In these digital times, it comes down to this: Trust no one. .
And verify everything.
Three events in one week that we should all pay attention to: a thumb drive, a hacked phone and a fatal outcome from hopping in an unconfirmed Uber. Welcome to today’s Internet Age.
—A woman strolls onto President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, with four cellphones and a thumb drive authorities say was full of malware. Who knows just how extreme the malware was. But let’s face it, it wasn’t good. After she got past Secret Service checkpoints, she was stopped by the hotel’s reception staff before it was too late.
—Jeff Bezos, often characterized as the world’s richest person thanks to the billions earned from his Amazon.com, also had people, but his phone, they allege, got hacked by the Saudis. Security experts we spoke to think it was either a phishing link that got clicked and enabled malware or malicious code put on a website he visited. Bezos says personal information was stolen from his phone.
—A University of South Carolina student ordered an Uber over the weekend and stepped into a car she assumed was the driver. It wasn’t. She was killed later that night, police announced Monday.
For the millions of us who use ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, remember this: The name of the driver and the license plate for the car are labeled in the app. Double check it before you get into any car and have the driver announce his or her name.
Adam Levin, the author of Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves, says people who haven’t taken security seriously need to stop and do a rethink.
Internet woes are “not something we can prevent,” he says. “But we can be more careful.”
What to do in the internet age? Begin by assuming the worst.
When the phones rings, is it really a friend calling to speak to you or is it a hacker?
Levin tells a story about the rogue asking if it’s you when you answer the call, you say “Yes,” and, if recorded, that word then gives him the license to bill you for things you never ordered because they have you on tape saying “Yes.”
His solution: Answer the phone only when you can prove, through Caller ID, that it is one of your contacts.
In the case of the malware-infested thumb drive that made it onto Trump’s resort property, Levin says that had it been inserted into a networked computer, it could have picked up passwords, e-mail accounts and other privileged information. “Once malware is into a system, it’s like a disease and virus,” he says. “It just gets in and spreads.”
With a phone belonging to Bezos or you and me, “no phone is impregnable,” he says. “People have to understand this. The phone you use could be a weapon of mass destruction. People look at cellphone as communication tool, it’s really a mini data storage device.”
Once again, class, remember:
—Don’t put important personal information on your phone, unless you wish it to be in others’ hands.
—Have different passwords for every website you go to, and use two-factor authentication, using a code as a secondary method of logging in, to beef up your credentials. If you get hacked, change all your passwords.
—When using public Wi-fi, assume that everything you’re typing can be read by others. If you don’t want it reprinted, don’t type it. Better yet, subscribe to a virtual private network app to use while in public wifi, like NordVPN or or SaferVPN, which will help secure your signal.
“No one is too unimportant, too small, too irrelevant to be of interest to a hacker,” says Levin. “Assume we’re all as hot as Kim Kardashian. We all have information they’d like to have.”
In other tech news this week
Speaking of hacking, the UpGuard cybersecurity firm said that it uncovered two cases in which massive buckets of third-party Facebook app data were left exposed on the public internet. In one such case, a Mexico-based media company named Cultura Colectiva amassed 146 gigabytes of data with more than 540 million records. The records are said to include user comments, likes, reactions, account names, Facebook IDs and more. Facebook said it took down the database after it was alerted to the issue.
Verizon turned on its 5G network in Chicago and Minneapolis. The new 5G network is the first to work with a mobile phone, last year’s Motorola’s Moto Z3, assuming you have the required accessory that attaches to the back of the phone and has the required chips to connect to 5G. The phone currently retails for $480 on Verizon’s website. The 5G accessory is sold separately for $199.99, a discount from what Verizon says is a retail price of $349.99.
Snapchat hopes games will keep its young user base more involved with the service and help it grow. At a splashy event in Hollywood on Thursday, Snap Games was introduced. Users locate other players and the game during chat sessions. The first game introduced, Bitmoji Party, launched Thursday, and like the other games that will roll out shortly, they’re all free and ad-supported.
The back and forth between YouTube’s PewDiePie and India’s T-Series record label has resulted in a victor: PewDiePie is once again the most subscribed to channel on YouTube. PewDiePie – also known as Felix Kjellberg – had initially conceded defeat to T-Series, but he then saw a surge in subscribers. Both are hovering just under 100 million subscribers.
This week’s Talking Tech podcasts
—Watch an ad on app, get free movie ticket: MoviePass co-founder Stacy Spikes explains his latest project, PreShow.
—The best voice commands for music with Alexa.
—Happy birthday Gmail.
—Don’t do dumb things on your smartphone.
—Scanmyphoto’s latest pricing: 1 cents per scan.
—My take on the Snapchat Partner Summit.
That’s a wrap for the Talking Tech weekly news wrap. Please subscribe to weekly newsletter, http://technewsletter.usatoday.com, follow me on Twitter (@jeffersongraham) YouTube Instagram and here, and listen to the daily Talking Tech podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to online audio.