Category Archives: Sound Masking

Internet Privacy Squashed, or Not?

President Trump signed a bill on Monday, May 1 repealing internet privacy rules passed last year by former President Obama’s team at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). How does this affect you?

The rules were adopted last year, but not taken effect. The President’s signature comes a few days after the Senate and House barely passed a measure to stop the new rules. The FCC regulations would have required broadband companies to get permission from their customers in order to use their browsing history, apps, geolocation, financial and medical information — to create targeted advertisements.

WHY WE LIKE THOSE RULES: Those FCC regulations were the strictest ever been imposed to protect consumer online privacy. We agree there is value to have more privacy as we work online. Our data should be our data, unless we agree to release it.

WHY WE NEED DIFFERENT RULES: The rules Congress and the President killed only applied to broadband and wireless providers. Other internet companies like Google and Facebook, freely track this data and flood you with advertisements based on it.

NOTE: Google, Facebook, and other internet companies do not ASK you for permission to user your sensitive data. They DEMAND it. In essence, you can accept their terms or not use their product.

Is it just us, or does that fail Google original motto of corporate conduct, “Don’t be evil?” (They dropped this in 2015 when forming their Alphabet startup.) Was it was only for other people? Or does their forcing us to give up our data violate their current motto, “Do the right thing?”

You make the call.

Democrats complain Republicans do not care about internet privacy. Republicans, on the other hand, seem to want no restrictions. (This makes no sense to us either.) It seems both parties are playing to big donors.

Why not just have the same standards for all?

But back to you… How does the repeal of this bill affect you?

We suggest not at all. The reason is because if you use Google, Facebook, etc. and they are tracking your data even if your internet provider is not.

Some people like the fact advertisements change in their browser, on Facebook, or other sites due to the website pages they view online. Others hate it. For instance, if you are browsing the internet for one of your children, a friend, or client, the ads on subsequent webpages are selected based on searches you did for others. This can go on for months. Can you stop them from tracking you? Supposedly you can, IF you have an account.

If you just use Google’s Chrome browser without a Google account, then in Settings there is a Do Not Track option. However, it has a big disclaimer:

Enabling “Do Not Track” means that a request will be included with your browsing traffic. Any effect depends on whether a website responds to the request, and how the request is interpreted. For example, some websites may respond to this request by showing you ads that aren’t based on other websites you’ve visited. Many websites will still collect and use your browsing data – for example to improve security, to provide content, services, ads and recommendations on their websites, and to generate reporting statistics.

This article explains how to turn-off tracking in Google if you have a Google account. Our disappointment is we would like to see tracking as a universal opt-in, not something you have to opt-out of.

If you want more privacy online, there are some options.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

First, realize that deleting your browser history does not help. It is not only time consuming, but impractical. It may save you from the prying eyes of people in your I.T. department or others who live with you, but erasing your online activities does nothing to hide your tracks from your ISP, Google, Facebook, etc. from doing whatever they want with your data.

Second, your other options are what we recommended in our last newsletter. Here they are again:

If you are a business, then you need to have a proactive I.T. managed service provider responsible for protecting your network and systems. They should also have security awareness training available for your employees, volunteers, consultants, and others.

Inter-Quest is a highly qualified, diverse, 20-year-old I.T. services team with offices in Beaver Dam and Madison, Wisconsin. We have protected central Wisconsin businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits from cyber hackers for decades.

Here are some of the key areas where we help Clients implement technology and train their people better public Wi-Fi habits.

Avoid Free Anti-Virus Software

Sensitive data about your personal life and career reside on your computer and possibly mobile devices such as tablets and phones. Free antivirus software has fewer capabilities than robust antivirus and firewall solutions sold by reputable providers. The cost of high-quality protection is microscopic compared to the financial loss, time waste, and stress of identity theft, ransomware, and other cybercriminal-induced pain.

Keep Software Updated

At home or work always make certain your software has the latest updates. A lot of the effort and coding in updates these days involves making certain your software has the best protection against cybercriminals. Do NOT update your software on public Wi-Fi.

Confirm the Real Network

Ask an employee for the specific name of the retail store’s Wi-Fi network and the password. Only use networks where you are 110 percent confident it is real. For instance, “Free Airport WiFi” may be a trap set by hackers and thieves.

Turn-off Sharing

Part of the process to access the public Wi-Fi network involves confirming whether you want to be sharing and seen on the network, or you want to be hidden. Turn off sharing. Do not be seen. Allowing sharing may enable evil people to access your system.

This may be a two-step process: First, you may need to go into the settings of your system to turn-off File Sharing. Second, as part of the public Wi-Fi network connection you may be asked if you want to be seen, or share while using the network. Always say “no” / be hidden.

Use a VPN

A VPN is a virtual private network. Private WiFi did a recent survey where 79 percent of respondents do not use a VPN, even though they should. The major benefit of a personal VPN is that it encrypts your data so even if any of your data gets into the hands of nefarious characters they cannot use it. There are a variety of VPN options available at a reasonable cost. Again, we advise against a free version. Get real protection, or don’t.

