5 Tips To Keep Your Family Safe On The Internet

The internet is quite possibly the greatest human invention in history, but like most things we’ve come up with, it’s not all good news. While the world is largely a better place thanks to the web, it can be a pretty dangerous place for the uninitiated.

As our social and professional lives become ever more digitized, the average person needs to learn new skills almost constantly. If you’re a parent, your kids are growing up in an online world that simply didn’t exist when you were their age.

So how can you prep them to be safe about their inevitable technology use? Here are five ways you can beef up your family cybersecurity.

Have “The Talk” With Your Family

The weakest link in any cybersecurity setup is always the human element. Hackers refer to the techniques that target people as “social engineering” and it’s an extension of the large set of confidence tricks out there which criminals use to victimize innocent people.

There is no software or hardware tool you can buy that will make up for someone in your family being tricked into opening the doors to cybercriminals. So the best strategy is to make sure your children and significant other, and anyone else who lives with you, are aware of the most common attacks. Email phishing scams, catfishing and malicious attachments are just three examples.

Take the time to sit down and clearly explain these threats to your loved ones. Make sure they understand the risks and implications. If anyone in your family is not able to understand these threats or apply the right mitigations, then it’s too early for them to use your home’s internet connection without supervision.

Most importantly, instill the rule of “see something, say something”. In other words, if something seems off or strange, that person should let you know.

Secure The Local Environment

Not every technology or network-based threat comes from the internet. There are ways your local network can be compromised as well. For example, piggybacking is the process of connecting to someone else’s WiFi without their knowledge. Usually to use their internet connection, but it’s worse than simply getting your bandwidth hogged by a stranger.

Once an unknown person is connected to your local network, they can get access to any devices that are on that network. Especially if they haven’t been configured correctly. The next step might to steal files from local drives or network-attached storage. Malware such as keystroke loggers could also be installed by rogue users on your network.

So make sure your router is set to the highest WiFi security standard supported. At the same time, make sure that your WiFi key is a proper strong key and not something like myWiFi123. The same goes for the admin password to access your router settings. Don’t leave it with the default password!

You may want to go as far as whitelisting only specific devices, so that even if a rogue device connects, it won’t get access to anything.

Set Up a Guest Network

What about people who visit your home that need internet access, but aren’t part of your trusted circle? Many routers offer the option to create a guest network these days.

This is a second WiFi hotspot that allows for direct internet access, but cuts that user off from the rest of the local network. This is the WiFi connection to use with visitors if at all possible.

Configure All Your Mobile Devices Properly

Our smartphones and tablets are wonderful machines and it’s unthinkable that any of our kids or independent family members would leave the house without one. However, they might be walking around with a big fat security vulnerability.

Make sure that everyone has a passcode and full disk encryption enabled on their smart devices. If not, anyone who steals or temporarily grabs that device might get access to information they could use to somehow harm you.

Use Content Restriction Tools

Do you know what websites your family members are visiting? Would you be invading their privacy if you monitored their activity? It’s a tricky question, but there’s no doubt that plenty of the content found on the web is simply not suitable for children or teenagers.

In the past, tech-savvy families might have a home proxy server that logs every site visited and blocks sites that are on a blacklist. Luckily that’s not something you need to do anymore, thanks to custom safe browsing DNS services.

DNS is short for domain name servers and is basically a phonebook for the internet. When you type an internet address into your browser, it sends a request to the DNS registered on your router. The DNS takes that address and then looks up the exact numerical internet protocol address. This is the actual physical network address of the web server that hosts the site you want to visit.

Your internet service provider has a DNS that is automatically configured, but you can log into your router and manually override which DNS it should use. You can pay for a subscription-based custom DNS service that automatically blocks web content you don’t want your family members accessing. Depending on the specific service, you can block whole classes of site and also specifically block a custom list of sites.

Some internet service providers offer this service as part of your existing subscription too, so it’s worth checking if that’s the case before paying any additional money.

Streetwise For The 21st Century

Before the internet, children were given advice on not taking candy from strangers or accepting rides from people they don’t trust. Now the strangers have a direct line into the home, along with con artists and providers of adult content.

Family members of all ages need to become streetwise in a way that’s appropriate to the 21st century and the 4th Industrial Revolution. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it does have to be done.

