Thursday, February 28, 2013

Open WiFi Networks and (Lack Of) Security

I get asked about open WiFi hotspots and if they are secure lots these days. Examples would be certain hotels, restaurants, etc. My short answer - these days many are not secure and.... regardless.... you should always avoid using them. Here's why. 

Most public WiFi hotspots do not encrypt information going back and forth in the air and are not secure. There's lots of free hacking tools that just about anybody can quickly learn to use to get any information you send back and forth when connected to these networks. Here's some good guidelines originally published by the Federal Trade Commission:
Use these tips to tell if a Wi-Fi network is secure:
  • If a hotspot doesn’t require a password, it’s not secure.
  • If a hotspot asks for a password through the browser simply to grant access, or asks for a password for WEP (wired equivalent privacy) encryption, it’s best to proceed as if it were unsecured.
  • A hotspot is secure only if it asks the user to provide a WPA (wifi protected access) password. WPA2 is even more secure than WPA.
Use these tips for a safer Wi-Fi experience:
  • When using a Wi-Fi hotspot, only log in or send personal information to websites that you know are fully encrypted. The entire visit to each site should be encrypted – from log in until log out. 
  • To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https at the beginning of the web address (the “s” is for secure), and a lock icon at the top or bottom of the browser window. Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of the session isn’t encrypted, the entire account could be vulnerable. Look for https and the lock icon throughout the site, not just at sign in.
  • If you think you’re logged in to an encrypted site but find yourself on an unencrypted page, log out right away.
  • Don’t stay permanently signed in to accounts. After using an account, log out.
  • Do not use the same password on different websites. It could give someone who gains access to one account access to many accounts.
As a general rule of thumb, an encrypted website protects only the information sent to and from that site. A secure wireless network encrypts all the information sent over it. 

How do you get around the connectivity problem? I recommend using a personal WiFi hotspot with security implemented. You can get yourself a dedicated device like the one I have or most smartphones can be used as a hotspot if you pay an additional monthly fee. Here's more information from AT&T on different personal WiFi hotspot options.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Some Good Job Search Advice from Austin, Texas

I'm a member of Door 64, an Austin (Texas) High Tech STEM LinkedIn group. A recent college graduate posted the following question to the group a few days ago:

I have been looking for a new job for a few months now with only a few leads. If I could just get an interview I KNOW I would get almost any position. Any advice on job searches? Thanks!
Charles D. came back with a really good reply and he has given the ok to reuse. I wish I could have written something half this good. Here it is: 
Use networking to your advantage and play the numbers game. I was laid off 4 weeks ago and already have had 8 interviews with 2 more this afternoon. You seem to be somewhat knowledgeable about using LinkedIn and super connectors. However, have you created a plan of attack for getting the right career? Don't look for a job, this is your life you are talking about. Focus on a career. Let me break down some of these comments.  
Using networking to your advantage: 
  • Get familiar with LinkedIn Signal apps. It will help out a lot if you use it correctly 
  • Focus on positions with companies that have employees with connections to you 
  • Ask your connections to submit your resume 
  • Ask your connections to be make references for you to employees 
  • Network with other people looking for work. I have two other dear friends that are also recently unemployed. I share information with them and they share it with me. 
Playing the numbers game: 
  • I have applied to over 40 positions in the last 4 weeks. Many of them I was very well qualified for but still received rejection notices, however I manage to turn several of the applications into interviews. 
  • Apply for contract, temp, full-time and positions in industries other than your primary focus. Think outside the box. Check Craigslist. One of my more recent positions was from Craigslist and one of my upcoming interviews is from the same source. 
Planning your attack: 
  • I have created a spreadsheet and list every position I have applied for. I keep notes about dates, where I found the position, who contacted me, when, interviews, who interviewed me and some other notes. I don't have this information just for the fun of it. I use it to follow up, reapply if I have not heard from a company, send thank you letters, etc. 
  • Use your network and follow up. I plan on being at the Doors64 event. I will follow up with anyone I have connected with recently and thank them in person. One super connector I connected with recently sent me a nice thank you letter because I personalized my connection request. He said that less than 1% of requests he gets actually do that. Wow, how amazing is that. People will remember you when you personalize. 
  • Plan your game and game your plan. In other words, make tasks for everyday of the week. Things you will do each day to look for opportunities. Do them. Wake up with a smile and go to sleep with a smile knowing that you did as much as you could that day to find your next position. 
  • Review your resume with others you trust and ask for feedback. Use the good feedback. Trust me, everyone has feedback, but it is not always good. You have to filter out what is good and what isn't by doing some of your own research.  
Finally, this is your career: 
  • If you want a job, I can refer you to a dozen temporary placement companies that will help to get you a job. However, if you want a career, you have to think like that. What is your ideal career? What skills do you need for it? Do you have them? If not, how can you get them? This is your life you are talking about. Manage it with the positive thoughts and images that you believe you already have. 
  • Always be positive, kind and grateful. If you do this with everyone, everywhere, you will find that the karma will be returned to you. 
Hope this information helps you out...... You will get what you want if you want it bad enough, plan well for it, try hard enough and thank everyone along the way who helped you out.  
Anyone who agrees with any of the above comments, feel free to reuse any or all of it in other postings for career searchers. It is not original, not unique, but just old time tested and true strategies and beliefs that may help others.
Excellent advice Charles - thank you!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Displaying Mac Hidden Files

I get the Mac OS hidden files question a lot from friends and thought it would be a good thing to discuss here. This is a pretty typical request:

I recently switched from the Thunderbird email client to Sparrow. When I removed the Thunderbird application from my computer I noticed I only had an additional 96 MB of disk space. What's up? I know I've got a ton of Thunderbird email taking up a ton of space on my hard drive still. I search around using Finder and cannot see any of it. How can I remove it?
Thunderbird (and Sparrow and thousands of other apps) are considered third party apps. When you delete them from the application folder you delete the application but commonly not any of the additional folders and files associated with the application. When removing an application like Thunderbird that means you are not removing the files and folders that contain old emails whcih can consume very large amounts of disk space.

These folders and files are typically hidden by the operating system to prevent users from easily accessing them and messing things up. If you want to get to them, you need to enable hidden files/folders in the Finder window. Here's a step-by-step how to do it with Mountain Lion (10.8.2):

[Note: proceed with caution and use procedure at own risk.]

  1. Open Finder
  2. Open a Terminal window. To open Terminal, click the Spotlight (little spyglass) icon in the upper right corner and search on Terminal. Terminal will be listed as an Application. Click it to open a window like the one shown below.
  3. Copy and paste the following command into terminal and hit the Return key:
  4. defaults write AppleShowAllFiles YES
  5. Hold the alt key down and right click the Finder icon.
  6. Select Relaunch from the drop-down menu and you will now be able to see all the hidden folders and files on your computer.
Be very careful and do not edit/delete/etc anything you are not sure of.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

References on Resumes

It's that time of year again where students in their last year of college start looking pretty seriously for jobs. If you are someone updating your resume be sure you keep it real. A recent Business Week article titled Imaginary Friends listed some interesting stats:

  • CareerBuilder recently surveyed 2,500 hiring managers and discovered that 30 percent regularly find false or misleading references on applicants’ CVs.
  • CareerBuilder estimates 80 percent of employers check reference, often before they call someone in for an interview.
  • The most common mistake applicants make is listing someone as a reference because they’ve got an impressive title—even though they barely know that person. 
Keep it real. keep it honest. Be sure to contact people you list and give them a heads up. Tell them what you are looking for and why. You can also give them some hints on what you would like them to say.