Phoenix Consultants Group is a software development firm specializing in creating data-driven software applications and websites.  Phoenix creates superior custom software products that deliver the tools necessary for business managers and owners to make informed decisions and manage their important data.

To learn more about the services we offer and our extensive client portfolio visit the tabs below.

Category: Computer Security

American Privacy For Sale – 3 Ways to Protect your Internet Privacy – Allison Woolbert

 

Internet Privacy

Yesterday’s repeal of the FCC landmark Internet privacy protections law has opened a chasm that will now expose the privacy of every person on the web.  As the article in the Washington Post stated today –[The removal of the law] “freed Internet service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast of protections approved just last year that had sought to limit what companies could do with information such as customer browsing habits, app usage history, location data and Social Security numbers. The rules also had required providers to strengthen safeguards for customer data against hackers and thieves.”  

Why this is so important for each individual:

Imagine you are surfing the web trying to determine what medical illness you have.  As we know, thousands of people search Dr. Google each and every day to determine private medical matters.  Although Google tracks this information routinely, now your neighborhood ISP will have the power to record that search and begin accumulating potentially embarrassing information on you.   Let us say the condition is something you don’t want too many people knowing about.  A hostile individual or company then buys the information from the ISP “for marketing purposes” and then promptly tries to blackmail you, or exposes all the information all on the Internet.

There are many vulnerable populations that are now legally able to prey using your purchased privacy histories.  One of these populations could be individuals exploring if they are LGBT.  Another population would be the elderly.  Worse yet, the data is now will be stored in database repositories that can be data mined by anyone with access or who hacks into the databases.  This opens up an entire new world of personal espionage and data mining against an unsuspecting public.

The repeal of this law opens up an entire new angle of corruption and a deep invasion of every person’s privacy. Allison Woolbert stated “Internet Privacy laws and the protection for United States Citizens were just gutted by the Trump Administration and Congress.   An individual’s right to surf the web independently and anonymously has now become a commodity to sell to companies (even overseas companies in Russia, China, etc), Additionally, the protections that ISP providers were required to safeguard their customers has now been eliminated opening up your private information to hackers and thieves on the internet. “

The situation is not hopeless! Things you can do to maintain your privacy and safeguard your personal information.

Change your DNS Server

So, what is a DNS server?  In simple terms a DNS Server translates your IP Address (Google.com is 74.125.224.72).  The server has a name that is assigned to a specific IP address.  The entire internet works through DNS servers across the country.  When you go into a browser and type www.phxconsultants.com the name translates on the worlds DNS servers to the proper address and traffic is routed to that server.  If you are using your ISP provider’s DNS, you are giving them every address you visit .  Changing your DNS will give you more privacy for your online surfing.  You can find information on how to change your system’s DNS here. We recommend using OpenDNS or SafeDNS that does not give your information to your ISP so easily.

Use an anonymous browser like TOR.

So, what is a TOR browser and why would you want to use it?  The best answer to that question is found right on the TOR website.

“Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.

Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.”

In short, TOR allows you to block ISP’s from gaining the information to sell regarding your web surfing.

On smart phones change to Orbot (a TOR browser for phones)

TOR is also available for your phone via an application called Orbot.  Orbot is a smart phone version that stops your phone carriers from tracking your browsing history as well.

 

Who is Allison Woolbert

Allison Woolbert is the CEO of Phoenix Consultants Group.  With over 34 years of experience as an Information Technology systems innovator, Ms. Woolbert has demonstrated expertise in server management, disaster recovery planning, regulatory compliance, business analysis, client interactions, system architecture, technical writing, analysis, programming, database development, and support. Her unique abilities to bring cutting-edge technical expertise to each and every project–as well as her outstanding customer support–provides her clients with meaningful project outcomes, as well as the great service they deserve. Learn more about Allison Woolbert at www.phxconsultants.com.

