Computer and Data Security for Authors

I returned from a rainy week in Orlando to buckets of rain in Central Virginia. I went to an IT conference and heard about all kinds of new technology. One of the highlights was when I had liquid nitrogen ice cream. Literally, too cool. The smoky fog (and probably all the rain outside) gave me flashbacks to the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" and "Swamp Thing."

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While I was there, I had the pleasure of attending Dr. Eric Cole's keynote presentation on IT Security. Many of the key points relate to authors. It's important to protect your data and your devices.

He reminded the audience that most people buy security/alarm systems AFTER a break in. Security should be a constant thought in order to defend against hacks and attacks. You need to be prepared.

As a user, you need to be aware of passwords. Don't use the same one for everything. You're giving a hacker the keys to the kingdom. Be careful what you click on and what attachments you open. You are one click away from being compromised.

The risks of compromise will always be there. You need to minimize or mitigate these risks. Don't click on strange links. Make sure that your security settings on your device are set.

Regular patching is important to ensure that known vulnerabilities are corrected. Make sure that your PC/laptop gets its regular updates. 

Know the value of your data. And know where your critical files are. He talked about his million dollar laptop. He has files and client work on his device. Add up the value of what you've stored. Data is king. What would it cost you if you lost that document. Regular backups are important.

Also, free doesn't always mean "free." Games, apps, and services that are free are often mining or monitoring your data. Read the user agreements before you access them. And watch your children's free games. Many of them monitor or share your location. 

If you're traveling to parts of the world where hacking is rampant, he suggested taking a "throw-away" device for use there. Don't access your critical information (e.g. banking, etc.). Don't use the device when you return. 

Security often becomes an after-thought in today's busy world. Be careful. The chances of being hacked are high. Be prepared and do what you can to mitigate the risks.

"It's a Great Time to be a Geek!" - Ideas for Writers

I returned this week from the Gartner IT Operations Strategies and Solutions Summit in Orlando, Florida. It's a "Great Time to be a Geek!" Technology is always changing, and there will be exponentially more devices and applications in the next five years that will access the Internet. It's mind-boggling.

Good writers are always looking for ideas - no matter where they are. I came up with a great plot line for my PI series. Here's some of what I learned:

  • There are already smart elevators that use scans to get to your floor, rather than buttons.
  • There are mining operations with computer-driven equipment, including trucks.  The biggest problem they had was with the ruts in the road. All of the trucks took the same path back and forth, and caused a lot of damage. The operators had to program a variety of algorithms to save the mining roads.
  • Ethical reviews are important with technology. For example, should medical devices be blue-tooth-enabled for monitoring? It's a great way for your physician to monitor you, but what happens if it's hacked? Think about the possibilities for legal and medial thrillers.
  • Everything is possible, and nothing is certain. Sounds like a lot of change in the future. As a writer, you do need to be careful when mentioning specific technology unless your work is set in a specific time period. Fax machines and flip phones are out of date.
  • By 2020, over 25 BILLION things will be connected to the Internet. In addition to phones, tablets, and laptops, things like printers, copiers, cars, hospital beds, and refrigerators will be reporting data or communicating to other devices and services.
  • Work is now an activity and not a place. People can work anywhere, anytime.