Author: Megan Mandrian

Social media lover. Part time writer. Love coffee, dogs, and wine.
Why You Should Avoid Connected Toys This Holiday Season

Why You Should Avoid Connected Toys This Holiday Season


Thinking of giving a connected toy as a gift this holiday season? If so, you may want to reconsider that decision, at least for the time being. This year has seen some of the most widespread security breaches in recent memory. botnet attacks solely on IoT devices have been on the rise. And while botnets are quickly becoming more advanced, IoT device security has remained weak, if present at all.

The Dangers Of Wi-Fi Enabled Children’s Toys

Why You Should Avoid Connected Toys This Holiday Season
The arrival of Mattel’s Hello Barbie was met with harsh criticism over privacy concerns.

From blatant invasions of privacy to allowing strangers to talk directly to your child, connected toys present a new and ever present danger.

Take for instance Mattel’s Hello Barbie, which was released around this time a few years ago. The premiere feature of this doll is a push-to-talk microphone and speaker located on the doll’s necklace. Once activated, the child’s voice is sent to ToyTalk (Mattel’s partner on this project) where keywords are identified and an appropriate response is transmitted back to the doll. The issue with this? The entire conversation is kept on record to help “improve” the product in the future. In essence, the Hello Barbie doll is a surveillance device for Mattel. All of the information acquired by these dolls can be used as Mattel sees fit, including the right to sell this information off to third party companies.

The situation surrounding Hello Barbie depicts how a connected toy can be intentionally designed to exploit your child’s privacy. In fact, Germany has taken legislative action against a similar connected toy. As of this time last year, the connected toy My Friend Carla (which behaves in a similar way to Mattel’s Hello Barbie) has been designated as an “illegal espionage apparatus” by the German government. As a result, any German store found selling the My Friend Carla will be heavily fined.

Security Flaws In Connected Toys

In addition to privacy concerns, connected toys also suffer from lackluster security protocols. One potentially dangerous example of this is the I-Que Intelligent Robot. By itself, the I-Que Intelligent Robot is simply an action figure that lights up. However, once connected to a smartphone app, the toy essentially becomes an IoT device. This connection gives the robot a whole new set of actions, including games and text-to-speech activation.

But because of the devices lack of security, any individual with this app installed on their phone can easily access the toy. And since the app allows for text-to-speech, any stranger can communicate directly to your child without you knowing.

While its true that anyone attempting to access these connected toys would have to be within Wi-Fi or Blutooth range. These ranges can be extended, allowing an individual to easily search for unsecured devices from outside the house.

If your child already has a connected toy (even if it’s not one of the above) you should make sure they remain supervised while they play with it. That way, even if their particular toy has vulnerabilities, you can ensure your child remains safe.

Related Article: How To Protect Your Devices From The Latest WiFi Vulnerability


Here’s How You Can Protect Your Social Media Accounts

Here’s How You Can Protect Your Social Media Accounts

Protecting Your Social Media Accounts

In today’s connected world, social media has become a major part of our lives. In fact, the majority of adults in the US use social media on a daily basis. Unfortunately, not everyone uses social media for catching up with friends and sharing cat videos. Whether it be hackers trying to remotely access your information, or a suspicious partner hoping to catch a cheater in the act, social media is usually the first place they turn to as well.

With so much of our personal information being uploaded and shared on these social media platforms, how can we be sure that our information is secure? In truth, the only way to completely secure your information would be to refrain from uploading it in the first place. That being said, there are some ways you can protect the data you deem appropriate to put online. Here are a few helpful tips.

Secure Your Logins

Here's How You Can Protect Your Social Media Accounts
Securing your login information is the first step in protecting your online accounts

Setting up your login credentials in a secure way is going to be your first line of defense against the most common online threats. During account creation, most platforms will ask to use your email address as your username. While this isn’t a security risk on its own, using the same email address or account name across multiple platforms can be.  To combat this, try using a separate username and password for each of your social media accounts. That way, if one of your accounts is hacked, you can be sure that the rest are safe.

Password strength is another factor to consider while you’re securing your social media accounts. Most social media platforms will provide security tips or grade you on the strength of your password. These requirements, while somewhat useful, are based upon old guidelines that aren’t as effective today. Instead of following these guidelines, try using long phrases containing random words for your passwords. This will not only help you create a strong password, but it will also make that password far easier to remember.

