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If you’re not concerned about your privacy, you’re not paying attention

I don’t know about you, but the past year has been a real wake up call for me about the importance of digital security. I used to think of hackers as bored teenagers showing off for their friends, or scammers sending viruses and spam to people by the millions. But today’s online outlaws are much more sophisticated.

Not content to just blast misleading links at us, elite hackers have started spear phishing. This is a tactic that sends an e-mail to an individual with unique, personalized information making it look very real, and convincing the user to click through to a website where they will enter their login credentials. Some hackers also use social engineering (not technology) to trick people into giving away critical information that can then be leveraged to compromise accounts.

Unfortunately, we need to worry not only about obviously sensitive information like bank accounts and work e-mails, even seemingly inconsequential accounts can be exploited to provide an opening. Once a hacker gains access to any of your accounts, be it iTunes, Etsy, or Pinterest, they can use that information to gain access to other services.

The threat to our privacy is real, and we have seen that there are people who may target us and access our data not just for commercial purposes but for political use. People and organizations that are working for social change have every reason to be concerned about how our personal information, organizational data, and private communications might be used.

Good security is a pain to implement, but every inconvenience for us is an even bigger hassle for a would-be hacker. Start now from wherever you are, and make incremental changes to improve your personal and organizational security.

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My 2012 primary endorsements for Orange County, NC

Local politics can be difficult to follow, given the minimal media coverage and (fortunate) lack of political party involvement. Friends often ask me for my advice about how to vote in sleepy local elections such as this year’s Orange County Commissioners race. I can’t in good conscience endorse any of the incumbents. The current board seems to have invented a new form of government in which the staff sets policies, and then elected officials occasionally have misinformed or irrelevant discussions about them after the manager has already implemented his decision.

I strongly endorse Mark Dorosin and Penny Rich in District 1. Both will bring good ideas and real leadership to the Board of Orange County Commissioners. In District 2, I support Renee Price who will be
a better advocate for progressive policies than the incumbent. If you live in Hillsborough or rural Orange County, you will also be selecting 3 school board members. I recommend giving a vote to Lawrence Sanders who will bring thoughtful enthusiasm to the job. And there can be no doubt that Valerie Foushee is the best choice for NC House in every way. I’m happy to say that The Independent Weekly agrees, and endorsed all of these candidates as well.

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Help a busy, geeky mom choose a tablet

As you probably know, dear reader, I was an enthusiastic Mac user for about 20 years. Recently, open source software such as Ubuntu Linux and Mozilla Firefox have reached a much more accessible level and I have been happily only buying hardware that runs open source operating systems ever since. This includes my mobile phone (sort of) which runs …

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So you wanna start a local politics blog

In my continuing series of turning advice e-mails into blog posts. I recently received this request: I’m working on setting up a local-politics site for my area of the world. I was wondering if you had any words of wisdom on launching a local-politics site. What challenges have you encountered? What good/bad decisions have you …

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