5 hacker-proof tactics for travelers

It’s the happiest time of the year. It’s also the busiest time of the year. Your life is full of distractions, especially if you’re on the road, or stuck in airports, or browsing shopping malls only a few days before Christmas. Your relatives are waiting for you in a distant city, and you’re anxious about … Continue reading “5 hacker-proof tactics for travelers”

It’s the happiest time of the year. It’s also the busiest time of the year. Your life is full of distractions, especially if you’re on the road, or stuck in airports, or browsing shopping malls only a few days before Christmas. Your relatives are waiting for you in a distant city, and you’re anxious about the weather, flight delays, gifts, meal planning, parties, pet-sitters—

Then, out of nowhere, your email is hacked. Your bank account is empty. Someone is impersonating you on social media. You have no idea how this happened. The culprit? Someone you didn’t even see.

You have to be smarter than the hackers. Let’s start with your money. Tap or click here for five critical settings so hackers can’t access your bank accounts.

Hackers are also getting very innovative about how they steal cars. Before you leave your car in the driveway to thwart off the burglars, think like a hacker. Tap or click here for seven clever ways hackers are stealing cars right from under their owner’s nose.

To protect yourself from these clandestine attacks, take a few extra precautions this holiday season.

1. Use the right type of connection

A virtual private network, or VPN, is a powerful tool to protect your online privacy and security. Not only does it conceal the IP address of your computer and keep you anonymous, but it also encrypts the information. So if you’re connected to free public Wi-Fi, let’s say at the airport, the VPN encryption will prevent would-be digital thieves from intercepting your online traffic.

Not sure how a VPN works? Tap or click here to learn all about it, and set up your own personal VPN.

2. Just assume you’re being watched

It’s so convenient, being able to connect to free public Wi-Fi when you’re away from home or the office, right? Sure, but it’s also risky. When you’re on public Wi-Fi, a good rule of thumb is always assume your online activity is being watched. Again, this is why a VPN is essential for your computer – and so is antivirus software. That goes for your smartphone and tablet, too.

Without any protection, jumping on free Wi-Fi can expose your online activity, or worse. Information can be taken from your device, while malware can be added.

Make sure also to verify the legitimacy of public networks. Hackers love to set up fake connections, so be wary of any generic naming conventions, like “bookstore” or “airport Wi-Fi” that can lead you to believe you’re connecting to the real deal. If you’re not sure, head to the source and ask.

Related: Stay on top of the tech news with our Tech News Podcasts. We will get you up to date every day, in just 15 minutes or less. Find it in your favorite podcast app or click here to subscribe now.

Visit encrypted sites, whenever possible. Websites that begin with https:// is an indication that any data going back and forth from the site is encrypted.

3. Don’t charge up at any outlet you see

By now, you probably see a pattern. Anything with the word “public” that involves your digital data should bring you to pause. That also goes for free public charging stations, which are becoming more and more common, especially in airport terminals. You may have also seen these stations at a hotel, or in the mall. You may even find a charging station inside the plane.

But remember that the cord you use to charge your phone is also a data transfer cable, and those public USB ports could be compromised. Just plugging your phone or tablet into a hacked port could put everything on your device at risk by way of a hacker method called “juice-jacking” or using AT commands.

To avoid the risk, bring your charging cable along with your AC adapter and look for a standard wall outlet. But if a USB port is your only option, at least power down your device to reduce the risk.

4. Disable what you don’t need

If you’re not using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, disable those wireless connections – especially in crowded places. Keeping Wi-Fi active could allow a hacker access to information regarding networks you’ve connected to previously, then set up a fake version with the same name. This could cause your computer, phone or tablet to connect automatically, opening the door to digital theft or attacks. Bluetooth can be vulnerable as well, for example, the BlueBorne attack researchers discovered last year.

This one is less likely, but with the right equipment, someone could spoof GPS signals to your phone and use fake maps, sending you wherever they choose. Now, of course, you wouldn’t be fooled in familiar territory. In a city you don’t know very well, it could present a real problem.

5. Watch where you leave data behind

Suppose you make it through the airport after following the steps above and now you’re heading out to your rental car. You get in and find that it has a full-fledged infotainment system that’s just asking you to connect your phone. No harm there, right? Not if you remember to check things out before returning the car.

