Your anxiety over your privacy online can now come with a running score.
An update to Mozilla Firefox shipped last week augments the tracking protection enabled earlier in that web browser by adding a report card that tallies all of the tracking attempts blocked over your last week online.
The total in a copy of Firefox running in Windows 10 that had been used for five of the last seven days: 3,078 trackers.
Most, 2,678, came from online advertising networks and analytics firms. Another 287 came from social networks: Facebook and Twitter use embedded widgets on sites such as USA TODAY’s to profile their users, a tactic Apple began blocking in its Safari browser last year.
This copy of Firefox also caught 112 “fingerprinting” attempts, in which sites attempt to track users by collecting data points about their browsing configuration instead of dropping a “cookie” file. And Firefox blocked one case of embedded content that itself included some sort of tracking mechanism.
This update to that free, open-source browser also makes it easier to check which sorts of trackers populate any one site by breaking out those placed by social networks and those set by advertising and analytics firms. To see, click or tap the purple shield icon at the left of the address bar.
A copy of Firefox running in Windows 10 reported that USA TODAY’s home page unsuccessfully attempted to place three social-media trackers, two from Twitter and one from Facebook. It also counted 10 advertising and analytics trackers blocked.
But that second list also revealed that half of these trackers were standard-issue site-analytics tools from New Relic and Chartbeat that help site owners gauge visitor interest. Mozilla uses Google Analytics on its own site for the same purpose — and Firefox blocks that as well.
On a Mac, meanwhile, Firefox reported not 10 but 94 cross-site trackers at USA TODAY, including many set by such ad networks as Taboola and Google’s DoubleClick subsidiary.
Firefox’s primary competitor in the market for privacy-enhanced browsing is Safari, and with this update it sets up an interesting contrast.
Apple says it will err on the side of blocking all cross-site tracking — as determined by an algorithm each copy of Safari runs — even if that may break legitimate site functions. But Safari offers no hint of which trackers it blocks aside from the dialog it presents when interrupting social-media widgets like Facebook’s “like” and “share” buttons.
Firefox, meanwhile, relies on a list of trackers maintained by the web-privacy firm Disconnect and lets users see which ones it blocks at any site. Mozilla, a non-profit, also makes a point of saying it doesn’t want to break the ability of sites to make money from ads.
Analysts have worried that Mozilla and Apple will do just that by going too far in stopping anything that looks like surveillance, even if it’s standard site analytics. In August, Stratechery analyst Ben Thompson warned against “an absolutist approach” that would kill smaller ad firms and keep Google and Facebook atop the online ad industry.
What about the browser Google ships and which a large majority of the web uses, Chrome? Back in May, Google executives said they would add vaguely-described privacy controls to the browser but didn’t offer a shipping estimate beyond a blog post saying “We will preview these new features later this year.”
I thought this would be useful to those out there that are thinking of buying a new home and going to open houses.
If you want the home
1. Determine your best offer. Work with your real estate agent to identify your initial bid, look up the home's history and factor needed repairs to make your offer. If you don’t have an agent, give us a call.
If you're not sure about the home
2. Sleep on it. If you're not 100 percent sure, get a good night's rest and see how you feel in the morning.
3. Know your deal-breakers. Which features match up to your list or don’t?
4. Take a second look and bring a friend who can offer a fresh perspective and honest opinion.
5. Consider your lifestyle. When you imagine yourself living in the home, is it still a good fit?
6. Think about add-ons.Does the home need any updates or repairs?What will maintenance entail? Consider all the extras to see if the home still feels like a good deal.
7. Revisit at different times of day. Make sure the property & neighborhood suits you at all times around the clock.
8. Trust your gut. If your inner voice of reason is chattering away try to figure out what it's telling you.
You hated the home
9. Identify the issues you didn't like. Remember them when you visit new listings.
10. Broaden your horizons. Expand your search into areas or features you haven't yet considered.
11. Don't settle. There's a big difference between making a few small compromises and making a big mistake you'll have to live with for years
A home costs more than just the sale price. For example, closing costs—which make up about 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price—are a major added expense. Michael Hyman, a research data specialist at the National Association of REALTORS®, shares the charges that make up closing costs in a post at the association's Economists’ Outlook blog so that home buyers can be prepared. Lenders provide a Closing Disclosure at least three business days prior to closing on a mortgage. But buyers will need to budget for these added costs ahead of time to avoid sticker shock days before closing. Origination fees. This is the fee charged by lenders for processing the application and underwriting it. The fee typically ranges from about 0.5% to 1% of the borrower’s mortgage. Sometimes, it’s higher for smaller loans because “the fixed costs are a higher percentage of a smaller balance,” Hyman notes. Service charges. These include items such as the appraisal, credit report, flood determination and certificate, tax status, pest inspection, title search and insurance, and survey fees. Appraisals and surveys can cost anywhere between $300 to $500 each. Title services can add up to about $2,000, so buyers may want to shop around for that.
