Finally, Bitcoin on a Debit Card

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It seems like the American Dollar is riding high at the moment.  Unemployment is at an all-time low and interest rates are almost non-existent.  Nothing lasts forever.

Some people prefer to use an alternate form of currency.  While many argue that Bitcoin is volatile, it can be a great alternative to government-backed currency.  As amazing as Bitcoin is, bit can be a pain to access.  Enter “Shift”.

Coinbase started offering a debit card Friday to access bitcoin.  It is the very first bitcoin-based debit card issued in the US and it’s backed by VISA.

It will now be possible to use Bitcoin at brick and mortar stores across the US.  Online shopping as well.

To sign up, head on over to their website. They charge a 10 dollar fee to get started.

The card is only available in 24 states.  Currently there is also a transaction limit of up to $1000 per day.  Cash withdraw limit of 500 along with your standard ATM fees.

Since Shift is mainstream, it may not be a good choice for privacy advocates.

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think of this new development.

Who should use TOR?

“All people who use Tor are criminals” Not so fast.

Many people could take advantage of the TOR network.  Anonymous browsing has many great advantages

TOR is short for The Onion Router and was originally a worldwide network of servers created with the U.S. Navy that allowed people to browse the internet anonymously.  Today, it is a non-profit organization that continues to research and develop online privacy tools.

Your identity is disguised by the TOR network by streaming your traffic across different TOR serves, and encrypting that traffic so that it is not traced back to you.

 

If someone were to try to trace you would just come to a random node on the TOR network instead of your computer.

It’s actually easier to get started with TOR than you might think.  Checkout this post to get started. I’ve created a layman’s guide to get started on the TOR network.

So who could benefit from using TOR?

#1. Journalist

Side profile of a journalist typing on a typewriter

There are times when it is important for a journalist to stay anonymous.  Especially when following leads.  In some countries, it may even be dangerous to research certain topics or trends online.  TOR is an excellent way to help journalists stay anonymous on the web.

#2. Activist

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Political activists can take advantage of the anonymity found on TOR.  Just in the past few years, we have seen several activists organizing demonstrations.  It would be prudent to do so anonymously.

#3. Abuse victim

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Victims of domestic abuse or stalking could take advantage of TOR.  Not every psycho ex is computer illiterate.  You would be surprised how many victims of stalking are found through their online habits.

#4. Police Officer

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Police investigators could use TOR to cover their tracks when following leads.

#5. Privacy advocate

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There are those who would prefer to stay anonymous.  TOR gives everyone that opportunity to stay hidden from government’s prying eyes.

#6. Citizen of a repressive government

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We have all seen it.  Citizens in a country where their government closely monitors their activity online.  TOR is a great opportunity to be anonymous and stay out of reach from the governments all seeing eye.

#7. Private Investigator

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Those that have been put on the case to investigate need to do so wisely in this tech-savvy world.  PI’s could use TOR to cover their tracks during an investigation.

#8. Anonymous donor

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People who wish to bless other people’s lives anonymously could take advantage of TOR.  Covering their tracks and staying anonymous.

 

If you have any other people that you can think of that could benefit from the TOR network, please comment below.  I would love to hear from you.

A layman’s guide to encrypting your hard drive

Your data is important and it needs to be secure.  Large companies have IT departments that work around the clock to keep everything secure on their servers.  Likewise, you should keep your data secure.  In this day and age, it is easier than ever, even if you are using Windows.

Why should you encrypt your data?

5 Reasons to encrypt your data:

#1. Your computer along with the hard drive, may be stolen.

robber computer

#2. You may lose your laptop.  It could happen anywhere, at the airport, at school.

lost laptop

#3. You could pass away unexpectedly and whoever inherits your computer may gain access to accounts/data that you would prefer to have private.

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#4. Your machine could be confiscated by authorities. (Not everyone is honest, if your credit card information is found they could write it down and use it themselves)

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#5. Clever hackers could get a hold of your data if you leave it open.

hacker computer

Your data is important, there is no reason why it should be at risk.  If you have any other good reasons on why it’s important to encrypt your hard drive, please post in the comments below.

How to easily encrypt your hard drive using windows:

So most people have a login password for their Windows PC, but if someone steals your computer or hard drive, the thief can easily place your hard drive into another computer and access that data directly.  If you have lots of sensitive information on your computer like bank account information, credit cards, personal health information, then you want to do a full-disk encryption, which will protect all of your data.

