If you’ve ever signed up for an email newsletter or added your email address to a website’s mailing list, your emails from that sender are probably being tracked. Mailing services like MailChimp and Postmark automatically gather some information from the emails they send, such as whether the message was opened, if any links were clicked, and sometimes even what device was used or what time zone it was in.
Many websites use this information to keep their email lists up to date. When they see that someone hasn’t opened any emails from their site in a few months, they remove that email address from their mailing list. Marketing departments and sales teams may also use email tracking software to see when a prospective client has read their emails so that they can send a follow-up email soon after to encourage the sale.
Email tracking software works by including a small bit of code, often in a single-pixel image, in the body of the message. There may also be code included in the clickable links within the email. That code relays all that information back to the sender so that they know who has been interacting with their emails or ignoring them.
If you’d prefer not to let your email-viewing habits get out, don’t worry! There are ways to block these email trackers. The easiest way is to go into your account settings and set your account to ask before displaying images or external content. This will block any hidden images that contain tracking code, but you can still allow images for the emails you choose on a case-by-case basis. Another way to block email tracking software is to use a browser extension, such as Ugly Email. Ugly Email is an extension for Firefox and Chrome which blocks many of the most common trackers. It marks tracked emails with an eyeball icon next to the subject line in your inbox to warn you, but it also blocks the tracking software when you open the message, so your privacy is protected.
Email trackers have been around almost as long as email newsletters, and most senders don’t use them maliciously. Trying to avoid all tracked emails is probably impossible, but you have every right to protect your privacy with all the tools available to you.
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Streaming video has become the primary online activity for many people. Whether you’ve cut the cord on your cable or you just really love Netflix and cute cat videos, odds are that you stream a lot of video over your Internet connection. How can you make sure you’re getting the best streaming experience possible?
Check your speed
Make sure you have enough speed for the service you’re using. Netflix recommends 3 Mbps for SD, 5 Mbps for HD, and 25 Mbps for Ultra HD. SlingTV requires the same numbers for mobile devices, single stream to a computer or tv, and multiple devices, respectively. YouTube’s minimums are 2.5 Mbps for 720p, 4 Mbps for 1080p, and 15 Mbps for 4k Ultra HD. Hulu has the lowest bandwidth requirements at 1.5 Mbps for SD, 3 Mbps for 720p, 6 Mbps for 1080p, and 13 Mbps for 4k Ultra HD.
Check your settings
Adjust your playback settings to match your bandwidth speed and limit your data usage. In a Netflix account, these settings can be set for each profile separately under My Profile. For SlingTV, playback settings have to be set on each device by going to Settings, and then Connection. YouTube playback can be changed on mobile devices to limit mobile data under Settings. Hulu has not released any information about changing playback settings.
Use common sense
Remember a few things:
- Your stream can only be as good as your hardware. If you don’t have an HD TV, you won’t get any benefit from streaming in HD, so don’t bother using all that bandwidth and data.
- Using multiple devices at once changes your available bandwidth speed. If your Internet connection is 25 Mbps and 2 people are streaming on separate devices, both streams are getting about 12.5 Mbps.
- If your Internet connection has a data limit, even a high one, it pays to keep track of it. Most ISP’s that use data limits offer alerts by email or text at certain milestones like 50%, 75%, or 90%.
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We have more devices than ever and all those devices need an Internet connection. How can you make the most of your bandwidth and home network? Read on for a few helpful tips.
The best place for a router is in a central part of your home, so it can cover the most area with good strong signal. The farther away you are, the weaker your signal will be, so try not to put your router at one end of the house. If you have a large home, a repeater can increase the range of your router’s signal. Also, remember that rooms like kitchens and bathrooms, which have a lot of metal pipes and insulation in the walls, can cause more signal degradation than other rooms.
Check Your Speed Wisely
It’s always a good idea to know what kind of bandwidth speed you’re getting. To get the most accurate results, it’s best to use a third-party testing site like speedtest.net or speakeasy.net. Make sure that no other devices are using your connection, including smart tv’s or streaming devices, and use an ethernet connection if possible. A wireless device might show different results depending on what frequency it uses, so you might see one result on your laptop and another on your phone.
Add or Reset a Password
Just to make sure that you don’t have any freeloaders on your wireless network, it’s a good idea to keep it locked by a password and change that password periodically. This isn’t something you have to do often, just a couple of times a year in case someone in the house gave out the password to a few friends too many.
