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Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses Why People Are Becoming Indifferent to Data Breaches, Hacks, and Leaks

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 22, 2019 by itnerd

The increasing connectivity and digitalization of our everyday lives and business processes are creating a world of new possibilities. At the same time, that world is also becoming more vulnerable. That’s why cybersecurity nowadays is more important than ever. But Ariel Hochstadt, tech enthusiast and co-founder of VPNmentor.com, thinks that many people are becoming indifferent to data breaches, hacks, and leaks. All of that might lead to even more cybersecurity issues worldwide. Ariel Hochstadt’ interview with another tech enthusiast, NordVPNs digital privacy expert Daniel Markuson.

Daniel Markuson: Lately I’m overwhelmingly surprised by the so-called privacy paradox. Even though people express privacy concerns and fear identity theft, they still reveal their sensitive details online very easily. Why, in your opinion, is it so? Do you think people know enough about digital privacy, cybersecurity, and various online threats? And why is cybersecurity more important than ever?

Ariel Hochstadt: Today cybersecurity is more important than ever because we are more digital than ever. It starts with the essentials, like phones, tablets, computers, and extends all the way to technological milestones designed to improve our lives – smart homes, smart cities, you name it.

But do people know enough about online security and privacy? I’d say no. Honestly, you don’t even need to be an expert in the field to make your own reasonable conclusion – for example, how many friends or relatives do you have that still struggle with their phones or laptops? How many of them have asked you about this annoying pop-up or inappropriate notification that keeps appearing “out of nowhere”? That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What people need to realize is that their smallest, seemingly benign actions are potentially tracked and analyzed every second – including basic stuff like mouse clicks or touchscreen taps. These days, cybersecurity companies can determine if you’ve been hacked just by detecting the slightest change in your mouse movement. We use this knowledge to help people stay safe, but that’s not the case with hackers, identity thieves, and other groups with bad intentions. In general, I believe people don’t pay enough attention to their digital lives – at least not until it’s too late.

Daniel Markuson: One of the craziest scams I’ve heard about is the so-called sextortion scam. Mainly because it bears a strong resemblance to an episode of the popular sci-fi series Black Mirror. Even though the blackmail threats are completely fake, so far this scam has been remarkably effective. Some sources say that criminals have netted more than $4 million in Bitcoin payments in just three months. This number may be even higher now. Do you remember other impressive or crazy scams, hacks, or other incidents that happened lately?

Ariel Hochstadt: That’s a pretty tough question! There’ve been a lot of them this year in particular, but the craziest one for me has to be the US Geological Survey employee that indirectly put a nasty piece of malware on government networks. They’d watch porn on a work computer – I think the number of adult websites visited was around 9,000. This is crazy enough by itself, but what really boggles my mind is the apparent lack of any filters or effective security measures to prevent this from happening. If crucial government infrastructure can be affected by poor judgment and malware, just imagine what threats average users are exposed to on a daily basis.

Daniel Markuson: We had an impressive first few months of 2019. First, the news about the Collection 1 containing the login information of 770 million people. Then a shady hacker put up for sale nearly 620 million online accounts stolen from 16 popular websites – later adding a second batch of 127 million records. Reports about various data breaches are coming in every day. What, in your opinion, can we expect in the future? Will 2019 get any better and safer?

Ariel Hochstadt: I’m afraid things will get worse in 2019, and in my opinion, there will be three major reasons as to why. One, there will be an increase in the number of devices and amount of sensitive information (passwords, banking credentials, etc.) online, while the common threats will remain the same – something as simple as a phishing email is still considered the most effective start to a ransomware attack, for example. Two, a whole new sector – crypto – is rapidly growing. The types of malware directed at crypto have increased more than twice this year, and unless the whole market suddenly drops dead, more headaches are certain in the near future. Three, there’s a real chance of “hack fatigue,” in other words, many people are likely to become indifferent to data breaches, hacks, and leaks. Both 2017 and 2018 had their share of cybercrime news and serious scandals, and the combination of constant headlines and blatant sensationalism works wonders for people’s tolerance to cyber threats – not in a good way, though.

With that said, the recent surge in debates and discussions is definitely a step in the right direction. I firmly believe that VPN sales will continue to grow – especially in the mobile sphere, where there’s a lot of untapped potential. I can also see other security measures, like anti-virus programs, making a strong comeback. In general, my opinion is that people are looking to improve their privacy and security online, but demand has shifted towards simple, efficient solutions along with the ability to trust a reputable provider.

