What does Love mean?

“Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning.”

Throughout my life, I have tried to discover the meaning of love. What does it mean to love somebody? I came to realize that the challenge isn’t always about learning the meaning. Instead, it’s about putting that meaning to action by expressing it.

To me, love is selfless.

Love is helping when you’d rather do something else. Love is listening carefully to what someone else has to say. Love is appreciating the good instead of fixating on improvements. Love is being there during times of need. Love is giving until you have nothing left to give. Above all, true love is never ending.

Now I ask you: What does love mean to you?

Protecting Yourself on Facebook (Updated)

A couple months ago I wrote about how easy it is for someone to steal your Facebook account in less than 5 minutes. While there will always be risks in security, Facebook has finally implemented support for secure browsing. The best part? It only takes a few seconds to set up, so I highly suggest you follow along!

Enabling secure browsing on Facebook:

  1. Log into your Facebook account.
  2. In the top right menu bar, go to Account > Account Settings.
  3. From the Account Settings page, you will notice an area “Account Security”- located towards the bottom. Click the “change” link to the right of it.
  4. Directly shown underneath will be “Secure Browsing (https)”. Tick the check-box “Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) whenever possible”.
  5. Save your changes. (Blue save button)

Easy enough, and now your good to go! Now it won’t be so easy for any hackers to sniff your internet traffic and get easy access to your account!

Tip! In Account Security, you will will also notice your recent Account Activity. Look here if you suspect anyone is signing onto your account at other locations!

What Makes A Strong Password

Passwords. You need them everywhere and all the time.

To maintain the highest level of security to your information, it is necessary of you to change your password at least once each year. Alas, choosing a simple password will not be good enough with todays ever-growing society of computer hackers. Great news for you- I’ve created a breakdown of a few rules you can go by to create your new, strong password- without it being too difficult to remember or easy for others to figure out.

What’s in a strong password? A strong password has several characteristics, it:

  • Consists of at least 6 characters (Longer is better!)
  • Contains a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols (if allowed)
  • Utilizes case-sensitivity

Now that we have identified what makes a strong password, let’s lay down some ground rules.

A password should not:

  • Contain any words found in a dictionary
  • Contain any part of the username (or your name) (IE. username: tombeute password: tomtom)
  • Directly relate with any public information about you
    (For example: If you’re really into baseball and the whole world knows, do not make your password ‘yankeefan’ or ‘baseball’ or any variations similar; such as replacing letters with numbers.)

To ensure the safety and security of all of your information- locally and in the cloud (internet), you will need to make a password that is difficult enough (for a stranger) to guess, but easy enough (for you) to remember.

Password Creation 101 (Methods):

  • The Pass-Phrase
  • The Key-Mapper
  • Completely Random
  • Master Password

The Pass-Phrase is a method of password creation involves a sequence of words or other text used to encrypt a password.

  1. To create a pass-phrase, start with a sentence that is easy for you to remember. Note: It could be the first line of your favorite song, a movie title, anything!
    Pass-phrase example: I live in New Jersey with 3 sisters.
  2. The pass-phrase will now be encoded and condensed to your preference, being sure to utilize the characteristics of a strong password.
    Pass-phrase example: iLIN3wJw/3S

Pass-phrase encryption will make your life easier when creating and recalling passwords. To illustrate how I came up with my encoded pass-phrase, let’s take a look:

iLIN3wJw/3S = I live in New Jersey with 3 Sisters

  • i = I
  • L = live
  • IN = in
  • N3w = New
  • J = Jersey
  • w/ = with
  • 3 = 3
  • S = sisters

And there you see how easy it is to utilize the pass-phrase method!

The Key-Mapper is another method of password creation, however it might not be as easy to remember as a pass-phrase will be.

  1. To create a key-mapper style password, think of a password you might commonly use.
    Key-Mapper example: fanboy5
  2. Now, that isn’t the best password to use because it contains a dictionary word. Instead, let’s use a new mapping on our keyboard to represent each letter. For example, each letter will now be represented by the letter one key to the right of it. (f = g, a = s, n = m)
  3. Our re-mapped password of fanboy5 is now encoded;
    Key-Mapper example: gsmnpu6

Feel free to further enhance your key-mapped password by using fancier key-map patterns (perhaps one key up and one key to the left). Also, replace certain letters with symbols to further secure your password.

A Completely Random password is hands-down the least convenient method of password creation and can be arguably the most secure method of password creation- it is simply a random computer generation of numbers, letters, and symbols (optional).

Obviously, the creation of a random password is straight forward. However, in case you would like a computer to do the randomization for you then visit StrongPasswordGenerator.com.

The Master Password method of password creation is nothing more than a method to avoid use of the same password for each website you belong to.

The concept is simple, let’s refer back to our pass-phrase password of: iLIN3wJw/3S. That will now be known as our master password.

To keep this password easy to remember, yet secure enough that I’m not using it on every site, we can prefix or suffix the password with hints.

