In today's constantly changing high-tech world, every day of working on the Web and just plain living is a new learning experience for most of us.

 

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Roxanne S. sent these comments after reading the June 4 Bulletin:

"So much valuable information! Your content is always top drawer. I will be following up on the fraud/scam alerts you shared, both for my mother (who is of the generation that still opens her door to strangers) and my 21-year-old son (who, as a part of the modern generation, thinks nothing can go wrong while he and his friends gleefully share all sorts of information at the drop of a hat over their smart phones).”

 

 

 

 

Someone is spying on your Google searches—but it's not who you think.

This August 2, 2013 article by Robert X. Cringely, InfoWorld states: "The good news: The FBI and NSA may not be spying on your Internet activities. The bad news: Plenty of others can."

 

Copyright © 2000-2013
by Barbara Brabec
All Rights Reserved
Barbara Brabec's World
BarbaraBrabec.com

It’s a Crazy World Out There

A Special Edition of THE BRABEC BULLETIN
published on the Web in August, 2013

This article covers several topics a number of things I've recently found to be interesting and sometimes alarming, astonishing, and in one case, ridiculous. Each topic under discussion links to informative articles that offer additional details for those with a curious or discerning mind. - Barbara

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Is Your Smart TV or Webcam Spying on You?
Are You Addicted to Your Cell Phone?
Inexpensive TracFones for the Unaddicted
Romance Scams in Cyber World
Skype and Resume Writing Classes for Gitmo Prisoners
A Final Note from Barbara
 

Is Your Smart TV or Webcam Spying on You?

BY NOW, MANY OF US have begun to ask if we’re living in Orwell's world of 1984. Curious to see how many others were thinking the same thing I was, I Googled "living in Orwell’s world of 1984" and found more than three million web pages on this topic. In checking a few articles, I learned that after the NSA revelations about their collecting the phone records of millions of consumers, sales of Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four shot up a staggering 3,100 percent in Amazon.com customer popularity, moving from #6,208 to #194 on the website's best sellers ranking. In a June 12 article by Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson for News Limited Network, she said that sales of the Centennial edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four soared 7005 percent on Amazon in just 24 hours that week, in addition to sales of two other editions.

If you've read Orwell's book or seen the movie, you'll recall how people were being spied on through their television set and cameras that were positioned everywhere outside—just as they are now in 2013. So we shouldn't be surprised to learn that Orwell's vision of TV sets that could spy on us in the privacy of our home is now a reality. If you've been watching the popular television show, Person of Interest, you have a perfect example of how much of our public movement is now being recorded by a camera somewhere.

THIS SPYING BY CAMERA goes beyond "smart TV" sets with cameras built into them. It also includes the webcams that are now built into new computers. Called 'ratting', hackers can send out an internet virus that allows them access to a person's desktop computer or laptop without their knowledge, and then they can switch on the webcam and watch people in the privacy of their homes.

There are articles on this topic all over the Web, but here are some practical tips I gleaned from some of them. First, if you keep your laptop on all the time, keep the lid closed, and if you’re not using the webcam and aren’t sure how secure your computer is from hackers, put some tape over the camera lens. Hackers can easily gain control of your computer if you ever click on an email link from someone you don't know and trust. Be especially wary of links on Facebook where some "friend" urges you to "watch this incredible video" or "listen to this song," etc. Of course women—and especially teenagers—are the prime targets for webcam spying.

This article tells the story of a university student who revealed how she was spied on by hackers while she was in the bath, and just happened to notice that the laptop’s webcam suddenly turned itself on.

Are You Addicted to Your Cell Phone?

ON A RECENT CBS Sunday Morning show, there was a segment about the usage of cell phones. The reporter stated that 91 percent of Americans now own a cell phone, and most of them, particularly young men and women, are addicted to them. They showed film of people walking and talking on a cell phone, so oblivious of the world around them that they had an accident. One woman was filmed falling into a public water fountain; a man waiting for a train walked right off the platform. Curious about this, I Googled "accidents+pedestrians cell phone usage" and turned up 2.5 million web pages on this topic. Statistics are also mounting up for auto accidents caused by people using a cell phone.

What I found most interesting about this report was that young people are texting on cell phones because they are uncomfortable in face-to-face interactions. As one kid put it, "When you’re talking live to someone, you can’t control what comes out of your mouth, so you text to be sure you’re saying what you really want to say." What this tells me is that millions of people have now made their own little worlds that revolve around their cell phone and other electronic gadgets to the point that they’re cutting themselves off from the real world. I find that very sad.

When I did a Web search for "cell phone addiction," I turned up more than 15 million web pages offering articles about this new trend in our society, how to find out if one is actually addicted, how to cope with this kind of addiction, better manage one's cell phone usage, and so on.

HAS YOUR CELL PHONE "become a permanent fixture on your face?" Take this test to find out!

Inexpensive TracFones for the Unaddicted

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, but not every one in the world needs a cell phone that takes pictures, makes recordings, has hundreds of apps, games, and gives one access to the Internet. Since I rarely travel now, I’m home or very near to home most of the time, and because I have unlimited long distance through my Internet cable supplier with a phone in every room of the house, my only use of a cell phone has always been limited. In fact, in the past several years I’ve rarely needed to make a phone call that couldn’t wait until I got back home.

However, I definitely want and NEED the security of knowing I can make a call if the car breaks down or if I fall in my home or my back yard where there is no one around to hear me if I can’t get up; in other words, this is my INSURANCE against great inconvenience or personal disaster.

