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The Greatest Technology Invention in Human History

Can’t recall when I first heard this, but was listening to some tech pundits at a show and the moderator asked the panel, “So what do you think is the greatest technology invention in human history?” Each panelist answered until it got to the last guy who said, “the toilet.”

This conference was just after my family and I had returned from London and had toured a castle. In it was a room that, during the 1300s, royalty went in to and sat down on an outhouse-like hole to perform their bodily functions. The hole went all the way down several stories to who-knows-where. Even the tour guide helped us appreciate how important have a waste-collection system was and to the kids said, “Imagine if you didn’t have a toilet in your house today!”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation believes in the importance of sanitation in saving lives (and giving a quality of life!) and sponsored this delicate video to stress the importance of this device and the sanitiation systems it leverages:

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What's Next? Burning Books?

This caricature of Donald Trump was adapted by DonkeyHotey from a Creative Commons licensed photo by Michael Vadon’s Flickr photostream

Watched Trump’s speech to CPAC over lunch and he slammed the media like always…but this time it was much, much worse. Then, about an hour ago, this news story came through: White House blocks CNN, New York Times from press briefing hours after Trump slams media and yes, I went ballistic since the White House barred news outlets, such as CNN, the New York Times, Politico and the Los Angeles Times, from entering the press room! BuzzFeed is permanently blocked, too.

Make no mistake: This is Steve Bannon behind this who is egging on Trump in an attempt to delegitimize mainstream news so the nutjobs behind InfoWars, The Washington Times and Breitbart News are put forth as THE legitimate sources.

Yes, I’ll make everyone’s favorite comparison: Joseph Goebbels would not only be proud, he would have stolen from Bannon’s playbook (especially since Bannon stole from Goebbel’s!).

I got so goddam mad that I went online to subscribe to The Washington Post. We already support the New York Times and the Minneapolis StarTribune digital editions, so I just bought a year of digital of the Washington Post and they have a print edition iPad app as well as their digital edition one which is cool.

If you care at all about the future of our country, subscribe NOW to The New York Times or The Washington Post. We need real and actual news (vs. Trump and his clown’s bullshit) from reputable news organizations and we ALL must support them.

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Resources for Learners

As a lifelong learner I’m always on-the-hunt for good resources online and I just came across a new one I wanted to share with you: Everlearners and their page of learning resources here.

I’ve yet to find a link to a resource I did NOT like, but my personal favorites are:

Enjoy!

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Facebook's HUGE Gaping Security Hole

To say I was stunned to discover StalkScan today is an understatement. It’s value proposition is simple: enter the profile link of someone on Facebook….anyone…..and have instant access to all of their private data!

That’s right, everything like photos, videos, posts, friends, political parties, everything. I suggest you immediately do these two:

  • Send a tweet to @facebook and to CEO Mark Zuckerberg @finkd and let them know what you think
  • Fill out this form when you’re logged in to Facebook and complain.

While I am well aware that privacy and security online is an illusion, Facebook has has a history of doing a horseshit job protecting us. Let them know that you think so too.

Once you put in someone’s profile URL, you have instant access to all of these choices!

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You Are Dead. So Now What Happens With Your Digital Life?

There is no easy way to say this but here goes: You are going to die and so am I. It is not a matter of if we will die, but rather when.

Now that fact is out of the way and on the table, what is going to happen with your digital life when you’re gone?

Really good article today in the New York Times about this exact topic: Is Your Digital Life Ready for Your Death?

You’ve probably thought about what will happen to your finances, your possessions and maybe even your real estate when you die. But what about your Facebook account? Or your hard-drive backups?

ACTIONS TO TAKE
The NYTimes article gives several practical actions to take and they’re easy to do:  [Read more…]

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EFF: Encrypting the Web

Each year I donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) but did more in 2016 than ever before. You should donate too since they’re the ONLY digital legal watchdog that’s protecting our cyber rights!