Two-Factor Authentication

Here's How You Can Protect Your Social Media Accounts
Smartphones often use two-factor authentication to help verify in-app purchases

If you feel the need for enhanced security on your social media accounts, you should consider activating two-factor authentication. Just about every social media platform has an option to turn on this security feature. If you’ve never used two-factor authentication before, the process is quite simple. You start by signing into your account as you normally would. After entering the correct information, you will receive a notification on your smartphone. Simply verify your login attempt and you will be granted access to your account. This will prevent anyone signing in on a foreign device from accessing your account.

Are you already following some of these tips? Have a few that you would like to add? Leave a comment for us in the section below!

Related: You Are Being Watched: How Harvard Used Social Media Monitoring To Rescind 10 Student Admissions


Does The iPhone X Face ID Pose A Security Threat?

Does The iPhone X Face ID Pose A Security Threat?


On September 12, 2017, Apple announced the next generation smartphone, the iPhone X. As a result of this announcement, many of the rumored features of the device were verified, including wireless charging, a fully edge-to-edge OLED display, and, perhaps most notably, facial recognition.

Facial Recognition Makes Its Way Onto The iPhone X

Does The iPhone’s Face I.D. Pose A Security Threat?
The new iPhone’s Face I.D. is without a doubt convenient, but at what cost?

Similar to Touch ID (the fingerprint scanner of past generations), Apple’s facial recognition software has been named “Face ID.” The process works by scanning an individual’s face with a specially designed infrared sensor. Once a match has been made to the owner of the device, the phone will unlock. The iPhone X Face ID can also be used to verify purchases made on the Apple store and other third-party apps. However, Face ID will not protect your device from online threats, such as malicious software. That being said, it is important to take the appropriate measures to ensure your personal safety and data protection. If you happen to receive a suspicious text or email after making a purchase to a third-party vendor using Face ID, use a person search tool to verify the sender’s identity before you open the message or click on any links within it.

While facial recognition is a new feature for Apple’s iPhone, other smartphones have been using this technology for years now. However, not all facial recognition software is created equal. For instance, Apple’s Face ID uses its infrared sensor to cast 30,000 dots on the user’s face. This allows the iPhone X to perform a quick 3D analysis of the individual’s physical features. This is incredibly important when it comes to device security. For instance, it will prevent a 2D image, such as a simple photograph of the owner’s face, from unlocking the phone. This same issue that has plagued other smartphones utilizing facial recognition software.

Similar to how Touch ID works, Face ID will not store a complete image of the user’s face. Instead, it will save that information in an encrypted, mathematical form. So even if someone were to gain access to the device, they would not be able to reconstruct an image of the user’s face from the saved data. This data will only be stored locally on the device in a special processing unit called the “Secure Enclave.” The information stored here cannot be uploaded to the cloud. That way, not even Apple will have access to it. All of this effort is put into place to make Face ID as secure as humanly (and digitally) possible.

While Apple has seemingly taken every precaution into account, there are still some issues that cannot be avoided. Let’s take a look at some of the potential security concerns that come along with using facial recognition.

Face ID Security Concerns

Does The iPhone’s Face ID Pose A Security Threat?
Can Face ID protect your phone from potential hackers?

While Apple’s Face ID may be a more secure method of locking your phone than other biometric scanners, there is still one major risk. According to U.S. law, biometric scans are not protected under the fifth amendment. Under normal circumstances, an authority figure cannot force you to unlock your phone. However, in the event that your phone has been locked via biometric scan, authorities can then force you to unlock your device. For this reason alone, a password is a far more secure method of unlocking your phone than any other method.

Apple has also stated that an identical twin, or sibling who closely resembles you, may be able to trick Face ID into unlocking. The closer the genetic relationship to the owner, the more likely that individual will be able to access the device through facial recognition. In addition to this, the iPhone Face ID should not be used by any children under the age of 13. This is because the majority of their distinctive features have yet to become fully developed. Their facial features also have the potential to change drastically over a short period of time, which could end up locking them out of their phones.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that it took only two weeks for hackers to bypass touch ID on the iPhone 6. While it’s far too early to say whether a similar situation may arise for the iPhone X’s Face ID, it’s a possibility.

If nothing else, the iPhone X Face ID will certainly be an upgrade over Touch ID in terms of security. However, the jury is still out on whether biometric scans can protect your phone as securely as a strong password. Once the general public gets their hands on the iPhone X, we should know more about this issue.

Are you thinking of picking up your own iPhone X when it launches? If so, are you going to use the new Face ID or stick to the traditional password? Let us know by replying below!