How Browser Fingerprinting Hurts Online Privacy & What To Do About It

The literal meaning of fingerprint is the impression your fingertip leaves when you touch something. The whorls and ridges that can be clearly seen under a magnifying glass. As far as we know, each person’s whole fingerprint is unique. Which means if your fingerprints match those at the scene of a crime, you’d better have a good explanation why.

So, when we talk about browser fingerprinting, you probably have the general idea right already. As you probably thought, it’s a way to identify who has visited a site by identifying the unique aspects of their browsers. What aspects are these? Glad you asked!

What Is This Fingerprinting Stuff Anyway?

Let’s imagine that you have a freshly-installed copy of Windows and have just installed the web browser of your choice.

When you visit a website, that website can request all sorts of information about your computer from the browser. On this fresh new machine, it will know things like what hardware the computer is using, what the screen resolution is and the version of Windows you’re running.

As you use the computer, visit websites and install plugins, your computer and browser becomes more and more unique. Which means that the specific browser and computer used to visit a given site can be matched later.

Let’s say you switch on some sort of privacy protection, such as a VPN. Although your ISP and the remote site you connect to are in the dark about who you are or where you are from, your browser fingerprint can tell them something.

If two sites both compare fingerprints, you may be linked to both. If you visited one of them without any privacy protection, you will have confirmed your internet activity while ostensibly “anonymous”.

How To Test Your Browser Fingerprint

You can test whether your browser is leaving a unique print around quite easily. There are several online tools that expose that information for you to see. The one that’s easiest to recommend is the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Panopticlick 3.0.

All you have to do is click “TEST ME” and you’ll see within a few seconds whether your browser is unique enough to be a privacy risk. Go ahead and try it now.

Leaving No Fingerprint Behind

Presumably most of you reading this have failed the tracking test. So what can you do to anonymize your browser?

The answer to this question comes in degrees. There is no 100% foolproof way of anonymizing your browsing, but you can make it hard enough that whoever wants to track your browsing won’t have the resources or motivation to do so.

Let’s look at some practical steps you can take to become more anonymous online.

Private Browsing Modes

Popular browsers such as Chrome or Firefox have private browsing modes that switch off plenty of functions used for tracking and fingerprinting.

When you’re in private browsing mode, the computer won’t retain cookies or site data. It doesn’t hide many things from the site you are visiting, but it does prevent the accumulation of some unique data that could be used to identify you.

Of course, you can’t use the entire internet in this mode. So switch over to a private tab when visiting sites you’d rather not have as part of your total ID data.

Kick The Extension Habit

Every modification you make to your browser makes it easier to tell it apart from all the other users on the net. It can be tempting to really customize your experience and there are many brilliant extensions for browsers like Chrome.

Unfortunately, if you care at all about being tracked and identified, you need to refrain from using extensions. Well, except for one. The Privacy Badger extension from the EFF actually blocks invisible tracking technologies and you can get it for Firefox and Opera.

Bye Bye Javascript

JavaScript is a cornerstone of the modern web. It’s a scripting language that lets websites do all sorts of fancy, interactive and intelligent things. It’s also the main way that websites interrogate your system and fingerprint your browser.

So if you really want to avoid getting tracked and traced, disabling JavaScript is a strong method. One popular tool that works with Firefox is NoScript. It also provides protection against clickjacking.

With NoScript you have to explicitly whitelist the sites you trust with JavaScript, so it’s very secure,

Use Popular Browsers

While it’s cool to try something off the beaten path, it’s not the best idea if you care about browser privacy. It’s best to stick to browsers that are very popular. So avoid niche and heavily modified browsers.

There are many ways to express your individuality, but this is one area where it’s actually a bad idea. 

Boss Mode: Use a Virtual Machine, VPN and Privacy Operating System

If you want a more hardcore solution to being tracked and identified through your internet browsing habits, it’s possible to do something a little “nuclear” in terms of privacy. By combining several technologies you can radically reduce the chances that you can be identified by the sites that you visit.

The recipe goes something like this:

  • Use a virtual machine, which hides your true hardware specifications.
  • Run a privacy-focused operating system within the virtual machines. Tails is a good choice.
  • Use the stock Tor browser, which is already included in Tails.
  • Use a VPN that does not store activity logs, so that your ISP has no data for correlation with data from sites you visit.

In combination, these measures make it very hard for either your ISP or the site you visit to uniquely identify you.

Of course, none of that matters if you volunteer your identity. Logging into Facebook or Twitter leaves little doubt about who you are. Which means you also have to be cognizant about the information you openly provide and whether it’s what you want to do or not.

