretive to date.

Tragic privacy breach in the dorm

privacy-invasion

This is just heartbreaking.  You may remember the suicide of  Rutgers student Tyler Clementi. Tyler jumped from the George Washington bridge shortly after it was revealed that his roommate Dharun Ravi repeatedly recorded and streamed Tyler’s intimate encounter with another man in their dorm. Dharun not only set up a webcam in their shared room, but streamed it on multiple occasions and invited other college to a “viewing party”on Twitter. The other man involved in the recorded tryst (who remained anonymous) testified that he noticed the webcam turned awkwardly but no recording light being one (it was later revealed that Ravi knew of a fairly simple way to operate the camera remotely – thru iChat.)

Dharun plead guilty to one count of invasion of privacy yesterday and got 30 days in jail (time served.)

At the time of the crime, there was outrage over LGBT rights, privacy violations and cyberbullying with celebrities like Ellen and Madonna making public statements relaying sadness and outrage over the intrusion and resulting suicide. Rutgers ended up changing the rules so that LGBT students can choose their roommates and they can be of the opposite sex, if desired.

Tyler’s mom now runs an anti-bullying foundation in her son’s name. She has made statements pleading for kindness and empathy in this new digital world.

You can read more about this case in this highly-lauded,major news article the New Yorker published at the time of the crime.

IoT Appliance Hacking: it’s real – and it happened on Friday

smart-home

Appliance Hacking: it’s real – and it happened on Friday (10/26/16).

We get it – smart home devices make sense in certain cases.

For instance, it’s highly beneficial to be able to control your vacation cabin’s plumbing remotely through the winter. More and more child abuse cases have become prosecutable via nanny cam footage.  Distance can be bridged through technology and that is wonderful – until it isn’t anymore.

Last week, Spotify, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, and Paypal were subjected to a sweeping Halloween hack on the East Coast  — and if you own a smart home device and live in that part of the country, it is possible you were unwittingly involved.

“The DDoS attack was reportedly carried out through millions of hacked connected devices like web cameras and smart fridges, seemingly innocuous items which are often poorly secured and easily compromised. “

A recent study showed that up to 79% of smart home devices were insecure (because of default or easily-guessed router passwords) If, say, Netflix is down for a few hours, it doesn’t seem to affect you that much?… Think again:

Privacy-related recalls could become more frequent as connected devices become more intimate. A hack of a smart lamp or connected refrigerator may seem frivolous, but when it’s an insulin pump or a pacemaker that is compromised, attacks can be lethal and make action more necessary. “In a sense maybe there is a turning point for certain manufacturers to say, OK we need to do something about this,” Lee said.

That’s terrifying. Here as SaferTech, we don’t give out scary warnings with solution options. This Marketwatch sister article offers some solid advice here to prevent this kind of breach. Among their tips:

Printers are the worst. Not only can we all agree they are the worst, they actually seem to be the weakest link and most vulnerable hole in your home network. This funny article on Slate.com details the problem here.

Remember when Apple products were deemed impenetrable by viruses? That was a lovely era, but that time has passed. Purchase malware security software specifically for Mac. Which leads us to…

Do your security updates for smart devices. Yeah, they’re not our favorite either. Most of them don’t auto-update, so you have to do it yourself. Updates are tailored to the most recent and savvy security threats. Don’t ignore them.

  • A lot of these types of breaches enter through email. Double-check IP addresses for similarly-named URL’s that look legit at first glance.
  • Don’t log on to public wifi and don’t use unlocked neighboring wifi (even though its tempting in a pinch)
  • Don’t use common passwords or your phone number as a password. (I know of a lot of people that do this so it’s easy to share wifi when friends come over, but it’s better to keep your password on your fridge than make it so easy to figure out for outsiders) Jumble up varied symbols, numbers and capital letters all in one passcode.
  • Use multi-step authentication whenever possible. It is a pain, but there is this good reason banks love to use this technique . Just opt to get a one-time code texted to you whenever possible

The good thing about these kind of widespread hacks is that they cost the device companies money and push manufacturers to be competitive about security tech. Be a smart consumer. Pick products that include individualized passcode for every consumer who purchases.  And, remember: You can opt out of being so connected. (Plus, you don’t really want your home to be a veritable force field of EMF energy anyway.) “Smart homes” aren’t so smart after all if they leave your security and privacy at risk.

How Hackers Upload Your Teen’s Private Life on to YouTube

Teen Webcam Safety

 

Hackers target adolescents webcams and personal image libraries to  sell their privacy for a couple bucks, making them into virtual slaves and blackmailing them into not telling Mom and Dad.  So wildly disturbing, the article details how hackers prey. Attached you’ll find a link and the full report from the Digital Citizens Alliance.  Here’s what you can do about:

1.  Cover Your Webcam. Safertech is so very thrilled to bring you Creep Blockers–a fun, inspirational and happy way to do just that and protect your privacy.

2.  Update your operating systems, anti-virus and firewalls.

3.  Don’t click on strange links.  Hackers want to trick you into clicking on malicious files.

4.  Read the DCA Selling Slaves report (See research link below!)

5. Talk to your kids about web safety, the permanency of the Internet and sharing personal images and data about themselves. Lots of families uses a “web safety contract” as a starting point.

