Monday, April 19, 2010

Election safety heads up...

The closer we get to elections the more attacks there will be on our blogs, websites, via email and on our social networking sites. During the last election my Facebook page got shut down right after I had an onslaught of lib activist friend requests, which I ignored. That's inconvenient, but it's nothing compared to some of the attacks that have been tried since!

I'm not a professional and I'm sure there are better tips for safety out there, but I wanted to pass along a few suggestions and things to watch out for prior to the real heat of the election.

- Turn on comment moderation if your blog has that capability. I use blogger for all of our blogs, mainly because we have so many contributors and it's vanilla easy for all levels. One thing I really like about it is the ability in settings to turn on comment moderation. Every comment is pre-screened and we can approve or allow.

- Turn on the feature which sends any posts to your blog to be copied to your inbox if available. Blogs are hacked all the time. You're going on your merry way while some hacker is posting crud on your blog. It's simple to turn on and easy to delete the email that arrives in your inbox with the blog you just wrote. Hopefully you'll never get one from a hacker who's posted.

- Change your passwords frequently... and make sure they're weird and that they're different for each social network, blog, etc. Use a combination of upper case, lower case letters, numbers and symbols. We all know that one, but most of us thing we're immune to hackers or we just get complacent. I have so many passwords I have to keep a little file next to my computer. Yep, that's technically another no-no!

- Never click a link unless you absolutely know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's safe. If your friends account has been hacked then you may get an email with a link that looks completely safe, but it's not.  Here are a few things I do to try and stay safe:
  • I have a couple of bad, dummy email addresses set up at the beginning and at other points in my email address list. If someone hacks and tries to send using my email address book there are enough bad emails in the list (that look legit) that the email will bomb and get hung up in my send box. That something I've done for years, who knows if the hackers have figured out a way around it since I first started doing it!
  • If you hover your mouse over a link without clicking on it the "real" address should show up on your status bar in Internet Explorer, Foxfire, your email status bar, etc. If you see a bunch of numbers, symbols, the words "friendlyhacker" (ha ha) or anything even slightly fishy, don't click.
  • If in doubt you can always go onto the web and find the location by doing your own search. For instance is you get an email from Joe Smith's Conservative Network inviting you to read their articles, simply go type in the link yourself (assuming it's not weird) or do a search and go from there. 99% of the time I go that route these days rather than chancing it. But then again, I get over a thousand emails a day due to all the sites I maintain... I have to be more cautious than the average person.

- Make sure you have good firewalls, updated virus protection, etc. I use free stuff that I've downloaded via www.download.com. It's a CNet site and they test their stuff, give comments, and I give it high marks. I know there are others, that's just the one I've settled onto 'cause it's always more than met my needs for any software!

- Don't assume all bad stuff is from bad people. Recently I popped onto my Facebook page and saw a slew of avatars of naked men... My first thought was that I was going to unfriend this dude very fast. Then I popped over to his page, did a tiny, tiny bit of research and found he'd been hacked. A lot of people just unfriended him without considering that he may have been hacked.

- Be part of more than one social network and set up a blog. If Facebook shuts you down, you can use Twitter to inform friends and get back up and running quickly on a new page. When I got shut down I put the word out via blog and Twitter and within a few days had twice as many friends as I did when shut down. Word is out that Ning is considering charging, which means that many will move away from that platform. There are  lots of free social, canned website services and blogging sites available on the Internet. MySpace seems to have lost its luster in "our" circles, but it's still there... Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, Ning, are just a few to check out.

- Look for conservative alternatives to Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, etc. Heritage is working hard to get their alternative to YouTube going, ditto on a few others. Even if they're fledglings and don't have all the bells and whistles join and use if you have the time. Support those conservative networks. Aside from giving support, another big reason for doing so is that you can bet that if things continue the way they're going more and more conservatives will be banned or shut down on lib owned media (such as Blogger and Facebook). Best case we'll be closely monitored and may have someone from the gov't knocking on our door before long. Lest you think I'm being paranoid I was talking to a an acquaintance at a tea party event a few weeks ago who had that happen to them! Turned out to be nothing in the end, but it didn't do much for the old heart rate to have suits knocking at the door with ID badges ;-)

This has nothing to do with security, but it may save you some time... I have my blog set up to feed to Twitter, and Twitter set up to feed to my Facebook page. I still go on those sites and post comments when I have time, but it sure does save a lot of time to have an auto feed! Check out www.twitterfeed.com and www.feedburner.com for a couple of easy to use methods of setting up feeds.

I know there are a lot of other safety tips, and I may share more later as they pop into my brain. However, most of you know some great ways to protect yourselves on-line, and there are all kinds of blogs and sites set up that focus on those issues. Go check 'em out. Don't get so paranoid that you're system chugs at dinosaur speed due to all the protections you have on your computer though. Balance is more than just a word ... stay safe, be alert and know that as I type some lib nut job is scheming for ways to thwart our efforts some how, some way.

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