To VPN or Not to VPN, That is the Question!

This question revolves around whether or not you want or need to head out into the wild, wild web wilderness exposed. By “exposed” I mean letting anyone within 300-500 feet of your device peek at the wireless data packets floating through the airand seeing all your raw data, or revealing who and where you are, what you like and don’t like, or revealing your IP address if you decide to comment on a blog or news article.

Most people feel they have nothing to hide or don’t think anyone’s really paying attention. But, in fact, we are all being stalked to a certain degree. Advertisers are watching so they can send you targeted ads; governments are watching to see if you are plotting to take them down or conducting illegal activities; your internet service provider is definitely monitoring your usage and wondering if you are downloading pirated movies, music and software; your employer may be similarly vigilant and criminals are trying to steal your identity or the identities of all your clients.

So, to VPN or not to VPN? I VPN specifically when I’m on my portable wireless devices. If I’m on my PC laptop, iPhone or iPad and I’m traveling on business, I know I’m going to be connecting to various free public WiFi clients at the airport and in my hotel. Before I connect to any WiFi, I launch Hotspot Shield VPN. It’s a free VPN, but I prefer the paid version; the expanded paid option is a little quicker and offers a cleaner interface. Either way, it’s agreat option that will protect your entire web surfing session, securing your connections on all your devices.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was StolenSee him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

New Alarm Systems are Cost Effective and High Tech

Alarm systems used to be clunky and expensive to install, and all they did was set off a siren when a door or window was smashed in. Today, alarms are wireless and can even adjust your thermostat!

The Boston Globe reports, “The era of clunky black-and-white video monitors and recording devices crammed here and there, of blinking lights and keypads galore, has given way to slick, low-cost technology that homeowners control with just a few clicks—from wireless surveillance cameras that are monitored remotely, to door alarms that can be activated hundreds of miles away.”

Systems today have wireless cameras, remote-controlled thermostats, remote-controlled/timed light controls, flood sensors, full web access to the cameras, touchpad controls, and even iPhone/Android apps to control/monitor cameras/thermostat from anywhere. They often have a web dashboard that lets you control every single aspect of each control to inform you of activity or to set up a reaction to an incident.

New home alarm systems are very simple and easy to program. Once you dive into them, they give you a tremendous amount of awareness of the goings-on in and around your home—and they do it automatically.

Further, the article states, “For those who don’t want bells and whistles, there are still basic burglary alarm systems available, and indeed they remain quite popular. These usually include sensors and alarms attached to ground-floor doors and windows, wall-mounted keypads and remote-control devices that can be activated with key fobs.”

Don’t wait for a burglary to get a home alarm system. Be proactive and get one before something bad happens.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

5 Signs You Are About to be Scammed

Smart people are scammed every day because they think it can’t happen to them or they just aren’t aware of the scams. And the scammers have gotten very good at disguising their scams, so it’s often hard to recognize them.

Scamming generally involves a form of social engineering. Social engineering is the act of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. It relies on human interactions, such as trying to gain confidence of someone through trickery or deception for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or device access. This can take many forms, both online and offline.

Smart criminal hackers use social engineering as a very effective tool and as a part of their strategy when gathering information to piece together the parts of their scams. In my opinion, it’s just a fancier, more technical form of lying.

Social engineering has always been a “person-to-person” confidence crime. Once the scammer gains your trust, they use this information against you in the hopes of gaining access to your finances.

Be confident in your ability to outsmart the bad guys. Here’s five things you should know:

Don’t click links in emails, text messages, chat. Any link, whether shortened or not, can point to somewhere it shouldn’t. If you need to click on the link, make sure you have security software installed that will block you from automatically being directed to a malicious site.

Be wary of multiple recipients and who the email is from. If the email is going to you and a dozen other people, or it’s from your bank but the from email address is:, then you should be suspicious.

Note generic/spammy/nonexistent subject lines. Look in your spam folders. There are some pretty ridiculous subject lines, right? If something like that shows up in your inbox, delete it.

Down with scammer grammar. If it is SPELD rong or IN ALL CAPs or ,has ,those ,stupid ,commas in the wrong ,place, it’s a scam.