Related Article: 3 Smartphone Scams Everyone Should Beware Of

Update (11/13/2017): Researchers at the Vietnamese security firm Bkav have discovered a way to trick the iPhone X’s facial recognition software into unlocking the device using a specially crafted mask. According to the researchers, it took approximately $150 worth of materials (along with a 3d printer) to produce the mask. They also acknowledged the fact that the average consumer should not worry about this finding due to the time and effort required to create the mask. That being said, it does go to show that Apple’s facial recognition software is not as infallible as originally thought.

3 Smartphone Scams Everyone Should Beware Of

3 Smartphone Scams Everyone Should Beware Of


These days, almost all men, women, and even many children have cell phones. They are excellent for communication purposes like staying in touch with friends or contacting someone in case of an emergency. However, in recent years the shift has been made from simply a communication tool to a necessary gadget used to keep people occupied and organize their lives. What many people don’t think about is that the smartphone is not a simple mobile device any longer. It’s a miniature computer, which means it’s just as susceptible to scams, viruses, and hacking as a PC. Smartphone scams are a scary new way of interfering with the lives of the masses, so it’s important to stay vigilant of the risks.


Here are 3 smartphone scams everyone should beware of:


1. Fake text messages

3 Smartphone Scams Everyone Should Beware Of

If you receive a text from a number you don’t recognize and you don’t remember signing up for anything, don’t open it! Don’t click on the attached links, don’t respond to it, and certainly don’t send them any sensitive information. Sometimes simply opening the attached link can crash your phone’s entire system. Furthermore, some hackers will try to gain access to your accounts by claiming to be your bank and ask for private details like your password, pin number, account number, or social security number. This kind of communication will never occur through text message, so be sure to call your bank’s customer service line directly to report it.


2. One-ring scam

3 Smartphone Scams Everyone Should Beware Of

These types of smartphone scams are clever. Crooks program their calling systems to disconnect or jump to your voicemail after only one ring. This makes it nearly impossible for you to answer in time, piquing your curiosity when you see a missed call or get a voicemail from an unknown number.

Do not call it back! This is a scam to get you to call back international numbers that will charge you ridiculously high fees. If you do happen to fall for this trap, be sure to keep an eye on your phone bill for strange charges. If you are unsure of who is calling you, use a people search service like Kiwi Searches to input the number and receive detailed information about who they are before jumping to return the call. It’s better to be safe than sorry.


3. Ransomware

3 Smartphone Scams Everyone Should Beware Of

Smartphones allow you to surf the internet anywhere at any time. This is an amazing advancement in technology, but if you aren’t careful it can also be a major source of strife. Clicking on suspicious or unfamiliar ads or links can result in viruses being uploaded to your phone that will enable hackers to take over your device. You will receive a popup that says your device has been rendered inactive unless you pay a fee to the thieves to unlock it and get your data back. These smartphone scams in particular are easily preventable, though, by conducting a search for mobile security software reviews and installing a program that will effectively protect your device.


Your phone (and the data within) is far too valuable to risk. Take every precaution to ensure you and your personal information are always safe from harm. Even the apps you download can contain malware and viruses, so to stay alert be sure to visit our related post: How Do You Know If An App Is A Scam?

How Do You Know If An App Is A Scam?

How Do You Know If An App Is A Scam?


With the rise of smartphones came an increasing need for customization. This came in the form of mobile apps that allow you to add functionality to your device. From to-do lists to games to streaming services, there are millions of apps to choose from. However, not all apps are made equally, and neither are their creators. Many apps are created with malicious intentions that will hack into your phone or even contain viruses to render it unusable. But how do you know if an app is a scam?


Here are 5 tips for mobile app predator prevention:


1. Do your research

Google is at your service! Look up the name of the app and any other information that the app store tells you to find out some background information on it. Especially check out the software reviews, because if someone had a negative experience they will be sure to post about it all over the web.


2. Look into the developer

How Do You Know If An App Is A Scam

Another important piece of information you can discover through the app store is the name of the app’s developer. Some developers will be accredited by the app store with a badge appearing next to their name. Click on the developer and do research on them to see what other apps they have created (if any) and if they have a reputable, professional website or social media presence. If you’re able to get any personal information, like their name or company phone number, you can use a service like Kiwi Searches to get more details about their criminal record to ensure their intentions are good.


3. Check permission requirements

When you click on the app you want within the app store, the description will also include a list of the permissions requested from your phone. Some apps will require access to your contacts, messages, call history, or other secure information. If it seems irrelevant to the function of the app, be wary. The more apps that have access to your information, the more likely you are to be scammed and have your data stolen.


4. Download security software

Security and antivirus software isn’t only for desktop and laptop computers. Phones themselves are miniature, portable computers that also need protecting. The best way to avoid app scams is to look at security software reviews to find an app to protect your device and alert you of potential scams when downloading other apps to your phone. The peace of mind it will afford you is almost as valuable as the protection it provides to your device.


