Tag Archives: technology

3 Ways to Make Theft Prevention Part of Your Daily Routine

When leaving for vacation, we take all kinds of precautions. We hire a pet-sitter and have them bring in the mail every day. We pack a huge suitcase with enough clothing to survive the apocalypse. We make sure every door and window is locked and secure for the two weeks we spend getting away. All this effort for less than 4% of the year is great, but what about the other 96% of the time that we aren’t traveling? Because burglaries don’t just happen when you’re clear across the world

Three out of every five home burglaries happen during the day while people are away at work or school. You probably won’t think to take as many precautions before you go to work as you do before you go on a vacation. So here are three easy ways to make theft prevention part of your daily routine.

One, Don’t Be a Show-Off
Now, this doesn’t mean you should be ashamed of having nice things, only that while you are away from home, valuables should be stored and put away out of sight. While cleaning up any clutter, make sure that jewelry, cash and small electronics can’t be seen from any windows. If you’ve recently made any large purchases, such as a new TV or gaming system, break down the cardboard boxes they came in before putting them out on the curb for recycling pick up–so no one sees the evidence.

Two, Knock Knock…Anyone Home?
Making it appear that someone is home is a great way to deter break-ins. Leaving lights on a timer not only fools potential burglars but also allows you to come home to a nicely lit environment. (And a home automation system makes this incredibly easy to do.) If you’re out running errands and will be back in a few hours, you could leave the radio or the TV on for noise. If you have an extra car, consider parking it in the driveway instead of the garage for the day when you’re gone, to trick any would-be burglars into thinking you’re there.

Three, Invest in Home Security
There’s no shame in getting some help from professionals! Only 17% of homes have a home security system, and yet 90% of convicted burglars say they would avoid a home with an obvious alarm system. Whether you’re doing a quick grocery store run, heading to work for the whole day, or heading halfway across the world on vacation, you can have peace of mind that your home is safe with a professional home security system.

It may not be New Years, but it’s never too late to make some changes to your routine. By incorporating just a few small habits into your morning before heading out the door or investing in a home security system, you can help keep your home safe and secure. And maybe with all the comfort you get from a burglar-free home, you can push through that work stress until it’s time for your next vacation…

Stay Warm—and Safe—with These 6 Ride Sharing Tips for Uber and Lyft

With no end in sight to this winter’s cold and icky weather, sometimes that walk to the grocery store or bus ride to work just doesn’t seem worth it. With ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft becoming commonplace (even in our very small town), more and more people are calling up cars with their smartphones.

As with all new technology, some people are more wary of it than others, but they have good cause to be, and scary Uber driver stories get shared all over social media. But these six tips below will help you stay safe.

  1. Keep your rating high and you’ll get a safer driver. A rider with a 4.9 rating won’t get a driver with a 4.4 rating, so you’re getting a safer driver. To keep that high rating, be ready to head out the door as soon as possible when you call your car. Make sure that your coat and shoes are on, your tab is paid, or your bag is packed. Forcing a driver to wait could give you a bad rating or even cause them to drive off after 2-5 minutes.
  2. Check the license number on your phone and make sure your car’s plates match. Your driver will understand if you take a few seconds to peek at the back of their car to make sure you’re getting in the right one.
  3. Speaking of, make sure this is actually your car! I have watched people hop into the back of my Uber or Lyft and travel a few feet before the car stops and they sheepishly hop back out. Your driver will know your name, so ask who the car is for before actually climbing inside.
  4. Some drivers provide water, snacks, candy and even phone chargers for their passengers. This is courteous and can really bump them up to a 5-star rating! If you do accept, do not consume anything that is not 100% sealed and untampered with. When in doubt, just politely decline.
  5. Use the app’s features to increase your safety factor. Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have tons of great ways to be informed about every aspect of your ride. Check the wait time before the car arrives, send an ETA to a friend so they’ll know your whereabouts, tip your driver ahead of time to prevent delays, or even learn how many rides your driver has done. If using UberPool or a Shared Lyft, you can also check where your driver is picking up and/or dropping off the other passengers so you’re aware of your surroundings at all times.
  6. This isn’t a safety tip, but some rider etiquette that could help your rating: Talk to your driver! Ask how their day is going, when they started driving, etc. If they don’t seem interested in a conversation, you don’t have to push it, but you can at least treat your driver like another human being and try to interact. Do not be one of those rude people who sits in the backseat on their phone acting like the driver isn’t even there.