Urgency or ridiculous requests. There is no hurry; you didn’t win anything and your uncle from Latvia didn’t leave you any money. Just delete ‘em.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  (Disclosures)

Safety Tips for Online Dating

By Angie Picardo

According to identity theft expert Robert Siciliano, “Millions of people use online dating sites to broaden their networks and meet potential mates, but not everyone on these sites are sincere—some are scammers hoping to lure you in with false affection, with the goal of gaining your trust, and eventually, your money.” When seeking friends or dates via the internet, people often tend to be overly optimistic or trusting, but it is important to remember that some people may take advantage of the your trust. Here are some tips for staying safe while making friends online.

  • Keep your personal information personal. Details about where you live and work, your phone number or email address, or details that would lead someone to you with minimal effort should not be put in an online profile or shared with someone you’ve barely started communicating with. When selecting a profile name, don’t use your first and last name. Instead, choose a nickname or other title for yourself so that potential dates don’t have the key information for looking you up and learning too much about you in advance. If you’ve started talking to someone you feel you would like to exchange personal information, consider offering a secondary email account (email addresses are free and nothing stops you from having more than one) that isn’t directly linked to you or your work.
  • Trust yourself. Use common sense and your instincts to stay away from risky situations. If you feel nervous about someone or something, don’t go; you probably feel that way for a reason. If the person is really interested in you, she or he won’t hate you for rescheduling for a later time. Another part of trusting yourself is knowing what speed feels right for you. Don’t feel obligated to go somewhere private or unfamiliar just because the other person wants to. Again, you know yourself best and you have enough life experience to know when something could end badly: listen to yourself.
  • Meet new people in public. It seems obvious, but you shouldn’t bring total strangers back to your house (nor should you go to theirs). When scheduling a first meeting, plan to go somewhere public where a lot of people will be milling around. A park, restaurant, or museum can be great areas for public first dates not only because they are public, but because they are places where you can actually talk to your date and get to know him or her in person. When you have a first date with someone, make sure that you are in control of your own transportation situation by driving yourself, taking a trusted form of transit, or arranging a ride with a good friend. Don’t rely on your date to take you somewhere. Getting in a car with someone you barely know is not a great idea!
  • Tell somewhere where you are going. In case the worst does happen (it probably won’t, but it never hurts to be prepared), make sure someone knows where you are going and when you expect to be back. Let a good friend know that you are going on a date with someone new and agree to check in with them by a certain time so that they know you are okay. You might also set up a pick up spot in case you need your friend to pick you up if you need to bail on your date for any reason.

Online dating isn’t all about being cynical and mistrusting, of course, but taking precautions when meeting someone new will make it all the better when you meet someone who you want to get to know better. Anyone who is worth getting to know will be empathetic to your safety concerns and willing to work with you within your comfort zone.

Angie Picardo is a writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website dedicated to helping you protect and save your money whether in online dating or finding the best options for LAX parking

What Should I Know about Mobile Cybercrime?

The Internet has dissolved the geographical boundaries and technological limitations that have constrained organized cybercrime in the past. We now live with cybercrime syndicates based in the US, Russia, Asia and all over the globe. When hackers in the US are sleeping, the ones in China are flexing their fingers on their keyboards, and the ones in Eastern Europe are waking up. Cybercrime never stops.

The brave—and ballooning—new world of smartphones and tablets offers tremendous scope and volume for these organizations. Mobile devices run on different operating systems and use different apps from PCs and Macs, which presents opportunities to create new device-specific attacks.

Even more interesting, mobile devices require an entire ecosystem of businesses to make them work. Data you transmit or receive has to make it through a conga line of companies that can include your device manufacturer, wireless carrier, app developer, app store, website host and email provider. Motivated by money and information, criminals exploit flaws in the underlying software and information handoffs of each of these players.

Here are two examples of how malicious software (malware)—downloaded through a fake app, a phishing or text message, or from a website—can net the criminals your information.

Text messaging fraud – Cybercriminals have figured out how to incorporate text messaging (SMS) into banking frauds. When you log on to perform a transaction (like checking your balance), banks often send a validation code to your mobile device via SMS. Banks figure if you are logging onto their website through your mobile device, a separate authentication through text messaging will help ensure that it’s really you logging in and provide an extra layer of security. However, mobile malware can collect that validation code and send it, along with your account number, password and “secret” security question to a cybercriminal. The perpetrators repeat this process reliably, victim after victim, bank after bank.