The moment you plug your cable into the USB port or connect via Bluetooth, the vehicle has access to a large amount of info stored on your phone. It wants to sync with your phone o it’ll continue to recognize and connect any time you return to the car. For added convenience, it will most likely prompt you to upload your contacts, possibly even call logs and text messages. But don’t allow access to any information unless necessary.

If you do, delete any information the vehicle stored from your phone. Otherwise, anyone who gets in after you return it could potentially gain access to your sensitive data. Double check with the owner’s manual to make sure you’ve followed the correct steps for that specific vehicle to delete your info.

If you don’t want to connect your phone to the car’s infotainment system but still need to charge your phone, use the DC connector instead.

And finally, similar to what was mentioned above, be careful connecting to a Wi-Fi network or USB port you’re unsure about even once you reach your destination. That includes hotels where you may be staying, Airbnbs or other similar rental properties.

Following these easy tips during your trip can keep your private information secure, so you can rest easy and focus on what’s really important this time of year.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call my national radio show and click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

Copyright 2018, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

Florida man jailed for using secretly-recorded sex videos for porn website

A Florida man is facing jail time for stealthily recording pornographic videos and running a subscription website.

Bryan Deneumostier, 34, was sentenced to three years in prison by the federal court in Miami for surreptitiously “producing and distributing pornographic audio and video recordings of himself” while engaging in sexual activity with men, the Department of Justice said last week.

The man would, in some cases, cross-dress as a woman then record himself having sex with men, according to a September 20th Miami Herald report.

HACKERS HAVE FOUND A NEW WAY TO BREAK INTO ATMS AND STEAL YOUR CASH

Deneumostier, a Peru national who used the screen name “susanleon33326,” admitted to having sex with 150 men, approximately 80 of the men did not know that they were being recorded and one of the victims was a blindfolded 16-year-old male, the DOJ said.

The 34-year-old Deneumostier was also involved in the operation of a subscription-based pornography website called “straightboyz.net.” The site streamed “hook up” videos that depicted sex between Deneumostier and other men. Deneumostier also sold the videos “to a third party located overseas,” the DOJ said.

Men who appeared in the videos often did not give their consent.

“In many of the videos, the individuals, at Deneumostier’s direction, wore a blindfold and restraints and could not see the defendant or the room (or recording equipment) in which they were located,” the DOJ said.

He was also active on social media. In many cases, Deneumostier would use social media accounts or Craigslist to advertise sex-oriented parties or encounters at his home.

THESE $1,000 SMART GLASSES MIGHT BE THE FUTURE – AND THEY DON'T LOOK WEIRD

“In several of these advertisements, Deneumostier would state he was either a man looking for men (m4m), a transvestite looking for men (t4m), or a woman looking for men (w4m),” according to the DOJ.

Arrested in July, Deneumostier had been held in custody since that time. He was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release following his prison sentence.

Elon Musk wants the world to embrace electric cars, even if Tesla goes bankrupt

Elon Musk wants electric vehicles to be successful even if Tesla goes under trying.

In an interview for CBS’ “60 Minutes,” the Tesla CEO and Silicon Valley billionaire was asked about competition from General Motors (GM), which announced last month it’s laying off thousands of workers as the century-old company shifts focus to self-driving and electric vehicles.Musk appeared unconcerned.

    “If somebody comes and makes a better electric car than Tesla, and it’s so much better than ours that we can’t sell our cars and we go bankrupt, I still think that’s a good thing for the world,” Musk told Leslie Stahl during the interview. Clips were shared online ahead of its full broadcast on Sunday.”The whole point of Tesla is to accelerate the advent of electric vehicles and sustainable transport,” he said. “We’re trying to help the environment, we think it’s the most serious problem that humanity faces.”Read More

