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What happened when I went #DigitallyDark – sponsored GIVEAWAY

*Disclosure: Sponsored Giveaway*


WINNER: Robyn Wright from! Congrats!


device theft solutionsIn my last blog post, I talked about device theft and smartphone security including the importance of protecting the data on our devices. Because I manage my personal life and business using my smartphone, tablet and laptop, I need to plan for the potential nightmare of my technology being stolen. I simulated this scenario as part of  Absolute Software’s #DigitallyDark challenge. This challenge involved going “dark”, with all devices turned off, for one day last week. Absolute Software solutions enable device location tracking, locking it against unauthorized users and data protection software that permanently erasing files from remote locations. Their two device theft solutions are called Absolute Data Protect and Absolute LoJack.


What happened when I went #DigitallyDark  (yes, shriek of terror) for a day?


1. Contacts: I could not make any calls or access my contacts. Even though my data is backed-up in the cloud, I needed a device to get to the cloud!!


2. Data files: I did not have access to all my personal, professional and family management data files stored on my devices. Also off limits the software I use to run both my business and my family management. If the #DigitallyDark exercise had been a real theft of hardware, I would be forced to re-install some of this software from the disks, which hopefully are in a convenient location in my house.


3. Music Playlists: Even the music playlists that I listen to when relaxing and exercising were not accessible, so chilling out to music was not an option.


4. Security: The personal information on my phone includes passwords to payment software, so a stolen phone or notebook is a big financial risk.


5. Theft reporting: If my devices really were stolen, I would not even know where to start. Where would I report stolen laptop, stolen smartphone or even report a stolen tablet? Who should I call first? I could report it to the local police… and then what?  If I had tracking on my device, should I pass that information to the police and ask them to track down my property?


Using device theft solutions like Absolute Data Protect and Absolute LoJack would give me peace of mind and more of a sense of control because the software can locate the device, lock the device to prevent access of personal information, and permanently erase files in order to protect personal information and prevent identity theft. Absolute LoJack also has the extra features of recovery and guarantee. Absolute’s Investigation Team springs into action building a case and then presenting it to law enforcement (recovery) and provides a Service Guarantee to help pay for a replacement.



Device Theft Absolute LoJackAs part of the #DigitalDark challenge get the opportunity to run a giveawa (6/19 – 6/25) where I will select one winner (at random) who will receive a family pack that includes FIVE -year Premium Absolute LoJack Subscriptions.


Rules: Each entrant can only enter once. To enter:

STEP 1. “Like” Absolute LoJack’s Facebook Page.

STEP 2. Comment on this blog post confirming that you liked the Facebook page and then share your thoughts on device theft.


1. One Blog Post comment per person. One Blog Post comment is equal to one entry (so only one entry per person)  2. Winners are limited to US residents only 21 years of age or older. 3. If a valid email address is not provided in the entry, another winner will be chosen. 4. The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded. 5. Approximate value of prizes may vary. 6. All decisions are final  7. By entering any giveaway on this website you release from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action. 7. Contest ends June 25 2014 -10pm pst. Winner will be announced by June 27 2014.

NOTE AS OF JUNE 27 – WINNER HAS BEEN CHOSEN AND CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. But feel free to still share your thoughts on Device Theft!


I also get the opportunity to share an exclusive offer:  30% off a 1-year Absolute LoJack Standard or Premium subscription.  Just enter promo code:  DARK30 at checkout:

**Offer is good until June 30.



*Disclosure: This is a sponsored giveaway. All of my words are my own.*




Device Theft Recovery Solutions: Absolute Software

*Disclosure: Sponsored post


smartphone laptop theftSecurity of data and computer devices is one of the most important technology issues for families. One example that I have been exploring for some time now is technology that allows you to locate your phone after it has been lost or stolen. “Find my phone” apps are very handy to find a misplaced device in your house but not as effective a solution when it comes to theft. I read stories of people tracking down their own stolen devices, with some ambitious folks even some showing up at the thief’s house, a very dangerous plan.