I recently cancelled my Virgin Mobile service because I’ve been aggravated to death by their email prompts to constantly top up when I wasn’t using any minutes to speak of, and worse, was limited to calls in my region only. So I was delighted to learn that I could purchase a TracFone at Walmart for $19.95 and then Airtime Cards fas needed, could make calls anywhere in the U.S., and wouldn’t be annoyed by emails from a phone service company or have to sign any kind of contract. The minute packs start at $19.99 for 90 minutes and don't expire after 90 days if they’re not used, so this "insurance" will give me enormous peace of mind for a mere $80/year.

I’ll never use all of my minutes, and I won’t take incoming calls on this phone unless I ask someone to call me back because of something happening "at the moment," so this kind of phone is just perfect for my needs. It’s also the perfect option for my young landscaper friend who happens to hate technology. The last thing he wants to do is answer the phone when he’s got his hands in dirt or doing stone work, but he likes to be able to have his clients leave him a voice mail message he can return at day’s end.

I am never without my little TracFone now. It's either in my slacks or jeans pocket, or, lacking a pocket, I carry it in a little handmade denim bag on a cord that I can hang around my neck. On the few occasions where I actually need to carry a purse, I tuck it in there.

Romance Scams in Cyber World

ONE OF MY READERS, who shall remain anonymous, wrote in June:

"This past month has just been hell for me; the Dane I married in March? I discovered he has been lying to me and using me just to get a green card. And then I caught him cheating on sex-sites, using MY computer! What a fool I was . . . and what a low-life he is. I am just mortified that he fooled me as completely as he did, and that he also fooled some of my friends and family. I’ve filed for divorce, and the way I understand it, as soon as the divorce is final, U.S. Immigration will deport him as he will have no legal standing in the country. There is so much more, but let's just condense and say he left Denmark owing thousands of dollars, especially to the country's tax authority. No wonder he was so charming to me. I made a great patsy to 'run to' to get out of his country."

Curiously, in checking a publisher friend’s website that same day, I noticed that she had published a couple of books by Anna Alden-Tirrill on this very topic: Cyber Love's Illusions—Romance Scams . . . A Virtual Pandemic, and Cyber Love's Illusions—The Healing Journey.

Until then, I had no idea how many lonely women were getting sucked into this scam. In speaking with Jo at White Cottage Publishing about this topic and the books she had published, she confirmed that it was indeed a pandemic happening all over the world.

"Scammers are becoming more and more clever and technologically astute," she said. "Billions of dollars a year are going to these cyber crooks. The ones located in Africa are mainly affiliated with terrorist groups that funnel the money into international terrorism after the line worker gets a small cut and the kingpin gets a bigger cut. This was verified on TV when an associate of mine was being interviewed, as the interviewer quoted an FBI agent. It's all documented in our Pandemic book. You might want to refer your readers to this website, run by a friend of mine: RomanceScams.org.

Skype and Resume Writing Classes
for Gitmo Prisoners

THIS TOPIC FALLS into both the astonishing and ridiculous categories!

I’ve always had a radio on my bedside stand, and for decades I’ve lulled myself to sleep by listening to talk radio. At low volume, conversation usually puts me to sleep in minutes, and when I awake in the middle of the night (something I've done all my life), it deters me from thinking about everything I need to do in the morning. But sometimes what I hear is simply grist for my writing mill, as happened one morning a few weeks ago when I awoke at 3 a.m.

The first thing I heard was that the 166 prisoners now detained at Guantanamo Bay—which includes known terrorists, terrorist trainers, financiers, bomb makers, recruiters, and other "facilitators"—are now being offered a new course as part of the "Instructional Program" introduced years ago: one on interviewing and resume writing.

Other courses include a Life Skills class, one on Computer Familiarity (prisoners now have Skype!), Personal Finance and Business, and more. I find this "instructional program" maddening when I consider how many American kids aren’t getting the education they need because of cuts in educational programs. This is just one more example of how our government can waste millions (maybe billions) of dollars.

The two guys on the talk show that morning were doing a humorous play on this topic that went something like this:

"So, how long have you been out of the workplace?"

"Ten years."

"And who was your last employer?

"Al-Quada."

"Ah . . . then you won’t need to learn how to write a resume to get a job."

If you’d like to know just how pampered the Gitmo prisoners have been for years, just do a web search for "classes for Gitmo prisoners." The results will blow your mind.

A Final Note from Barbara

AS IS NOW CLEAR to anyone who has read this far, my "older age interests" go far beyond business, arts & crafts, music, self-employment, editing, writing, and self-publishing. I'm deeply concerned about what I see happening in America today, not only in the White House and Congress, but in how all of us are slowly but surely losing not only all of our privacy but all of the rights that were once guaranteed to us by the Constitution.

In fact . . . more than 19 million pages on the Web contain the words "Constitution being destroyed," and this article by Gerald Flurry on TheTrumpet.com, "The U.S. Constitution Is Over 95 Percent Destroyed," topped the list in my search.

EXCERPT: "The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. When the people no longer keep that law, a crisis will hurl us into violent anarchy and destructive chaos, so prophesied our Founding Fathers. Unless our Constitution is based on biblical religion and biblical morality, it will not work, so stated the Founding Fathers."

As I continue to wonder what life will be like for all of us in another five to ten years, I plan to keep moving through life with my usual positive attitude in search of all the joy and happiness I can find in my work and everyday living. Being aware of how the world is going to hell in a handbasket doesn't necessarily mean I have to let that knowledge steal my personal happiness and contentment.

So excuse me now as I take time to pet my cat, Charlee, and savor the sound of her sweet purring and contentment as she snoozes in her special basket in my office, totally oblivious to the world outside her comfortable home with me. She is a true blessing in my life.

 

Charlee, Barbara Brabec's cherished cat.

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