Daniel Markuson: Every single day you Google things, visit blogs, buy online, pay bills, or browse Facebook. However, browsing the internet is turning into more of a minefield. This means security takes (or at least, should take) a high priority for us all. What are your personal methods to stay safe online every day?

Ariel Hochstadt: It’s pretty common stuff, honestly! *laughs* I always use a VPN, particularly when I’m using public/unsecured networks. I keep my passwords organized and encrypted with the help of a manager app, and I run an anti-malware scan at least once a week. Sometimes, the simple solutions work best, but if there’s one piece of advice I’d like readers to take to heart, it’s this – be consistent and responsible. Don’t click mindlessly on links in suspicious emails, and definitely try to avoid apps and websites that bombard you with annoying ads. I believe that if you don’t have a game plan for staying safe on the internet in 2019, you aren’t doing the global web community any favors. Lastly, it may sound a little rich coming from someone who’s invested in the cybersec field and does this for a living, but I advise reading up on new cyber threats and relevant cybersecurity news – staying up to date with the situation can certainly help to prepare you for new risks online.

 

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NordVPN Enters the Canadian Market

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 16, 2019 by itnerd

NordVPN, one of the most advanced VPN services in the world, has partnered with London Drugs, a Canadian retail store chain. This marks a strategic decision to strengthen its market presence in Canada.

NordVPN is the first VPN service in Canada stocked at a traditional store. The retail boxes are also available on the London Drugs online store.

VPN stands for “virtual private network” – a service that encrypts one’s internet traffic and redirects it through a remote VPN server. It also replaces their IP address, keeping their location private. VPNs are used worldwide both for security and entertainment reasons. In a study of VPN usage around the world, GlobalWebIndex found that 25% of internet users had used a VPN in the past month and that 42% of them used a VPN daily.

NordVPN is a trusted online privacy and security solution, used by over 8 million internet users worldwide. It offers military-grade encryption with advanced privacy solutions and is recognized by the most influential tech sites and IT security specialists. NordVPN holds a significant market share in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and many European countries.

London Drugs Ltd. is a Canadian retail store chain that is focused on local customers’ satisfaction. Its primary focus is on pharmaceuticals, computers and electronics, housewares, cosmetics, as well as a selection of grocery items. The chain has 81 stores in more than 35 major markets throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba including its online store www.LondonDrugs.com. The NordVPN package can be purchased in all of its stores and online: LondonDrugs.com.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses The Fact That Canadians Rely On smartphones But Lack Awareness Of Threats

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 7, 2019 by itnerd

Google’s Consumer Barometer shows that for many people in Canada, internet access is smartphone-centric. 28% use smartphones more often than computers or tablets to connect to the internet. Moreover, a Global Web Index report shows that as many as 16% of the world’s online population are mobile-only. Relying on smartphones to go online is particularly popular in countries with younger populations.

“Unfortunately, few people realize that mobile devices are even better at spying on them than computers. Millions of apps make it easy to use smartphones not only for social interaction but also for payment or storing sensitive data. That means users are vulnerable to security breaches as well as personal hacking attacks, especially on public Wi-Fi,” said Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN.

Here are a few tips from NordVPN’s expert Daniel Markuson that can help protect your privacy while using a mobile phone:

  1. Recognize suspicious messages. Sometimes people tend to trust a text message more than an email. However, in reality, a “smishing” attack is as dangerous as an email phishing attack. It is usually a text message urging to click on a link. If you do, a malicious app may be installed on your smartphone, or you may be tricked into giving up your sensitive data. Make sure not to click any suspicious links in SMS or messenger apps and not to reply to messages that seem strange.
  2. Be vigilant when downloading apps. There are apps designed particularly to collect your data or install malware. Make sure to download apps directly from official app stores, such as Apple’s App Store, Android’s Play Store, or Amazon’s Appstore. Pay attention to any signs suggesting that the app may be fake. For instance, excessive permissions often mean that the app is not legitimate.
  3. Use a VPN app on your mobile phone. Many smartphone users tend to use public Wi-Fi hotspots. Unfortunately, these are especially unsafe. Whether you’re shopping online or sharing vacation photos on Wi-Fi, you should always use a VPN to keep your connection encrypted. For example, NordVPN’s apps for iOS and Android provide reliable encryption and user-friendly features.
  4. Keep your software and apps updated. Hackers usually exploit security weaknesses in operating systems and apps. That’s why system and app updates usually contain security patches, which are released to protect your smartphone from threats. For your own peace of mind, make sure never to skip software updates.
  5. Use your phone security settings. Install an anti-theft and recovery app that can locate your phone, lock it remotely, or even wipe your data if it gets stolen. Don’t forget to use passcodes to secure your phone. They should be more complicated than “1234” or the day of your birthday.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses Why Impulsive People Are More Likely To Get Hacked