Device theft continues to become more frequent, with regular stories in the news and social media of phones being stolen in public places or just grabbed out of people’s hands while they walk down the street. Thieves can now easily wipe smartphones clean and then sell them on the black market. More valuable than the phone itself is the personal data stored on our phones, especially now that many people use their devices for online payment and banking.



Smartphone Security InfoGraphic



That is why why I jumped at the chance to work with Absolute Software (disclosure *sponsored campaign*) and learn more about their device theft recovery solutions. The first step was receiving some press information about the solutions (which I shared below).  Absolute Software solutions enable device location tracking, locking it against unauthorized users and permanently erasing files from remote locations. The two product names are called Absolute Data Protect and Absolute LoJack.


Here’s some product information I summarized from the website and from press briefings:


Absolute Data Protect Product Features:



Locate your device (laptops, phones, and tablets) using GPS, Wi-Fi or IP geolocation giving you the tools to see the last location in the event that it goes missing.



Device Lock prevents anyone from accessing your personal information on laptops, phones, and tablets. You can also add a customized message to your device lock screen.



Activating the delete feature permanently erases files protecting your personal information and preventing identity theft.


Absolute LoJack product features:


Absolute LoJack Locates, Locks & Deletes then also offers recovery and guarantee:

Absolute LoJack





When a device is reported stolen, first to law enforcement and then on the user’s account (,  Absolute’s Investigation Team springs into action building a case and then presenting it to law enforcement. The Theft teams knows who to talk with in regards to Law Enforcement so it takes the pressure of of individuals trying to navigate the process on their own while also dealing with the emotions behind the loss. The website explained: “Absolute’s Investigations team is the only one of its kind in the security software industry. More than 30,000 stolen devices in 100 countries have been recovered through the efforts of the Investigations team and in conjunction with law enforcement worldwide. The team consists of former military servicemen, government intelligence personnel and law enforcement officers. They’re experts in Internet investigations, computer forensics and cyber-crime and are highly experienced in device tracking and recovery.




Absolute LoJack also has a Service Guarantee to help pay for a replacement.


Here are some recovery stories:


Note: Theft reporting and recovery services are not available for the Absolute Data Protect product



System Requirements:


The Absolute LoJack website has a listing of current system PC/Mac and mobile system requirements.


Absolute persistence technology:


Devices that have Absolute persistance technology enabled get an extra level of security.  The website explained that “Absolute persistence technology is built into the BIOS or firmware of a device during the manufacturing process.” Once activated, customers who purchase these devices benefit from that extra level of security which wipes data from devices to factory settings and offers the ability to display message (this is a stolen computer). It even deletes down to file level.



To really understand what it would be like to go without my device and valuable data, I am taking the Absolute LoJack #DigitallyDark Challenge tomorrow (6/15 from 10am to 10pm!) and go without my devices (shriek of terror!).  Then when I am back online I will talk about what it was like to be without my devices. Even though many people backup their phone and computer data in the cloud, it’s still a big disruption to have your device stolen and I anticipate a very unsettling but educational day tomorrow.



What do you think about the dangers of device theft?





Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.




Branding, Miley Cyrus, #Twerk and Why This Matters For Parents

While the online and offline world are buzzing over Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance, I wonder where everyone has been for the last year. The performance by Hannah Montana’s alter ego was shocking – and not in a good way – but it was not too far off with what is already all over the web. Twerking has joined modern pop culture talk and videos all over the web, as evidenced with my favorite leading indicator of rebellious behavior….hot-selling shorts at summer beach stores.



Online dad Jim Higley agreed that we should not let Robin Thicke off the hook. Online  mom Beth Feldman (a.k.a RoleMommy) could not help but share her PR/branding tips to help Miley Cyrus and on OMG Insider:






Many teens and young adults believe that getting attention online, including social media, is a type of approval. Miley Cryus confirmed this point with her tweet after the VMA’s. Her performance had “306,000 tweets per minute – more then the superbowl“.



Is this type of attention the right type of attention for her brand? When I asked my teen son (who is very up on modern pop culture and a fan of rebellious musical performances) about Miley Cyrus’s VMA “Twerk” performance and how she was sharing how popular it was online he said “Ewwww“.  When my 10 year old sons have heard about the twerking incident, they shook their heads and said “What happened to Hannah Montana?”


