It’s no surprise that with technology changing almost every single day, a lot of people have a difficult time keeping up with tech. Technology has the superb ability to amaze and baffle us at the same time. Whether you’re the tech-savvy friend that’s always answering these questions, or the one having difficulties figuring out the answer, here are the answers to 10 of your questions about tech.
1. Is it actually that important to change my password often?
The answer to this one is simple: yes. Changing your password regularly limits account breachers, prevents leaks, and protects your private information. Whether it’s your email, social media, online bill pay or online banking software, changing your password regularly helps protect you from unwanted scams, hacks, and potential data loss. We know that it can be inconvenient to consistently change your password, and to keep track of new passwords, but if it prevents your sensitive info from getting out into the world, it’s worth it!
Your computer stores and provides access to a lot of sensitive and important data. Keeping this data and all of your accounts safe should be one of your top tech priorities. One security tip often given to users is to regularly change passwords. According to Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 80% of all cyber security attacks involve a weak or stolen password. Changing your password regularly reduces your risk of exposure and avoids a number of dangers.
Some benefits of changing your passwords regularly include the limiting of breaches to multiple accounts, prevention of a hacker having constant access, prevention of the use of saved passwords, and the limiting of access gained by keystroke loggers (the use of surveillance technology to record keystrokes).
Credential stealing is more and more common, and is prevalent throughout the world. Help keep your credentials safe by changing your passwords on a regular basis.
2. What is the Cloud, and how does it work?
When you hear that your data or photos are stored on the cloud, tech professionals aren’t referring to the white clouds in the sky. Instead, they’re referring to software run on the internet, rather than your computer, that hosts data. Some of the most popular Cloud services include Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive. The benefits of storing your files on the cloud allow for easy access across all devices – as long as you have access to the internet.
The Cloud refers to servers that are accessed over the Internet, and the software and databases that run on those servers. Cloud servers are located in data centers all over the world. By using cloud computing, users and companies don’t have to manage physical servers themselves or run software applications on their own machines. The cloud enables users to access the same files and applications from almost any device, because the computing and storage takes place on servers in a data center, instead of locally on the user device.
For businesses, switching to cloud computing removes some IT costs. For example, the business will no longer need to update and maintain their own servers, since their cloud vendor that they are using does all of that for them. This especially makes an impact for small businesses that may not have been able to afford their own internal infrastructure, but can easily outsource their infrastructure needs affordably by using the cloud. The cloud can also make it easier for companies to operate internationally, because employees and customers can access the same files and applications from any location.
3. How can I protect my privacy online?
We’ve all heard people say that “if it’s on the internet, it’s not private.” Although this can be true… it doesn’t have to be entirely. There are several ways to ensure that your privacy across digital platforms and services are secure, as long as you are smart and diligent about it. You should still be concerned, unfortunately. Not everybody is interested in your things and knows how to access them, but somebody out there might be.
Not a lot of users know or care about their digital footprints. Or if they do, they don’t usually know particular circumstances wherein personal data could be at risk. To be diligent, simply don’t put out all of your personal/business info online. Identity theft remains one of the most serious issues in today’s internet era. Sharing every little thing about yourself on different platforms can make you extremely vulnerable to cybercrime. Don’t use the same password for all of the websites you use. Having the same one will allow hackers to juice out all your info with ease. Also, follow our answer to question number 1, and change your passwords every one in a while. If you want to be extra careful and you have the capabilities, you can use a VPN to stay safe. When it comes to your money, utilize app security, keep the important numbers/info to yourself, and don’t carelessly click on hyperlinks from untrusted emails.
Keep safe on social media is a huge issue that many people have gotten scammed from. Here are tips for staying safe on social media:
Use a strong password. The longer it is, the more secure it will be.
Use a different password for each of your social media accounts.
Set up your security answers. This option is available for most social media sites.
If you have social media apps on your phone, be sure to password protect your device.
Be selective with friend requests. If you don’t know the person, don’t accept their request. It could be a fake account.
Click links with caution. Social media accounts are regularly hacked. Look out for language or content that does not sound like something your friend would post.
Be careful about what you share. Don’t reveal sensitive personal information such as your home address, financial information, phone number. The more you post the easier it is to have your identity stolen.
Become familiar with the privacy policies of the social media channels you use and customize your privacy settings to control who sees what.
Protect your computer by installing antivirus software to safeguard. Also ensure that your browser, operating system, and software are kept up to date.
Remember to log off when you’re done.
4. What is Malware and what does it do?
Malware (malicious software) is the umbrella term used to identify viruses, Trojans, spyware, adware, and any other malicious programs that are widespread across the web. If you’ve encountered viruses before, then you’re already familiar with their effects. Other types of malware, however, can cause various impacts or damage. Being well-informed on different types of malware and what they do to your computer can help you avoid the daunting effects.