Premium SMS scams. Other malware can run so-called “premium SMS” scams, where you get billed for sending text messages you didn’t consciously send, or receiving messages you didn’t ask for. The malware on your device is doing the communicating—and conceals any confirmation message so you won’t notice until your bill comes. Organized crime networks have the sophistication and relationships to put together these sorts of multifaceted moneymaking schemes.

These guys are good at their jobs—they are truly organized and professional. Everything they do is about monetizing your information—your personal life. That’s why it’s critical for you to educate yourself on why you need mobile security and what scams are out there.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  (Disclosures)

Burglaries Often Happen When People Are Home

You might be sleeping, doing laundry in the basement, or simply watching TV, and you may accidentally walk into a burglar at work. The burglar may be just as surprised to see you as you are to see him.

The Associated Press reports that “Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies acting on a tip have arrested a 35-year-old Everett man in connection with a home burglary in which a 70-year-old woman was tied to a toilet.

“Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said the woman interrupted the Tuesday afternoon burglary, leading the intruder to tie her up. The woman was able to free herself after about an hour and then called 911. She was not seriously injured and declined aid. The intruder stole the woman’s 2011 silver Ford Escape.”

The obvious problem with bumping into a burglar in your kitchen is that it can end violently—or, in this case, tied to a toilet.

Burglars case a home and look for activity. If they see none, they simply enter through unlocked doors or break in through a door or window. Many alarms are only installed after a home is broken into, and even then many people don’t turn them on when they’re at home during the day. Once a home is burgled, people lose their sense of security and try to gain it back through the installation of an alarm system. A home alarm system can certainly provide security, but people who are victimized in this way often face years of emotional aftershocks.

The key to security is thinking proactively and doing things to secure yourself and your family before something bad happens. Don’t think “It can’t happen to me”; instead, think “Yes, there is a chance this can happen and I’m going to set an example and do something about it.”

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

5 Steps to Securing Portable Devices

If it’s portable, it is subject to being lost or stolen—and the data contained can be accessed or the applications running may have access to additional information, resulting in your data being compromised. The good news is, you don’t need to be an IT professional to put systems in place, download security programs or create certain habits to protect your device and, inturn, protect your information.

#1 Encryption. Encryption is the process of encoding messages or information in such a way that eavesdroppers or hackers cannot read it, but that authorized parties can. Installing encryption can be as easy as downloading an app or requiring your employer’s IT department to install an enterprise-grade program for its fleet of devices.

#2 Lock it down. If your device is lost or stolen and it doesn’t have a password on it, then all your data and apps are accessible. Most people lock their car doors after they park and secure their front and back doors when they leave the house,but relatively few protect their devices with a password or store sensitive data in a secure locker app like Keeper. This is not complicated.

#3 Install lost/locate/wipe software. Some devices come equipped with this feature; others require a download. Activate this software so the location of the device is turned on and you can find it—and if you can’t, you can lock it and also wipe all the data from it.

#4 Destroy it. This might be a little after the fact, but if you upgrade to a newer device and are left with the old one, you could donate it, give it away or sell it…but I recommend destroying it. I mean, get a hammer and kill it to death. Murder it, because on some devices, even if you wipe them (I’m talking specifically to you, Android), much of the data is left behind.

#5 Use a VPN. Use a secure virtual private network (VPN) such as the free Hotspot Shield VPN proxy that protects your identity by ensuring that all web transactions (shopping, filling out forms, downloads, etc.) are secured through HTTPS.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

How Protected is My Tablet on WiFi?

To understand how protected you are, you need to understand how unprotected free public wireless is. This has nothing to do with how secure Apple devices are compared to Android.  By default, free public wireless is open and unencrypted, and the data that travels over it from each device to the router is naked for all the world to see. This is true regardless of what anti-virus (AV) software you do or don’t have on your tablet.

Sometimes, when you log onto free public WiFi, whether at a hotel, airport or coffee shop, you may first have to read a Terms and Conditions (TC) statement and click “I Agree” before you logon and connect. If you actually read the TC, you’d realize the organization providing you the free wireless is telling you point blank that its wireless is unsecure, your data is visible to the world and it is not responsible for your data being stolen.

On the other hand, if you are connecting to WiFi that employs WPA or WPA2 encryption, then your data is pretty tight…but it’s never 100 percent secure. For added security on WPA, add a private network (VPN) such as Hotspot Shield VPN. Nobody, including your mother, can hack your wireless on a VPN.