Our world is changing and evolving every day because of technology. You can order food through Uber, online retailers now offer same-day delivery, and some phones can unlock by just using your face. With all this rapid change, it can be tough to stay on top of staying safe—but safety is always worth the effort. Always.

Data Privacy Day Is January 28: Time to Prepare and Protect!

Did you know that January 28th is a day dedicated to safety and security? It’s National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day! Yes, there really is a holiday for just about everything. However, January 28th is also Data Privacy Day, and that might be more important to observe than popping bubble wrap.

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) promotes international Data Privacy Day to raise awareness of the importance of privacy and protecting personal information. In today’s always-connected world that’s threatened by data breaches and data mining, it’s more necessary than ever to be aware of how your personal data is captured, stored and used.

In celebration of Data Privacy Day, here are three areas you can protect yourself and your personal information when it comes to data security…

In Your Home
Your “private” information may be more public than you realize. Now is the time to check privacy settings on your social media sites, apps and smart devices like phones or tablets. Also talk to your family members about what they share online, and how their information can be bought and sold without their knowledge. Yes, your personal data has a monetary value, so be sure to protect it.

In the Workplace
Data security is just as important at work. Make sure all systems or devices are up-to-date to help protect your company’s privacy. This includes any virus or malware protection you may (and should) have. Also check that your personal devices aren’t syncing to work devices, such as onto the same cloud. This helps to protect you, but it also protects the network at work, should your personal device get compromised.

In Your Community
Help members of your community by spreading the word and providing resources about Data Privacy Day. This could mean asking your elderly neighbor if they need assistance protecting their technology, or sending information to the parents of your children’s friends. Anyone lacking experience with cyber security is sure to benefit from your helping hand, especially if you educate them on the risks.

Knowledge is power, and in this case power means protection. Try to set some time aside on January 28th to secure your personal data, even if it means finally accepting those updates that have been popping up on your computer for weeks. Speaking of popping, maybe pop some bubble wrap too, because we could all use a little stress relief now and then.

Have Yourself a Greener Little Christmas…with Gifts that Last

The environment is top of mind for many this holiday season, after a year of horrendous natural disasters. That might mean we’re a little greener in our Christmas preparations this year. And even if wildfires and hurricanes aren’t pushing us to be greener, the rising awareness of plastic waste should be. As we switch to re-usable grocery bags and restaurants stop offering straws, we are paying more attention to that waste. And now is the time to do it, because the amount of trash we throw away in the U.S. increases by an estimated 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Yes, that makes the holiday season an excellent time to step back and figure out ways to make less waste of all kinds…starting with gifts. To help you get greener, we offer four ways to give gifts they’ll love—with less waste.

Give quality gifts
Choose a higher quality product if it will last longer, and most definitely avoid kitschy things that no one really wants anyway. (Hint: If it looks like it belongs a White Elephant party, it belongs at a White Elephant party.) Spend a little more and give a little less if you have to make up the difference in price. When you spend more for a higher quality product that lasts, you benefit in the long run by cutting down on waste.

Restrict your buying to local, independently owned shops
One way to cut back on waste is by driving less and spending more locally. It’s easy to go online and go on a splurge, buying things people might not need or want and generating lots of plastic shipping material that gets thrown away. Try shopping locally and you’ll make less waste while benefiting your local economy. (We are trying an experiment at our house this year: We are taking the money we saved for Christmas out of the bank as cash and only using that to do our Christmas shopping, forcing us to shop at brick-and-mortar stores and not online.)