    Making EVs sexy

    Musk founded Tesla in 2003 after making millions off the sale of Paypal to eBay. His goal was to take on reigning auto giants and convince consumers that all-electric vehicles can be safe, reliable and sexy.By most accounts, he succeeded. Tesla has amassed a loyal fan base for its luxury electric vehicles, and the company is working to reach the mass market. Its newest car, the Model 3, is the closest yet with price points that will start at $35,000.Tesla has sold nearly 500,000 cars worldwide, which accounts for about 20% of all the fully electric vehicles on the road today, according to a recent estimate from Navigant Research. Legacy automakers are now making plays for the EV market. Nissan introduced the all-electric Leaf in late 2010. And GM debuted the Chevy Bolt EV two years ago. Tesla (TSLA) has outsold those vehicles in the United States, but some experts wonder whether Tesla’s reign is in jeopardy.Volkswagen recently said it will pour $50 billion into an electric vehicle “offensive” with plans to sell millions of all-electric cars in the coming years. The company will sell luxury EVs under the Audi and Porsche brands, and it could debut mass market cars that undercut Tesla on price, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess has said. The company plans to do it by honing its mass-production expertise.

    Tesla’s path forward

    Scaling up manufacturing proved to be difficult for Tesla as it debuted the Model 3. The company suffered months of delays because of hangups on its assembly lines. Righting itself cost Tesla millions and required off-beat solutions that bewildered some investors.”It was life or death,” Musk told Stahl. “Those betting against the company were right by all conventional standards that we would fail. But they just did not count on this unconventional situation of creating an assembly line in a parking lot in a tent.”Tesla proved some critics wrong with its latest earnings report in October. The company posted a net profit of $312 million, by far its largest ever and its first quarterly profit since 2016.But about $9 billion worth of debt bills are due for the company in the coming years, Goldman Sachs said in September. And Musk recently told investors that Tesla does not plan to raise more money to fund its future, even as it introduces new vehicle models and opens factories in Shanghai and Europe. “We certainly could raise money, but I think we don’t need to,” Musk said in October. “And I think it is better discipline not to.”

      In his 60 Minutes interview, Musk also floated the possibility that Tesla may expand its footprint in the United States. He said Tesla “would be interested” in taking over some of the factory space GM said it will abandon during its restructuring.The company’s current assembly site in Fremont, California, also has a history with GM. The plant was jointly operated by GM and Toyota before Tesla took over in 2010.

Huawei arrest: This is what the start of a tech Cold War looks like

The arrest of a top Huawei executive raises the stakes in the intensifying battle between the United States and China for tech supremacy.

Huawei is one of the world’s biggest makers of smartphones and networking equipment. It is at the heart of China’s ambitions to reduce its reliance on foreign technology and become an innovation powerhouse in its own right. The country is pumping hundreds of billions into its “Made in China 2025” plan, which aims to make China a global leader in industries such as robotics, electric cars and computer chips. The introduction of 5G wireless technology, which hinges on Huawei, is a top priority.

    The United States, meanwhile, has made clear it intends to push back against China’s growing tech power in order to maintain American dominance.”In the 20th century, steel, coal, automobiles, aircraft and ships — and the ability to produce things in mass quantity — were the sources of national power,” said James Andrew Lewis, director of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, in a report this week. “The foundations of security and power are different today. The ability to create and use new technologies is the source of economic strength and military security.”Read MoreWhat Huawei case says about America's growing impatience with ChinaIt’s through that lens that some in the Chinese government view the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, at the request of US authorities.”The US is trying to do whatever it can to contain Huawei’s expansion in the world simply because the company is the point man for China’s competitive technology companies,” said an editorial Thursday in state-run newspaper China Daily. Weng’s case could rapidly escalate a broader fight that’s been steadily building. Much depends on the language the United States uses moving forward — and how China ultimately responds.

