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Firewalls Don't Stop Dragons Podcast

News & Politics Podcasts

A Podcast on Computer Security & Privacy for Non-Techies

A Podcast on Computer Security & Privacy for Non-Techies


United States


A Podcast on Computer Security & Privacy for Non-Techies




Global Privacy Control

When we surf the web today - on our computers or smartphones - we are mercilessly tracked. Marketing firms and data brokers are hoovering up ungodly amounts of our personal data, selling it, trading it and mining it to derive even more about us. Many offer some way to limit or stop this wanton data collection, but good luck figuring out how - let alone even knowing who to ask. Wouldn't it be nice if you could just click one button and tell everyone to leave you alone? Of course, we tried...


How to Stop Tracking & Stalking

We are being tracked constantly by our cell phones. We willingly carry supercomputers in our pockets 24/7, and these devices are chock full of sensors and radios that are tattling on us. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes incidentally, and sometimes maliciously. Apps for brick and mortar stores are tracking you within their stores, noting where you go, how long you stay in some locations, and where you don't go. Other apps track your global location and sell it to third parties. Apps to keep...


What is the Most Private Browser?

Security isn't a big differentiator today when choosing a web browser. First of all, 3 of the top 5 browsers all use the same engine - Chrome, Edge and Opera are all based on Chromium. Second, there's no real conflict of interest between browser makers and browser users when it comes to security - it's a win-win situation. Also, most browsers today are plenty fast enough and come with similar user features. So to me, the real differentiator when choosing a web browser is privacy. Today I'll...


Private from Everyone (But Us)

Google and Facebook will swear up and down that they do not sell your data. While technically true, they do sell access to your data. Basically, your data is private from everyone - but them. And that's a crucial caveat. To have true privacy, you want to work with a company who has absolutely minimal access to your data. You want privacy by design. And this is not easy to do with a very old internet standard like email. Proton has been offering truly private email for almost a decade...


Demystifying VPNs

When people don't understand how something works, it can be easy to be afraid of the consequences of that thing not working right. And this also makes them ripe targets for being frightened by hucksters who will then happily sell them a solution for the problem. This was the trade of snake oil salesmen back in the day - selling cures for ailments that didn't exist or that didn't actually improve the consumer's health. The realm of computers is rife with cybersecurity snake oil, as well, and...


Luck Favors the Prepared

Today, most of us take the internet - and access to the internet - for granted. It's ubiquitous. However, the current war in Ukraine has (hopefully) made us realize that things can change dramatically overnight. While we can always hope for the best, we should be at least minimally prepared for the worst. I'm not suggesting we all prepare for military invasion, but there are much more likely scenarios that might lead to power and communications infrastructure problems like bad storms,...


De-Google Your Life (Part 4)

I wrap up my de-Google project this week with two biggies: Google Drive and Google Docs. I decided to reduce my Google data footprint as one of my 2022 New Year's resolutions, so I've done a ton of research to replace all the major Google services with privacy-respecting alternatives. My hope is that you can use this information to reduce your own Google data exposure (and help your friends and family, while you're at it). In other news: UK police arrested seven people that may be tied to...


Teaching & Preaching Privacy

Today I'm speaking with a fellow privacy evangelist: Henry from Techlore. Like me, Henry and his team are on a mission to teach regular, everyday people how to secure their data and improve their privacy. Henry and I have a frank discussion about the importance of privacy today and the struggles we have when deciding which privacy-oriented products to recommend. First of all, everyone's privacy "threat model" is different. Second, many people still don't understand the true impacts of...


De-Google Your Life (Part 3)

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2022 is to reduce my Google footprint - to try to de-Google my life as best I can - and hopefully inspire you to do the same. In today's show, I'll talk about replacing Google's many communications apps (Meet, Hangouts, Chat, Talk), Google Authenticator (the Kleenex of 2FA apps), Google Maps and Waze, and YouTube. In security and privacy news: ISPs in the UK are complaining about Apple's Private Relay feature; the Federal Trade Commission has a new weapon...


