Privacy and Security News and Tips 20160621

There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.Stephen King, Different Seasons

Weekly Tip

With the summer travel season in full swing and the current state of our world it is wise to be prepared for problems,which brings us to a tip I read some time ago and have had in practice since then with minor adjustments for changing technology and environments.

Protecting your Personally Identifiable Information

Think about the contents of your wallet or purse. How many credit and debit cards, id cards, medical information, passports, etc do you have or take w

hen you travel? What happens if you lose them or they are stolen? Do you have medical issues, severe allergies, medical devices? What would you do if you were in a foreign country and had to replace the cards, prove who you are, or needed medical attention after having your wallet or purse stolen? Have you ever thought about making an emergency flash drive to carry your important information securely. I have, and that is today’s tip. To make this drive you will need a few items.

  • A physically small flash drive that is at least 2 GB formatted with exFat for maximum compatibility
  • A copy of VeraCrypt
  • Access to a scanner

The basic layout is as follows.

  1. Format the drive exFat
  2. In the root of the flash drive you will have a text file (MUST BE PLAIN TEXT) with some basic information (name, address, phone, “I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN”, “I HAVE INSURANCE”, include emergency contacts also) Title this file EMERGENCY.
  3. A file titled “Medical” that lists your medications, and allergies to drugs, foods, or bugs, as well as your primary care physician’s contact information. This document says “I HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE” at the top of it, so that you don’t run the risk of being denied treatment. If you have traveler’s insurance, put that info in here as well.
  4. A file of “credit card contact info” with details for each card you carry. Use this to quickly cancel your cards if your wallet is lost or stolen. Do not include the CC number, CVV, or expiration date. That data is in the secured partition of the drive.
  5. A scanned image copy or digital photo of your insurance card, front and back.
  6. A web browser. You can get portable versions of Chrome, Firefox, and other browsers that will run directly from the drive—more secure than using a public terminal loaded with who-knows-what snoopware.
  7. Install VeraCrypt and create a portable install on the flash drive
  8. Create an encrypted container on the flash drive approx 1GB in size and make sure to use a memorable but highly secure password
  9. In the container you will have the following items:
    1. Scanned copies of each of your credit and debit cards, front and back. (jpg format)
    1. A file titled “CCNs” that lists the account numbers, expiration dates, and CVVs of your cards as well as the toll-free contact numbers and international collect call numbers for each company. (plain text)
    2. The routing and account number for bank accounts, phone numbers to your local bank’s branch office. Be ready to have money wired or to freeze accounts. (plain text)
    3. Scanned copies or digital photos of your passport, your driver’s license, and at least one other form of state-issued photo identification. (jpg format)

Now that you have this drive, you will need to determine the best means of transport and security for the location and environment. There are drives that are “rugged” and will be fine on their own in most environments, but if you will be in a rainy location you may consider a watertight container. The drive should be on you at all times while traveling and should not be on your keys in case of theft. I carry mine in a “go tube” inside my clothing, but you can wear it as a necklace under your clothes or secure it to the inside of your clothes somehow. The idea is to have it not be subject to a pickpocket or being lost.

Interesting News

Facebook begins tracking non-users around the internet

Stop Facebook From Following You Around the Web

Secret Text in Senate Bill Would Give FBI Warrantless Access to Email Records

Web developers, meet WebGazer: software that turns webcams into eye-trackers

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Privacy and Security News and Tips 20160531

Everyone complains about the weather, but nobody ever seems to do anything about it. — Willard Scott

Weekly Tip

Protecting your Personally Identifiable InformationThis month we have seen record rainfall in Texas, tornadoes in Kansas and Colorado, and earthquakes around the world. With these unpredictable acts of nature we have seen of late I thought I would talk about how we can prepare our digital lives for some of the more unforeseeable events.

Having a comprehensive backup plan in place should be at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts in today’s ever-changing and growing digital world. Local backups are great for the ease, time, cost, and convenience with which we can create and access them, but they are limiting in a disaster situation. Online or offsite backups are the next, and most logical solution to continued access and availability of our data. The costs have come down, and with the widespread availability of high speed internet access in our homes we cannot afford to not consider them as part of our comprehensive solution. Each online provider has their pros and cons, and should be researched to find what suits your needs.

Don’t look at your backup solution as only necessary for natural disasters, but to eliminate so many potential issues from theft, fire,or flood, to equipment failure, redundancy and ultimately piece-of-mind as we rely more and more on our digital data everyday.

Interesting News

Causes of data loss and some statistics


Thinking Inside the Box

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Privacy and Security News and Tips 20160426

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!.Benjamin Franklin

Weekly Tip

Protecting your Personally Identifiable Information

With the passing of Prince last week and the recent revelation that he did not have a will, I thought I would talk about some documents we should all have for our piece of mind, security, and to help our loved ones when the time comes.

As we mature and have dependents that count on us, we need to consider how they depend on us and how we can plan for our future and theirs. To ensure you have the appropriate authority in place, health care directives, and that your intentions are clearly and legally defined, the following documents are the bare minimum you will need:

  • Will/Trust
  • Advanced Directive or Living Will
  • Power of Attorney for Healthcare
  • Power of Attorney for Finances
  • HIPAA Release Form
  • Beneficiary designations
  • Letter of intent
  • Guardianship designations

These items should be professionally sourced, signed, witnessed and notarized. As a security consideration, the original should be on file with your attorney, a copy in your safe, and a copy with your executor. It is also a good idea to have scans of these in a secure format that you can take with you in an emergency.  You must make sure that all of these are maintained and updated and that they are stored as securely as possible.

Interesting News

Dangerous Windows 10 flaw lets hackers secretly run any app on your PC

It was shockingly easy for ’60 Minutes’ to hack a congressman’s iPhone

The FBI is working hard to keep you unsafe

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Privacy and Security News and Tips 20160405

One person’s “paranoia” is another person’s “engineering redundancy.”Marcus J. Ranum

Weekly Tip

March 31st was World Backup Day, so this week I wanted to talk about backups.
Protecting your Personally Identifiable Information

With the amount of information we store on our computers and phones, and the cost of storage, how can we not consider having a good backup system in place. Think about what you store from precious family photos, financial information, software and art we create, documents we write, and so many other things. What would you do if your drive failed? Would you be able to recover those precious documents? What if your computer was stolen?

It is suggested to have more than one copy on more than one type of media. For recovery speed and ease, an external drive connected to your machine is a good start. Consider fire, flood, and theft, and you would be wise to consider an off-site solution (I use CrashPlan). To be truly safe and not to trust a third party, you might consider storing something in a safe deposit box or at a trusted location.

For my most important data, I have a copy on my computer, a copy on mirrored external drives, a copy with CrashPlan, and a copy with a trusted acquaintance in their safe. All copies are encrypted before being sent and I hold the key.

Interesting News

The 3-2-1 rule and other backup tips

Security tips from a super-hacker: Kevin Mitnick’s advice on protecting laptops, smartphones, and more

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