Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Improve Your Privacy At The Computer With Tape

Most computers come with web cameras. Most computers because of Windows are virus magnets. It's not really Microsoft's fault--Windows is just a big target. And lots of Trojans and viruses these days do things with your web cam, none of them good. If you are a woman, especially a young one, you yourself are a target. No es bueno.  What's worse is that not all web cams have a little light that comes on telling you that you that your camera is turned on. And even worse than that, the malware is getting more sophisticated and in some cases can turn on your web cam without you seeing any indication that you are being recorded. It disables the blue light that most web cams have.

Improve Your Privacy With Tape: Roll Of Electrical Tape
Now, I'm not that paranoid, but then again I'm probably not on anyone's 'must record' list either. I don't often use my web cam, so why not just cover it, at least when it's not in use. It's a small risk for me, but the web cam is just one more thing to leak your privacy with, so no sense tempting fate. I got to thinking about how to cover a web cam (especially a laptop one) in such a way that it a) it can be uncovered without a lot of fuss if I ever need it and b) didn't look too hokey.

Problem solved ... with common electrical tape! I'm sure about a million people have thought of this already, but there's no such thing as too much knowledge. What I did was cut a very small square of it and put it over my web cam lens. Since this type of type is not very sticky, I can easily take it off when I need the web cam (almost never) and even reapply it when I'm done using it.

My laptop is black so the piece of tape isn't even visible enough to worry about looking cheesy. But if you have a different colored machine, you can even purchase other colors of electrical tape. So if you have an Apple and use it in a professional setting, you could buy white electrical tape and nobody will even be able to see (unless they really look, which is creepy anyway) that you have your camera covered.

Improve Your Privacy With Tape: Square Of Electrical Tape
Just a little square is all you need
Improve Your Privacy With Tape: Square Of Electrical Tape Over Laptop Web Camera
It's mostly invisible unless the light hits it at a certain angle
 Until the day that they invent a computer virus that can take off the tape, you can sleep soundly knowing that nobody is counting your beers, or worse. Physical security is the most important kind because it cannot be defeated by software.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Power Of Mobile Workforce

Note: This is a guest post from HOB

While the prevalence of mobile working and BYOD has many positive effects for companies and their employees, IT teams must face the increased security risks associated with these benefits. For more information on secure remote access solutions, check out these free e-books

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Power Bricks Are Wasting Your Energy

We all have them in our house: power bricks supplying energy to all our electronic devices. Even if they are internal, all electronic devices require them to convert AC power which your house gets from the grid to DC power which all electronic devices require to run. They are mostly redundant because each device needs to have its own brick. But that's not the bad part: the internal components of the power brick draw power even when the device they are powering is turned off. So, every power brick in your home is consuming power at all times if it is plugged in.
Wasn't too hard to find a random handful for the photo

There's no getting around this simple fact that the local grid only supplies us with AC. The battle over which type of current to build our infrastructure from was fought years ago between two powerful men, Tesla and Edison. Tesla won the battle, mostly because AC-- while much more dangerous than DC-- is easier and more efficient to transport.

The world we live in delivers power to every home in a format that these days most of the devices in the house cannot use, and because of that, we all waste a certain amount of power from these things. Just think about how much power the country uses with millions of power bricks plugged in, just sitting there doing nothing. As electronic devices become even more ingrained in our lives, we should see more standardization and compatibility between devices. Our houses should have DC ports just like it has AC plugs, and those ports shouldn't be drawing from the grid when they are not use. In the meantime, we are stuck with a house full of these little plastic abominations.

Paring down the number of power bricks in your house is a matter of compromise between savings and convenience. Unplugging unused or unneeded devices is a no-brainer. There's a few other tricks like plugging power bricks into a power strip or surge protector with a built in switch, and being able to switch off a whole group of devices when you go home for the day. Another trick we use is to have as many devices use the now-universal USB charging interface as possible, which cuts down on the number of chargers we have plugged in. But certain devices like your larger appliances have their own internal transformers to convert to DC and aren't really practical to unplug when not in use.

At my house we make a decent effort at simplifying what we need plugged in at any given time. This also eliminates much of the clutter we used to have. We have a pretty good sized house, so taking these kind of steps all add up to a big impact on our electric bill. It's definitely worth it to go through your home and ask yourself: does this thing need to be plugged in?