Monthly Archives: January 2013

Basic Data Security and You 0

[Editor’s note: Sorry for the hiatus on my blogs recently. I’ve gotten swamped by work, and ran out of pre-written posts just before the holidays here in the US. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that I’m posting this particular column =) ]

When you go online and post, blog, tweet, DM, etc.; you place information about yourself out there in the Internet. Granted, that’s the whole point to Social Networking, but many of us have seemingly forgotten that the Internet is an open community, not a private telephone line.

So, here’s a few “rules of the road” to follow to help keep yourself safe;

1 – Know what you’re clicking on. These days, it is unbelievably common to see posts that contain links to websites. The vast majority of these are perfectly safe, but some are actually phishing or attack sites that can make your life miserable very quickly. The good news is that many Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Media tools will allow you to preview a link before you click on it. In fact, many now allow you to auto-expand the URL of a short-link (like a bit.ly or jmp link) so you can see the URL of the actual destination site. Just hover over the link to see where it leads to. If you don’t know what the destination site is, if it doesn’t apply to the tweet or post, or if you have no idea why you’d be getting that message to begin with – then don’t click.

2 – People can be impersonated. Feel like you want to share something personal in a DM to that person who’s been making conversation with you? Think twice. While the majority of people online are who they say they are (though some of us use pen names of course), there are folks who are scam artists who will try to get you to give up personal information, money, secrets, etc. Don’t be fooled, make sure you know who the person really is first.

3 – People can also be hacked. Twitter and Facebook and many other Social Networks are constantly trying to improve security and help folks not get hacked, but it still happens with alarming regularity. Not following some of theses rules is a sure way to make it happen, but sometimes it’s just a really good hacker finding a way to get into someone’s account that they shouldn’t have access to. When you get an odd DM (“Hey, what are you doing in this video”) or something seems amiss, it very well could be someone else pretending to be a friend you know. DM back and confirm that it’s really them BEFORE you give up any information or click on any links.

4 – Don’t post it if it isn’t public (no, not even in a DM). I’ve said this one before and I’ll keep saying it until everyone gets it. If you wouldn’t shout it out at the top of your lungs while standing in the middle of Times Square in New York; if you wouldn’t want your boss and your grandmother to both read it; then do not post it. Anything you put online – even if it seems to be in a private message or DM – can, and eventually will, become public. Save yourself a lot of embarrassment now and avoid posting anything you don’t want the world to see.

5 – Be careful what services you use. Many socially-integrated services can gain information from your profiles and timelines. The majority clearly spell out what they’re going to be seeing and using, but you still need to be careful. Every time you authorize an application, carefully read the authorization page to be sure you know EXACTLY what it will have access to, and what it will do with that access. If the app doesn’t have a web page explaining what rights it needs on your Twitter or Facebook accounts, and more importantly WHY it needs those rights; don’t use that app. Vote with your wallet and find a different app that is up-front about what it needs access to and why.

6 – De-authorize any apps you no longer use. Companies get bought out, are acquired, or merged, or otherwise change their ownership. Companies also change their policies and procedures over time. If you’re no longer using a particular socially-integrated app, then go to the settings pages of your various Social Networks and de-authorize or remove that app. This way, if the owner of that app changes companies or policies, you can be sure that they no longer have access to your data.

7 – Use all security features. Many people don’t know that Google and Facebook both offer forms of two-factor authentication. Once turned on, you cannot log into your Google account or load Facebook in a new browser or on a new device without putting in a pin that Google/Facebook sends as an SMS text to your phone. Using features like this (or similar features on other networks) can help secure your account even further, with a minimum of extra work for you day-to-day. Take advantage of them whenever they’re available!

Stay sane, stay safe, and remember that it’s a wild worldwide web out there.

Wither Microsoft Part I – Why you may want it. 0

[Editor’s notes:
First, sorry for the hiatus in my postings. I’ve been swamped with work, and ran out of pre-written posts just before the holidays here in the US. But, now that I’m back on track, you can expect a return to regular, weekly posts from here on out.

Secondly, the title of today’s column has nothing to do with Microsoft losing marketing share. Those of us who are fans of Monty Python’s Flying Circus will quickly see I’m using the conjunction form of wither, meaning “where to or wherever to” instead of the more common meaning.]

While many of us in the Apple community may wish to believe that we can totally live without any Microsoft products, there are simply too many reasons why you might find you need them. This is especially true if you use your Mac for work, or a combination of work and home life. This first article of three will discuss the reasons you might want to include Microsoft technologies into your Mac life.

Those of us who use our Macs for corporate stuff often find that the business world is an inhospitable place. If you are lucky enough to work for either a company that mostly uses Macs, or one that has an IT group that uses and supports Macs; count your blessings. Most enterprises do not rely primarily on Apple technology and – aside from a few cases where iPad apps are officially sanctioned – don’t want anything to do with them. This makes actually using your Mac and native Mac apps to access company resources a challenge at best, and a nightmare at worst.

Using some of the Microsoft tools (both on OS X and in Windows on your Mac – more on that later) can make life easier for those of us who have to talk to corporate data systems regularly. Systems like Office 2011 can give you native Outlook, Word and Excel features, though generally with a feature set and file formats that are a few years old. However, even with these legacy formats, the native experience can be much easier to deal with when working on company documents and files that were built with the Office applications on Windows machines originally. Granted, Pages and other Apple apps can do these things, but may (and probably will) have formatting and function frustrations along the way.

Also keep in mind that if a native Microsoft app like Outlook 2011 is having problems, the corporate IT staff will have far less of a hard time troubleshooting it. These apps typically use the same connection systems and functions as their Windows counterparts, so especially if the problem is server-side, you’ll end up not taking the blame for something that isn’t your Mac’s problem in the first place.

There are some very non-technical reasons to use Microsoft apps or a Windows VM as well. These days, most companies have a very strict policy when it comes to data and security and information ownership. If a system holds company data, the company owns it, no exceptions. In these cases, even though you *could* use Mail.app to connect to your company’s Exchange Server, you probably don’t want to. Keeping your work email independent from your personal email means not having to worry about which account you’re sending from, what signatures are being used, and who owns the content of a particular email database. I find this method invaluable – all my work email is in Outlook, my other email is in Mail.app – no confusion and no mistakes.

Of course, the biggest reason you might want to consider using Microsoft apps on OS X is if you recently converted to Mac. I know that Outlook 2011 isn’t the same as Outlook 2010 or 2013, not by a long shot. However, it is much closer to its Windows counterpart than Mail.app combined with Address Book and iCal. If your entire user experience has been based on Windows versions of MS Office up until this point, then using the Office for Mac applications is going to make for a much easier transition.

Next week, we’ll talk about why you may NOT want to use Microsoft software on your Mac, and then we’ll finish up in the third column describing ways you can use Microsoft tools, either on your Mac in OS X or segregated into a VM or Boot Camp partition to keep them on their own.