How To Download Videos From Twitter, Facebook & Instagram

Have you ever wanted to save videos from social media websites? Maybe there’s a Twitter video you want to download, or videos from Facebook or Instagram that you’d like to save? There isn’t a download button on these sites, but there are third-party tools that let you save videos from Instagram and other social networks.

Some of the best video downloaders for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are web apps, meaning that you don’t need to download a program to your computer to use them. Just copy the link to the video you want to save, and then paste it into the video downloader website to get the file (some even let you convert the video to an audio file format).

All the methods mentioned below work from a computer, but you can also use them to save videos directly to your phone or tablet. However, depending on the device you have, you might need an extra app that can handle file downloads. iPhones, for example, can use Documents, MyMedia, or Files.

Note: Downloading a video from these websites means videos that are actually stored on the site, not linked elsewhere. For example, if a Facebook post has a link to a YouTube video, you can’t use a Facebook video downloader to save it; you’d need a YouTube downloader instead.

Important: You should be aware
of copyright laws in your country before downloading videos from
Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Just because a video can be
downloaded for free doesn’t mean that it’s legal for you to take
it.

Download Twitter Videos

There are several ways to download videos from Twitter, but we’ll review a method that uses a website called SaveTweetVid.

  • Select the arrow next to the Tweet and choose Copy link to Tweet. If you’re already viewing the Tweet that has the video, you can copy the URL shown in the navigation bar of your browser.
  • Paste the URL into the text box at SaveTweetVid, and press Download.

Tip: If SaveTweetVid doesn’t find the Twitter video you want to download, try a similar site like TWSaver, TwitterVideoDownloader, or DownloadTwitterVideo.

  • Select one of the download options. You should see download links for various video qualities.
  • The Twitter video download should start automatically, but if not, right-click the page and choose the save option. Or, if you see a menu on the bottom right, select it and then choose Download. You might also have luck using the Ctrl+S shortcut.

Mobile users might prefer an app that downloads Twitter videos. Video Downloader for Twitter and Download Twitter Videos are a few options for Android.

Download Facebook Videos

Facebook has a Save video option, but that’s not what you should use if you want to download a Facebook video. Fortunately, there are several free Facebook video downloaders that you can use to the same effect: to save the video from Facebook to your computer, phone, or tablet.

We’ll use Getfvid for this tutorial, but some other sites that work similarly include Fbdownloader, FBDOWN, and BitDownloader. There are even apps that are built specifically for this, like Video Downloader for Facebook for Android.

  • Copy the link to the Facebook video by selecting the three-dotted menu and choosing Copy link.
  • Open Getfvid, paste the link into the text box, and select DOWNLOAD.

Step 3: Select a download
option. You can download the Facebook video in HD quality or normal
quality, or convert the Facebook video to MP3.

Download Instagram Videos

Just like these other social media video downloaders, saving an Instagram video involves copying the link to the post and then pasting it into a web app. We’re using DownloadGram below, but some others that work too, include Instaview, Downloadinstagramvideos, w3toys, and Savefromweb.

Tip: We also have a guide on how to save full-size Instagram images.

  • Copy the link to the Instagram video. You can do this by opening the video and copying the URL displayed in the web browser. Another option, which is required if you’re using the Instagram app, is to tap the three-dotted menu button on the post and choose Copy Link.
  • Paste the link into the text box on DownloadGram, and then select Download followed by Download video.
  • When prompted to download the video from Instagram, name it something you’ll recognize and choose where to save it.

There are also Instagram video downloader apps that might be easier to use if you’re on a mobile device. InstaSave is one example for Android devices that can download videos and images from Instagram pages.

How To Password-Protect Word & PDF Documents

Have you got a private document or important work presentation you don’t want people to see?

You can protect private and sensitive information in a Word or PDF document by password-protecting the file. This encrypts the file’s contents so it can’t be accessed by anyone, or read by any program without entering the password first.

There are several options to password-protect the contents of a Word or PDF document, and limit access permissions on your Word and PDF documents.

Password-Protect a Word Document

You can protect a Word document using a password to help keep your content safe and secure, by preventing unauthorized access. The program offers different protection levels including locking documents with a password, and configuring different protection settings suited to your needs.

These features aren’t available in Word Online, though, but you can control file sharing and dictate whether or not someone else has edit access to the content, or even open them.