Avoid Sensitive Information

Do not access any online account unless you absolutely have to, and if you do, only accounts with two factor authentication.

If you are not familiar with two factor authentication, it is a two-step process to confirm who you are rather than simply entering your password (a one step process). Typically the second step is you either are texted a code, which when you see it on your phone can be entered into the website; or you are required use of tools such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator to access a code that you enter into the website.

Look for a Secure Connection

Check the web address of the sites you are visiting, particularly if you feel you need to do some transactions, to confirm the beginning of the address is “https” rather than simply “http.” This indicates the site has a secure, encrypted connection.

Turn It Off

Turn-off the public Wi-Fi connection on your computer or mobile device when you are done. Do not leave a gate in your fortress open for the enemy to attack.

After you turn it off, forget the network on your system. The process varies based on your computer or mobile device. On a Windows system you can do this in Network Settings, which can be accessed from the network icon in the lower right of your bottom task bar. In iOS go to Settings, select Wi-Fi, find the network, and select Forget this Network.

You can learn more in these articles:

https://www.cnet.com/news/trump-signs-bill-repealing-us-internet-privacy-rules/

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-internet-trump-idUSKBN1752PR

http://fortune.com/2017/03/29/white-house-trump-internet-privacy/

https://consumerist.com/2017/04/03/president-trump-signs-resolution-killing-internet-privacy-rules-allowing-isps-to-keep-selling-your-data/

We encourage you to support internet privacy standards that are without exemptions for big donors to political parties and government officials. It would be a safer and less intrusive online world if everyone had to play by the same standards.

WHAT TO DO NOW

Take inventory of what technology you have in place to stop internet providers, wireless companies, and internet app providers (Google, Facebook…), plus the ever-present cyber thieves from accessing your computers, mobile devices, storage, and networks.

For a limited time you can schedule a no cost, no obligation full network security assessment that includes an assessment of each computer, mobile device, and most of your connected equipment from Inter-Quest.

It is better to assess your security BEFORE there is a privacy violation or data loss you have to explain to a boss, board of directors, shareholders, or the public.

Inter-Quest does the work so the assessment does not interrupt your schedule.

Contact Inter-Quest online or call (608) 571-3071 to schedule a conversation with Lisa Fichter, one of our Senior Problem Solvers. She will help you get your complimentary network security assessment scheduled quickly.

Benefits of sound masking

Is Your Company’s Bathroom Really Private?

 Your bathroom might not be as, hmm, private as some other businesses’ lavatories. Companies in Japan and South Korea have been enjoying “sound free” bathrooms using gadgets that mask toilet noise. Reason behind the muffled restroom breaks: it makes it easier for people to go to the bathroom without fear of embarrassment for answering nature’s call. You might not be as concerned with buffering the noises echoing throughout bathroom stalls; but, the concept of masking noise throughout your company’s walls in order to increase privacy, safety and productivity, should be your concern.

Benefits of sound masking

Sound masking has been used by organizations as early as the 19th century. Businesses have discovered that it is essential for their businesses to be successful. Sound masking is one of the few methods that have been proved to reduce office noise.

Sound masking is where noise frequencies are used to mask other forms of noise without providing distractions. It increases the ambient background noise thereby masking the speech of other people making sure their conversation is not audible to other parties. Here are the benefits of incorporating sound masking to your business.

Enhances privacy

Privacy is important in your business and employees want to have a sense of privacy in the business they are working for. There are some industries where privacy laws and standards are considered binding like the medical industry.

Even if you are not in the medical or legal industry, employees will be more comfortable knowing that private information is kept confidential. Sound masking enhances this by ensuring that conversations about the performance of an employee or their financial or medical details are not made public.

Privacy also extends to clients who will be more comfortable dealing with a business where they are assured their private conversations are protected.

Increased retention and improved safety

More businesses are moving towards the open office plan where employees are being encouraged to work with others. While this is all good, there are negative effects of this set up that includes increased fatigue, stress and illnesses among others that could reduce employee morale and reduce the levels of job satisfaction.

Employees need to be protected from these things, and sound masking does that by reducing the levels of noise distraction that goes a long way in reducing the chances of employees suffering these effects. Increased job satisfaction makes it easier for a company to focus on other projects since they will not constantly be hiring new personnel when the existing ones drop out.

Increased productivity

Studies show that people work better in environments with less noise or other disruptions. Noise has been stated as a major contributor to decreased efficiency and sound masking provides a solution to that.

Employees will concentrate better when they have fewer distractions. These distractions come in the form of computer noises or simple daily conversations among employees and other people entering and exiting the office.

Sound masking reduces these noises to levels that cannot be heard by other employees allowing them to have more time to do their tasks in a more efficient manner.

Increased comfort

Another benefit of sound masking is increased comfort for employees. The comfort comes in different ways. First, employees can communicate freely with the management and other personnel knowing that the conversations are kept private. Also, there is less noise making it easier and more enjoyable for them to work on their projects.

Sound masking should be integrated into the running and functioning of organizations. By using the right elements, a business can continue scaling upwards since they will have created a suitable working environment. It will also improve the image of the brand as clients prefer working with companies that value their confidentiality.