With new reports that Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke knew they would be “making history” and that everyone is “overthinking it”, it seems as though it was a planned strategy.   I am also a fan of shocking musical performances such as Madonna and Lady Gaga, but  think this type of performance was not the right type of shocking for a professional image. Because I speak on the topic of branding for professionals, I thought I would share tips for parents to talk about branding/online image with their kids. With discussions raging on Miley Cryus’s behavior, this may just be the perfect time.


1. What is popular does not equal what is appropriate for your image/brand: I suggest that parents pay attention to the popular terms in modern pop culture (like Twerking) then help their kids understand what may be popular is not always appropriate. This goes hand in hand with kids’ understanding that the image they share online will stay with them the rest of their lives, and be seen by audiences varying from college recruiters to future employers. Then parents can discuss with their kids how to brand themselves with an understanding of allowing free expression that is appropriate to share online and what should be kept offline.


2. Parents Should Learn The Terms:  I was confused at how it took something as public as the VMAs to get people in an uproar about Twerking. It has been going on for some time. Yes, teens and dancing always seems to be a hot button or movie theme. So the more parents can keep up on the current terms, the better they will be prepared to discuss what is and is not appropriate for their kids age (again, what is popular may not be good for their personal brand). It’s great to give kids some slack regarding freedom of expression. But now that every event seems to have someone taking pictures and posting online, maybe some dances need to stay off the dance floor and social media platforms.


The task of trying to keep up to date on terms and websites kids are using may be overwhelming, but there are sites that offering information to help. My core philosophy is to start by rewarding kids for sharing what apps they are using and have regular internet safety talks.


At the same time, parents can look online to understand terms and apps. I start with monitoring research such as the Pew research reports and lists like the  top social media apps kids are using. Resources such as search engines and internet safety sites including NetSmartz, ESRB and Common Sense Media are also a great place to start.  ESRB has an updated version of its mobile ratings app to include interactive elements (shares personal info, shares location, users interact). Even though rumors about the word “Twerk” being added to the Oxford Dictionary may be wrong, the term WAS added to the Oxford Dictionary online (OED) which the Slate website called “a historical dictionary and it forms a record of all the core words and meanings in English over more than 1,000 years, from Old English to the present day, including many obsolete and historical terms. Words are never removed from the OED.” So the OED may be a good place to check to understand that foreign language our kids speak.


While the goal is to open up a respectful dialog with kids so they come to their parents to discuss issues, being a parent also means delivering the hard to hear but important information to protect their kids. This tweet shared by Miley seemed to show her Dad did not give her the difficult-to-hear feedback.






How do you keep up on terms used by your kids? Which ones do you have an issue with?





Beta Launch of Kazaana – Family Friendly Social Platform (was PixyKids)

As my 9 year olds become more interested in sharing media with family and friends, I have started to look into family friendly social platforms that are appropriate for 9 year olds. Just recently I received a brief demo of the family centric social platform called Kazaana (was called PixyKids). I appreciated the beautiful graphics and the ability for everyone to create their own space – and then share with family and friends. But most of all, I appreciated that the parental controls would allow me to approve every friend (or family) that my 9 year olds would invite into their space. Now that the Beta is live I can’t wait to take a test drive with my 9 year olds to learn more about Kazaana.


Below is the press release I received with more info:

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It’s April Fools, Don’t be a Internet Fool

While April Fools jokes like this one from Google in 2007 (Google TiSP – here is "how it works") will be abundant tomorrow, it is also important to remind those using the Internet – to proceed with caution as usual. The New York Times just posted an article titled "Separating Pranks from Fraud on the Internet". This article discusses watching out for scams and fraud, so the laugh is not on you.


BitMom Guest Post: Simple Safe Internet Surfing Tips For Families

Guest post from Nicole Balistreri , the coordinator for US based BitDefender's community.

Hello Techmama readers!! Nicole here… resident BitMom aficionado and safe family surfing advocate. Let’s be honest – you’re lost without your gadgets, and your digital life is a huge part of your family. Everything from schedules to important family records is located on your PC (or Mac) and you would be in a real bind if something happened to any of that information.Also – let’s not forget about the wandering eyes of kids… hmm… indecent Google searches? Accidental virus downloads? We’ve all been there. No fear, take note of the simple tips below and your family will be surfing safer in no time.