Trojans appear as normal apps but usually run underground codes that can allow someone else to monitor you or take over your PC. Viruses work like real-life ones – disabling functions or tasks. They spread the fastest through USB or thumb drives. Adware is short for “advertising-supported software” which automatically plasters unsolicited ads in browsers and websites. Most adware is sponsored or designed by advertisers to generate revenue. Ransomware is the type that basically holds the computer captive until the demanded ransom is given. All administrative access is restricted. This is often regarded as one of the more serious forms since it demands real payment. It can be acquired just like normal viruses, either via downloaded files, network vulnerabilities, or installed programs. Spyware functions by stealth, mainly spying on user activity. Spying can include data harvesting, keystroke collecting, and software or settings modification. Like ransomware, it’s serious and should not be underestimated. Rootkit gains remote access or control over a computer without being detected. Worms are the most common malware type. They typically exploit OS vulnerabilities and cause damage by overloading servers and consuming bandwidth.
The most certain way you can protect your computer against malware is to arm it with an anti-malware program. You can choose free versions or gain some added security by purchasing premium programs. Be careful with your internet use as well — don’t visit sites that are not secure, or sites that you don’t trust. Don’t download from sketchy sources, and don’t click on just about anything without a thought or two.
5. How should I care for my laptop battery?
When you are working on the go or have one of those days where you’re in a hurry and forget your charger, your laptop’s battery life can make or break your workday. Even the most expensive and efficient laptops are going to run out of battery life at some point. Before you panic, take a moment and learn how to properly care for your laptop’s battery to extend its life.
Laptop batteries are built to handle a certain number of charge cycles, usually somewhere around 500 full cycles — and sometimes even more. Essentially, a charge cycle equals one full discharge down to zero percent and then a recharge back up to 100 percent. A discharge down to 50 percent and then back to 100 percent would equal half a cycle. Over time, each charge cycle decreases a battery’s capacity from its design specifications, meaning that the fewer times you drain it, the longer the battery lasts — all other things being equal.
So, where do you start when it comes to protecting your battery’s life? You can begin by visiting the power settings corner of your laptop and learning how your battery works, and what battery settings to enable. Also, pay attention to hibernation modes. Ideally, you want your laptop to enter into hibernation before the battery is totally drained — as well as during downtime when you won’t be using the laptop for a while.
To save even more power, take a tour of your apps and quit any that are running in the background and steadily eating into your battery life. On Windows 10, for example, we suggest you search for and enable the Battery Saver. This mode will automatically turn on when your laptop reaches around 20% battery life. This will automatically block background apps, keep your features like Calendar from syncing or pushing notifications, lower screen brightness, and other various changes that will conserve your battery so you can get to an outlet ASAP.
For MacBooks, look into enabling Power Nap so you can put your Mac to sleep without worrying about it skipping important tasks, allowing you to save more battery life. Enabling automatic graphics switching can also help Macs save energy by switching to a lower graphics mode when engaged in simple tasks.
There are plenty of manual changes you can make here, too. Cloud storage services or video players that you aren’t using can be safely shut down, too. You can also manually reduce the amount of power you’re using by shutting off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you’re not using them, turning off optional features such as keyboard backlight, and generally reducing the number of components burning power. Both Microsoft and Apple have guides explaining the process further.
6. Is there a problem with using public Wi-Fi?
Most of us put a lot of effort into finding free Wi-Fi, but public Wi-Fi networks have their own share of problems — particularly that they tend to be very insecure. Even if a Wi-Fi network has a password, your data is still at risk. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to stay safe: make sure sharing is turned off, use HTTPS whenever possible, and run your traffic through a VPN. Follow this guide for the details, and you should be a-okay.
First, let’s start by talking about what settings and apps can keep you safe. Make sure these are enabled anytime you’re on public Wi-Fi, whether it’s password protected or not. If other people you don’t know are on the same network, you want to protect yourself. When you’re at home, you may share files, printers, or even allow remote login from other computers on your network. When you’re on a public network, you’ll want to turn these things off, as anyone can access them — they don’t even need to be a hacker, and depending on your setup, some of that stuff probably isn’t even password protected. Here’s how to turn off sharing:
In OS X: Go to System Preferences > Sharing and make sure all the boxes are unchecked.
You’ll also want to turn off network discovery, which will be in the same place. This will prevent others from even seeing your machine on the network, meaning you’re less likely to be targeted. On OS X, it will be called “stealth mode” and be under your firewall’s advanced settings.
In Windows: Open your Control Panel, then browse to Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center, then click Choose Change Advanced Sharing Settings. Once here, you should definitely turn off file and printer sharing, and you may as well turn off network discovery and Public folder sharing.
