Do This Before Connecting to a Public WiFi Hotspot

wifi-securityWhen you’re on the go – traveling for work, or telecommuting from your local, cozy coffee house – public WiFi hotspots are a lifesaver. At restaurants, hotels, and even the car repair shop, WiFi Internet access has become ubiquitous and, quite frankly, expected by patrons.

Connecting to a public WiFi hotspot is so easy and convenient; the decision to connect has become automatic. We connect without a second thought, and hackers know this.

The Dangers of Public WiFi

When you walk into an establishment with public WiFi, you can usually connect without a password. Don’t do it.

An open, public WiFi hotspot is unsecured. Anyone can access it and easily monitor the data passing through the WiFi router. Anytime you browse a password-protected website, like your email or social media account, your login credentials pass through the WiFi router. Anyone with easy-to-obtain listening software can capture that data and read it clear as day.

Additionally, anybody could walk into a business and set up his own rogue hotspot with the same name as the business’ WiFi hotpot. Unsuspecting patrons connect to the rogue hotspot and compromise their data.

For example, when you see one WiFi network that’s password-protected and one that’s not, you might be tempted to connect to the open one. It’s easier and free. However, you could be connecting to a rogue hotspot – one that appears to be legit, but isn’t.

Even in your own office, you need to be sure to only connect to your password-protected office WiFi LAN and not a rogue hotspot set up to appear like your office’s WiFi network. Many offices provide open WiFi hotspots for guests, which can easily be spoofed.

Password-Protection Doesn’t Mean Secure

So, are all password-protected WiFi hotspots, such as those found in hotels, secure? It depends on what type of encryption is being used. Password-protected WiFi hotspots use a variety of encryptions, such as WPA, WPA2, or WPS. The WPA and WPS security settings can be cracked in minutes. Only connect to hotspots with WPA2 encryption. You can typically see a hotspot’s encryption settings on your device prior to connecting.

HTTPS is a Good Start

When exchanging sensitive information over a public WiFi network, such as credit card info or login credentials, be sure the URL of the page you are entering this information on starts with “HTTPS” – the “S” standing for secure. If you access your email from a desktop client like Outlook or Apple Mail, make sure your accounts are SSL encrypted.

Ideally, when connected to public WiFi, you should only browse sites that are secure (https). However, not all website use security certificates. And, even though the data on secure web pages is encrypted, someone listening in or “sniffing” the WiFi network can still see what sites you are visiting – information that could be used to profile you.

VPN is the Solution

The safest and easiest way to make sure your device and data are safe when connecting to a public WiFi hotspot is to use trusted VPN (virtual private network) software provided by your company or a third party VPN service (check out Lifehacker’s Five Best VPN Service Providers).

VPN software encrypts all of the data passing to and from your device and anonymizes it. You don’t have to worry about what kind of encryption the WiFi hotspot uses, or only browsing HTTPS pages. VPN is a one-solution-fits-all option that makes connecting to WiFi on the go simple and stress-free.

So, when you’re on the go, it’s easy to take shortcuts with your data security. Don’t. Before you connect to a public WiFi hotspot, be sure to activate your VPN software, or take the precautions detailed above.

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Are You Ready for Small Business Saturday?

[This article originally appeared on Time Warner Cable Business Class in November 2014.]

Couple Surfing the WebCan your small business handle the influx of traffic on Small Business Saturday? Don’t get left in the cold! Here are 3 ways to leverage the increase in post-Thanksgiving consumer spending.

Small Business Saturday, founded in 2010 by American Express, is a day to encourage people to shop at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Every year, more and more people are taking part.

Black Friday tends to drive a lot of attention to big retailers, so Small Business Saturday is a way to remember and support small businesses during the holiday shopping season.

According to Twitter, 95% of consumers said they plan to shop smaller retailers in 2014 and spend $3 out of every $10 they have budgeted with small business retailers and e-commerce sites. Additionally, 8 in 10 consumers want to support small businesses during the holidays.

With all this focus on small businesses, the last thing you want is to be caught unprepared. Time Warner Cable Business Class offers you these three tips to make sure your small business runs smoothly on Small Business Saturday and during the holiday season…

1. Increase Your Internet Speed
Increased web traffic could slow your site down to a crawl. Get more bandwidth to meet your e-commerce needs.