Give gifts that keep on giving
It might not be glitzy but a gift like home security is a gift that keeps on giving without generating more waste. It’s something useful and much appreciated. It doesn’t take up any room or need storage, but it gives plenty of peace of mind. And it’s a gift that causes the recipient to think of you every time he or she uses it. Home security can be a priceless gift that keeps on giving. If not home security, maybe it’s a subscription to a publication, or a donation to a charity, or something else your loved one would appreciate.

Wrap naturally
Although we’ve been saving and re-using the same Christmas wrapping bows for years now (and admittedly, some are looking haggard and worn!), we are transitioning to all natural materials for gift wrapping. Check Pinterest for ideas, and you’ll see how gorgeous this kind of gift wrapping can be!

As our awareness of plastic waste increases, organizations and businesses are taking steps to decrease the amount of that waste. You can read updates on the fight against plastic waste at the National Geographic website. And you as an individual can take your own steps to reduce waste by going a little greener with gifts this season!

Is Your Home Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

As our phones get bigger and smarter and the technologies we use every day get more sophisticated, so too can our homes. With the Internet of Things now upon us, we’re poised to go from smart homes to smarterhomes in 2019 as home automation systems become commonplace and off-the-shelf products offer the convenience of smart home technology.

Here’s a quick look at just some of the tasks you can hand over to automation and smart home technology:

Home security: This one you’re probably already familiar with, but it gets better and better every year. Today’s home security systems offer video to let you see who’s at the front door, smart locks you can operate from anywhere, and even home automation features that let you program heating, air conditioning and lighting.

Lighting: Speaking of lighting, your home automation system can be set to turn lights on or off. You can now also buy lighting systems that let you control the brightness but also the color. You can even match the color of the light in a picture on your phone. This system can also turn lights on slowly to help you wake up in the morning.

Thermostats: Your home automation system can be used to control your thermostat or you can buy a “learning” thermostat that adapts to your lifestyle.

Household chores: Would you like to hand over some of your household chores to technology? You easily can. You’ll find devices that can handle some of the most mundane tasks for you, including window washing, vacuuming and floor mopping.

In the kitchen: We’ve heard all kinds of chatter about smart appliances already, like refrigerators that can track your groceries for you and ovens you can turn on remotely on your way home from work. But the one I’m ready for is the coffeemaker that knows when I wake up and brews my coffee just in time!

In the yard: You can lighten your load inside with smart home technology and automated devices, but you can also hand over some of the outside jobs too. Technology today offers automated lawn mowers and sprinklers, pool cleaners, and even a gutter cleaning device. (That’s the one at the top of my list! I do not like ladders!)

In the bedroom: Even your mattress can now help you sleep better, using biometric sensors and your smart phone.

And for the not yet smart? For those appliances that aren’t yet “smart,” you can get an outlet that lets you control whatever is plugged into it from your smart phone.

Experts say we are on the verge of the Internet of Things revolution, and that it will change our lives as fundamentally as the Internet did 20 years ago. As a homeowner, you won’t have to wait for the benefits of this technology, because you can easily start making your home smarter than a fifth grader with all the home security features and home devices already available to you!

What’s New in Home Security? We Look at the Latest in Locks

If your car is new enough, you probably don’t have a key to unlock the door or even to start the engine. Instead, you have a “proximity key” which means something you’re carrying will unlock your car door for you when you are close enough.

As someone who drives an older car with an old-fashioned key, I can’t quite wrap my head around that yet, but I’d better get caught up soon because door locks for houses are going high tech too!

A home security or home automation system is a smart way to protect your home, but—as we’ve said before—it’s not enough. You must take other steps too, including secure door and window locks. And those locks are getting ever more sophisticated while offering multiple advantages as high-tech locks. You can lock or unlock your door remotely using your smart phone when necessary. You can assign a temporary code to a non-family member who needs to access your house—say a neighbor who’s feeding the cat while you’re away. You can get a notification when the lock is used. And those are just a few of the new-fanged features!