We send messages all day long, and every time we hit “send,” we roll the dice. Hackers don’t have to break into your phone to steal your data; they can intercept messages or break into other people’s devices. Once they have your email or text, there’s only one way to protect your private correspondence: make it unreadable.
Imagine if hackers were able to see everything you do online, every account name and password. All that data is transmitted through your router, so you need to make sure it's not compromised. Tap or click for a free test to see if your router has been hacked.
One of the most powerful defenses against snoops is called “end-to-end encryption.” Encryption is a secure way to protect your conversations from being read by others. Even if a hacker intercepts them, they can’t see anything but gibberish. “End-to-end” means messages remain encrypted, no matter who is sending or receiving them.
This idea sounds a little complicated, but it isn’t tough to set up. And you can get this extra layer of protection for free.
Believe it or not, big-name email services like Gmail and Yahoo do not provide end-to-end encryption. Some critics say it’s because large data companies want the ability to read your messages.
The common explanation is much simpler: watertight encryption is hard to implement, and it requires all correspondents to participate. For example: If your email uses encryption but mine doesn’t, the process isn’t end-to-end. At some point, your message will be vulnerable.
For businesses and organizations that require tight security measures, or for cautious individual users, here are some standout services that do provide end-to-end encryption. There are some loopholes and drawbacks to each, but if you get your entire network onboard, these platforms can theoretically safeguard your entire email chain.
Here are some services known for their encryption capabilities to make your email and text messages more secure.
This service has won global attention because of its end-to-end encryption, and it has become a popular option for users seeking absolute privacy. The company is based in Switzerland, a nation famous for its privacy standards, and its servers are literally buried underground.
There is a limited free version and a more robust paid version, and you can use the service for your website’s domain. The company boasts that even they – the developers – can’t read your emails.
This Belgian company puts a premium on security by using “keys,” which you can share with trusted individuals. The good news is you can trade ultra-safe emails with fellow Mailfence users. The bad news is you can’t send end-to-end encrypted messages to people who don’t use it.
You can secure end-to-end encryption between one Tutanota user and the next; and you can also create secure passwords for viewing Tutanota-sent emails on other services, such as Gmail.
This service is similar to others, except it can also provide decoy email addresses, making it difficult for a recipient (or hacker) to know who sent a message. This could be used malevolently, of course, but it can also protect your email from abusive responses.
Created in Canada in 1998, Hushmail has been in the private email business for a long time. Like Mailfence, Hushmail uses keys for sharing with others. Many of Hushmail’s innovative features are fairly standard these days, but the service remains as trustworthy as ever.
Yes, the popular email service has developed end-to-end encryption – you just need to change your settings to use it. Outlook will analyze your email for sensitive information; but more interestingly, Outlook can prevent a recipient from copying or forwarding your emails.
“Text messages” have evolved rapidly in recent years, and smartphones are capable of supporting a wide range of messenger services – a handful of which provide end-to-end encryption, just like email.
There are numerous services available for inexpensive or free messaging, which provide decent levels of security. These are three of the biggest; I recommend Signal first, Messages (if you have an iPhone) second and WhatsApp third, but you might also look into Silence, Silent Phone, Telegram, Wire, Dust or Cyphr, among others.
As its name implies, Signal Private Messenger is explicitly designed for covert communication. Its developer, Open Whisper Systems, has won accolades from security experts and cryptographers, and the system is available for Apple and Android devices, along with desktop computers.
All Signal messages are encrypted end-to-end, and you can also set a timer for your transmissions so they are automatically deleted. What's more, the programming is open-source; there isn't a major corporation looming over your data, nor is there a faraway server that stores your data.
Incredibly, Signal is free to download and use, whether you get it from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Not only can you send messages, but you can also hold HD video calls with users all over the world.
Apple users generally rely on the Messages app in iOS and macOS, which protects messages and attachments sent between two Apple gadgets. So if you send a message from an iPhone to a friend's iPhone – or their iPad or Macbook – your text will automatically be encrypted. Text messages stored on iCloud are also encrypted, as long as you've enabled two-factor authentication.
Predictably, messages sent to Android users are not encrypted. Android gadgets do not encrypt SMS messages by default; in that situation, you may consult another one of these apps.
Android users often get the short end of the stick when it comes to safety and security. Tap or click to see a long list of apps you must delete now and future downloads you should avoid.
WhatsApp has garnered global popularity for its free text and voice messaging. The app is available on a variety of platforms, including Windows and macOS computers, as well as Android and iOS mobile devices.
One drawback: WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which has come under fire in recent years for privacy issues. Tap or click for 5 Facebook privacy settings you must change to protect your account.
That said, WhatsApp does offer end-to-end encryption between yourself and other WhatsApp users. As always, I don't recommend sending sensitive information through the app – much less compromising photos or documents – but you can use this app to comfortably keep hackers at bay.
Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.