If you’re using Google Docs, your documents are protected by your Google account password, as the service doesn’t support password protection. Just be careful not to give out your account password or share the document with anyone, and you’re safe.

The steps below apply to users of Microsoft Word 2010 or later for Windows, with alternate paths for Mac users.

How To Password-Protect a Word Document In Windows

  • Launch Microsoft Word and click File>Open and find the document you wish to password protect.
  • Click File again and select Info from the left pane.
  • Select Protect Document.
  • From the drop down menu, select Encrypt with Password. Enter a password that you can remember and that’ll be required when anyone attempts to open this document.
  • Click OK. Enter the password again and click OK.
  • In the Protect Document section, you’ll see a message that says a password is required to open this document.

How To Password Protect a Word Document In macOS

If you’re using macOS, the steps are a little bit different from the Windows operating system.

  • Open the Word document you want to lock via password protection and click the Review tab.
  • Click Protect Document. You’ll see the Password Protect dialog overlaying the main Word window
  • Enter a password in the Set a password to open this document field and re-enter the chosen password a second time to confirm it. In the Set a password to modify this document field, enter a password and re-enter the password a second time
  • Click OK. From this point forward, when a user opens the document, they’ll be prompted to enter the password. They can read and edit it, unless the author used additional protections.

Note: The passwords aren’t recoverable so make sure you enter one that you can remember, or store it somewhere safe. They’re also case-sensitive and can be up to 15 characters in length.

How To Remove Password Protection Restrictions From a Word Document

If you locked a Word document using password protection and you want to unlock it, sign in as the document owner and repeat the steps above for Windows or macOS until you’re back at the Protect Document button.

For Windows Users:

  • Click Protect Document>Encrypt with Password.
  • Remove the password field.
  • Click OK to unlock the document.

In the Protect Document section, it’ll now read: Anyone can open, copy and change any part of this document.

For macOS Users:

  • Click the Review tab.
  • Click Protect Document.
  • Remove the password from the field provided.
  • Select OK to unlock the document.

Password Protect a PDF Document

Whether you’re using Windows or macOS, there are several ways you can use to password protect a PDF document. Thankfully, PDFs have built-in support for password-protected encryption, unlike Microsoft Word.

We’re going to show you how to password protect a PDF using Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word. If you’re more interested in making changes to your PDF, we have a simple guide on the easiest ways to edit a PDF too.

Using Adobe Acrobat

You can encrypt, add a certificate or a password to a PDF document and control access to your file.

In an organization or team setting, you can also create custom security policies that everyone can use to apply password protection for PDFs the same way each time.

Acrobat Pro DC includes the Publish Sensitive Information action that guides you through several steps to password-protect your file, while automatically applying edit and copy restrictions.

If you haven’t installed it on your computer, and don’t want to pay for it, you can use the free seven-day trial and access this feature.

  • Open the PDF document you want to password protect by going to File>Open.
  • Click File again and select Properties.
  • In the Security tab, click the drop-down menu next to Security Method and select Password Security.
  • Under the Document Open section, check the Require a password to open the document box.
  • Enter a password in the textbox.
  • Save the PDF document to write the open password to it.

Using Microsoft Word

You’d never have guessed that you can use Microsoft Word to password-protect a PDF. You can password-protect a PDF by first creating it as a Word document and then encrypting it with a password.

  • Open Microsoft Word and create a document (if your document is already in PDF format, you can convert the PDF to Word first, and then take the steps below).
  • Click File>Save as.
  • From the Save as type drop down menu, select PDF format.
  • Click the Options… tab.
  • In the popup box, check the Encrypt the document with a password box. Enter your password twice to confirm it.

These are the different ways you can password protect a Word and PDF document. Make sure you choose a strong password that no one can guess or crack.

If you’re not good at remembering passwords, our article on the best password managers has some great options that can help you with that.

How To Write & Publish An eBook On a Budget

In the pre-Internet days (“The Dark Ages”), if you wanted your book published, you would type out your manuscript, post copies to various publishers and hope they would deign to read it. If they did, you would then have to be excited at the thought of earning 5% royalties on every copy sold (if you were lucky).

But with the Internet came Amazon, and Amazon brought along Kindle. Kindle has allowed anyone to publish their own books and cut out the traditional publisher network. We also have other eBook platforms such as Apple Books, Kobo, Nook, Tolino, Google Play, and many others.