When your lock’s looks count…
Your lock is a security feature, but it’s also prominent on the entry point of your home, so appearance might be of utmost importance to you. If you care about appearance and you want a lock that looks like a lock, you can find them. Some smart locks can be opened with a code on a keypad, as a keyless entry, or with a key, but they have a classy low-tech “lock look” even though they’re high tech on the inside.

When you want high-tech features with a low-tech look
Some new-fangled locks do double duty when they look like a regular deadbolt but are all high-tech. You can even find locks with a place to insert a key, but they work via a biometric scanner that’s hiding behind an innocuous looking lock. You put your finger under the scanner to gain access.

When you want your high-tech lock to have a high-tech look
Other new locks look as high tech as they perform–all sleek and streamlined, screaming they’re high tech and not pretending to be anything but!

Of course, you have other options for locking your front door that are low tech, and those options are fine too, as long as you’re using high-quality locks and the whole family is diligent about locking them. But if you want something more sophisticated, one of these high-tech options might be the best choice for you!

8 Cyber and Cellphone Safety Tips for Teens, College Students—and Parents

School is starting! That puts high school and college students back into the busy-ness of the academic year, as well as back into the social media fray. Sure, they spent an inordinate amount of time on their phones all summer long, but being back in school gives them even more reasons for screen time.

And that means it’s time to review some cyber and cellphone safety tips for teenagers and young adults. If you’re the parent of a high school or college student, read through this advice as well, so you’re better informed about the dangers your kids face.

#1 Keep some things to yourself. You don’t have to share every mood swing, angry moment, argument, thought or opinion. Nor do you have to post every single photo. When it comes to sharing, less is better. That applies to news about yourself too, including being home alone or going on a trip. You are entitled to your privacy, and sharing less helps to protect it.

#2 Remember that everything you do is going to become part of the public record.  Once it’s on the Internet, it’s not going away. Every email, message, post, tweet, like, share and photo might seem temporary because you’re not likely to see it again any time soon, but it could come back to haunt you later.

#3 Employers can access Facebook too, and they do. About 70% of employers will look at a Facebook profile when considering a job candidate. What will they see on your Facebook page? If it’s something you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see, it’s probably something you shouldn’t post. This could apply when you’re applying to internships too.

#4 Practice self control. Technology can make that hard to do, because we live so in the moment these days, but you can take the higher road. Put your phone away until you calm down. Choose not to react or respond. Talk to someone instead.

#5 Follow the same rules of good behavior online that you do offline. Don’t gossip, be mean, or spread rumors. If you wouldn’t do it in person or say it to someone’s face, you probably shouldn’t be doing it or saying it while hiding behind the supposed anonymity of a screen.

#6 Watch your step. You’re leaving a trail of everywhere you go. Every website you visit and link you click provides data that is recorded somewhere. Even if you’re clearing your cache to remove the evidence from your laptop, it has already been recorded.

#7 Remember that what you’re seeing online is often not real. The perfect looking people on Instagram, the pornography, the vacation photos…be hyper aware of how those unreal images are affecting your own self-image. Experts have noticed an increase in depression among teens in recent years, and some attribute that to social media. We know of a young woman who deleted Twitter and Instagram from her phone because looking at them caused her to feel so bad about her own physical appearance.

#8 Put your phone away for a while. Teenagers are averaging nine hours per day on social media. That’s more time than most people spending sleeping in a 24-hour period. Not only is that unhealthy, it’s dangerous too. Teens are at risk when looking at their phones when so distracted while walking down the street, and obviously while texting and driving, as these horrific videos show.

The Internet and social media have changed our world, in some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse. Teens and their parents can help make it a change for the better by practicing cyber and cell phone safety, starting with these tips.