If your router is more than about five years old and causing connection issues, it might be time to consider replacing it. Upgrading to a newer router can give you more security as well as more wireless frequencies to choose from which can then give you better speeds on some wireless devices.
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It’s that time of year again! The holiday season is upon us and more people than ever will be shopping online in the coming weeks. But with several security breaches in the news in the last couple of years, the privacy of your sensitive data should be a top concern as you go about your holiday shopping. Here are a few tips to help you keep your information secure.
- Verify your site
Make sure you’re shopping a reputable site. Look for a padlock icon or “https” at the beginning of the URL to ensure the site is encrypted. Double check the URL before you enter any payment information, just to be sure you didn’t get redirected to a shady site.
- Pay securely
Using your debit card can risk your entire bank balance if someone gets their hands on it. Consider using a credit card, which will give you more resources in case of fraudulent charges and protect your bank account at the same time. Another great and widely accepted option is Paypal, which offers secure payments and good resolution procedures.
- Be smart
A little common sense can go a long way when it comes to keeping your data secure. Avoid using public wi-fi networks and stick to reputable sites instead of following the lowest price into corners of the Internet where you might not venture otherwise.
- Keep your eyes open
Check your account statements weekly until at least the end of January. If any fraudulent charges appear, you’ll be able to handle it quickly and limit its effects. After January, make sure to check your statements at least once a month as a best practice.
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We’ve all become very aware of privacy concerns and the need to protect our information online in recent years. We’ve learned to create stronger passwords, to ignore phishing scam emails, and to clear our browsing history regularly. But there’s another layer to online privacy that you may not have thought of yet: your search history. If you’ve ever noticed that after you’ve searched for some product you suddenly see ads for that product or similar things on every page you visit, you know what this is about. Every time you Google anything, that information is collected and used to target advertising from various retailers, among other things.
That thought may be discomforting, but don’t worry! According to a tutorial from The Next Web, there are two ways that you can clear your Google search history.
1. Go to myactivity.google.com and make sure you’re signed in with your Google account.
2. Choose “Delete activity by” from the left-hand sidebar.
3. In the form provided, first choose your date range, then go to the drop-down menu labeled “All Products” and choose “search”.
4. Click “delete”.
You can also delete your search history directly from the Google search page.
1. Go to the Google homepage while you’re logged into your Google account.
2. Click on “Settings”, then “Your data in search”.
3. Choose either to review your search history, delete your search history from the last hour, or delete all your search history all the way back to 2005.
Deleting your search history will keep you from getting so many search-based ads and prevent Google from building a profile of you for targeted advertising. It’s just another way to keep your information and activity private, which is more important than ever as so much of our lives happen online.
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We all know the importance of keeping your passwords secure and changing them regularly. We also know that you shouldn’t use the same password for multiple sites, but with every website requiring a login, using a different password for everything can seem impossible. Unfortunately, more and more, it seems to be a question of when a site may be breached, rather than if it will be. So how can you know if your passwords have been compromised?
Mozilla has recently launched a new service called Firefox Monitor. All you need to do is enter your email address and it will check for possible breaches using the trusted Have I Been Pwned database. You can also sign up for notifications in case your email address ever turns up in the future. In addition, Firefox users will receive notifications when they visit a site that has been breached in the past.
An important feature of this service is the fact that your email address is not shared even with the Monitor’s partner database. Each request is encrypted on Firefox’s side, and only part of the encrypted entry is sent. HIBP replies with all its entries that include that part, and then Firefox matches up those responses to your information. Nothing ever passes through any third parties. For a more in depth look at this new service, check out this report at Engadget.
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During the last evolution in web browsers, one of the greatest innovations was the arrival of “private browsing”. Some programs called it a “private window”, others named it “Incognito Mode”, but the gist was the same all over: use this new form of browsing and no one would be able to track your online movements!
Unfortunately, like most anything that seems too good to be true, that isn’t quite how it works.
Private or Incognito browsing does essentially one thing: it prevents your browsing history from being stored. You can accomplish the same thing yourself by clearing your browsing history every time you close your web browser, but let’s be honest, nobody would remember to do that every time, and that’s why private browsing was invented.
Private browsing is great for some things. It’s a great option if someone borrows your computer; in private mode, your browser won’t automatically bring up your email or social media accounts, so there’s no awkward signing out before they see something. It’s also a great idea for any sites you don’t want other people stumbling on; secret engagement rings or anniversary gifts can’t be snooped from private mode.