5. Only use credible sources

How Do You Know If An App Is A Scam

There are two main sources of mobile apps: the Google Play Store and the App Store, for Android and iPhone devices respectively, which are the two most popular devices for app users. If you download an app from any other resource or online site, you run the risk of accidentally programming malware, ransomware, or spyware into your cell phone instead of the intended application.


Remember to always listen to your gut when it comes to your findings. No one is safe from hackers or viruses. These scary takeovers of our devices risk our data and potentially even our lives. Take caution when downloading apps to your phone and follow our advice for making smart decisions during the process.


Although it can be daunting and scary to allow our lives to rest in the hands of our devices, there are benefits, too, to going completely digital. To find out more about this, see our related post: Your Financial Security Is At Stake: Why Digital Funds Are Safer Than Cash

You Are Being Watched: How Harvard Used Social Media Monitoring To Rescind 10 Student Admissions

You Are Being Watched: How Harvard Used Social Media Monitoring To Rescind 10 Student Admissions


Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can be a great outlet for sharing things with your friends and family, making connections, and reading interesting articles (like this one!). However, it’s not all fun and games. Despite monitoring your friends list, nothing you post to social media is ever truly private. Many people have learned this the hard way over the years. Employers are firing employees over inappropriate posts. Human resources departments are scouring profiles to judge the potential character of job applicants and candidates. Now, even colleges are turning to social media monitoring to keep tabs on their students, both current and prospective.

In fact, repercussions for inappropriate actions on social media have gotten worse. Most recently is the news of Harvard rescinding the admission of 10 newly admitted students after they engaged in lewd conversation and meme-sharing in a Harvard admitted students Facebook group. What the students believed to be a private, friendly banter in an attempt to impress their peers ended up turning their dreams into nightmares. After going through the exciting process of announcing their acceptance to a top Ivy League college, maybe even combing through financial software reviews to help stay on top of their impending tuition payments, they then had to bear the shame of being rejected before even setting foot on campus.

It has been disclosed that their group chat within the Facebook page included instances of racism, anti-semitism, and general bigotry. Little did they know, the school officials were watching and taking action.

 You Are Being Watched: How Harvard Used Social Media Monitoring To Rescind 10 Student Admissions

This is not the only instance of colleges rejecting students based on their interactions on social media. If you aren’t careful with what you post, share, like, and follow, you just might end up in a similar situation.

Social media isn’t the only source that’s being monitored. Your entire online presence is vulnerable to judgment, from your book review blog to the heart rate statistics you uploaded from your Fitbit last week. Everything you do has the potential of landing in the public eye, so be mindful online no matter which digital platform you’re using.


To learn more about protecting your internet presence, read our related post:
4 Things That Can Affect Your Online Reputation.

How To Safely Browse The Internet (INFOGRAPHIC)

How To Safely Browse The Internet (INFOGRAPHIC)

WannaCry ransomware, Google Docs phishing email scam, security breaches, fake calls… the list of recent digital threats goes on and on. With thousands of devices full of data already compromised, it’s important to discuss the precautions we can take on how to safely browse the internet — no matter if you use a phone, laptop, desktop, or tablet.


Here are 11 tips on how to safely browse the internet:


  1. Install antivirus, spyware, malware, and ransomware programs with browser plugins.
  2. Don’t visit any suspicious sites or click on any spammy ads.
  3. Shop online with only trusted websites (and never enter your personal or payment info into untrustworthy sites!).
  4. Check the top of your web browser to ensure the website you’re on is deemed SECURE with an https:// URL.
    ex. Example of a secure https:// URL
  5. Read up on popular scams of the week to be in-the-know of what to look out for.
  6. Make sure you’re always connected to a safe wifi network.
  7. Install a sturdy firewall.
  8. Download files and attachments from safe websites and familiar email addresses.
  9. Avoid unwanted tracking by regularly browsing in incognito mode and clearing your web browser’s cookies and cache.
  10. Be careful of opening or answering weird emails from unknown senders.



10 Tips On How To Safely Browse The Internet INFOGRAPHIC


Thanks for reading! Do you have any more tips on how to safely surf the web? Let us know in the comments below.


Related Post: 5 Types Of Digital Threats To Beware Of & How To Prevent Them

5 Types Of Digital Threats To Beware Of & How To Prevent Them

5 Types Of Digital Threats To Beware Of & How To Prevent Them


It is a known fact that computers or smartphones must undergo regular maintenance in order to work properly. However, this is not always done, and those who disregard their devices run the risk of damaging or destroying them as a result.