 

 

Stop Christmas Season Account Thieves- Keep your money safe!

Phishing scamsAs the holiday season has ramped up, so has the online hacking/phishing of accounts that are connected to your bank accounts, credit cards and debit cards.  Reports of the latest phishing for Amazon and Paypal are just two of the ongoing attempts that are used to steal money from your account.  Here are a few tips of how to avoid these phishing scams that you get in an email or text message.

In this day of information overload, consumers often quickly scan an article and make a quick decision.  Phishing scams target those users that don’t take special care or slow down to read the actual email.  The more advanced the email, the more text in the email, the more likely the internet user will simply not read what is in it increasing the chance that the user will click on the phishing link.

1. Do not click the link in the message at all costs.  Go to the actual website (amazon.com, paypal.com) and log in through your normal login procedure.  Then verify the information that the email sent you is true or false.

2. NEVER put in your user id or password into a site that you are not absolutely certain is the actual site.  Short url’s / links are often used and are SIMILAR to the address as well as the page looks very similar to real site.

3. Slow down, verify that the address is correct, then put in your user id and password.

4.  Make sure you have solid virus protection installed.. Quite often, your virus protection can catch that a page is false and alert you that it is an unsafe page.  We recommend F-Secure Safe as a virus protection/web protection program to catch unwanted or hostile pages right in the browsers and email.

Multiple news outlets are reporting various twists on the latest phishing scams.  Here are a few stories to check out if you need some validation.

Phishing scams are easy to prevent if you stick with the simple 3 rules above.  Good luck and Happy Holidays!

Importance of a Webcam / Phonecam Cover – Security Alert

Hackers Phone Webcam HackI recently was reminded through the movie Snowden of the critical need to cover your webcams.  Most people leave their cameras open and running on their computers, laptops and phones.  In today’s world, this gives the perfect opening for a hacker or person who does not have your best interests at heart to see and hear what is going on in your life.  With the escalation of the cyber-war on the United States and abroad, it’s best to use every precaution that you can to protect yourself where easy and reasonable to do so.

Today, covering your webcam / phone cam is as important as locking your car door and your house.  With the ability of virtually any nefarious person being able to find your cam and spy on you is easily done with hacker software today.

A recent article on a hacker forum in September 2016 had the following to say when the FBI DIRECTOR was asked about his cam.

“During a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, when Comey was asked that he still put tape over his cameras at home, he replied:

“Heck yeah, heck yeah. And also, I get mocked for a lot of things, and I am much mocked for that, but I hope people lock their cars… lock your doors at night. I have an alarm system. If you have an alarm system you should use it, I use mine.”

Comey went on to explain that it was common practice at the FBI and other government offices to cover computers and laptops’ webcams with tape or any physical cover.

“It’s not crazy that the FBI Director cares about personal security as well,” he continued. “If you go into any government office, we all have our little camera things that sit on top of the screen, they all have a little lid that closes down on them, you do that, so people who do not have authority don’t look at you, I think that’s a good thing.”

Comey believes that putting a cover over webcams is one of the “sensible things” that everyone should be doing to “take responsibility for their own safety and security.”"

So, where do I get a cover?

It’s not hard to get a cover.  They are available on Amazon for 10 dollars or often are sold in computer stores.  The other option is a simple piece of tape. I would recommend Painters Tape if you want to use a base style of tape.  This will block the camera and not leave a sticky residue when you need to remove it.

So why cover my phone camera?

Phones are the second easiest product to get into.  They are roaming around in a hostile world where routers, wifi and other equipment can intercept the information.  Many apps today open up the camera port without your knowledge or by fooling you into thinking it’s necessary when you install the application.  this makes it easy for hackers and government NSA types to simply turn it on and off when they need a look.

In the ever changing landscape of a cyber-war, simple things such as a small piece of tape might protect you or just make it harder to become a victim.

The new rule for 2016 – Lock your doors, secure your electronics.