However, you cannot use private browsing to look for a new job on your company’s network and expect it to stay a secret. Private browsing only affects the individual computer you’re using. If your company monitors their network traffic, they can see exactly where you go online and what you do, even if that private window doesn’t store the history on your machine. If you’re at home, your own ISP can also see what sites you visit and where you click, despite that “incognito mode” window.
Private browsing is useful for using a shared or public computer, but it doesn’t hide everything. Use common sense when it comes to your privacy and security.
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We’ve all grown so used to information at our fingertips that it can be disorienting when we try to pull up a website only to be greeted with an error message. Is it our Internet connection? Is the site down? Has the site disappeared from the Internet? Who knows?
Don’t worry. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common error messages you might find.
1. HTTP Error 404 – Not Found
This is probably the most common error message you’ll see, and it means that the page you’re looking for just isn’t there. This could be a glitch in the website, or the page may have been permanently removed from the Internet. No need to worry about your connection if you can still reach other sites.
2. HTTP Error 400 – Bad Request
Another common error message, this one means that your request for the webpage didn’t make sense somehow. Check your typing for mistakes, and maybe check your Internet connection just to make sure you can reach other sites.
3. HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden
This one is a bit less common, but you may find it occasionally if you click on a part of a site that isn’t supposed to be open to the public. It’s not dangerous – it won’t give you a virus or malware – it’s just telling you that you can’t go through that particular door.
4. HTTP Error 401 – Unauthorized
Again, this doesn’t mean anything dangerous. This error means that you don’t have the right login credentials (or you’ve tried several times and now you’re locked out).
5. HTTP Error 500 – Internal Server Error
This error always means the problem is on the website’s side, not yours. The site’s server is overwhelmed, or misconfigured, or down for maintenance, or something else. No need to worry, just try again later.
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If you’ve recently been spring cleaning, why not add your laptop to the list before you stop for the summer? Studies have shown that keyboards can house as many germs as a toilet seat, while trackpads can be as germ-ridden as paper money. But how do you safely clean such an expensive and sensitive device?
First, make sure everything is turned off and unplugged. Disconnect any externals, like a mouse, separate keyboard, or speakers.
Let’s start with the outside of your laptop. Using a very diluted solution of water and dish soap, wipe down the exterior of your laptop with a damp sponge or cloth. Make sure you wring it out well and use as little water as possible! Then go back over everything with a dry microfiber cloth to make sure you leave no moisture behind.
Next, you’ll want to clean your screen. Because it’s more delicate, start with a dry microfiber cloth. If that doesn’t do the trick, dampen the cloth with water only. If that still isn’t enough, try that diluted soap solution, or you can buy commercial screen wipes. Again, keep everything as dry as possible, and follow with a dry cloth.
Now for the keyboard. Here you won’t use any water at all. First, use a vacuum brush or a can of compressed air to remove debris and dust, tilting your keyboard to get the most crumbs, etc. to fall out. Then, dampen a cloth with rubbing alcohol, which evaporates faster than water, and wipe down the whole thing. You can use cotton swabs and alcohol to get into any small areas, but don’t get anything into the keys. Remember – keep it dry!
Lastly, clean the trackpad with a damp cloth. You can use alcohol or water, whichever works best for you to break up the accumulated oils. Follow with a dry microfiber cloth, and enjoy your sparkling clean laptop!
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We all have to keep so many passwords these days, it’s little wonder we tend to default to simple, easy-to-remember terms. Unfortunately, this is what makes so many passwords vulnerable. Every year, lists of frequently compromised passwords are put out, and more people find that their favorite passwords are neither as secure nor as unique as they thought.
According to a list of the worst passwords of 2017, the top 50 weakest passwords included some interesting terms. There were, of course, usual culprits like 12345678, password, letmein, login, and welcome, all in the top 15. Starting in 16th place, however, things got more fun with starwars, and dragon came in at number 18, showing that even geeky fandoms don’t necessarily make for strong passwords.
In spots 20 through 25, we found master, freedom, and trustno1, which would seem to indicate that even patriotism is fairly easily hacked. After that, the list goes into a series of names: robert, daniel, andrea, matthew, and several others, including joshua, which is likely used frequently as a reference to the movie War Games. A bit further on, the list goes into cars, sports, city names, and even a few profanities.
The surest way to create a strong password is to use a phrase instead of a single word, because the more characters involved, the harder it is to hack. And make sure to use numbers and special characters in your passwords, as well. Password managers are a great way to make sure all your passwords are strong, without the stress of having to remember them. It’s worth it to keep your personal data safe.
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