I have ten books out so far in the last two years but it was a steep learning curve and mistakes were made. It has also been expensive producing those books. Which got me wondering. Can it be done on virtually no budget at all?

The Ingredients For Creating an eBook

To produce the eBook ready for uploading to the various platforms, you need the following :

  • Your manuscript (obviously)
  • A way to convert the manuscript to eBook format.
  • A cover for the book.

Let’s look at each one individually. It should be pointed out though that cheap poorly produced eBooks will not sell. So although you can cut costs here and there, don’t sacrifice quality in the process.

The Manuscript

How you type out your book is entirely up to you really. Some people I know swear by Microsoft Office but that is obviously not free. For the writer on a budget, you could use :

Line spacing should be either 1.15 or 1.5, and don’t get fancy with the font. One of the standard ones is fine. I prefer Arial or Garamond.

Keep an eye on the length of your book as Amazon Kindle imposes a strict limit on how big your book can be. Anything over 100,000 words should be slimmed down a bit to around 80,000-ish at the most (or consider turning it into two books).

Converting The Manuscript To eBook Format

Once you have your magnum opus finished and ready to go out, it’s time to convert it into eBook format. I’m assuming you’ve thoroughly checked and edited the manuscript first – right?

I use an expensive MacOS-only software app called Vellum, which I bought because I looked upon it as a long-term investment (and tax write-off!). But if you have no budget, there are other options.

First, turn the file into a PDF file. All of the word processing platforms – including Google Docs – have an Export as PDF button.

But Amazon and Draft2Digital (which can upload to the other platforms for you for a cut of your royalties) actually prefer Word DOCx files over PDF. They will then convert the DOCx file for you.

The other option is to use the free Calibre and turn your file into the necessary eBook format. Kindle uses .MOBI format and the others will request .EPUB.

The Book Cover

They say “don’t judge a book by its cover” but in truth everybody does. Whether or not you spend your hard-earned money on a book will depend partly on how much the cover draws you in.

So a really bad cover is going to really hurt you. You will need an image you can legally use for commercial purposes (to be safe, buy one from iStockPhoto for as little as $9 – cheaper than a lawsuit for copyright infringement).

Here are your options for making a book cover.

  • Adobe Photoshop – only for those who really know what they are doing. A free alternative is GIMP.
  • Amazon Kindle Cover Creator – inside KDP (which I will discuss in a moment) is a “cover creator” which makes rather basic covers. This should be considered your last resort.
  • Canva – inside Canva are templates to make book covers. The templates are free but if you use Canva’s clip-art, you may be asked to pay a couple of bucks.
  • Fiverr – probably the best option if graphic design is not your forte. You can hire someone to make a cover for around $40-$50.

Uploading To The Internet

If you’ve read this far, you’ve got your formatted eBook and your cover all ready. Now it’s time to get your Precious online.

As well as Amazon Kindle, there are LOTS of other eBook platforms. But instead of uploading individually to each one, why not use an aggregation service?

Draft2Digital – in return for 10% of your sales – will upload your book to multiple eBook platforms such as Apple, Nook, Kobo, and OverDrive (which puts eBooks in libraries). A huge timesaver.

For Amazon, make an account on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and then follow the steps for uploading your book (which Amazon explains every clearly).

Advertising & Promotion

Online marketing and promotion is a huge topic in and of itself. So to attempt to cover everything here would be a fool’s errand. And since most advertising and promotion involves money, we need to look at some of the things you can do if money is not something you have.

  • Give the first book away for free – assuming you have more than one book planned, why not give the first one away for free to build up a fanbase? Set up your website and on there, add a mailing list form from Mailerlite. When someone signs up for the book, they will be automatically sent an email with a download link.
  • Send free copies to reviewers and influencers – decide who would enjoy your book and hopefully recommend it to others. Then email them a free eBook copy.
  • Social media – it costs nothing to set up social media accounts. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram should be the three to focus on. You can run giveaway contests, create hashtag campaigns, and more.
  • Make promotional graphics on Canva – make leaflets, social media graphics, email graphics, and so on in Canva.
  • Make YouTube videos – if you have the know-how, set up your own YouTube channel and promote your book in its own movie-style trailer.

When it comes to marketing and promotion, your imagination is the only limit.

Conclusion

This is only just an abbreviated version of getting your own eBook set up, but hopefully it has given you a good idea of what’s involved and how easy it is.