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 9, 2019 by itnerd

A study from Michigan State University revealed that impulsive behavior online, like obsessive use of social media, shopping, and downloading music, is tied to a higher risk of falling victim to cybercrime. People with such characteristics are especially vulnerable around special calendar events and holidays.

“It seems that your personality is critical to your vulnerability to cybercrime. Various scammers and hackers use time, fear, and money to lure people into their net,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “If you notice an online deal that sounds too good to be true, don’t be impulsive and think twice. It might save you from losing your online identity, sensitive data, or money.”

According to the study, people who show “shortsightedness, negligence, physical versus verbal behavior and an inability to delay gratification” are at higher risk of hacking. This group is especially vulnerable when hackers disguise malware, viruses, or scams as a legitimate app, deal, or website.

The research has found that even though younger people, especially millennials, are perceived as more tech-savvy, some of them are more likely to fall victim to scammers. That is because they are more open about sharing personal information and tend to take more risks online.

“Last year, more than 1 billion people were affected by various data breaches. This year, a massive security breach has potentially exposed the private data of as many as 800 million people, making it one of the biggest leaks in the history,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “All this data is an invaluable resource to hackers who can now tailor sophisticated phishing or social engineering scams. It will certainly be used this year, and those who show impulsive behavior online are likely to suffer”

NordVPN’s digital privacy expert points out that different software protecting users from malware is not enough. Their behavior is just as important. “You can have the best antivirus, the best VPN, the best firewall, but if you provide your credit card details to a scammer, none of these will help you,” explains Daniel Markuson.

The self-control of nearly 6,000 respondents was evaluated during the research. Researchers measured how people would react in different situations involving digital behavior.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses Incognito Mode Online. It’s Not as Private as You Think

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 23, 2019 by itnerd

Many people use their browser’s incognito, or private, mode to browse the internet privately. However, this mode doesn’t actually make them as invisible as they think. All the browsing data can still be tracked with the help of users’ IP addresses.

“Private browsing mode makes sure your computer is not storing browsing data locally. This way, your searches, logins, or visited pages can’t be retrieved later. Yet that’s far from completely private,” explains Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “All your browsing data can still be tracked by your ISP, employer, websites you visit, or any other third party that can access your IP address.”

For example, if a user logs into their Amazon, Facebook, or any other online account, the private mode will not conceal their browsing data from these sites. “Chrome will start recording your cookies and history again if you sign into one of Google’s apps, making the whole incognito thing useless. Google, Apple, and Mozilla, developers of the most popular browsers worldwide with the private mode, are completely upfront about this in their privacy policies,” says Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN.

However, browsing incognito can be useful as well. It is especially handy if you plan to book flight tickets or hotel rooms. As a private browser window does not save cookies, travel websites cannot see that you have been interested in the specific dates before and hike up the prices accordingly. It is also a good tool if you share the same device with other people or when you are on a public computer.

 

How to browse privately

  • Choose another browser. Using one of the major browsers may seem like the most convenient choice for everyday online activities. While it is entirely possible to tweak Google Chrome, Safari or even Microsoft IE with plugins and advanced settings for security and privacy, these are far from their key features. You can choose a less known browser that provides more privacy online.
  • Choose a private search engine. There are a few search engines that respect your privacy. The most popular one, perhaps, is DuckDuckGo. It doesn’t use cookies, doesn’t store any personal identifiable information, and discards IP addresses from it server logs.
  • Use Tor for browsing. It’s a powerful privacy tool. It routes your traffic through a series of different nodes before connecting you to your online destination. This way, it becomes difficult to determine where you originally came from. However, Tor may slow down you internet speed considerably.
  • Start using a virtual private network. It replaces your IP address with that of a remote VPN server, so any online monitoring based on tracking your IP address fails. VPN also encrypts your traffic, hiding your browsing habits from your ISP, hackers, and other third parties. NordVPN is one of the most popular options.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses How To Fight The Proposed EU Meme Ban

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 13, 2019 by itnerd

meme

The EU is close to passing a copyright reform law to update its copyright legislation for the digital age. The final vote on the Copyright Directive is expected to take place in the European Parliament plenary between 25 and 28 March.

