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Keep your Macbook Pro or Android phone secure

Check out these security tools to keep your personal information safe online

Apr 23, 2012

by Robin Schroffel

As computers, tablets and smartphones become increasingly integrated into our daily routines, people are beginning to let their guard down. That’s not a good idea, given that the more technology does for us, the more it could do to us.

In a perfect world, the Internet would have an undo button. In reality, erasing something from the web is almost impossible, which can make volunteering private information dangerous. “It’s information people think they control, but they don’t,” says Rei Safavi-Naini, the chair of information security for Alberta Innovates Technology Futures. “Once it’s out there, it’s out there.”

And while most people know better than to open email attachments from unknown senders or to click on Twitter private message links trying to show you “a really bad thing someone said about u,” it’s still unsettlingly easy to land on what Safavi-Naini calls “compromised websites.” Simply clicking a link to one of these pages can download a code onto your computer that causes it to do any number of unhelpful things, from sending your passwords and credit card numbers to a hacker to turning your machine into part of a “bot net” – a larger group of zombie computers used to launch bigger attacks.

According to Safavi-Naini, it can be hard to tell when you pick up bad code. One of the key warning signs is if your device is operating more slowly than normal for no apparent reason. And Mac users shouldn’t get smug about the security of their devices, because while they’re targeted less frequently than PCs and Android devices, they aren’t immune to attacks.

Some preventive measures can go a long way towards avoiding the consequences of a virus or a piece of malware. First and foremost, install up-to-date antivirus and security software. Keeping automatic updates turned on will ensure you’re covered.

Creating good passwords is another way to keep your data secure. Steer clear of dictionary words, which can be cracked in with a program. Instead, use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, digits and punctuation.

Most important is don’t grow complacent. “This threat is here to stay,” Safavi-Naini says, “and it’s only going to grow in the future.”

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3M GOLD Privacy Filter for laptops  

Get a little privacy even when you’re in close quarters. This privacy filter attaches to your laptop and makes your screen unreadable to anyone not directly in front of it. The filter also stays on when the computer is closed. It’s available in 11 sizes, including wide-screen and standard-width options.
$47.99, Futureshop.ca

SecuDroid Anti-Theft/Anti-Loss App for Android 

Be ready for that moment when you suddenly realize your smartphone is missing. SecuDroid stays dormant in your device until you activate it via SMS from another phone. Then, it springs into action with James Bond-style functions like remote GPS tracking and secretly snapped photos that arrive in your email inbox. There’s also a remote memory-wipe function that will reset the phone back to factory defaults, ensuring your private information stays, well, private.
$1.38, Market.android.com

Protecting Your Internet Identity: Are You Naked Online?  

In a time when employers and clients check Google like it’s a personal reference, managing your personal online identity is vital. Authors Claypool and Payton walk you through topics such as security settings and social networking, show you how to get rid of personal content you no longer want and even offer tips on remodelling a questionable online persona into a professional one.
$20.32, Amazon.ca

Kensington K64637WW ClickSafe Keyed Laptop Lock 

With data breaches getting a lot of attention, sometimes it’s easy to forget one of the biggest risks involved with owning a laptop: old-fashioned theft. Kensington security slots are the standard for both Mac and PC, and this super-strong steel cable key lock will keep your laptop from being snatched.
$45.90, Amazon.ca

Norton Tablet Security for Android 

Keep your Android tablet happy with an easy download from a top PC security software company. Norton Tablet Security will block dangerous websites and protect users from threats like viruses and phishing scams. It can even remotely lock your tablet in case it’s lost or stolen, stopping unwanted eyes from seeing your sensitive data.
Free, Download.cnet.com

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