Real-Life Lessons Learned When Scammer Uses My Password

So this happened: I received an email with my name and one of my passwords in the subject line. And the first words of the email are “Lets get straight to point. Neither anyone has paid me to investigate about you.”

Guess who got the latest sextortion scam email? Yep! Lucky me!

The email goes on to make accusations and to threaten exposing me unless I pay an extortion fee via bitcoin. You can read the text of the email here, as it’s making the rounds and plenty of people have received it. Warning: It’s nasty.

What set this email apart? My password
So it’s a scam. So what, right? Why didn’t I just delete it? Why was it such a big deal to get this email? There were two reasons why this email surprised me: One, I have my spam filter set very high, so I almost never get spam in my inbox. How did this one get past? I don’t know. And two, the subject line included a password that I’ve used a lot and no one would be able to guess. That got my attention right away, believe me!

As soon as I started to read the email, I knew it was a scam, but still: my password! How did they get my password? That’s when I started digging, and learned that more people are paying off these scammers because they see the password and think there might be some validity to the claims made. As Brett M. Christensen at the Hoax-Slayer website says, “The scammers know that if you receive an email that actually includes one of your passwords – even an old one that you no longer use – you may be much more inclined to believe the claims and pay up.”

So again, how did they get my password? When it was stolen as part of a data breach, it turns out.

Has your data been compromised? Find out
One very good lesson was learned with this disgusting email: I found out I could go to https://haveibeenpwned.com and see which data breaches have included my data. I strongly advise you to do this as well. I was shocked to see that my data had been compromised in eight (yes, eight!) different data breaches. That’s where the scammers got my old password.

I reviewed the list and made sure I had updated any necessary passwords or deleted accounts for each of the breaches. Sadly, one was a marketing firm that collects information on people to sell, and there isn’t anything I can do about that—except be annoyed that the information is collected and sold without my knowledge.

Changing old passwords
More good came from this: I then went through and discovered I was still using that old password in some cases. I was able to both change the password where necessary and delete old accounts that I don’t use any more. It was like cleaning out a digital closet! That felt good!

And finally, getting stricter about passwords
The final benefit to this experience was a renewed commitment on my part to using stronger passwords, as well as keeping up with changing passwords on a regular basis. To be more vigilant about your own passwords, follow this advice.

The sense of violation I felt to have this email in my inbox, the fear caused by the threatening tone even though I knew it was bogus, and the sorrow in knowing that there are people out there who will pay the extortion money are all still with me. It’s hard to shake off that negativity, and that angers me more than the actual email. But the scammers gave me a gift: new insights into keeping me and my data safe. I hope you’ll put these insights to work to protect your information as well.

Sometimes Safety Simply Requires Putting Away the Smart Phone

We have just returned from an amazing trip to a foreign country and I have bad news: I saw as many people glued to their smart phones there as I see in the U.S. On the one hand, you might argue that that’s a good thing, because it shows we live in a global, connected world. I say it’s a case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that has us all glued to our phones, but we should have another fear instead: the consequences of staring at our small screens.

What does it matter that we have home security systems and fancy car locks and smoke detectors if the real risk to our safety is the phone in the palm of our hand? Because if you look at the research, those phones are causing accidents and even deaths—and they would be less of a threat if we could simply put them away sometimes.

Let’s start with the obvious ones: accidents
We’ve all heard we shouldn’t text and drive, and it’s illegal to do so in many states. But still people do it, causing 1.6 million accidents per year. If that number doesn’t scare you, how about these statistics: 3,500 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2015, and another 391,000 were injured. Still not scared? How about this: 11 teenagers die every single day due to texting and driving. (You can find a whole lot more scary texting while driving statistics here.)

And it’s not just teenagers who are guilty of the crime. Nor is it just car accidents that are a regular occurrence due to smart phones. This short video demonstrates just how dangerous it is to walk down the street while on your phone. (Do you see the guerilla??) When people are on their phones while walking, they walk into walls, into fountains, into a loose bear, out into the street where they are hit by cars, or even right off a pier requiring a Coast Guard rescue. (I am not making any of this up!)