Computer Security Goes Microscopic

We didn't use to think too much about physical computer security because most computers were safely stored in our homes or businesses. But many people today use laptops which can be lost or stolen while traveling or toting them back and forth to work. Having physical access to a computer makes it much easier for bad guys to hack into them and steal our data. By "sniffing" the data signals on the wires in computer motherboards, bad guys can actually pull out security keys that would allow...


My De-Google Strategy

As my de-Google project progresses, I realized that I skipped the most important step: reconnaissance. Before you can de-Google your life, you need to first make a list of the Google products and services you interact with - and not all of them have "Google" in their names. Google also owns YouTube, Waze, Nest, Fitbit, Chromebooks, and much more. Furthermore, you need to know and understand what information Google already knows about you. And while you're doing that, you should delete all...


Securing Your Mobile Device

Your cell phone is a super computer and phenomenally powerful tracking device. Even George Orwell wouldn't have dreamed that telescreens would be pocket sized and that citizens would willingly carry them 24/7. That one device knows all about you and has access to your most personal and critical information, including contacts, emails, social media, financial accounts, medical information, and much more. Furthermore, these devices are often used to secure our accounts through two-factor...


De-Google Your Life (Part 2)

One of my big goals for 2022 was to minimize my Google footprint. In the last news show, I covered Google Search, Chrome and Android. In today's show, I'll tackle two other big ones: Google's email (Gmail) and calendar (Gcal) services (and Google's contacts, for good measure). I actually replaced Gmail with two different services, because they each address two different needs I have. In others news: Microsoft finally disables Word and Excel macros by default for any file downloaded from the...


Free & Open Source Software

You may not know it, but our world has already been basically taken over by free and open source software, or FOSS - specifically, the Linux operating system. Just about every single electronic appliance or device today, from your smartphone to your smart toaster, is running some flavor of the Linux operating system. Furthermore, open source software projects are the bedrock of many for-profit software applications, operating systems, mobile apps and web apps. It's everywhere, and yet you...


De-Google Your Life

One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2022 is to minimize my Google footprint. In reality, it's very difficulty to completely avoid Google products, if you include things like Google Analytics, Google's cloud computing, and other services that we may not directly choose. But thankfully, there are many excellent, privacy-respecting alternatives to Google's more well-known products and services. In today's show, I'll start with some of the most basic ones: Google Search, Google Chrome browser,...


Searching for Privacy

We tell our search engines a lot of very personal things. They arguably know more about us than our best friends and significant others do. A history of your search terms can reveal so much about you, especially when viewed over the course of days, months and even years. And unfortunately, companies like Google use this privileged position to better target us with advertisements. This may seem innocuous, today's guest, Kelly Finnerty, will explain how this data collection can lead to some...


Building a Privacy-Respecting World

Personal data privacy isn't going to just happen on its own. We have to somehow collectively construct it. But how? Will it require regulation or can consumers drive change by consciously choosing privacy-respecting products and services? When it comes to regulations, why are things so different in the European Union versus the US and other global markets? What do privacy teams look like in modern corporations and how should they function? I'll pose these and many other questions to my...


Data Privacy Week 2022

Of course, every week should be "data privacy week", but we do set aside a specific time each year to focus on privacy - particularly educating as many people as possible about it. Until this year, we only dedicated one day for this - but as of 2022, it's been promoted to an entire week! Data Privacy Week runs from January 24-28, so today I'm going to prep you for it with several of my top privacy protection tips! In the news: the FBI uses foreign intelligence services to sidestep US...


2022 New Year’s Resolutions

It's the start of a brand new calendar year! And therefore it's time to engage in that annual ritual of planning to do better this year by making our list of New Year's Resolutions. To help you with the cybersecurity and privacy items on your list (an area where we all need major improvement), I will share with you my personal list of cyber goals for 2022. Yes, even security advocates can suffer from the "do as I say, not as I do" syndrome. We're all human, and there are plenty of things...


The State of Kids’ Privacy

Navigating the online world today is hard enough as an adult. But it's way worse for kids. Not only are they short on life experiences that would give them the context they need, but as students during a pandemic, their privacy rights are being sorely tested by new "edtech" apps and services. Today I speak with Jill Bronfman from Common Sense Media about their new report on the state of privacy for kids. Their research is quite comprehensive - and (spoiler alert) the results aren't great....