CISPA Illustrates Struggle Between Security and Privacy

Charles Ripley , BrandPost

A new bill is pending on Capitol Hill that has privacy advocates preparing for battle. The backlash for CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) is reminiscent of the uprising against SOPA and PIPA earlier this year. Whether or not CISPA passes, this probably won’t be the last clash between privacy and security.

Broader information sharing--between businesses and the government, as well as between businesses themselves--would help significantly in the war against cybercrime. In an attack, various entities may uncover different tidbits of information about the attack. Those tidbits may not mean much alone, but when combined with the information from other organizations they form a more complete picture that helps all parties understand and respond to the threat faster.

At face value, that seems to be the intent of CISPA. The problem is that the wording is vague or broad in places and ways that could be abused. Privacy advocates would like to fight cybercrime as well--they’re just not willing to surrender personal liberties to make it happen.

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Time for Mac Users to Embrace Security

Mac OS X has been rocked by malware that compromised more than 600,000 systems by some estimates--rivaling the impact of some of the largest malware outbreaks on the Windows platform. One of the main reasons the malware was so successful, though, is that Mac users generally don’t have security tools in place. It’s time for the Mac culture to get proactive about defending against malware.

Microsoft Windows has been mocked and ridiculed for years thanks to the volume of malware attacks that plague the platform. Mac and Linux evangelists have used the perceived insecurity of Windows to convince users to switch operating systems, and now some Linux supporters have turned their sights on Mac OS X as well.

Mac users are discovering what Windows users learned years ago: there is a difference between being less targeted, and being more secure. It’s easy to seem impervious when attackers don’t care about your platform, but the security by obscurity defense fails miserably when the OS platform catches the attention of malware developers, and suddenly it’s not so obscure.

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Simplify Your Social Networking

Facebook. Google+. Twitter. LinkedIn. Social networks like these aim to keep you connected with friends, family members, business colleagues, and even interesting celebrities (Hello, @aplusk).

But keeping track of them all can be a hassle. The more networks you engage with, the tougher it gets to keep tabs on your networks’ activities. So many feeds, so little time. It even gets tricky to share your own activities, what with tweeting here, updating your status there, and so on.

Fortunately, there are ways to rein in your social networks, to access multiple feeds under one convenient browser- or software-based roof. The tool that makes this possible is called an aggregator; it signs in to your various accounts and presents all the content in one window (often spread out across several panes).

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Five Cool Places to Play Games Online

In the old days, playing games on your PC meant driving to the store and perusing the shelves in search of the latest and greatest titles.

Now, you can just fire up your Web browser. The Internet is home to an amusement park’s worth of fun for all ages, including first-person shooters, flight simulators, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, and even old-school stuff like Checkers and Hearts. Best of all, many gaming destinations charge you no fees; at most you’ll have to sit through an ad or two.

Before you start warming up your trigger finger, however, keep in mind a few safety measures. First, it’s always a good idea to use a different password for each gaming site you visit. On the off chance hackers break into one system’s password database (it’s been known to happen), you won’t have to worry about them gaining access to other sites in your name.

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’Tube Tricks

There’s more to YouTube than sitting at your computer watching cats play the piano. You can also use the Google service to create a Pandora-like selection of music videos. Or save your favorite videos to your PC, smartphone, or tablet for offline viewing. And don’t forget mastering the art of searching YouTube to find exactly what you’re after.

Before we get started with these, let’s talk safety. It’s not a good idea to turn your kids loose on YouTube without some security measures in place, starting with family-protection software that filters out objectionable content — of which there’s plenty.

You may also want to install a tool like Comment Snob, a browser plug-in that filters out the undesirable user comments attached to many videos (even rated G ones). After all, nothing ruins the fun of YouTube like profane, hate-filled commentary.

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Sync Your Android Tablet with Your PC

Charles Ripley , BrandPost

If you’ve purchased an Android tablet, you’ve probably wondered how to fill it with your favorite music, videos, and photos. Unlike an iPad, which slurps up these goodies by syncing with iTunes, an Android tablet has no desktop counterpart, no automated system for migrating media from your hard drive to your device.

Granted, you can download movies from Google Play or stream tunes from Google Music, but what about all the ripped CDs stored on your computer? And the home movies and family photos? Heck, you probably have an address book you wouldn’t mind syncing with your tablet.

A handful of tablets come with desktop software that can sync your media, but most models will require a little third-party intervention. Let’s look at three ways to bridge the gap between your PC and your tablet.

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Little Drive, Big Deal

Charles Ripley , BrandPost

You probably bought a USB flash drive so you could transport files between PCs, or maybe make the occasional on-the-fly backup of important documents. Great stuff, but those handy functions barely scratch the surface of what your drive can do.

Indeed, a flash drive is like a digital Swiss Army knife, able to perform a circus tent’s worth of amazing feats. That single pinky-size gizmo can lock down a PC, store important passwords (safely, of course), run an entire operating system, and more. Turns out your little drive is kind of a big deal.

Before you get started, however, make sure to take the property security precautions. Flash drives are especially susceptible to viruses and other malware, so make sure your desktop security software supports external drives, and set it to auto-scan any drive you plug in.

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