2. Add a Phone Line
Do a health check on your business’ phone lines, listening to voicemails, hold music, etc. If necessary, add a phone line to better handle customer inquiries.

3. Secure Your Data
Protect your business data and provide a safe and secure shopping experience for your customers.

Taking these three easy steps will help ensure a stable and rewarding Small Business Saturday for your business.

Give us a call at 1-877-818-9321, if you’d like some help.

Dragon Runner Robot Crashes Wedding

[This article originally appeared on QinetiQ North America’s Technology Blog in September 2012.]

Robot RingbearerIn danger of being upstaged at her own wedding ceremony, Laura Wong had a Dragon Runner robot secretly serve as her ring bearer at her wedding this past spring – to the delight of family, friends and geeky romantics everywhere. “Not everybody has a robot at their wedding,” Laura said. Just Princess Leia and these guys.

For the past four years, Laura has been working on the Dragon Runner as a mechanical engineer at QinetiQ North America, designing payloads for the twenty-pound unmanned ground vehicle. “I’ve always had a love for robotics,” Laura confessed. After a failed attempt to train her dog to carry the rings, Laura asked her boss if it would be okay to have a Dragon Runner perform the duty at her wedding.

The whole thing was a secret. Only close family and friends knew the robot would be there. “When it came down the aisle, everyone was laughing and having a blast,” she said. “It went over really well.”

Following the wedding, Laura’s father William Wong posted a write-up of the ceremony, and not surprisingly, the story went viral. Sites like Gizmodo, Buzz Patrol, Geekologie and The Mary Sue picked it up, and Laura and her husband were inundated with attention.

“People were posting on my Facebook page, ‘Did you see this? Look at this one!'” she recounts with a laugh, “It went international. It was a lot more than we expected!”

Check out the video below to meet Laura and listen to her account of the event.

Try not to be too jealous…

Money for Something

[Originally published on AOL Personals in July 2009]

Anna DavidHow much should money factor into your dating decisions?

When it comes to deciding who to spend your life with, how much should money factor into your decision? How important is it that the person you date or marry be wealthy? Would you stay with someone you aren’t attracted to, just because he or she has a lot of money? And wouldn’t that be the same as prostitution?

I recently asked these questions to sex advice expert, journalist, and author Anna David – whose new book, Bought, touches on the topic of high-class prostitution and the ethics behind relationships based on money and gift-giving.

Though the women described in Anna’s book are “high-class” prostitutes (e.g., playmates, models, and actresses), the same issues are applicable to any relationship.

“I don’t think, as women, we know how much men should be providing for us,” Anna admits, “[Growing up], every family I knew…the dad made all the money. So, I grew up being told, ‘you have to pave your own way… But, hey, you should also try to get with a doctor or a lawyer.'”

Even from our youth, the idea of a poor girl finding and marrying a Prince Charming has been romanticized to the point where some women aren’t satisfied with men they perceive as peers, but rather look to ascend to a more prestigious lifestyle by “marrying up.”

It’s not just women who perpetuate this stereotype, however. Many men have an aversion to being in a relationship with a woman who makes more money than them – for the obvious reason that it would make them each feel like “less of a man.” And if most men have this hang up, then women have no choice but to marry up.

In the quest for a man, some women have made money their number one and only goal. An extreme example of this is prostitution. Clearly, the point of this type of “relationship” is to exchange sexual services for money. No confusion here.

Things get a bit hazy when we talk about why a woman is attracted to, dates, marries, and stays with a man. If the top reason for doing so is the man’s wealth and the luxurious gifts and lifestyle he can provide, then there is very little difference between that and prostitution.

If, on the other hand, money is simply a “nice to have” in the relationship – or a trait in the man that forecasts a stable financial future, then money simply acts as evidence of the man’s ability to support her and their potential family.

At our basic cores, we’re all looking for someone who will help us survive and replicate.

Receiving Gifts
When it comes to gift-giving in a relationship, Anna suggests, “It’s wonderful to receive gifts from a guy you’re involved with and you like.” But for those of you men, who use gifts and money to attract women… “That’s only going to work with a certain type of woman, who really wants that. These women will make it clear up-front that that’s what they’re interested in.” But Anna is not one of them. “Somebody like me – like most of my friends – we’re probably not going to be swayed by that. It’s going to look like a bribe.”