It is key to protect against the various threats that lurk in the digital world and pose serious threats to our valuables and the important information stored within them.


Here are 5 types of digital threats to beware of and how to protect against them:


1. Viruses

Viruses are the most common threat known to tech users. There are tons of different types of viruses too, including resident, direct action, directory, macro, etc. But like most of these digital threats, the most effective way to combat these pests is to prevent them from affecting your computer in the first place!

The easiest way to protect against viruses is to install antivirus software to your device. You can find the best antivirus software reviews just by performing a quick Google search or by going to a reputable review site.


2. Malware

As stated on Norton’s website, malware is just an abbreviation for “malicious software” — which encompasses any type of software that attempts to discreetly access and infiltrate your device.

This is another reason why installing software is so important — having an anti-threat software running in the background will actively seek out files, sites, and programs that attempt to damage your computer without your knowledge. (Speaking of Norton!) Norton Security Deluxe is one of many types of products that will protect you against digital threats, including viruses, malware, spyware, and more.  


5 Types Of Digital Threats To Beware Of | Digital Security World
Digital threats are not limited to viruses, malware, hackers, phishing, and scams.


3. Hackers

Whether they’re looking for credit card numbers or personal info, hackers are extremely successful in stealing your information and using it to their benefit — and they achieve this through entering weaknesses in your firewall, level of protection, or even by tricking you into clicking on something that seems legit (but isn’t).

Always use caution while surfing the web, and make sure your computer programs are up to date to patch up any weak access points hackers may try to get through.


4. Phishing

Speaking of pretending to be legit, this brings us to our next point: phishing. Phishers are well versed in the art of fraud by sending fake emails that may look reputable, but are crafted by somebody seeking your credit card info, passwords, or social security number.

Again, always be careful online, especially when receiving emails that appear “phishy” or inauthentic.


5. Scams

Congrats! You’ve just won an all-expenses-paid trip to Bermuda! All you have to do is send a $100 deposit to reserve your room in a FIVE STAR SUITE. Make sure to send your deposit by FRIDAY or else your room will be given to someone else.

It’s your lucky day! Sounds amazing, right? Well, you may know this is fake, but unfortunately a lot of people, including the elderly, fall for popular scams similar to this all the time.

Most email platforms have pre-installed anti-spam protection so that spammy emails will go straight into the folder and never be seen. But when it comes to phone calls, your knowledge is your only protection. If you don’t recognize a phone number, don’t answer and let the call go to voicemail. You can always ask a friend or run a phone number or email address through an online reverse search engine before calling or writing back.


It’s better to be safe than sorry!


Thanks for reading. Happy web surfing. 🙂


Related Post: 3 Easy Ways To Protect Your Data


4 Safety Tips For Meeting People From An Online Dating Service

4 Safety Tips For Meeting People From An Online Dating Service




Online dating services are the most popular way to find a potential significant other in today’s digital world. Some platforms like PalTalk video chat can serve as a great tool for meeting new people and making new friends, but most apps are typically used for finding a significant other.


You’ve browsed different dating services reviews to find which one was best for you, and you’ve decided to give it a shot. You’ve even matched with somebody you think could be “the one”! But how can you stay safe when meeting that perfect match in person?


Here are 4 safety tips for meeting people from an online dating service:


1. Talk to each other for a while before planning to meet.

Don’t just meet anybody off any app. Even if their Tinder profile says you have 13 mutual friends, take a little while to get to know this person. Test the waters before setting a date to get together.


2. Do your research before you start getting close.

Make sure this person isn’t a fake! Check or “creep” to see if he or she has social media profiles, tagged photos, real life friends, and an active account without any suspicious behavior. You never know who’s really lurking on the internet and who’s out there with bad intentions!


3. Perform a reverse person search by name online.

If you’re still unsure, you can always utilize an online people search service to do the research for you. Use this to verify they’re sharing the right contact info online and even find out if they have any past arrest records.


4. Bring a friend with you.

Don’t go alone! Whether you’re meeting somebody as a date or just as friends, you will feel more at ease by bringing somebody you trust and feel comfortable with along for the ride. The more the merrier (and safer).


These are just four tips you can use to stay safe when meeting people off social media for the first time!

Learn how to stay safe when giving out personal information to dating apps with our related post: How Do You Know If An App Is A Scam?

Do you have any other advice to add to this list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! Don’t forget to share this with a friend who’s meeting somebody from an online dating service or anyone you know who’s meeting people offline soon.