  1. Exercise caution when you add personal data to your online social networking accounts! Keep the critical data to a safe minimum – this means no birthdays or family member names as passwords!
  2. When uploading photos – be aware that these photos could be used without your consent for advertising campaigns or, worse, for pornographic purposes. In order to discourage image theft, you might also add a watermark text on your pictures in areas where removal is impossible, or at least difficult.
  3. Use an alternative e-mail address for social networks, newsletters, ect in order to avoid spam which could be harmful to your computer.
  4. Use security software with a parental control feature! This provides comprehensive settings for web and application control as well as the ability to filter web, mail and instant messaging traffic for certain keywords.
  5. Use a good anti-malware solution. It will solve most of the problems you can encounter on Web: it can block spam, phishing attempts and prevent malware from infecting your computer, therefore keeping your private data safe. Make sure you update your antimalware, firewall and spam filters as frequently as possible, and that you don’t forget to scan your system often.

Nicole Balistreri is the coordinator for US based an online community dedicated to promoting family internet safety sponsored by BitDefender and strategic partners. BitDefender is an award-winning provider of innovative anti-malware security solutions based in Bucharest, Romania. Visit for more information.

Disclosure: This is not a paid post, I inquired for some safe surfing tips and asked that the information be shared on a guest post.


A Disturbing New Term: CyberBlackmail

I posted on yesterday about this terrible news:

Today I read in Techmeme then on the CNET site a report: “Teen gets 15 years for Facebook blackmail“.  Here are some details from that post:

Anthony Stancl, 19, plead no contest in December to two felonies, including repeated sexual assault of a child, according to the report. Stancle had been accused
of creating a Facebook profile belonging to a nonexistent teenage girl and then, between approximately the spring 2007 and fall 2008, using it to convince more than 30 of his male classmates to send in nude photos or videos of themselves

My original post had a second part to it which discussed cyberbullying. But the more I thought about the Facebook blackmail incident the more I realized it is even more sinister then cyberbullying. So last night I got really upset and deleted the second part of my post about cyberbullying – because in the end it was blackmail. I decided instead of cyberbullying I will call the incident “cyberblackmail“.

With scary thoughts of the cyberblackmail incident in my head as I went to bed last night, I did not sleep very well.

For some reason I came to understand that cyberbullying happens. I knew that parents need to educate their kids on the subject, give support if their child falls prey to cyberbullying and have a punishment strategy if they find out their kid(s) participates in cyberbullying. But blackmail is something I had not accepted or imagined would happen in social networks by a 19 year old. And that 16 year old boys could so easily fall prey to the cyberblackmail.

Now I know **it happens.

Next question was “How can I possibly explain this to my son?” There is a lesson that needs to be explained, but the topic is so distasteful that I would rather not discuss it.

So I decided to explain to my 11 year old son, that there are “bad” people on social networks and websites who will try to appear as your friend or a pretty girl to make you do inappropriate things. The lesson learned is NEVER send inappropriate pictures or do anything you don’t feel good about because someone on a social network asked you to do. Never share personal information with someone you don’t know and never meetup in person with them. Be strong, say NO. Realize that anyone who asked you to do inappropriate things is NOT their friend or someone they would want to date. And – inappropriate includes sending any picture that you would not want your future employer to see.

I have a feeling I am not going to sleep well tonight either. But at least I did have the conversation with my son. He was quiet but when I said “Do you understand?” He said “Yes, Yes.. ok… I get it”.

I hope he does.

Until they have “Stop CyberBlackmail” websites, here are some good links for information on cyberbullying:


Facebook Blog: Watch Your Words: Steps to Preventing Cyberbullying


CNET Report: Teen gets 15 years for Facebook BlackMail

**I took out the second part of this post – which I explain in a new post “A Disturbing New Term: CyberBlackmail“. Click HERE to read that post.***

Today I read in Techmeme then on the CNET site a report: “Teen gets 15 years for Facebook blackmail“.  Here are some details from that CNET post:

Anthony Stancl, 19, plead no contest in December to two felonies, including repeated sexual assault of a child, according to the report. Stancle had been accused of creating a Facebook profile belonging to a nonexistent teenage girl and then, between approximately the spring 2007 and fall 2008, using it to convince more than 30 of his male classmates to send in nude photos or videos of themselves.”