Anna did admit, however, that if a guy were to buy a thousand copies of her new book, Bought, she would for sure go on a date with him.

Are You a Prostitute?
So, what are some of the things you do to get what you want? Some women flirt with cops to get out of a traffic ticket. Maybe you’ve come on to guys at a bar just to get them to buy you a drink. Where do you draw the line between casual manipulation and prostitution? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Guys, Get a Wing Girl

[This article originally appeared on AOL Personals in June 2009.]

MarniGuys, if you’re going out to bars after work with your male buddy (read: wingman) and aren’t having much success meeting women, it might not be your shirt, haircut, or body spray that’s the problem. You may, in fact, need to trade in your trusty wingman for a wing girl.

While it can be comforting to go out to an intimidating nightspot with the presence of your trusted guy friend, you may find yourself content to hang out and drink with your buddy all night, instead of approaching and meeting women (assuming that’s what you want). In that case, your support may be more of a hindrance than a help.

Instead, ditch your wingman for a few nights and invite one of your trustworthy, platonic girlfriends to go out with you – specifically to help you meet women. If you open up to your gal pal and sincerely ask her for her help, chances are she’ll jump at the opportunity to help you out. Women love to play matchmaker and are quite generous with their love advice. Provided you pay for their drinks, most of your girl friends will gladly wing for you.

And if you can’t find a friend to do this, you can always hire a pro.

Marni is a professional wing girl. Her company, The Wing Girl Method, gives advice to guys over the phone, online, and in person through individualized training to help them become more comfortable with themselves and with approaching women. Marni and her girls – of which she employs 23 – will even wing for guys at bars and clubs, when the time comes.

“The only guys who approach me and my friends are cocky jerks,” explains Marni, “Which is why my friend and I started the company. It’s hard to find good men, because most of them don’t know how to meet women.” And that’s why Marni trains men on how to improve themselves and improve their game.

Through phone coaching, immediate feedback online, and practiced mock pickups, Marni and her girls analyze how their client is presenting himself and provide him with immediate feedback – from a girl’s perspective – on what he’s doing wrong.

“We help them with their body language and train him on how to decipher our body language.” During a typical outing, the wing girls will approach sets of girls and bring the client into the conversation, or simply encourage him to open his own sets. After each interaction, the client receives immediate feedback. “We’ll tell him if he wasn’t listening to what the girl was saying, or if he wasn’t keeping eye-contact with her,” Marni explains, “We’ll open sets for him, but that’s not a good long-term strategy. They need to learn how to do it themselves.”

The major issues Marni sees time and again in men is their penchant for setting themselves up. “When I ask them what they were thinking during a failed approach, they say ‘Oh, she probably has a boyfriend.’ Why in the world are you psyching yourself out?! Men tell themselves these things to justify not trying. Instead, you should be thinking, ‘Okay, I just want to approach this woman and see what her story is. If she’s got a boyfriend, that’s cool. We’ll just chat.'”

Another self-sabotaging thing men do is put women on pedestals. “Just because she’s attractive doesn’t mean her life is perfect. Everyone is going through the same stuff. We’re all in the same boat.”

Marni concludes, “Men don’t need to be afraid of women anymore. They just need to respect themselves and believe they have worth. Only then will others value them.”

So, whether you hire a wing girl, or have a rad friend who’ll act as one, you’ll find her advice on all aspects of your game (appearance, attitude, communication, and approach aptitude) to be an invaluable resource for improving your game.

For more information on Marni’s wing girl services, please visit www.winggirlmethod.com and tell her Michael sent you!

Phone Game

[This article originally appeared on AOL Personals in April 2009.]

Man Talking on PhoneLast night was awesome. You went out to a bar, met an attractive woman, had a great conversation, and eventually got her phone number. So, now what?

If you’re like a lot of chumps out there, you’ll place the number in your sock drawer, never to be seen (or called) again. But you’re not a chump, and you’re not satisfied with just collecting phone numbers.

“A phone number by itself is worthless,” says Nick Savoy, CEO of Love Systems (a company that teaches men how to meet and pickup women). “It’s an admission of failure. It means you couldn’t take the interaction any further and had to resort to getting a phone number.”

It’s important to know how to transition from getting a phone number to seeing the woman a second time.

