This is the second post on technology’s role for people moving to Panama.
In this post I will focus on some of the dangers that technology poses for those that are new to using technology.
Let’s start with the most obvious. The technology I am talking about requires the Internet to be useful. Connecting to the Internet will require an email address and an email account requires a password.
This is the first point of failure for most people. They don’t realize how important it is to have a hardened secure password. I have written several posts that cover the password subject and won’t cover the topic in detail here. A search on this blog for “passwords” will bring up old posts.
I will summarize what I have previously written as follows. All sites and emails requiring a password should have unique passwords. If you are using the same password for multiple things, you are already in danger.
Next, the password should be complex. It should use upper and lower class letters, numbers, and special characters. It should also be a minimum of 10 characters in length. The more characters the better. I think my shortest password is 12 characters.
I had a person recently ask me to help set up her Amazon Firestick with KODI. When I asked for her Amazon account email address, it was based on her name. No problem with that.
When I asked for her Amazon password, it was her last name. (FAIL) I would bet she uses the same thing for her Facebook account.
Surfing the Internet
While very useful, the Internet can be a dangerous place. There are people who make a living stealing identities and taking control of personal computers with malicious software.
Downloading software from unknown sites and unknown sources is a great way to lose control of your PC.
Credit card companies, banks and legitimate businesses will never send you an email asking you to revalidate your password or address. If you get an email asking you to do that, then you have received a phishing email. Any links it asks you to click will direct you to a site that will capture your information. They are clever enough to make their site look official.
Speaking of emails, it may be worth mentioning that you should always assume that any information you send via email will be read by thieves. Never send passwords, social security numbers, bank account numbers, etc. in an email. Any information you only intend for the person on the other end should be encrypted.
Also, it is good to ignore all popups that tell you that your PC may be infected and wants you to allow a quick scan.
Next, all intelligent devices (smart phones, PCs, routers, etc.) need to be maintained with the latest security fixes.
Apple, Microsoft and Google are all good at pushing out security fixes for their software. It is wise to keep all software up to date.
Smart phones and their manufacturers require a little more discussion.
Apple – Apple controls its hardware and software and does a good job at distributing security updates. In this regard, Apple is currently the gold standard benchmark.
Microsoft is, for all practical purposes, out of the phone business, so I will not discuss it.
Google – is both a hardware manufacture as well as the developer of the Android operating system.. It has update control of its new phones, branded Pixel, and Pixel is the most secure Android phone.
The previous NEXUS phone was sponsored by Google and is the next most secure, even though NEXUS were cobranded with the physical manufacturer.
Then comes the myriad of other Android phones (Samsung, LG, Sony, Motorola, Lenovo, Huawei, ASUS, One Plus…). There are more manufacturers than I can count and a new one springs up every day.
If you are on an Android device that is not a NEXUS or Pixel, then you have more to worry about. When Google pushes out a new security release, it will go put immediately to the Google Pixel phone. The next recipients will be the NEXUS phones. Last to receive updates are all the rest.
Each manufacture will have to decide if the new OS or security update will be distributed to its phones and which models of their phones.
THIS page will give you an idea of Android fragmentation.
The latest version of Android is version 7. You can buy new android phones running version 4.2.
If you are concerned with security (and you should be) then you need to choose a reputable manufacturer. The most secure Android phones are those branded NEXUS and Pixel.
Technology is being forced on us. I personally think a Smart Phone (i.e. a computer) is a requirement in today’s world. However, many people buying Smart Phones want them to be like they are toasters and assume they will work with no care or feeding. They let price determine what they buy, because one toaster is just like the rest.
Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.
If you look at the cost of smart phones, you will find prices from as low as $50 to over $1,000. The price components include build quality, electronic components, software, and security.
Of those components, the most expensive part is security. The less you are concerned with security, then the less you will have to pay for a smart phone.
WiFi – When I moved to Panama, there were small internet cafes everywhere. You went in and paid so much an hour to use the Internet, if you didn’t have Internet in your house. The danger in those places was that they didn’t maintain their software and key logging software could steal your information.
Today, most of this places have been replaced by businesses offering free WiFi. Restaurants, airports, Doctor Offices, etc. may have WiFi for their customers. If the WiFi is open, meaning that no password is required, I recommend you don’t use it. No public WiFi will be as secure as the WiFi in your house, assuming you have done a good job in securing your home network. The least safe WiFi is one that does not require a password to use it.
You should always have an antivirus program on you PC. It doesn’t matter if you use Apple OS, Microsoft OS or Linus OS.
It is wise to run a scan on any USB memory stick given to you by a friend. The USB stick is an excellent way to infect your PC with malware.
Only install software from sources you trust. There is a lot of pirated software sold in Panama. It often is already infected.
Smart Phone Security
Keep your system current. Only install software you trust. If you have an iPhone use App’s from Apple’s online store or trusted manufacture site.
If you are on an Android device, then get apps from the Android Play Store.
You should realize that all streaming devices are small computers. They can be taken over just like their big brothers by malware.
If you only get apps from Apple, Roku, or Android Play Store, then you are getting authorized programs. If you “jailbreak” your Apple TV and install 3rd party Apps, then you are at risk.
I use Kodi for a lot of my entertainment. Kodi is an open source program that is free. While it is a known source, it is considered 3rd party as far as Amazon Fire TV/Sticks are concerned. Android TV boxes can download Kodi from from the Google Play Store.
I consider Kodi safe, however, Kodi can have added capability by using add-ons. The add-ons bring in an element of risk. There are add-on communities that I trust are TVaddons and those provided by Ares Wizard.
To have WiFi ability in your house, you are going to need a router. You can pay extra and use the cable company’s device, but I don’t recommend that. A good router will cost you $60 and up.
DO NOT USE ANY ROUTER THAT ONLY PROVIDES WEP SECURITY.
The problem with many routers is they do not make it easy to keep their OS up to date. The router OS is installed in ROM and most manufacturers don’t tell you when their OS needs to be updated. You have to take the initiative to check the manufacturer’s website and see what the latest version is.
Apple’s Airport devices have been the gold standard and they always automagically keep their software up to date. However, Apple recently announced that they were getting out of the router business.
A new class of router has entered the market and is known as a mesh router. These are smarter devices and the ones that I would suggest considering. Here are three i like. Google WiFi, AmpliFi, and EERO.
Smart Phone Recommendations
I will end this post with my recommendations for a smart phone. There is no perfect solution and what I like, may not be what you like or what you are willing to pay for.
If you are heavily invested into the Apple ecosystem, then iPhone will probably be for you. It is well made and well maintained by Apple. It is the benchmark of the smart phone industry.
Microsoft has gotten out of the market.
Android is the last major smart phone operating system and is made by Google. The following is my order choice of manufacturers. I set security as my highest priority my ranking.
- Google Pixel and Pixel XL
- Nexus 6P and other Nexus devices – These are Google sponsored reference phones.
- (Samsung, Sony, Huawei, LG)
- The rest.
Whew. If you made it to here, you need to forget about technology for a while and go outside and enjoy some nature. That is the real reason you are in Panama any way.