    Growing pressure

    China’s tech aspirations have garnered concern in the United States for years — especially because Beijing’s goals are seen as relying on the misappropriation of American technology.President Donald Trump has tried to tackle these issues directly. His administration says that the hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs it’s slapped on Chinese goods are part of an effort to stop China from stealing US tech. Officials also say that China must stop forcing companies to hand over trade secrets as a condition of market access.Meanwhile, the United States has targeted Chinese tech companies that rely on US parts. The Commerce Department in April banned American companies from exporting essential components to ZTE, which the agency said had violated an earlier deal punishing the company for evading sanctions on Iran and North Korea. The high-profile move forced ZTE to halt almost all of its operations for months.In October, the department issued a similar export ban for state-owned Chinese chipmaker Fujian Jinhua. The US government said it posed “a significant risk of becoming involved in activities that are contrary to the national security interests of the United States.”At the same time, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been pushing for China’s tech sector to become more self-sufficient by cutting reliance on foreign suppliers.Turning the spotlight on Huawei, however, adds a new wrinkle. Huawei is a state champion that plays a crucial role in China’s rollout of 5G. The company has spent heavily on research and development and on marketing its 5G devices. Paul Triolo, the head of global tech policy at risk consultancy Eurasia Group, said it’s the only company in the world right now that can produce all the elements of a 5G network, such as base stations, data centers, antennas and handsets, and put them together “at scale and cost.””Xi Jinping says that he wants China to dominate the 5G market globally,” Lewis told CNN Business. “A lot of people see it as the next wave of technology [and think] it will be like the internet or smartphones.”

    The Huawei risk

    But for Huawei to succeed at building out 5G networks, it needs the United States.Out of the Huawei’s 92 main suppliers, 33 are US companies, including chipmakers Intel, Qualcomm, and Micron, and software firms Microsoft and Oracle, Tom Holland of Gavekal Research said in a note Friday.”If Washington now prohibits these companies from selling to Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant will struggle to survive,” Holland said.The Meng case, then, has major ramifications. The US government claims that Meng covered up violations of sanctions on Iran, according to Canadian prosecutors, who spoke at Meng’s bail hearing in Vancouver on Friday.Whether Huawei itself faces legal trouble remains to be seen, though there’s speculation that the company could receive an export ban due to sanctions violations like the one imposed on ZTE. Such a ban, if enacted, would be catastrophic for the company — and would derail Beijing’s plans to deploy 5G on a large commercial scale by 2020.”The arrest of Huawei’s CFO in Canada will significantly raise the uncertainty of China’s 5G timing, since any US export ban imposed on Huawei could either delay China’s 5G rollout, or significantly reduce the scale near term,” Jefferies analyst Edison Lee said in a note Friday. Such a ban would force Huawei’s business to “come to a halt,” he added.In this, the United States has the upper hand. “They’re dependent, so that puts them in a weak position,” Lewis said.Huawei has already run into problems in the deployment of its 5G technology amid concerns that its devices pose national security risks. New Zealand and Australia have barred Huawei equipment from its 5G mobile networks. UK telecoms group BT said earlier this week that it wouldn’t buy Huawei equipment for the core of its 5G wireless network.

      But formally penalizing Huawei could have serious consequences for how the US-China tech fight plays out down the line.”They’ll accelerate their efforts to become independent, and they’ll look for ways they can ding us,” Lewis said, noting that China could reduce orders of Boeing airplanes, or target US companies for violations of Chinese law. “Their hope is that in 10 years, they won’t need us anymore.”

China warns Canada of ‘serious consequences’ over Huawei CFO’s arrest

The Chinese Foreign Ministry is summoning the Canadian ambassador to China to address the detention of a Huawei executive in Vancouver, describing it as “lawless” and “extremely vicious.”

The tech giant’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested December 1 and faces extradition to the United States, where she is accused of helping Huawei circumvent US sanctions on Iran.In a statement Saturday, the vice minister of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Le Yucheng said the arrest “severely violated the Chinese citizen’s legal and legitimate rights and interests, it is lawless, reasonless and ruthless, and it is extremely vicious.”

    The statement summons Canadian ambassador to China John McCallum to address Meng’s detention.China strongly urges Canada to “release the detainee immediately and earnestly protest the person’s legal and legitimate rights and interests, otherwise it will definitely have serious consequences, and the Canadian side will have to bear the full responsibility for it,” Yucheng said in the statement.Read More

    Arrest warrant issued in August

    Meng is believed to have helped Huawei circumvent US sanctions on Iran by telling financial institutions that a Huawei subsidiary was a separate company, Canadian prosecutors said at a hearing Friday to determine whether Meng should be released on bail.US case against Huawei CFO revealed in Canadian courtHer lawyer said that she has ties to Canada and is not a flight risk. The judge, after hearing arguments from Meng’s lawyer and prosecutors, did not rule on bail. The hearing will resume Monday at 1 p.m. ET.Previously, details surrounding why Meng, 46, had been detained were limited due to a press ban. A judge had accepted Meng’s request to bar both police and prosecutors from releasing information about the case prior to the hearing. The ban was lifted on Friday.A judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued a warrant for Meng’s arrest on August 22, it was revealed at the hearing Friday. She was arrested on December 1.