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Steve's Security Tips For Keeping Your Stuff Private

While discussing cyber security and online safety with clients, family and friends, I’ve had several of them ask me for guidance on how to secure their communications and web activities. While a thorough examination of all the detail surrounding privacy, security, and good online habits could be the length of a book, let me give you some of the basics along with a few links to learn more.

There are several reasons you should care about whether your online, digital communications and web surfing are private:

a) Tracking: Ever wonder how Facebook knows you just shopped for Corningware at Amazon and suddenly the ads on Facebook are displaying other bakeware companies? Would you be surprised to know that nearly all websites you visit set a little digital file called a “cookie”—a file that can prove to be very beneficial most times—but that some cookies are set by third party companies that do nothing but track ALL of your website visits (and much more) everywhere? 

b) Are You Naked on Public Wifi? If you ever connect to a public Wifi hotspot, you should know that it is trivial for a Wifi hotspot to be spoofed and you might have already inadvertently connected to it! There are also packet-sniffers that can view any unencrypted traffic going back and forth between your laptop or device and the Wifi router and some blackhat hacker can view it.

Want to see how incredibly trivial it is to create a man-in-the-middle attack and spoof a Wifi hotspot? Then read this article which should scare the beejesus out of you (it did me). It’s called Maybe It’s Better If You Don’t Read This Story on Public WiFi and its tagline is this:

We took a hacker to a café and, in 20 minutes, he knew where everyone else was born, what schools they attended, and the last five things they googled.

If after you have read that article you are still logging on to public Wifi hotspots without using a VPN, please comment below and give me your argument as to why you think it’s OK to get online with public Wifi and no VPN. I’ve yet to hear a single, valid reason why someone shouldn’t connect securely.

c) Government Surveillance: You’ve undoubtedly heard about Edward Snowden who revealed the vacuum mass surveillance apparatus in place by the National Security Agency and that they’re are scooping up ALL metadata about who called whom; what websites you visit and searches you perform; what texts you send; who your Facebook/Twitter and other friends are; what photos you post; and much more.

As a preview to what might very well happen here in the U.S. under a Trump administration, a new law just passed in the United Kingdom and it will give you a taste of what is probably coming to America…and soon…and why we all need to be more diligent about our privacy and security. The UK Now Wields Unprecedented Surveillance Powers — Here’s What It Means spells out what we could expect in the US in the near future:

The UK is about to become one of the world’s foremost surveillance states, allowing its police and intelligence agencies to spy on its own people to a degree that is unprecedented for a democracy. The UN’s privacy chief has called the situation “worse than scary.” Edward Snowden says it’s simply “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.”

The legislation in question is called the Investigatory Powers Bill. It’s been cleared by politicians and granted royal assent on November 29th — officially becoming law. The bill will legalize the UK’s global surveillance program, which scoops up communications data from around the world, but it will also introduce new domestic powers, including a government database that stores the web history of every citizen in the country. UK spies will be empowered to hack individuals, internet infrastructure, and even whole towns — if the government deems it necessary.

It is also probable that both the UK and the US will take steps to ban end-to-end encryption (one reason I use more and more services outside the US) and/or legally force companies to insert backdoors in their software so law enforcement can get in to the computer or device you own, especially without having to secure one of those pesky search warrants. It’s actually a lot more ominous than that, but writing much more about it is beyond the scope of this post.

Are you scared now?

You should be. I am, and I stay abreast of all of this every, single day. Read on for some specific tips and tricks to stay safe online.

Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream…and a few scared internet users

[Read more…]

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Monty Python - Dead Parrot

For no other reason than this is one of my favorite Monty Python bits of all time, I give you the Dead Parrot sketch:

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Secure Your Communications *Before* Trump Takes Office

eff-ssdSeveral people I know have asked me for guidance on how to secure their communications prior to Trump taking office. The reason they are concerned is the same reason I am: The Trump administration could very well accelerate (or use extensively) the vacuum mass surveillance apparatus in place by the National Security Agency.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Guide
Here is the guide you should use for staying safe with email, chat, voice calls, if you’re at a protest, and so on.

eff-logoModern technology has given those in power new abilities to eavesdrop and collect data on innocent people. Surveillance Self-Defense is EFF’s guide to defending yourself and your friends from surveillance by using secure technology and developing careful practices.