When Should You Call?
Forget any of the rules you’ve heard about when to call. There are no absolutes in this area (2 days, 3 days, etc.). “The more positive and memorable your initial encounter was, the longer you can wait to call,” explains Nick. If you spent an amazing three hours with this woman, she won’t easily forget you. “On the other hand, if you had a very short encounter, like at a club, go ahead and text her that night.” Also, don’t call at awkward times, like Friday nights (she’s probably busy), or Saturday mornings (she’s probably sleeping).

Prepare Before You Call
Get yourself into a good mood first. Listen to some music to get pumped up. If you’re having a bad day, do not call. If one girl blows you off, don’t call another one afterward. Your mood will show through in your voice. Smile when you talk and be high-energy.

Also, train yourself to not ask questions. You don’t want to put the woman through an interrogation. “Instead of asking her where she’s from, tell her she seems like she’s from the Midwest,” suggests Nick.

If you’re really nervous, it’s okay to jot down some notes, including objectives for the call and stories to talk about.

The First Call
“The purpose of the first call is to solidify yourself in her mind. Remind her why she was interested in you – reestablish attraction and comfort,” explains Nick, “You’re making yourself relevant to her life.”

The first call shouldn’t be more than 10-15 minutes. You want it to be short and sweet. Don’t start by saying, “Hi, how are you?” Instead, launch directly into a story about a recent experience. You want her to enjoy the conversation – not get bored and end the call. You should wait for a high point in the conversation, then end it yourself. There’s no need to ask her out on a date on the first call, unless she’s very enthusiastic about hanging out. “Just have a short, fun conversation, then tell her your buddy’s here and you have to go,” suggests Nick.

Voicemail
If your call goes directly to voicemail, either leave a short message, or send her a text, saying you must have missed her. Be sure to sign your text messages. And definitely don’t call back multiple times.

The Second Call
If you didn’t ask her out on your first call (which you shouldn’t have done), use the second call to talk about someplace fun you’re already planning to go (or an event you’re attending), and if she expresses interest, invite her to come along with you. But don’t ask her unless she’s really enthusiastic.

Final Thoughts
Conversation with a lovely woman can be addictive, but don’t become her phone buddy. Keep your phone conversations short (10-15 minutes). You don’t have an hour and a half to talk to some random girl you met at a bar. The phone is just a means to seeing her again in person.

Tips for Getting a Girl’s Number

[This article originally appeared on AOL Personals in April 2009]

eye-contact1Getting a woman’s phone number (or digits) is the Holy Grail for most men frequenting bars and clubs. In many cases, it’s their only goal for the evening. The more numbers, the better. The higher your total, the better “player” you are. …Or so they think.

According to Nick Savoy, CEO of Love Systems (a company that teaches men all over the world how to meet and pickup women), getting a girl’s phone number is an admission of failure. “It means you can’t take the interaction any further.” For real players, you don’t stop the interaction with an attractive stranger until the following morning.

But for those unable (or unwilling) to take an interaction to a sexual conclusion, getting a woman’s phone number is as far as you’re going to get.

So how do you get her number?

Nick provides these helpful tips…

  1. “First of all, the point is to get her phone number – not just give her yours.” It might not sound fair, but women won’t make the first move by calling you. You have to do the heavy lifting. You probably think that women are reluctant to give their numbers out to complete strangers. You’re right. You have to build rapport and become her friend before asking for her number.
  2. “Never ask for an email address.” Unless you’re at a business networking event, keep your business cards in your pocket and forget about asking for her email address.
  3. “Integrate your request for her number naturally in your conversation.” Talk about an activity or event you’ll be attending, and if she expresses interest and enthusiasm, ask for her number, so you can make plans for her to join you.
  4. When she’s ready to give you her number, hand her your phone and ask her to punch in her number. Call the number immediately. Not only do you want to make sure the number’s legit, but this gives you the opportunity to save your number into her phone. Ask to see her phone and save your number, “using a unique name that references a high point in your conversation.” If you talked about scuba diving, save your number under the name “Scuba Mike.” You don’t want her wondering who “Michael” is when you call two days later.

So, you’ve met an attractive stranger, had a great conversation, and got her phone number. Congratulations!

Now you gotta know what to say when you make that first phone call. Don’t sweat it – Nick’s got some advice on that, too.