Example usage of our password on different sites:

  • Gmail = iLIN3wJw/3Sgma
  • Facebook = iLIN3wJw/3Sfac
  • Twitter = iLIN3wJw/3Stwi
  • Skype = iLIN3wJw/3Ssky

There are several other ways to use a master password, just remember to keep your algorithms consistent and you will never forget another password!

Last Minute Reminders!

  • If you find the need to write down your password, use common sense! Do not write it on a post-it on your desk, do not save it in a file on your desktop entitled ‘passwords’.
  • Do not use the same password for multiple applications.
  • Do not use obvious information about you in your password.
  • Be sure any password reset questions do not contain obvious information! **

While there  are still many more risks posed to the security of your information other than password compromisation, you can be one step ahead by having a strong password. Be sure to refresh your password annually, and do not share your password with anyone other than yourself.

Making A Bad Day Something Better

“A bad day is just a day where you have been thinking more negative thoughts than positive ones.”

Last week, I woke up to what one might have considered a very bad day. It was the first day of the new semester and I was already running late. I sprinted into the shower to wash off, flew down the stairs to brush my teeth, and ran out to my car.

With only 20 minutes until class started (keep in mind, my commute averages 30 minutes), I quickly brushed the snow off my car, went to turn the key to my ignition, and heard nothing but the silence of falling snow. “Oh great! It’s going to be that kind of a day,” I thought to myself. I went inside and quickly scrambled to get in contact with my parents. After finally getting in contact with my mom, I was able to borrow her car while at work and drive myself to school. I proceeded with the day, fearing for the worst.

To my good fortune, that day last week ended up being one of the best days of my week. Instead of carrying on with my day feeling hopeless and down, I raised my head up high and looked for ways to improve my day. After my two classes that morning, I made lunch plans with a friend at our favorite burger joint. Afterwords, we went back to my house and took care of my immobilized car. We hung out for some time and later headed to the gym.

After I tidied myself up and was ready to call it a day, thanking a higher love for turning my day into something far better than I thought it would be, I noticed my phone- lit up, indicating a new message. The message was from my former significant-other (asking how I was doing), and our brief conversation brought an unimaginable amount of happiness and ease to my mind.

What’s important is that we understand we have the opportunity to change our attitude, our perspective, and our thoughts- at any moment. What I thought might lead me into a day of disaster resulted in the best day of my week. How can you change your impression on the bad to turn them into good?

Giving: The Way Of Receiving

“Giving always opens the way for receiving.”

If you want to show your true heart to a loved one, the nicest thing you can do is give without expectations. You know what I mean: share with someone without expecting anything in return. All of us need to receive love, attention, support, understanding, and then some.

While its important to communicate your needs or desires, its also possible to display what you want by giving it first.

Tell someone you love them if you want to be loved back. Tell someone your always there for them if you want to receive support.

We can’t always expect to receive what we have given, but we have opened ourselves up to greater possibilities (the possibility of our actions being reciprocated) when we’re willing to show what it means to be giving.

The Gift of Appreciation

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

I read an article the other day about how people are much more likely to seek the bad in something than appreciate the good that is already present. This happens to us day in and out; you remember receiving that Christmas present last year? It wasn’t the exact iPod alarm clock you wanted, but it was another no-name brand that was very similar. It saved your parents money, and after all “its the thought that counts”.

As we progress through this holiday season lets take a moment to show appreciation in all things good. When you go to the store and someone greets and asks you “How are you today?”, take a moment to thank them for asking how you are. It’s these little ideas that really end up being the big things; the next time you go to the store and an employee does not greet you, it is very likely you will leave with a bad impression. How about when you wake up and family members say good morning? The same situation applies!

It’s also worth noting that any strong relationship shouldn’t be a problem that needs to be fixed. You might face challenges every now-and-then, but they shouldn’t need fixing right from the start. Relationships need to be cherished.

The point in all of this, is that you shouldn’t hold back from showing appreciation in every little thing that happens. Thank whomever you may encounter for their generosity, prove to the world that you care. After all, isn’t the holiday season about giving gifts? Share a gift of gratitude.

Stealing A Facebook Account In Less Than 5 Minutes

Are you aware how easy it is for even the most novice computer user to steal access to your Facebook/Amazon.com/Gmail/Twitter/Flickr account- in less than 5 minutes?

If you aren’t, I highly suggest you keep reading so you can learn how to protect yourself.

Websites like Facebook (and the others listed above) require a username and a password for access. Computers send and receive data all the time. The type of data that is transferred over a network when a user logs into a website is known as a cookie. Cookies act like tickets to a theme park- once you enter you can go anywhere within the park (in our example, anywhere within the website without having to sign-in again).

The easiest way to protect your cookies is by sending them through an encrypted connection. Without going into too much detail, encrypted traffic can not be sniffed [easily] (obtained by another person on the network). Most websites that require authorization for access will force a SSL (secure) connection to ensure the security of the data being sent from your computer to the website. Unfortunately there are many websites in existence today that still do not force a secure connection, leaving all of your personal, credit card, user name and password information at a high risk! All it takes on an insecure, public internet (college, free WiFi, etc) connection is one person to steal a cookie from your session. Essentially, a hacker will use that stolen cookie to regain entrance into the website (and your account).