And then there’s our health
If reading that section above didn’t make you want to spend a little less time with your smart phone, let’s talk about the consequences on our physical well-being. Smart phone use is bad for our eyes, our posture, and our sleep. People who spend a lot of time on their smart phones are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, pain, muscle spasms, and chronic diseases. We can get eye strain and even dry eye syndrome. Our necks are bent down and our arms are uplifted in unnatural ways for long periods of time. That’s gotta hurt at some point! And bright phone screens suppress melatonin levels, making it harder to go to sleep.

Finally, our mental and social health
Spending so much time on our phones is dangerous as we drive and walk. It’s bad for our physical well-being. And, ironically, it’s bad for our mental and social health too. Kids and teenagers disconnect from the world around them—we’ve all witnessed that. But adults can do the same when too caught up in those tiny screens. Heavy duty cell phone use also reduces our brain activity and makes it harder to pay attention, either to a task at hand or to a conversation. Socially, we’ve seen a huge increase in depression and suicides among teens, and convincing research links those increases at least in part to smart phone usage because of social media.

I am as thankful for my phone as the next person. I can keep up with my kids, find my way to a restaurant, check the weather, and stay on top of work email when out of the office. With some apps, I have no choice but to use my phone—like if I need to buy a train ticket. But we all must be aware that there is a time and a place to have that phone out and our attention focused on that, and a time and a place to be focused on what’s going on in the world around us—no matter where in the world we live.

Is Your Brain Overloaded? Home Automation Takes on Task Saturation!

My husband recently introduced me to a new term: task saturation. Task saturation happens when your brain has so much information coming at it that it can’t absorb any more. I was complaining about being so forgetful lately and he suggested that my brain is overloaded. It sure is!

I’m not alone. Many of us suffer from task saturation because we have high-pressure jobs with looming deadlines, constant communications via email and text, financial stresses as we try to make ends meet, and more…in addition to simply raising our kids, making our meals, taking care of our homes, and getting through each day reasonably sane.

That’s where home automation can help. It can remove a few of the tasks from our lists and free up our brains to handle other information.

Free up brain space when you automate some tasks
Forget about setting the thermostat or regulating the air conditioner. Your home automation system can take care of that. In the winter, you can set it to warm up the house right before you get home but save money by keeping the house cooler during the day when it’s empty. And the opposite is true during the summer. If you have pets, your home automation system can be set to keep the temperature correct for their needs without using too much energy—and without your having to worry if the dog is okay on a really hot day.

Your home automation system can also turn lights on and off, so you don’t have to come home to a dark house on a cold winter’s night—and if your kids get home first, they’ll appreciate the welcoming look of a warm, well-lit house.

The big benefit here is you can simply stop thinking about heating and cooling and lighting. You’re welcome, brain!

Home automation also protects your home—despite your forgetfulness
Your home automation can also free your brain from worrying about home security. You no longer have to nag the kids to remember to lock up, because you can lock and unlock doors, and even arm or disarm your security system, remotely using your phone. Or maybe you forgot to double check something because you were rushing out the door to work and your brain was full of thoughts about that big meeting later in the day. It’s okay. If you did forget, you can take care of it later from your office or while on the road.

We don’t function well when we suffer from task saturation, so we should be trying to get out of situations that cause it if we can. But at least a home automation system can offer a little bit of relief on the home front.

View all of our security plans and features!

Customer Reviews

I feel so much better knowing my family is protected! I spoke with SafeStreets USA in the evening and a technician was able to come install the system for me then for my parents first thing the next morning. Very impressed with his knowledge and care!

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We had our ADT system installed by SafeStreets USA and were really impressed with the service we received from our technician. He was very friendly and answered all of our questions on the system and how it worked. He set everything up in a couple of hours and was a real pleasure to talk with []

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