So check out Hotspot Shield VPN, a wireless VPN that has been downloaded more than 120 million times on tablets, PCs, Macs, iOS and Android platforms. The new version of the popular application includes:

  • Privacy protection for anonymous web communication, browsing and sharing online at dorms, cafes and offices.
  • Twenty percent greater mobile data savings capabilities, saving users up to $30 per month in mobile data fees.
  • The ability to access US and UK TV shows and other services online by switching IP addresses—a must-have when traveling abroad.
  • A new user interface that makes it easier than ever to view bandwidth savings and manage features.

Are you a student? Learn about the Hotspot Shield College Privacy Challenge and get their premium product for free at

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.


Church Burglar Busted, Held on $50K Bond

It doesn’t matter where, when or to whom—a burglar will go where there is easy access and easy money, or goods to be resold. One favorite target of criminals is houses of worship, which often have audio equipment and cash-filled collection boxes on hand. Case in point: The Bartlesville, Oklahoma Examiner-Enterprise reports that Daniel Walker Barnett, 22, is accused of stealing around $10,000 worth of audiovisual equipment from inside a church.

According to the article, “Guitars, amplifiers, keyboards, drums, a laptop computer and a projector were taken from the church as a result of the burglary, the police document states. Surveillance video shows Barnett taking the property from the church.”

The suspect looks like a regular guy, and this isn’t unheard of. Burglars look normal; they may be someone you know. Often it’s those on the inside—those with a close familiarity of the target—that have knowledge of how things work and where they are. For this reason, it’s important to beef up security to protect from the inside out and from the outside in. Even then, thieves often may enter through unlocked doors—or they may break windows or bust doors off their frames, resulting in vandalism along with the theft. Amazingly, the damage a burglar does to the premises often costs more to repair then the actual value of items stolen. “The affidavit claims Barnett caused damage inside the church by spraying a chemical fire extinguisher over a large area of one room and on a stage,” the article continues. “It also is alleged that the suspect urinated in several different locations at the church.”

Theft and vandalism happen. Protect against them.

  • Lock up. Even if it’s an “open access” environment, you don’t want to give access to the wrong people.

Have someone always watching the door. Install both visible and hidden motion-sensitive, DVD-recordable security cameras everywhere, along with “Monitored by Video Surveillance” signs.

  • Lock doors and windows always.
  • Install break-resistant film over windows and other glass portals.
  • Install a home security system at the building.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Robert Siciliano Becomes Official Spokesperson of (BHSC) recently reached an agreement with leading personal and home security expert Robert Siciliano in a deal that would grant BHSC exclusive articles, videos, media queries and other exclusive work from Robert Siciliano.

For BHSC it was an easy decision to add Robert Siciliano to its team in an effort to add more expert depth to its review site. “We are very excited to team up with Robert, he is one of the best and most recognized personal and home security experts in the industry,” said PR Director Michael Bratton. BHSC has recognized a need for real credible experts in the home security review industry and hopes its new team member Robert Siciliano, will help confused consumers better understand home security and help make more informed decisions.

The review industry online has exploded during the last decade with over 100,000 different review sites competing for consumers’ attention. “Review sites are popping up everywhere on the web. Consumers need a review site with real experts they can trust,” said PR Director Michael Bratton.

BHSC– in an effort to provide additional expert depth to its review process– will be working closely with Robert Siciliano to publish expert articles and videos teaching readers how to better secure their homes and families with industry tips, secrets, and common sense. Some of Robert’s accolades include:

  • CEO of
  • Has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Anderson cooper, EXTRA, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and other major news networks
  • Published in The NY Times, USA Today, and other news outlets


Robert Siciliano’s skills have benefited thousands of individuals through presentations to GMAC, the National Association of Realtors, Dominos Pizza, United Bankers Bank, Conference of State Bank Supervisors, and the American Society of Association Executives among others. Known as “The Lifesaver,” Robert Siciliano is a certified security instructor for numerous industry associations and a highly praised consultant.

Each week Robert Siciliano will be publishing insightful and educational articles on the website. In addition Robert will be video blogging monthly as well as other media queries on behalf of Visitors are encouraged to sign up to receive BHSC blog updates and follow Robert Siciliano as he shares his extensive knowledge with the BHSC community. You can follow Robert on Twitter @RobertSiciliano.