FBI Director Still Says You Should Cover Your Webcam

Just yesterday, again FBI director James Comey advised covering your camera on your computer.  He first said this back in April—and it was a big deal because at that time the FBI battle with Apple to release phone data regarding terrorists was big in the news.  It was important enough to say again.  So, I’m sending him a set of Creepblockers. I’ll let you know what he thinks.   Have a great weekend!

 

August Brice

If you want to check it out, here is a link to the transcript and the video.

 

 

Snowden was right about your digital privacy – here’s an easy and expensive solution to protect your cyber security

Brilliant writer,  Sean Everett featured our product in his story on digital privacy.   Take a look below.

Snowden Was Right, Block Your Mics & Cameras

I. Introducing the Surveillance Age
Today, 15 years after September 11th, the technology that was initially developed to stop terrorism, has been used by bad actors to gain access to and spy on your most intimate and innocuous moments. Many of us believe we’re only exposed by what we type into a computer online, but that’s not the real threat.

The real threat is from something you carry with you everywhere and keep within arms length, even when you sleep. It’s your cell phone. The microphone records what you say in private and the conversations you have in public. The front-facing selfie video camera records what you look like every time you hold the phone in front of you. It records what you see.


II. The Places You’re Being Watched
Did you know some smart TVs have cameras in them? Seriously, they can record every conversation you have when they’re powered on. Did you know 70% of malware installed on cell phones and laptops, illegally and unbeknownst to you, record everything you say with the microphone and everything you do with the video camera?

Did you also know that people can watch you online for free as you cross into surveillance camera lines of site? This is the website that lets you view this footage, searchable by location, device manufacturer and other aspects and below is a screenshot of what it looks like. As you can see, it includes over 100 pages of live video cameras. And that’s just the “new online cameras” section.

Creepy is an understatement.

If a shadowy figure was outside your window staring in at you every night, you’d call the police immediately. But because you’re being recorded without you knowing it, it doesn’t seem like it’s happening. I’m here to tell you that it most definitely is.

III. Defending Yourself Against Unwanted Surveillance
So what is your defense when a million people are watching and listening through your cell phone’s video camera? You have two choices to stop you and your family from being surveilled:

  1. Turn off your phone and computer, for good.
  2. Put something over your computer and cell phone’s mic and video cameras.

Option one isn’t really practical in the world we live in today. We need to stay connected to work, friends, and family. And we’ve already seen option two manifest itself as tape across the Facebook founder’s laptop video camera.

The new Oliver Stone Snowden movie hitting theaters this week shows a band-aid doing the same “job”. The cast even uses a product to protect themselves.  Shailene Woodley, who plays Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills, is seen on the right below with Creep Blockers.  Learn more and get yours here.
instagram-photo
The problem with tape and band-aids, of course, is that it’s just a hack. A quick solution to a very serious surveillance problem. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a custom product built specifically for this purpose? Something that blocked creepy prying eyes and ears, but did it in a fun way to turn a negative into art?

Luckily there is.

A family friend who, with with her husband, owns a major creative advertising and agency business in Southern California, made this product. Because she believes so passionately in privacy mindfulness, August Brice had this to say about the process behind the product’s inception:

I’ve actually been covering the cameras on my computer/phones/xbox etc. for years — using post-it notes, tape, whatever I could find. And I’m pretty sure people used to think I was just being paranoid. But when the founder of the most successful social media empire in history, CIA employees, Hollywood celebrities, and even the director of the FBI are covering their cameras, I think it’s time to acknowledge that we’re not obsessing over some imaginary boogeyman: this is an incredibly real, shockingly pervasive problem.

I think I have to agree. And because life shouldn’t be all scary 5 o’clock news, her product took a bit of a playful bent.

IV. Introducing CREEPBLOCKER
That product, CREEPBLOCKER, is finally available for sale on safertechsolutions.com. They are decals for covering not just the cameras, but also the microphones on your phones, tablets, and computers.


They aren’t just any old decals, however. They’re made specifically for maximum privacy, with a few important features:

  1. Re-usability. You can stick them on, take them off, and re-stick them on the same or different device later.
  2. Size. Each sheet of CreepBlockers comes in various sizes for all different types of devices, from 15″ MacBook Pros to small iPhone SE. There’s also a large space that you can cut out custom shapes.
  3. No gunk. Band-aids aren’t just too big. They leave a nasty residue on your laptop. With these, nothing is left behind except piece of mind.
  4. Block sound. They’re the only sticker on the market that blocks sound. for the tiny little holes on the bottom of your cell phone, the side of your aluminum laptop, or even the speakers on either side of the keyboard.

August, describing these features, went on to say,

We met with multiple suppliers and tested every kind of plastic and vinyl we could get our hands on until we got it right.

CREEPBLOCKERS come in two editions, shown above. Bold for the bros and Sweet for the gals, each with unique emoticons, messages, and shapes.

So, whether you choose to channel 007 or kissy lips, one thing we can all agree on at this point. Snowden was right. Just not about using a band-aid.

Written by the Medium.com’s  Sean Everett  

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