Do You Need a Virtual Private Network? And Other Cybersecurity Tips

By George Otte

How to prevent information from falling into the wrong hands online.

When every week brings fresh news of big-time data breaches and targeted cyberattacks, it’s tempting to assume that there’s nothing you can do to keep your most intimate details safe from people who want to do you harm.

Fortunately, the truth is a bit rosier. While there’s no way to guarantee safety and security on the digital web, it’s absolutely possible to reduce your risk.

One of the most effective forms of protection—one that’s surprisingly, not very well known—is a virtual private network, or VPN. While it’s not a cure-all (nothing is), a VPN can significantly improve your security as you browse the internet, especially if you’re downloading files, streaming video, accessing websites banned by your employer or local government, or simply trying to have a private conversation without strangers listening in.

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George Otte’s Top 4 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your iPad

You bought a new iPad, unwrapped it from that shiny packaging, and are finally ready to take it for a test drive. There’s only one problem: you have no idea what to start. They didn’t offer Tablets 101 when you were in school, at least not in any of the official course catalogs. So what’s a discouraged iPad newbie to do?

First, don’t give up or let your inexperience get you down. As long as you’re willing to do things just a bit differently than in the past, it’s easy to pick up the iPad. And, if you’re willing to learn a few new tricks, iPad mastery is well within your reach — even if “tech savvy” is that last word anyone would use to describe you.

There are more iPad tricks out there than you can shake a stick at. Start with these four favorites of entrepreneur and computer guru George Otte:

  1. Leverage Multitouch Gesture Capabilities

Multitouch what? Yes, like your smartphone, the iPad has a responsive touch screen. That’s great news for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the incredible power of multitouch gesture. You can unlock numerous functions and shortcuts with a few swipes of your finger(s), including:

  • Swipe up from the screen bottom with one finger to reveal frequently used settings and other useful features
  • Swipe upward with four fingers anywhere on the screen to unhide the multitasking bar
  • Pinch four fingers together on the screen to close the app you’re currently working in
  1. Turn Down Your Screen’s Brightness for Longer Battery Life

This one is head-slappingly simple, but often overlooked. Turning down your screen’s brightness can boost your iPad’s battery life by a significant margin — a tremendous benefit on long trips or remote areas.

  1. Swipe to Switch Apps

If you think of your iPad as a rotating app carousel, the swipe-left/swipe-right feature will make more sense. To switch between running apps, simply place four fingers on the screen and move them right (to unlock the app to the “left”) or left (to unlock the app to the “right”). No more closing apps every time you want to switch or dealing with a confusing task bar!

  1. Unlock the Power of Triple Clicking

You’ve heard of double clicking, but what about…triple clicking?

Yep, it’s a thing. On the iPad, at least. Once you turn on triple clicking functionality in your settings menu, you can tap the home button three times and unlock a bevy of cool features. For instance, triple clicking allows you to invert your screen colors (for a striking, super-fun look) or activate your iPad’s VoiceOver function (which provides audible cues as you navigate your operating system). Try it for yourself!

Not the Only Tricks in the iPad Book

As noted, these aren’t the only five iPad tricks in the book. There’s plenty more you can do to get the most out of your sleek new (or refurbished) tablet. If you’re serious about squeezing the most value out of your iPad, don’t hesitate to consult an expert who knows iPads for more guidance. After all, you’ll never know if you don’t ask.

How Vulnerable Is Your Home Network, Really?

Your home is your castle. At least, that’s what you’ve been told all these years. What if an invisible threat lurked in the digital plumbing that connects it to the wider world?

Among cybersecurity experts like George Otte, there’s growing alarm that home wireless networks simply aren’t as safe as many people assume. That’s a problem, because poorly defended networks expose users to all sorts of scary risks.

Here’s a look at why your home network might be more exposed than you realize…and a few tips for fixing that ASAP.

Shaky Credentials?

Your home wireless network’s most vulnerable point is its router. That’s because millions of home routers retain their default credentials — the password that allows administrative access to the machine and protects against unauthorized use. If hackers someone become aware of your router’s default credentials (and they’re not hard for seasoned cybercriminals to uncover), they can use your router to infect your home devices with all manner of nasty malware.

Why Home Network Hacking Matters

Home network hacking isn’t just a problem for the individual users it affects. If your home network is compromised, your devices can spread malware far and wide — to anyone in your email contacts and to other computers on the public wireless networks you use, to name but two avenues. In other words, you could unwittingly become a vector for cybercriminals.

How to Protect Your Router

Fortunately, securing a home wireless network is a straightforward affair. The simplest step you can take is simply to change the default credentials on your router. You can also set up WPA encryption for your router, which doesn’t require expert-level tech savvy. These two steps are likely to prevent the most basic, common attacks.

For a more robust approach to home network protection, use an OpenDNS server that protects you from some of the threats on your default server. You can also disable remote admin access (if enabled), further choking off entry to your network. Finally, you can use open-source firmware (or simply keep your firmware up to date) rather than rely on manufacturer firmware that may be out of date by the time it reaches you.

Threats Abound

It’s often said that the cybersecurity landscape resembles an arms race between two mortal enemies. As each side fights for position, advancing and retreating across a scarred battlefield, the real casualties are all too often rank-and-file technology users who just want to be left to surf the Web in peace.

Given the proliferation of digital threats out there, it’s important not to put too much stock in any one threat over any other. Home wireless networks might be a key vulnerability for average Web users. But there are plenty of other threats — unsecured public networks, phishing scams, trojans and who knows what else. As a concerned user, the best thing you can do is be aware of as many threats as you can, and vigilant to suspicious activity that could presage something worse to come..