    Huawei ‘not aware of any wrongdoing’

    Earlier this week, Huawei said Meng was detained by Canadian authorities on behalf of the United States when she was transferring flights in Canada.In a statement after Friday’s hearing in Canada, Huawei said: “We will continue to follow the bail hearing on Monday. We have every confidence that the Canadian and US legal systems will reach the right conclusion.”What is Huawei, and why the arrest of its CFO mattersThe company has said it was “not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng” and that it “complies with all applicable laws and regulations where it operates.”In addition to her role as CFO, Meng serves as deputy chairwoman of Huawei’s board. She is the daughter of Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei.Meng’s attorney said she would not breach a court order because doing so would embarrass her personally, and would also humiliate her father, Huawei and China itself. He added that the case against Meng had not been fully laid out, even though the US had signed off on her arrest warrant months ago.”This isn’t some last minute thing,” he said.Meng did everything she could to be transparent with Huawei’s banking partners, and the company always worked to ensure its compliance with sanctions law, her lawyer continued.

    Arrest came as US and China reached trade truce

    Huawei is one of the world’s biggest makers of smartphones and networking equipment and one of China’s best-known companies. It is central to the country’s ambitions to become a tech superpower. Huawei arrest: This is what the start of a tech Cold War looks likeBut concerns that Huawei devices pose national security risks have hurt its ability to grow abroad. The company has been repeatedly singled out by officials in the United States. US intelligence agencies have said American citizens shouldn’t use Huawei phones, and US government agencies are banned from buying the company’s equipment.Huawei is a “bad actor,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told CNN on Friday.

      Navarro admitted that is was “unusual” that Meng’s arrest came just as US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached a trade truce in Argentina, but said the government’s actions are “legitimate.””Let’s look at what the indictment says and let the [Justice Department] do its thing,” he said.

Google software engineer, 22, found dead at New York headquarters: report

A male employee was discovered dead Friday in Google’s headquarters in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, reports said.

Scott Krulcik, 22, was found on the sixth floor of the building unconscious and unresponsive around 9 p.m. EST on Friday, the New York Post reported. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

WOMAN SAYS NYPD OFFICERS FORCED HER TO GIVE BIRTH WHILE SHACKLED TO A BED

His body did not appear to show any signs of trauma, police sources told the New York Post. He does not have a history of substance abuse problems or medical issues. The Medical Examiner’s office will determine his cause of death.

Krulcik worked as a software engineer for the tech giant since August, his LinkedIn page stated. He lived in the West Village.

Kathleen Joyce is a breaking/trending news producer for FoxNews.com. You can follow her at @Kathleen_Joyce8 on Twitter.

Credit card skimming on the rise as Indiana man gets arrested

A man in Indiana was charged with credit card skimming and arrested as he drove away from one of the banks he allegedly targeted, underscoring the rise in rigged ATMs.

The man, identified as Tirlea Dumitru, was arrested in Indiana for attempting to defraud a federally insured financial institution, according to a statement by the Department of Justice.

The incident began when a bank in Warsaw, Ind. reported a device had been placed on its ATM on Nov. 28.  At that time, law enforcement had been investigating reports of skimming devices on bank ATMs and credit card readers at gas stations.

PUTTING CHILDREN'S DATA ONLINE HAS CONSEQUENCES, REPORT SAYS

Law enforcement then conducted surveillance on the ATM, according to the DOJ statement.

On Nov. 30, Dumitru pulled up to the ATM but then drove off without completing a transaction. Law enforcement pursued the man, conducted a traffic stop and arrested him, according to the DOJ, citing documents in the case.

“Dumitru was identified based on ATM surveillance video,” the DOJ said.