When using a shared network, use HTTPS and SSL whenever possible. Regular web site connections over HTTP exchange lots of plain text over the wireless network you’re connected to, and someone with the right skills and bad intent can sniff out that traffic very easily. It’s not that big of a deal when the text is some search terms you entered on a website, but it is a big deal when it’s the password to your email account. Using HTTPS (for visiting web sites) or enabling SSL (when using applications that access the internet, such as an email client) encrypts the data passed back and forth between your computer and that web server and keep it away from prying eyes.
Many sites, including Facebook and Gmail, will do it automatically, but keep an eye on the address bar and make sure the “s” in “https” is always there when you’re exchanging sensitive information. If it disappears, you should log out immediately. Other sites will default to HTTP connections, but support HTTPS if you manually type it in.
You can also consider using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. Unfortunately, not all sites offer SSL encryption. Other search engines and email providers may still be vulnerable to people watching your activity, so if you use one of these sites frequently (or really just want the extra protection), you may want to try using a VPN. These services let you route all your activity through a separate secure, private network, thus giving you the security of a private network even though you’re on a public one.
7. Do I really need antivirus software on my computer?
Do you really need PC antivirus software in 2020? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Computer security has progressed throughout the years, with built in software and settings to keep your info safes. They are quite the virus-ridden boxes that they used to be. (Thanks a lot, LimeWire). But that doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there creating malicious programs with the intent to steal your info, or just create havoc.
You might think that you’re careful when you’re online, visiting reputable sites and downloading from official sources like the Windows Store, or iTunes. The truth is, you’re never truly careful if you’re going online completely unprotected. Downloading antivirus software is like using a helmet. You might not always need it, but when you do need it, it’ll save you a lot of ache. The people coding viruses and malware know exactly how to get it out to the wider world. That’s why it still exists. The good news is that if you’re using Windows 10, and everything is up to date, you already have a solid, free tool built in that will keep an eye on things in the background.
When buying antivirus software, which route you take and which software you use is ultimately your decision. Buying antivirus software is a confusing process sometimes. With so many different options out there, it can be tricky to know what antivirus is right for you and whether you need the most expensive package out there or if you’re good to go with something a little more inexpensive.
Like any buying purchase, the key to picking the right antivirus software is to consider a few personal and individual factors to your situation. While some antivirus software is perfect for most users, it’s still worth taking the time to think about precisely what you need from it before you make a purchase. We’ve broken down some of the critical factors on finding the ideal antivirus package for you so that you won’t waste your hard-earned cash or time on something inappropriate for your needs.
8. How can I make sure my data is secure when disposing of an old computer?
If you have an old computer laying around that you want to get rid of, you shouldn’t just throw it away. Not only to computers house different kinds of toxins that are bad for the environment, but they also house a lot of personal information — passwords, account numbers, license keys or registration numbers for software programs, addresses and phone numbers, medical and prescription information, tax returns and other personal documents — that you would rather not fall into the wrong hands.
However you plan to dispose of your computer, you need to do several things if you don’t want a stranger to access your data. Save your important files by backing them up or transferring them to a new computer. The least consuming way to do this is to invest in an external hard drive, or to use Cloud services like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. After backing up your files in the cloud, you can easily transfer them to a new machine or access them anywhere you have an internet connection, even from your smartphone. Cloud storage also comes in handy if your computer dies and you need to restore your files or you’re traveling and need access to data on a different device.
Wipe your hard drive clean instead of simply deleting the files. Even if a file name doesn’t show up on the list of available files, the old file data is still there until it is overwritten and hackers can use a data recovery program to retrieve it.
Here’s an outline on how to do it:
Delete and overwrite sensitive files. If you have tax documents and other sensitive files, make sure you delete these files with specialized software designed to meet government standards for secure deletion. For Windows computers with hard drives try a program like File Shredder (free). For older Mac computers with hard drives you can use the Secure Empty Trash option after deleting your files. You can find it under Finder > Secure Empty Trash. For Macs with OS 10.11 and higher and Windows computers with SSD drives, you’ll need to encrypt your drive. When you wipe your drive at the end of these steps, you’ll be securely erasing all of your files.
Turn on drive encryption. For Windows PCs with SSD drives go to Settings > About. Toward the bottom, you’ll see either an option for Drive Encryption or Bitlocker Settings. Follow the prompts to encrypt your drive. For Macs, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault and select Turn On FileVault. You’ll then select a password and select Restart.
Deauthorize your computer. Some programs, such as iTunes and Microsoft Office 365, only allow you to install software on a limited number of computers or allow a limited number of computers to access your files. So be sure to deauthorize your old computer with your accounts – before uninstalled your programs.
