How to Protect Yourself from the Weakest Links in The Internet of Things

How to Protect Yourself from the Weakest Links in The Internet of Things
Image via image via dsa66503. Image choice is not meant to suggest that Nest is an insecure brand.

So many things are connected to the Internet now. Your thermostat, your refrigerator, your baby monitor, your light switches, your health tracker. Did you know there are web sites designed to find all the Internet connected devices and potentially allow them to be hacked?

You don’t need to be a computer genius to hack into someone’s security system, door locks or cars. Using the username admin with the same password often yields access to such devices with no trouble at all.

Having access to one of the Internet connected devices in your home could be the weak link that allows someone to hack into other devices in your home, such as your computer.

The most important step you can take to protect yourself is to change default usernames and passwords on all your Internet connected devices. Boston University has a great post on how to create a secure password.

If possible, make the device accessible only from your private home network (which has a secure password, right?) You can then log in to your own network away from home, but others won’t be able to.

Protect your data. Be safe out there.

A Talk About Nothing

Lena Reinhard
Lena Reinhard

You may have watched this elsewhere, but I found it impressive enough to add here as well. Its a very fine talk about the tech industry by Lena Reinhard at the first ever .concat() web development conference on March 7th 2015.

Here’s the abstract of the talk.

And, yes, literally nothing. Together we’ll take a look behind the curtains of reality and explore some of the underlying rules that shape our existence. We will dig into ancient philosophy, the history and today’s status physics and maths, look into the origins of computing, programming and analyse the way we develop software today. We’ll see how nothing influences us, how it shapes our behaviour every day and how nothing can help us grow – in our professions and, even more, as humans.

“Nothing really matters,”, Freddie Mercury wrote in a song that was released 40 years ago. I want to show you how right he is.

The talk is nominated for the “Conference Talk of the Year” in the .net awards 2015. Listen to it carefully as she builds her message and listen all the way to the end.

Review: Lightbeam for Firefox

Lightbeam in graph view
LIghtbeam in graph view after 1 day

An email from Mozilla about Lightbeam for Firefox said,

We built Lightbeam to shine a spotlight on online data tracking to help people understand the Web. After you download and install the Lightbeam add-on to Firefox, it creates a real-time visualization of the websites you visit and all the third parties active on those sites. As you browse from site to site you can watch the visualization grow. You can also share your Lightbeam data with Mozilla and better inform a global dialog on the prevalence of tracking.

I’m not particularly interested in sharing my data with Mozilla – they probably know everything there is to know about me already without giving them more – but I was interested in seeing how this worked and what kind of privacy insights it offered.

The graph at the top of the post shows Lightbeam after being installed in Firefox for only one day. The circles are sites I visited, the triangles are “third party site” connected to the sites I visited. In one day after installing Lightbeam, I visited 11 sites and was connected to 117 third party sites.

On the graph view, if you hover over any one of the circles or triangles, you can see what it is. You can manipulate the display. For example, here is the graph with third party sites dimmed out.

Lightbeam with visited sites highlighted and third party sites dimmed
Lightbeam graph with visited sites highlighted and third party sites dimmed

Dragging (like on a Google map) will zoom in or out of the graph so you can look at the data in various closer or more meta ways. The controls under the display help you choose what you want to examine more closely.

LIghtbeam controls and filter options
LIghtbeam controls and filter options

The Cookies filter identifies when a site has stored some data in your browser. You can set site preferences and the graph will identify sites that are blocked or watched.

The data can be viewed as a clock (not shown) and as a list, which you can see here.

Lightbeam data displayed as a list
Lightbeam data displayed as a list

Next I visited this blog. Clicking on anything in the graph gives you more information. Here’s the graph with the little WT icon for Web Teacher selected. A sidebar opens with all kinds of data about the site.

Lightbeam information about Web Teacher
Lightbeam information about Web Teacher

Some of the sites this blog is connected to are obvious from the content, ads and various sharing icons: youtube, gravatar, twitter, blogherads, addthis. Further down the list of 33 sites linking from Web Teacher, I found names I never heard of and didn’t know how they got there. I suspect they come from something related to the ads, but I really don’t know for sure. And this is my blog!

LIghtbeam is an eye-opener. It gives me the ability to block sites, but beyond that I don’t see many opportunities for actions to improve my privacy I can take using this addon. Am I missing something important Lightbeam offers me as an individual user? Is it just part of big data collection about me?

Useful links: dialog element, going green, surveillance

A Preview of the New Dialog Element comes from Treehouse. A new HTML element – that’s exciting news to me!

Did you try out the Ecograder tool that James Christie told us about yesterday? Web Teacher came out pretty high on the green scale, but there are a high number of http requests. One of the things I’m going to do to cut back on them is stop linking to photos on Fllickr as decorations in the useful links posts. Just words, folks. Hope you can live with it. After a discussion with Denise in Fads and Fashions, I had resolved to use more images, but have reconsidered that plan. The other fast way I see to reduce http requests is to get rid of the Flickr widget in the footer. I’ve had a Flickr widget on this blog for years because I personally enjoy it. I am 100% sure none of you readers care about it at all.

eyes on the street or creepy surveillance? danah boyd brings up serious questions that responsible adults need to be thinking about.

Useful Links: Girls in IT, wearable tech, early edu

Why schoolgirls are not interested in studying IT is an essay by a 13 year old English schoolgirl.

This bracelet could replace your passwords, your car keys, and even your fingerprints. This is the ultimate in cool and something a forgetful password keeper like myself thinks is a great idea. It’s also the ultimate privacy invasion. Since it can be anything, how long until its baked into something like Google Glass or whatever comes after Google Glass?

3 Tech Skills Every Kid Should Learn at School (but doesn’t) is right on the mark.

Useful links: new iPhones coming, letterforms, privacy in email

The new iPhone release is set for September 10. Related to that, I recently got a PR pitch from Since I no longer work for BlogHer – the people pitching are hoping for exposure on BlogHer –  I normally delete most PR pitches without even opening the email. This one caught my eye because it had iPhone in the subject line. The email talked about selling your old iPhone on, and said, “iPhone sellers can earn an extra $72 by taking action before Sept. 10.” I want to quote some info supposedly based on research by uSell.

To measure the effect of a new iPhone model on the used iPhone market, examined hundreds of used iPhone sales on its platform following the 2012 iPhone 5 launch.  Notable findings include:

*  1 week after a new iPhone launch, old iPhones lose about 5% in value.
*  2 weeks after launch, old iPhones depreciate about 12%.
*  By weeks 3 and 4, old phones are worth about 20% less.

But by locking in a sale price BEFORE an upcoming iPhone launch (many platforms like offer 30-day price guarantees), consumers can substantially increase the value of their old phones:

*  iPhone 5:  Potentially worth $72 more (compared to 3 weeks after launch)
*  iPhone 4S:  Worth $46 more
*  iPhone 4:  Worth $29 more


I upgraded my phone not too long ago at AT&T and received $118 in credit for my old iPhone 4. I’m not sure uSell can beat a price like that, but I thought you might be interested in checking it out if you plan to upgrade immediately on Sept. 10.

Must reading is this beautiful post by Dan Mall about letterforms.

No, Google did not say that there is no privacy in Gmail. TheNextWeb looks at the statement from yesterday in context.