When a card skimmer is installed, it reads the magnetic strip on the credit card and stores the number. In some cases, the PIN number can be captured too if a phony keypad is installed or if the criminal has mounted a camera to record customers keying in their PIN number.

The thief will then use the card information to make purchases, drain an account, or make fraudulent credit/debit cards for unauthorized transactions.

'FORTNITE'S POPULARITY HAS ALSO MADE IT A POPULAR TARGET FOR CRIMINALS

Jump in incidents

Last year, there was a 10 percent rise in the number of debit cards compromised at U.S. ATMs and merchants, analytic software firm FICO reported in March.

“The number of compromises and the number of card members impacted set a new record” in 2017 FICO said in a statement.

FICO advises that if “an ATM looks odd, or your card doesn’t enter the machine smoothly, consider going somewhere else for your cash.”

And if the card is captured inside of an ATM, call your credit card company to report it. In some cases that may indicate a skimmer is present, FICO said.

Finally, never approach an ATM if anyone is lingering nearby.

US case against Huawei CFO revealed in Canadian court

The United States is claiming that the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei covered up violations of sanctions on Iran, according to Canadian prosecutors.

Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver and faces extradition to the United States, is believed to have helped Huawei circumvent US sanctions by telling financial institutions that a Huawei subsidiary was a separate company, prosecutors said at a hearing Friday to determine whether Meng should be released on bail.Her lawyer said that she has ties to Canada and is not a flight risk. The judge, after hearing arguments from Meng’s lawyer and prosecutors, did not rule on bail. The hearing will resume Monday at 1 p.m. ET.

    Previously, details surrounding why Meng, 46, had been detained were limited due to a press ban. A judge had accepted Meng’s request to bar both police and prosecutors from releasing information about the case prior to the hearing. The ban was lifted on Friday.A judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued a warrant for Meng’s arrest on August 22, it was revealed at the hearing Friday. She was arrested on December 1.Read MoreEarlier this week, Huawei said Meng was detained by Canadian authorities on behalf of the United States when she was transferring flights in Canada.In a statement after Friday’s hearing in Canada, Huawei said: “We will continue to follow the bail hearing on Monday. We have every confidence that the Canadian and US legal systems will reach the right conclusion.”The company has said it was “not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng” and that it “complies with all applicable laws and regulations where it operates.”In addition to her role as CFO, Meng serves as deputy chairwoman of Huawei’s board. She’s the daughter of Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei.Meng’s attorney said she would not breach a court order because doing so would embarrass her personally, and would also humiliate her father, Huawei and China itself. He added that the case against Meng had not been fully laid out, even though the US had signed off on her arrest warrant months ago.”This isn’t some last minute thing,” he said.Meng did everything she could to be transparent with Huawei’s banking partners, and the company always worked to ensure its compliance with sanctions law, her lawyer continued.Huawei is one of the world’s biggest makers of smartphones and networking equipment and one of China’s best-known companies. It is central to the country’s ambitions to become a tech superpower. But concerns that Huawei devices pose national security risks have hurt its ability to grow abroad. The company has been repeatedly singled out by officials in the United States. US intelligence agencies have said American citizens shouldn’t use Huawei phones, and US government agencies are banned from buying the company’s equipment.Huawei is a “bad actor,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told CNN on Friday.

      Navarro admitted that is was “unusual” that Meng’s arrest came just as US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached a trade truce in Argentina, but said the government’s actions are “legitimate.””Let’s look at what the indictment says and let the [Justice Department] do its thing,” he said.

iPhone tracking, eavesdropping on police and more: Tech Q&A

An OS That Does Not Track You

Q: Is there an OS that doesn’t report back to Big Tech? I don’t want to use the Windows or Mac operating system.

A: The behavior of your standard OS also doesn’t receive a lot of mention in the press; while companies like Facebook have been raked over the coals (and justifiably so), the data-keeping of your standard OS isn’t even a blip on the media radar. I can’t say these fears are legitimate – at least no more so than, say, the potential tracking by your smart TV – but if it concerns you, there is an alternative that will help you rest easy. Tap or click here for an operating system that gives you privacy and anonymity.