This situation is a solemn reminder that kids not only need education on appropriate use of social networks, but also on personal privacy including not sharing personal pictures of themselves online for any reason.


Twitter Virus Gone Viral: “Is This You?” (Don’t Click on That Link!!)

I did a quick check on Twitter this morning and I saw lots of direct messages (or DM's) with the same type of wording – which always sets off phishing or virus alarms for me. I NEVER click on those links and neither should anyone else!

Phishing is defined on Wikipedia as " the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication". A computer virus is defined on Wikipedia as "A computer virus is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer. The term "virus" is also commonly but erroneously used to refer to other types of malware, adware, and spyware programs that do not have the reproductive ability. "

So I decided to see who else was having this issue by sending out a Tweet (without any links!) – and I received lots of replies by my followers that also received those DM's. "This You" is trending on Twitter!

Mashable posted on the topic. I did not follow any short URL's – but went to the Mashable website to find the post:

Here are some examples of what the Twitter direct messages look like. Remember – DON''T click on the links or else you will spread the virus to your followers!!

Twitter DM text: "haha. This you???? (PHISHING LINK)", "This you???? (PHISHING LINK)".

Clicking on the link does what Graham Cluley's post explained "If you click on the link you are taken to a fake Twitter login page, where hackers are just waiting for you to
hand over your credentials. In fact, they can automatically post the
phishing message from your account as soon as you hand over your

Unfortunately, several of my followers clicked on that link and their accounts were taken over – which is why I received the DM.

Enjoy Twitter but stay safe, never click on links unless it is from a trusted source. Think before you click on any links from followers via a reply or a direct message to you. The signs are usually there so keep an eye out: phishing and viruses attacks regularly try to sneak into our online world.

Here is a post I did on another phishing incident: "Dear Phisher: You Are A SCAT and NOT Wells Fargo"

Here is a link to the Anti-Phishing Working Group website:

Update 2/25:

TechMeme shared link of post from Graham Cluley's blog titled "This you???? : Phishing attack hits Twitter users".

Graham Cluley also posted with "Malware and spam rise 70% on social networks, security report reveals"


Is There Any Such Thing As “Safe Web Surfing” for Kids?

*republished 10/10 with updates:

A blogger friend emailed me asking about safe web surfing for her son. Many parents want to allow their kids to search for websites on the web, but worry about them wandering onto dangerous websites.

So I decided to revisit an area I think about often: What controls are available for safe web surfing for kids?

1. Brandon from BlackWaterOps tweeted the following suggestion: , set your router, safe guard your childs surfing. no software to bypass, update, and its free. had a post on 5 Free Parental Control Apps that also included Their post had some details on which settings to use.

2. CNET Download: Searching the CNET download website for parental controls will provide a listing of applications available for download. I decided not to leave web surfing to chance and implemented a web filter on my son’s first computer (that he received when he was 8). I choose to use the option of “not allowing” any website, so my son and I could hand pick which websites were allowed. This option does take the most time, but it is the most restrictive. The only challenge is that once in a website, a filter will not work. For example, if I allow YouTube, I can’t restrict which videos he watches. Lifehacker posted with an application called “Kideo” that helps make YouTube safer. There are also other applications for restricting YouTube access.

3. Online security controls are available at the operating system level. Here is a link to information about Microsoft Windows and Apple Safari browser controls. The Mozilla Firefox website has information on Firefox browser controls. Websites like MACWorld and also publish information about safe web surfing.

4. Laptop Magazine has reviews on Security software and How-to’s.

5. Common Sense Media has website reviews to locate the right websites for kids. Disney Family Fun website posted with the pledge that kids should take, and some other relevant websites for information on safe web surfing: America Links Up , Cyberangels , Family Guide Book, GetNetWise, SafeKids, SmartParent and Web Wise Kids.

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