Microsoft’s Bitlocker software: 

If you use Microsoft windows, you can easily encrypt your entire hard drive.

You must have:

#1. Windows 7/Vista Ultimate, Windows 7/Vista Enterrpise, Windows 8/10 Pro, Windows enterprise 8/10.

#2 .A TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip most newer computers do.

If you don’t have a TPM chip, when you try to enable Bitlocker the software will let you know right away that you can’t encrypt the hard drive.

Let’s get started:

To enable BitLocker:

#1. Go to the Control Panel

#2.  System and Security

#3.  BitLocker Drive Encryption,

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You can also do a search for “BitLocker” in Windows 8.

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In the BitLocker menu, clickTurn on BitLocker next to the drive you want to encrypt. It is as simple as that.

If your computer does not meet the requirements for BitLocker, you can still use DiskCryptor for free full-disk encryption.

Warning about passwords & encryption:

Even if your disk is encrypted, you need to make sure that your password is strong.  If you use a weak password like: “Password1”, a hacker can break that encryption and access the file.  The longer the password is, the better.

A strong password should be at least 10 characters, but 12 is better. A good mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols ensures good encryption.

If you have any tips about encryption, please comment below.

 

Tor! What is it good for? Absolutely everything

While the Dark web may seem mysterious, it offers a level of security in our world.  1984 may have gotten it right, although 30 years premature.  Big brother really is watching.

Edward Snowden, former NSA contractor, was able to outsmart U.S. officials using several layers of encryption.  At the SXSW conference in Austin Texas, Snowden gave a great webcast on NSA leaks and data security.

Here are some tips that he gave to keep your information safe:

#1. Encrypt your hard drive.

#2. Use plug-ins for your browser that stop companies from following you online.

#3. Use Tor, a network that allows you to cover your tracks online.

 

In today’s walk-through, I’m going to be going over the simple steps to installing the TOR network on Windows machines.  Keep a close eye on the site, I’ll be doing hard drive encryption walk-throughs in the future.

What is Tor?

Tor allows you to be anonymous online by hiding who you are and where you are connecting to.  It also hides you from the Tor network itself.  Think of it like a peer-to-peer network from the late 90’s.  But instead of downloading your favorite 90’s grunge band, you are hiding yourself in an intertwined web of nodes, masking you from Big Brother.

A Word of Warning:

When you are using the Tor Browser, only the activity done in the Tor browser is anonymous.  Everything else done on the desktop/irc clients/messenger apps etc… are not anonymous.  People can still use keystroke programs and other sneaky ways to find out what you are up to.

Setting Tor up:

Step 1:

Go to: https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en

(NOTE: Make sure that it’s https)

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Find the large purple download button then click on your language/OS version.  Most of you will have 64-bit windows.  I’m still lagging behind in the 32 bit scene.  Luckily I don’t have more than 4 gigs of ram, so it doesn’t really matter.

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Step 2: Open the executable file.

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(I have to give a warning that you need to make sure you get this file from the source.  Malware seems to be attracted to the dark web).

When the download is complete, you will have the option to open the folder where the file was downloaded  The default location is just in your Downloads folder. Double-click on the file “torbrowser-install-5.0.3_en-US.exe”.

 

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Select your language of choice:

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Select the directory you’d like to install it to.  I have to admit, I secretly hate that windows allows you to just install programs all over the place, it’s so disorganized. </rant>

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Start the program:

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Once the program starts, “connect” to the Tor network.  This should work in most cases.  Sometimes, the network that you are on could have a proxy server that might get in the way.  The most popular proxy server that people seem to be using these days is: “Open DNS

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It should connect for you:

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Alright! You’re connected!

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click on the “Tor” logo in the upper left hand side of the screen.  Then click “Privacy and Security settings”.

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When you’re using a normal web browser like Chrome, you can be vulnerable to “man-in-the-middle attacks”.  Slide the security level all the way up to “high” to secure the browser.  This will make your browsing more secure.  The downside to turning the slider all the way up to “high” is that not every website will load properly.  If you’re not worried about sophisticated hackers,  you’re welcome to leave the security download.  I personally think it’s a good idea to slide it all the way up to “high”.

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If you have any questions about the installation processes, please feel free to comment below.  I will write some articles in the future about traversing the Tor web network.  Be careful on it.  It can be a great way to be anonymous, but with great power can come great responsibility.