Delete your browsing history. Most browsers save information about your browsing history and, depending on your settings, can even store your user names and passwords various sites. Obviously, you don’t want a stranger having access to this information. For Edge, you click on the triple dots in the upper right corner to open the browser menu, then on Settings > Privacy & security and then select “choose what to clear.” Make sure all of the check boxes are selected so everything gets removed. Repeat this for any other browsers on your computer — Firefox, Safari, Chrome. For Firefox and Chrome, you’ll want to first sign out of your browser if you’re signed in.
Uninstall your programs. Some programs, such as Microsoft Office, may contain personal information such as your name and address or other details. So be sure to uninstall any programs before disposing of your computer.
Consult your employer about data disposal policies. If you use your computer for business purposes, check with your employer about how to manage business-related information on your computer. The law requires businesses to follow data security and disposal requirements for certain information that’s related to customers.
And finally, to avoid all those nasty toxins ending up in a landfill, the best choices to dispose of your computer is to recycle, donate, trade-in or sell it.
9. What is the benefit of buying a headset if my laptop already has a speaker and mic?
Communication is one of the most important aspects of doing business, with an increasing number of employees beginning to spend more and more time on the phone. Especially with an increase of video conferences, important virtual meetings, and daily calls working remotely, it’s important to have full productivity and clear sound.
The three main advantages of investing in a good headset are increased productivity, increased quality, and increased mobility. Headsets can offer a highly attractive solution for organizations, bringing enhanced levels of productivity and morale within the workplace.
Improving productivity, or keeping up productivity while working remotely, has become a very pressing concern for companies recently. Headsets can play a key role in this. Recent studies have suggested that by using a headset, the hands of employees are free to focus on other tasks, pushing up productivity by as much as 43%.
While regular headsets enable you to keep your hands free, the use of a wireless option means that users have the capability to leave their desks and move around during calls. Headsets also eliminate the need to hold a phone to one ear, which can often lead to poor posture and back pain.
While headsets can improve productivity, they also ensure better call quality. Wearing a headset means the microphone stays in the same position, no matter how much the users move their head. This means the voice quality and volume stays constant. A lot of headsets even offer a microphone with noise-cancelling technology, allowing for companies to offer a great service even if they happen to be in a noisy environment. Though your laptop may have a built-in mic and speaker, a lot of times they are the best quality, and almost all of them do not have noise cancelling technology. In the world of remote work, this is an especially attractive quality!
Working the go and working remotely has become essential for many businesses, which often have to make sure they have the right equipment in order to keep up with competitors.
10. When should I start introducing my kids to different technologies?
In our modern, tech-infused society, it seems like children are practically born with a smartphone in their hands. How many of us have seen toddlers sitting in their strollers casually tapping and swiping on their parents’ digital devices like pros? Let’s face it: tech is here to stay, and parents are responsible for deciding how and when to introduce their kiddos to it.
Although it ultimately depends on your parenting style and personal preferences, you can look to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as a guide. They recommend that children not be exposed to any technology before two years of age. There are countless articles regarding the harmful effects of exposing children to technology at very young ages. However, the AAP acknowledges that not all tech is detrimental; an example is video chat. Using an iPad for FaceTime, for example, is a fantastic way for children to keep in touch with out-of-state family members or deployed parents.
If you do choose to introduce your child to technology at an earlier age, the AAP suggests to keep it to only high-quality, educational programming, and to watch with them to help them understand what they’re seeing. Resist the urge to use tech as a babysitter.
For preschool children (ages 2-5), consider limiting their screen time usage to an hour a day maximum. Again, make sure that you’re watching along with your child so you can guide them as they process the information they’re absorbing.
Once your child hits elementary school age (ages 6-10), you may consider allowing a little more screen time. Since this is around the time kids tend to become more attached (possibly even obsessed) to tech, it’s crucial to set some ground rules before patterns become embedded. Many families create a “tech contract” to make it easier for children to know what’s expected of them, and the consequences for breaking the rules. Keep in mind however, that elementary school is also the time when kids start using tech in the classroom. Many schools provide students with laptops or tablets, which they are sometimes allowed to bring home. Therefore, school/homework tech time will need to be navigated alongside fun tech time.
Kids’ online safety becomes very important the more time they spend on digital devices. Teach your children:
Not to give out personal or private information
Don’t participate in any “trolling” or bullying activities
Be aware of any potential predators.
You can also choose to download a variety of free mobile apps and software that allow you to filter out inappropriate content and keep track of your child’s online activity.
It’s no surprise that during the tween and teen years, kids’ tech use increases dramatically. Some may even have their own digital devices at this point. The average age for a child getting their first smartphone is now 10 years old. 39% of kids get a social media account at 11 years old. Responsible tech use by children at this age is more important than ever. Continue with the family technology contract, but you may need to add new sections such as no texting while driving, or not sending compromising photos/videos of themselves to other people.