how to protect your privacy, avoid scams and do more

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As the old year ends and the new begins, it’s a good time to take stock of your tech habits. What works and what holds you back? What new habits could make your life easier? We’ve compiled some suggestions for your New Year’s resolutions.

Let go of distractions

The idea that the internet negatively affects our brains has been around for a while. We have access to unlimited information at our fingertips, yet our attention span and ability to retain information has diminished.

It may not be strictly the internet’s fault. New developments are always blamed for any potential evil in society, dating back to ancient times. The Greek philosopher Socrates believed that writing was inferior to memory and speech; the printing press was another invention that would be key to the downfall of civilized society, and don’t even get us started on television.

It is therefore not inevitable that the Internet affects our brain. But it’s hard to argue that technology isn’t making us more and more distracted. Take a look around the next time you go out in public. How many people are so busy with their smartphone that they don’t notice what’s going on around them?

When you’re working, how often are you distracted by the many emails and messages that land in your inbox? Is checking your phone a reflex when you’re bored or – like most of us – procrastinating?

If technology has become more of a hindrance than a help, maybe it’s time to take a step back and get your technology use under control.

It sounds strange, but technology can also help us beat it. Apple’s latest version of iOS includes the ability to set multiple “focus” modes that will reduce distractions but allow important or relevant notifications.

For example, Do Not Disturb mode will mute all notifications and apps, but a customizable Work focus mode will allow notifications from important people and apps, and let people know you have silent notifications. You can add focus modes for fitness, reading, mindfulness, driving or gaming, or even add your own.

On Android, Digital Wellbeing settings let you customize focus modes to suppress annoying app notifications. You can also set it to turn on automatically, for example at a certain time of day when you know you need to work non-stop.

There are also apps to help you focus on tasks for short periods without interruption. The Bear Focus Timer, for example, uses the Pomodoro technique, which divides the work into intervals, with a short break in between.

You open the app, hold your phone screen down, and the app will emit white noise such as campfire, stream, rains, or nighttime sounds to help you focus until until the time has elapsed. He will then praise you for your good habits, giving you that nice endorphin rush that keeps us addicted to our phones to begin with.

Take back control

Tech companies are pulling our strings, using our personal data as a way to target content and create meaningful enough profiles of us to sell us more products and services.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of tools to help protect your privacy, from ad tracker blockers to built-in controls on operating systems that prevent apps from tracking your online movements.

Ghostery, for example, offers an extension for your desktop browser and a dedicated web browser for your smartphone that blocks most common trackers. The Brave web browser will also help keep trackers away from your online activity.

And if you’re using iOS, new versions of the software force apps to ask for permission to track your activity, which you can easily reject. You may find more advertisements for toenail fungus treatments than you’d like, but that’s a minor short-term annoyance.

Dial destiny

The past two years have been difficult for everyone. We all thought the pandemic would be a distant memory and we would celebrate a more normal Christmas in 2021. Even if you managed to keep your spirits up, talk of Covid cases reaching 20,000 a day would be enough to make anyone lose faith. anyone.

You don’t have to put your head in the sand; we are not ostriches. However, it’s wise to take a break from the scroll of fate, whether that means putting your devices away, deleting your social media apps from your phone, or just getting out of the house for a quick walk.

One fact about ostriches though: they don’t actually bury their heads in the sand to avoid predators. The mischaracterization is believed to have come from observers seeing the ostrich watching its eggs. So don’t ignore, just keep an eye on things.

Check your sources

If you intend to keep up to date with the latest news, it is wise to check your sources carefully. A recent survey published by the Central Statistics Office found that over 60% of Irish internet users have seen content online that they believe to be fake or questionable.

Which makes us wonder what the other 30% are reading, really.

Of those who had seen content they considered fake or questionable, around 64% dug deeper and verified sources and information, or took part in online or offline discussions about the content. This was the 20-44 age group, where 97% sought additional information.

However, the quality of these sources is essential. Look for high quality sources that can be verified. It’s harder than you might imagine, because it’s not always clear when there’s an agenda behind a particular story or analysis. For more tips on how to evaluate news sources, see bemediasmart.ie.

Be more cynical – when it counts

This year has seen an explosion of scams targeting phone users. Almost everyone has received a call or knows someone who has received a call claiming to be from a misnamed ministry. If you haven’t had one, you have received a fraudulent text message regarding a false delivery and customs charges due. Others have been targeted by scammers claiming to offer Covid-19 testing for a fee.

The WhatsApp scam is one of the most recent to hit the headlines. You might receive a message on WhatsApp claiming to be from a friend or family member, on a new number because they lost their phone. Well, you think, it happens.

Then comes the request for help; maybe they lost their wallet or they got mugged and they need you to send them some money. If your scam radar is ringing right now, you’re right. Unfortunately, such inconveniences are designed to tap into our human instinct to help, and when paired with the urgency of the request, some people have fallen for it.

If you receive a similar message, contact the person on their old number to make sure it is no longer in their possession, or have the new number send a voice note to confirm their identity before parting ways with the silver.

And if someone asks you to send them a security code that they “erroneously” sent to your phone, don’t. This scam allows people to access your WhatsApp account and send messages to your contacts pretending to be you – and inevitably a demand for money will follow.

Boost your security

This is the one that should be on your list every year. We do more and more online business every year and as such, we should protect our accounts as much as possible.

Your technology can reveal a surprising amount of you. If someone has access to your online accounts, it allows them to form a picture of you and your life. The places you visit regularly, for example, or your home address, where you bank, where you shop online and what social media accounts you have.

That password you’ve been using for 10 years is probably floating around in a cache of compromised credentials on the dark web. It’s time to rethink things.

If your accounts offer two-factor authentication, implement it and choose an authenticator app rather than just SMS authentication.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but security experts recommend using a password manager to create random, unique passwords. All you have to do is secure the software with one strong password, and it will do the rest for you. Just make sure the password is as strong as possible – and not reused.

Pay what you need

We are collecting subscriptions these days. From streaming music to online video and fitness services to digital magazines, gaming services and audiobooks. It’s a good time to take stock of what you’re paying for and what you’re actually using. It might not seem like a lot when you sign up – the cost of a sandwich or two a month – but over the year it adds up, even more so when you realize you haven’t opened the app. in question for about six months. You can divert that money to a more worthwhile cause.

If you subscribed through the App Store on your phone, you’ll find Subscriptions in Settings, select your iCloud ID, and check under Subscriptions.

On Android, go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts and select your Google account. Scroll down to payments and subscriptions to see your recurring payments.

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