Now, it’s likely you are asking how to protect yourself from becoming a victim- the answer is quite simple; ensure all personal information is communicated through a secured connection. To verify if you are using a secured connection, look in the address bar of your web browser and note the ‘http’ prefix.

Does your URL say:
http://facebook.com (Insecure – High Risk!)
https://facebook.com (Secured – Low Risk.)

Luckily for the not-so-tech-savvy there are several tools already available to help protect you from this risk.

TIP! Gmail users can protect themselves by using the built-in browser connection setting. Sign into your Gmail account, go to Settings. Select the ‘Always use https’ option and then ‘Save Changes’.

If your using Internet Explorer:
Your best option right now is to install the user-script ‘Facebook Secure Connection – Force Https (SSL)‘. Unfortunately, this will only protect traffic through Facebook.com. (Note: The initial login will not be encrypted, but everything there after will be.)

If your using Mozilla Firefox:
The best method of protection is to install EFF’s ‘HTTPS Everywhere‘ extension. HTTPS Everywhere will protect you on most websites that require authorization.

If your using Google Chrome:
Your options are limited like Internet Explorer, you can use the plugin ‘Facebook Secure Connection (Force Https SSL)‘. (Note: The initial login will not be encrypted, but everything there after will be.)

OR

For Mac (OS X) users:
You can install the application ‘SideStep‘. SideStep will automatically secure all insecure connections initialized from your Mac. If your using a Mac, I highly suggest this option!

For Windows (PC) users:
You can install the application ‘Proxy Switcher‘. Proxy Switcher will re-route your internet traffic through proxy servers with ease, protecting your information from the locals on your network.

If your not surfing the web with Firefox, then it might be in your best interest to download it (http://firefox.com) and install the HTTPS Everywhere extension. If your using a Mac, your best bet is to install SideStep (unless your using Firefox to do web browsing, in which you should use HTTPS Everywhere).

It is important to mention Facebook does not support a secure connection through their chat server. This means if you are using a secure connection to access Facebook, you will not be able to access chat.

TIP! Always remember to log out of any accounts you sign into when you are finished. Closing your cookie session will render any old cookies useless.

In the Spotlight: Christmas

Christmas is hastily on its way and everything about the season is wonderful! The sounds of the season, the brisk cold air, happiness everywhere. Take a moment to think what (or who) the season is all about. God. Before you forget who this season is really about, stop worrying about all the chores you need to accomplish (cooking for guests, buying presents, etc) and focus the season on God. Rest assured all of the things you need to do will get done, but let God handle your stress; he is there for you!

I like to remind myself every day to be stress-free:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28)

I have a note in my room that reminds me this every morning:

Good Morning, This is God! I will be handling all your problems today. I will not need your help- So, have a good day.

Facebook

How likely are you to share your passwords openly with strangers you’ve never met?

If you’re like me and care about your privacy in the least bit, you wouldn’t want to ever take the chance of letting your information get in the wrong hands. Facebook users should be made clearly aware of the Facebook privacy policy, and if you have not read it already then I highly suggest you do.

The motives of a company like Facebook is not to protect your information but to share it. Think about it this way: every member of Facebook who shares information about their-self becomes an asset to the company. Facebook uses this information about you (which according to the privacy policy, is now in their possession) and sells it to marketing companies and shares it with search engines to increase search queries (more hits to Facebook means more money). There’s much more about the privacy policy that I’m not touching upon right now, but definitely- read up on it.

Another point to enlighten you on is Facebook’s application permissions. As an end-user, you must be made clearly aware that ALL applications you use on Facebook have access to your profile. These permissions are equivalent to sharing your profile password with a stranger. Examples of some common applications people share information with are, but obviously aren’t limited to: FarmVille, Cafe World, Bejewled Blitz, Social Interview,  The Yes/No Game, Bumper Sticker, and ‘Likes This’. To see how many developers (yes, their people too) you are sharing your information with, go to: Account > Privacy Settings. From there in the bottom left, click “Edit your settings” under the “Applications and Websites” section. You will see ‘Applications you use’: “You’re using X applications, games and websites…”

Surprised? Now if I were you, I’d remove or disable all those applications because behind the games, amusement, and interviews are people too- people I have never met who can compromise my information. To do this it’s simple: from the same page, go to “Edit Settings” (far right) and proceed to delete your applications by hitting the “X” on the top right of each application listing.

The risk you run by allowing applications to access your profile is quite obvious. It is the same motivation Facebook has- to share and market information about you. Likewise, by sharing your account information with strangers you are running yourself the risk of account theft. I could technically create a fun Facebook app, post something on your wall about it, and all I’d need you to do is allow the app permission to access your profile. (IE. “Tom answered a secret question about you! View it now.”) Bam! I gave myself access to your profile and you didn’t even know.

A brief recap: Facebook. Review their privacy policy in full, they don’t care about your privacy or information- they just want their money, and don’t use Facebook app’s if you wouldn’t give your password out to a stranger.