“In many respects, the reforms are necessary to protect the rights of content creators and artists. However, two poorly formulated articles are threatening to have a damaging effect on the freedom of expression online. Article 13 is the key piece for concerns in the proposal. Most importantly, the effect of the new Copyright Directive will not be limited to the EU, which is large enough to affect many websites around the world,” says Ruby Gonzalez, Head of Communication at NordVPN.

As the decision day in the EU Parliament is approaching, NordVPN joins millions of Europeans in opposing the new law. Since memes are one of the most popular forms of expression, which Article 13 puts at risk, NordVPN invites all internet users to express their opposition through memes. NordVPN promises to award the authors of the most popular entries with free 3-year subscriptions to its service.

“The EU Parliament will vote on laws that have the potential to chill free speech and creativity on the internet around the world. This is the last chance for the public to express how important the free and open internet is to us,” says Ruby Gonzalez, Head of Communication at NordVPN. “We support online freedom of speech and expression, and we oppose online censorship. The law should protect the rights of authors, but that should be accomplished without damaging free speech.”

How to oppose Article 13 with memes:

  • Create a meme about Article 13, expressing how it might affect your life or why you’re opposed to it;
  • Upload it to Twitter or Reddit. On Twitter, use the hashtag #NotMyEUdirective and tag @NordVPN. On Reddit, upload it to the sticky thread on the NordVPN subreddit.
  • On March 26th 12:00 PM GMT, 20 best meme authors (10 from Reddit and Twitter each) will be awarded free 3-year NordVPN subscriptions.

Find out more about the competition, as well as Article 13 and Article 11 from the Copyright Directive: https://nordvpn.com/blog/article-13-nordvpn-meme-contest/.

Public outcry around Article 13 reached a historical peak with almost 5 million Europeans signing a petition against it. Thousands have called, tweeted, and emailed their Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Additionally, several websites are planning to shut down on 21 March – the Internet blackout day. On 23 March, protests will be held all around Europe, with thousands expected to join.

Guest Post: NordVPN Explains How to Secure All Smart Home Devices Instantly

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 5, 2019 by itnerd

According to Statista, there are approximately 26.66 billion connected devices today, and this number is growing every day. However, almost all smart home appliances, such as a smart TV, fridge, or thermostat, can become an easy target for cybercriminals. Internet Security Threat Report showed a 600% increase in the number of IoT (internet of things) attacks between 2016 and 2017.

“Smart devices are becoming more and more common in many homes. Technically, it can be any device that has a sensor and can transmit data through the internet,” explains Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “Smart home devices include light bulbs, thermostats (like Nest), door locks, refrigerators, ovens, baby monitors, and other.”

However, according to NordVPN’s Daniel Markuson, IT professionals know very well that anything connected to the internet can be hacked. Sadly, the rush to get smart home appliances into the market makes security one of the weakest parts of this technology. There are a few examples already of internet-enabled TVs and even baby monitors being hacked.

“The good news is that you can use encryption to better protect all connected devices you have at home,” says Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “Setting up a virtual private network on your router will secure all network traffic, including IoT devices.”

A VPN connection on your router means protection against man-in-the-middle attacks and hackers trying to compromise your Wi-Fi network. VPN can also prevent home devices from participating in botnet attacks.

The downside is that setting up a VPN service on a router manually may be complicated and confusing. However, you can get a special app for that, like FlashRouters Privacy App, which works with NordVPN – one of the most advanced VPN services in the world.

With the FlashRouters Privacy App, a user can easily manage the VPN connection on their router remotely from desktop or mobile phone. “That means you can forget manual switching and worries about security once and for all. The Kill Switch technology will disconnect all your devices in case the VPN connection drops. This way, you can be sure that your sensitive data will not be exposed, not even for a brief moment,” says NordVPN’s digital privacy expert.

The application can be installed on any router running the latest DD-WRT firmware.