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.

Mustangs and Rearview Mirrors

My husband asked me to help him bleed the brake lines in his '69 Mustang convertible this weekend. Pumping and releasing the brakes several hundred times gave me a moment to observe and ponder. I had a '74 Mustang as my first real car in the 80s, and the technology of his convertible was close to my yuck yellow one with the avocado-colored top. (I saved my money from my part-time job to have it painted red.)

I drive a 2015 Mustang now, so looking at the gears and switches was a trip down memory lane. The '69 has slides for the defroster and heat (no air conditioning), a cylinder on the floor for the high beams, a cassette player, metal slide seatbelts, windows that wind down, a hard plastic steering wheel with a mental arc for the horn, and a square key for the ignition and a round one for the trunk. It also has an ashtray and cigarette lighter.

Juxtaposed to my '15, I don't have to take the key out to open the doors or start the engine as long as it's in my purse. I can even start the engine remotely if I want to warm the car up. And the kickin' sound system, phone, and climate controls are changed on the touchscreen in the dash, or I can use voice commands. I can get music through AM, FM, satellite, my phone, or a host of other devices.  And I can enjoy my tunes from space in my heated or cooled seats.

This week is all about memories. My high school reunion is coming up soon, and I'm looking forward to seeing friends who've known me since kindergarten and the old high school. We're going to the homecoming game on Friday. At some point, we're the same people from back then, but in other ways, we're not. We've changed (on all levels), and had a lot of experiences outside of those school walls we shared for twelve years.

We've come a long way. I love the nostalgia of the reunion and the classic cars. It's fun for a summer cruise with the top down, but for every day life, I like my airbags, computer-controlled engine, anti-lock brakes, power steering, and padded steering wheel. 

I love visiting the past. The nostalgia and memories are great. But like with the cars, I've adapted to the technology and ways of today. And, there's a reason that the rearview mirror was designed to be a lot smaller than the windshield.

Enjoy the memories and where we've come from, but celebrate the present and where you're going. Every decade has its own surprises.

The '69 Mustang's dashboard

The '69 Mustang's dashboard

This is where roll down the window comes from...

This is where roll down the window comes from...

My 2015 Mustang

My 2015 Mustang

"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.