Use a Digital Age Police and Fire Scanner

Q: Is there an app that lets me listen to local police calls? I'd like to know what's really going on around me.

A: The old-fashioned police scanner has fascinated users for decades. All kinds of people have used these little black boxes to listen in on their local first-responders, from TV journalists seeking up-to-the-minute news tips to ambulance chasers looking for a thrill. Special listening gear is no longer necessary, thanks to special apps, which converts those airwaves into a digital stream. These apps can also help you stay aware of dubious activity in your neighborhood, from rapidly spreading house fires to electrical blackouts and even criminals on the run. Tap or click here for the best apps to hear police and fire calls.

Stop iPhone Tracking Your Every Location

Q: You recently said that your iPhone tracks your location unless you turn off a certain setting. Where is this tracking setting on my phone?

A: Unless you remove the phone from your person and leave it in a particular location, your iPhone knows where you are, unless you change those default settings. Keep in mind, a phone's internal GPS is helpful for many reasons; you can use the map feature, upload directions, figure out how many calories you burned on your run, track down local restaurants, and so on. Meanwhile, the iPhone app Find My Friends is extremely useful for people who get lost or live in isolated places, and it can literally save lives. But if you want to stop your iPhone from being so geographically aware, you just have to change one setting. Tap or click here to stop iPhone from tracking your every move.

Important Amazon Echo Privacy Settings

Q: I got an Amazon Echo for Christmas. How can I make sure it's not doing things I don't want it to do, including listening all the time?

A: The truth is, Amazon Echo is listening all the time. For your Echo to work, it requires a "wake phrase," which usually begins with "Alexa…" What’s even more concerning is that Echo also records the commands you deliver, archiving these audio files in a database. Now, the purpose of these recordings is pretty benign: Amazon insists that they exist only to train the Echo to function better. (This is especially true if you have an unusual accent or speech impediment). In the end, you have to ask yourself: is a smart speaker worth all the security concerns? If not, are you willing to terminate the Echo’s voice commands, reducing the device to a regular audio speaker? The choice is up to you, but some settings may make you feel more secure. Tap or click here for three essential privacy settings for your Amazon Echo.

See What Microsoft Tracks About You

Q: I use Windows. Does Microsoft make it known what they track about users?

A: Basically, every major tech company benefits from your personal data, and they are collecting as much as they can. Microsoft hasn’t gotten a lot of flak (see above question for an alternative private OS), but you can bet that the hallowed digital pioneer knows a great deal about you. How much? Well, there are probably lots of data points that you could already guess. But there are ways to copy the critical information you have gathered while also cleaning your system of vulnerable history. To help in this endeavor, you should know what about you that interests Microsoft in the first place. Tap or click here to find everything Microsoft knows about you.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call her national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen or watch to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim's free podcasts.

Copyright 2018, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

Fox on Tech: Google driverless taxis

It seems like these days, the market is flooded with ride-hailing apps, each promising better service and lower rates than the next. From Uber to Lyft to Gett, there's no shortage of taxi-alternatives for tech-savvy Americans. Now a new company throws its hat into the ring, and it's one that most people are familiar with. Alphabet – Google's parent company – has launched its own service, Waymo. The app could save you lots of time, but don't expect any witty banter with your driver – the Waymo fleet is almost entirely self-driving cars.

Officially called "Waymo One," the autonomous taxis are now on the roads of Phoenix for a beta test. So far users are reporting good service with no major mistakes or accidents. But for now, not everyone is able to get on board, only Phoenix residents who have already been using Waymo can request a self-driving car. And for the first few months of the program, there will still be a driver behind the wheel to ensure passenger safety.

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The broader Waymo program launched last year in Phoenix and has around 400 users. The new Waymo One service will be available around the clock and works in a similar way to other ride-sharing apps: you input your destination, the app tells you the fare, and contacts nearby cars for availability. While the beta test continues, Waymo is encouraging customers to bring their friends along for the ride, to help expose more of the general public to self-driving cars.

The program should also be expanding soon as well. Back in October, Waymo was given permission to begin testing driverless cars in California. So if you live in the Golden State, the next cab you hail may not have a driver!