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January 2021  Newsletter

Updates will be short (next time…) so you will actually read them, they are useless otherwise!!!  And if you have anything that you are curious about and have questions let me know.  Understanding is #1, and being willing to iterate and improve is also important.
 
Bad 😈
  • WattsApp – Old news for some, but an explanation might be helpful.  Basically Facebook bought them a while back, so one might expect that they share info.  This past week it came out that they have been sharing info all along, and now they give you the choice to not agree to their terms (note they never asked before…), if you agree you consent to the information you share between messaging conversations to be used to target advertisements to you in Facebook.  Sounds harmless, but if you don’t know this is happening, it could be bad.  I also don’t like the idea of someone making money from my conversations and giving me nothing in return but more advertisements…  If you don’t agree you need to leave the platform, there is no other option that they provide.  
  • Dusting attacks – With Bitcoin rising quickly, media coverage on this is starting to build.  Dusting attacks where scammers send you free BTC/ETH and then try to monitor you as you move it to somewhere useful to you e.g. wallet/exchange.  This shouldn’t affect you, but the principal of this attack applies everywhere: “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is…”
  • Impersonation attacks – Very common technique of impersonating someone that you know/trust online with a duplicate account that looks like the original.  I was almost burned this way a few days back.  The short version is that many fake accounts get created and fake news reports created using more fake accounts to create the news.  This adds up to something looking legitimate, when it’s an elaborate scam.  Similar attacks have taken place when legitimate accounts were compromised.  For example mid 2020 Twitter was hacked allowing the hacker(s) to gain access to many influential people’s accounts (Gates/Musk/Obama/…), resulting in a windfall of 12.89887497 BTC ($152,104 CAD as of July 15, 2020) from their scam over just a few hours.  Since the hackers probably were smart they probably would have sold this at an opportune time.  If they sold this on Jan 10th 2021 this scam would have brought them $658,849 CAD.  Not bad for an honest days work!  Protect yourself by researching and NOT clicking through links that they provide.  Do your own internet search for the info rather than using their link.

Neutral 🇨🇭

  • Google Photos – the free option is going away starting June 2021.  At that point you will either need to pay, or stay within the free limits.  Nothing security related here, just that if you have all your eggs in one google basket (which I have done in the past), it might be worth considering other options to synchronize your photos rather than paying google. 
  • Google Music – Google Music has gone away as of Dec 31, 2020.  Now if you open the app it will prompt you to transfer to YouTube.  Note this will transfer any files that you have uploaded to google over to YouTube.  If you want to migrate, then just follow the instructions in Google Music and then uninstall the Google Music app.  If you don’t want to use YouTube music, also uninstall as it’s now useless, free up some space!  If you want to use a different product there are many out there!  I would recommend VLC as it works well and is OpenSource.  Now we can throw back to the good old days when we would play mp3’s and listen to a whole album, rather than shuffling around single songs 🎧💃
Positive 🎉
    • Signal – an OpenSource messaging application around for 6+ years has gained in popularity greatly due to events in the past weeks.  They are funded by donations (like Wikipedia), so they don’t sell your data for $.  It does SMS, internet messaging, voice, video, screen sharing, and group messaging.  Good alternative to WhatsApp
    • Alternatives to Google Photos abound – free options are:
      • USB cable to your computer, very fast, very secure 😉 but easy to forget to do regularly…
      • Resilio Sync a great option that I have been using for years.  The free option is good, all data is secured, and you back up data from your phone to your computer.  Or if you want offsite backups then you can enlist family for this for free
      • Do some digging online, there are going to be many products already out there, and more coming to market for this void that Google is leaving.  Do your research, and let me know if you find something good
    • Canadian COVID Alert App has been used in 82 positive test results in N.W.T.  This correlates to ~6.6% (82 of 1240 people), but as they state the design of the application means that these numbers are hard or impossible to track.  So it means to me that the design of the application favoring privacy is working!  Also 6.6% adoption is an edge that helps, better than 0%!  Or other influencers (e.g. Trump…) that would have an effect in the -% range (I would personally put this at a very HIGH percentage).  Also for the COVID Alert App, you can still use the app and choose to NOT report your statistics, and still alert people, so this would not be counted in the above 6.6%.  Also if you use the app, see that you were exposed via the app, get tested, test positive, and not share the results.  This is still helpful, but again not tracked.  So I would estimate that in N.W.T. the adoption is certainly higher than 6.6%.  Now if they could only figure out an ethically sensible way to incentivize people to use the application.  Corporations are good with this e.g. discounts, rewards, advertisements, compelling products, compelling news  🤔
I will try to make this shorter next time, but wanted to give short explanations, otherwise the information is useless without context.  

PLEASE provide feedback, is this useful?  what could be improved?  other topics you are interested in?  Email newsletter@paulwidmer.ca

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