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Starting Your Year Securely

If you’re hearing security tips this time of year, it’s good to realize what you do and don’t have to do. You don’t have to change your passwords frequently, as it often leads to similar passwords. You are allowed to write down your passwords; just don’t put them near or on your computer. Two-factor authentication (2FA, or getting a one-time code to enter) is not as scary as you think and can be a vital addition to any online account or service that allows it. It is time to reconsider the value of a VPN, but it’s not really needed if all of your connections use a modern TLS/SSL web connection. Some situations still benefit from a VPN, such as accessing corporate networks or trying to get around geographic restrictions for content available in one country but not another (although VPN providers are often already blocked).

Location Tracking

In case you didn’t know, your cell phone carrier collects and uses your phone’s location activity to target ads. Turning off your location services isn’t the solution for this. Instead, you have to find your carrier’s marketing permissions online, usually as part of their privacy policy or settings. Denying these permissions should prevent your carrier from selling ads, usually delivered through SMS. This is separate from what each app can track, so you’ll want to review those settings too.

Inactive Accounts

You should log into every online account you have at least once a year—not to just keep up with your password list but to keep the account active. Some services delete inactive accounts, and it’s good to review recovery settings like alternate email or cell phone numbers in case you need to reset a password.

Longer Passwords

Microsoft engineers are finding that attackers only try to guess passwords with seven or fewer characters. This is another reason to use longer passwords or chain three or four words together (also known as a passphrase).

Android Messages

Google is trying to help iPhone Messages work better with its own Android Messages app. The company is translating iPhone Tapback (quick response) emojis to Android Messages emojis. They previously just used words.

Mac Prime Users

Mac users with Amazon Prime accounts can finally download movies when using their Amazon Prime Video app. This is great for traveling if you don’t have a signal or if your internet access is slow.

Locking Notes

Looking to keep your notes private? The Notes application in both macOS and iOS can lock specific notes, allowing you to keep certain data hidden from others. You must create a specific password, and then you can use TouchID or FaceID to unlock the note. Be aware that some types of attachments cannot be locked (for example, certain image file types, which may require conversion to the jpeg format).

Roku and YouTube

Roku users are regaining access to YouTube, as Google and Roku have resolved their differences. Hopefully, they stay friendly — who wants to buy another streaming device?

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