The guide has an Overview if you’ve not yet secured your computer, tablet or smartphone, to Tutorials that include step-by-step guides on how to install software and tools, and finally with Briefings which are detailed guides for specific situations.

Bonus link from The Intercept: Surveillance Self-Defense Against the Trump Administration

Could Trump Accelerate the Use of NSA’s “Google for Private Communications?”

Illustration: Blue Delliquanti and David Axe for The Intercept

Illustration: Blue Delliquanti
and David Axe for The Intercept

Yes, possibly and perhaps even likely. I would say it is likely since the Trump administration people—especially those like the highly controversial pick of advisor to the president, Steve Bannon—won’t be able to help themselves with the power of the office and the tools at their disposal…so I am going to assume the answer is yes, they will.

One of those tools is XKEYSCORE, the name of the NSA’s Google-like search engine and one of the agency’s “…most powerful tools of mass surveillance (which) makes tracking someone’s Internet usage as easy as entering an email address, and provides no built-in technology to prevent abuse.

The NSA’s XKEYSCORE program, first revealed by The Guardian, sweeps up countless people’s Internet searches, emails, documents, usernames and passwords, and other private communications. XKEYSCORE is fed a constant flow of Internet traffic from fiber optic cables that make up the backbone of the world’s communication network, among other sources, for processing. As of 2008, the surveillance system boasted approximately 150 field sites in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom, Spain, Russia, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, Japan, Australia, as well as many other countries, consisting of over 700 servers.

NOTE: All we actually know of XKEYSCORE is from 2013 and no one knows what advances have been made in the last three years. The deep concern is that the tool has become more powerful, and access could be as simple as logging in with a White House web browser. Imagine that someone’s full communications portfolio is instantly laid out for review by anyone wanting to know what you’re texting, browsing, who you’re calling and more, all at the click of a mouse.

Unless, of course, your communications are secure.

fairy2I hope I’m wrong and President-elect Trump becomes a centrist and moves away from his childish, vindictive behaviors. That hope extends to Trump stopping his being tone-deaf on what more than half this country needs from a president. But I don’t believe in fairy tales, magic, or that “God will make it OK” like many people I know believe.

Instead, my communications are already secure so I highly recommend you make your communications secure and do so right now…while you still can.

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Stunned, Scared & Disappointed Trump Won? Time For a Chuckle

1984-trump Apple’s 1984 ad introducing the Macintosh in January of 1984 with Donald Trump in
the role of overlord, about to be overturned by a disruptor with a sledgehammer

Yeah…he’s scary and I’m disappointed he won too. But it was a close election with Clinton winning the popular vote with 59,943,009 votes (47.7%) and Trump with 59,705,048 votes (47.5%). We all now know that Trump won the should-now-be-abolished electoral college with 279 votes vs. Clinton’s 228 and he’s our (shudder) president-elect.

Turns out that the 47.7% who did NOT support Trump are quite unhappy about getting a clown as president and there are protests in the streets, uncertainty everywhere, and the circus will soon arrive in our nation’s capital.

Fortunately the 47.5% who DID vote for Trump are incredibly excited because “it was God’s will” (which they influenced ’cause they prayed a lot), they now have a shot to delete the Affordable Care Act, overturn Roe v. Wade, revert to marriage as “one man, one woman“, get rid of Muslims, Mexicans, Somalis, and anyone who doesn’t look like them, invest in the military so we can crush all global militaries 10 times over instead of just 7 times over, and make sure that “political correctness” dies like Trump would speaking to a group of millennials.

But hey…we’ve got nearly two months left before we have to go nuts against a Trump administration and fight what will certainly be the attempted execution of an old man’s vision for the United States of America.

Until then it’s time for a chuckle. Here are a few videos that will hopefully help you overcome your stunned disbelief: