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5 Pieces of advice for my younger self

In Health, history, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology on August 27, 2015 at 11:54 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOImagine if you could go back 10, 20, 30 years and talk to your younger self, what would you say? What advice would you have knowing what you know now? Well, believe it or not, you might find out some of that advice is just as relevant as it would have been back then. So if I could have a conversation with my younger self, I have five things I’d tell me, him, you know what I mean.

My number one piece of advice would be, and I know it sounds cliché, not to sweat the small stuff. Every day our life path carries us down one road or another, each with its own set of obstacles, successes, failures, and milestones. The important thing to know is how to recognize which is which and remain calm and in control, regardless of what is thrown your way.

There’s no way to really offer much more to anyone else on that subject though because everyone’s definition of “small” is going to be somewhat different. For example, to me small stuff is a flat tire on the car or having to retype a report I’ve worked on for days. As devastating as some events can seem at the time, when weighed against the larger mass of things, most fit the “small stuff” category although we’re often too consumed with the situation for a clear view.

The second thing I’d say to the “younger me” is to ignore people who say you are destined to … whatever. Your life is shaped by the decisions you make. That is, your story isn’t written yet. Every choice you make is like shaking the Etch-a-Sketch, the picture is redrawn at every turn. So, if you want something, go after it and don’t let anyone get in your way.

Number three is borrowed from some philosophical and religious concepts, which tell us that you are the only one who can cause yourself injury. I don’t mean injured in the physical sense, like being whopped over the head by a crowbar, I mean the kind of damage that’s done to the one swinging it. We only hurt ourselves when we cause pain and injury to others.

old youngThe fourth piece of advice is never to take yourself, or life, too seriously. Despite what you might think, you are so not “all that,” and you need to have some humility if you want to get along in the world. But it can’t be artificial because that’ll come back and bite you in the … well, you know. Be good to people because you want to and because it’s just the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s hard to accept, but the needs of others will often have to come way before yours.

My fifth and final piece of advice for my former self would be to relax a bit more, while you have the time. Life gets harder as days go on, not easier, regardless of what you might see in the media. Take whatever time you can when you have it, but never at the expense of others.

So, for now, that’s all I would say to me 30 years ago. No, actually, there is one other thing. I’d tell me to give my Mom a hug every chance I got and spend as much time with her as possible. Her absence has left an indescribable open wound that will never heal.

Oddly, the funniest thing about all of this is that, as a younger person, it’s highly unlikely any of us would have listened because we knew everything already, right?

The truth is people were giving you advice like this all the time but it just flew in one ear and out the other. After all, what did old people know? You had the world on the end of your line and you were reeling her in.

Now that I understand some of this, I know that some of the best people I know are on a constant journey of self improvement. Remember, it’s never too late for a little sage advice. Take care out there.

 

Watch the television version of this piece from WDTN-TV2’s LIVING DAYTON program …

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Gery L. Deer is an independent journalist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, More at gerydeer.com.

Hackers: The gangsters of the digital age.

In Business, Crime, Economy, News Media, Opinion, Uncategorized on August 24, 2015 at 10:49 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGORecently, after watching a news story on the subject, my father, who recently turned 82 years old, asked me about what “hacking” was and why someone would do it. I struggled for a minute to explain it in terms he would understand while still giving him a rudimentary understanding of the technology.

It reminded me of a similar conversation I had with my great aunt in 1999, shortly before the Y2K turnover. At 91, she lived a fairly isolated existence in the Ohio Appalachian foothills and certainly not computer literate. But she was deeply concerned about the Y2K computer bug causing her to lose electricity, water and her savings.

I reassured her that there was nothing to be concerned about, and did my best to explain what was really going on, beyond the media hype, the volume of which was considerable when you take into account she had but one TV channel. However, satisfied with my explanation, she seemed never to give it another thought and the millennium switch came and went without incident.

The fact that she was worried at all was troubling and shows just how influential the media can be in exacerbating a problem. Today, we’re faced with a similar situation, demonstrated by my dad’s concern over hacking. So, just exactly who and what should you be worried about and why?

Hacking costs companies more than $445 billion each year.

Hacking costs companies more than $445 billion each year.

For those who don’t know, “hacking” refers to the act of using specialized programming that identifies and exploits weakness in the security of a computer system in an effort to either steal or expose confidential information, or just to prove it can be done. It is a crime and often the hackers are in another country.

These digital gangsters break in for a variety of reasons, mostly to steal and sell sensitive information, political records or financial information. Without getting into more deep technical and political motives, keep in mind that hackers aren’t interested in getting into your private computer.

Not to rain on anyone’s self-confidence, but you’re just not that important – unless you’re some celebrity or politician – for hackers to waste the effort. There has to be some gain in the end, although it might simply be the act itself, the accomplishment of breaking in.

Some hacked information is sold to other criminals who will use it for their own nefarious purposes. When performed against something like the marital cheating website, Ashley Madison, the hope is that there will be some big name to expose and embarrass. That leaves the potential for some celebrity or politician to pay handsomely to keep his or her name off of the publicized list, essentially using the information for extortion.

Most of the time, the average computer user is not directly at risk, but that said, you could still be vulnerable if a store or bank you frequent happens to be a target. The best advice is to read all correspondence from retailers and financial institutions.

If their systems are compromised, they will contact customers first – very quietly – before going public with the information, so as to limit panic among their patrons. You will be instructed what to do in the event of a hack and how to best communicate with the vendor for further information.

Another way to protect your own information with online accounts, and I can’t stress this enough, is to use strong, complex passwords. Often the data stored for online accounts does not include a visible password, even the website owners can’t help you if you lose it. So the more complex it is, and the more often you change it, the less likely a hacker will be able to gain access to your information even if they get in.

Hacking, as a criminal activity, has created a billion-dollar industry around the world, on both sides of cyber security. More than ever, specialists are being trained to combat cyber attacks and electronic infiltration on every level.

As cyber security becomes more sophisticated, so will the criminals who seek to break it. They are the nameless, faceless equivalents of the modern day Jesse James and John Dillinger. Each generation has its nemeses and cyber criminals are the current lot, intent on wreaking havoc with our digital world.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

How secure is your child’s information at school?

In Children and Family, Education, Opinion, Technology, Uncategorized on August 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOA high quality digital learning experience for students is something every school strives to accomplish. But as a parent, have you ever wondered just how your child’s educational and personal records are protected? It is possible that schools are unintentionally putting student privacy at risk.

Some student information, such as that disclosed when using digital learning material, may be managed, not internally at the district level, but by what are known as educational technology, or “edtech,” companies. That information can also end up in the hands of marketing companies and other third-party data collectors.

Joni Lupovitz is the vice president of policy at Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that rates the safety of media and technology for students and families. In a recent article on DistrictAdministration.com, Lupovitz says, “Everything is going digital, whether it’s taking attendance, seeing what kids buy for lunch, collecting and storing records, or integrating laptops and tablets into the classroom lessons.”

To ensure every child’s privacy, parents should ask questions such as the following. Does your school outsource edtech services and systems? If so, what are the company’s privacy policies and how do they compare to those of the school district? You have every right to know exactly where your child’s data is being used, who has it and how they manage that information.

schoolroomHow is the wireless computer network in the school system secured? Does the school system provide in-house information technology support or is it outsourced? Who has access to security information? What guarantees are in place regarding the security of any cloud system being used?

Unlike medical record management, legislation governing the management of students’ electronic personal information continues to lag. Even the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), designed to help restrict access to student records, does not adequately address these issues since it only speaks to the improper disclosure of personal information.

If a school utilizes an outside edtech vendor for record keeping or other digital data management, they may be unaware of holes in the company’s privacy agreement allowing them that provider to sell collected information under certain circumstances. School administrators should then be held responsible to maintain control of that information and have a complete understanding of how the data might be used by the vendor.

Beyond the administrative holes in security and privacy, education of the student (and parents) on safe and proper use of technology is sorely lacking. Most people still have no idea of the security risks when using public wireless access.

Parents should also ask about the security of any websites being hosted by the administration where school information is readily available. Is private data, such as performance or attendance records, easily accessed? Is the data encrypted and to what extent? Be sure to read any privacy paperwork provided and make sure it’s well understood. If not, ask!

Parents must take the time to visit any and all websites managed by the school and familiarize themselves with the layout and information offered there. Sadly, better security usually means more expense, so there is every possibility that substance (good security) gave way to style (a prettier website).

If your child has a smart phone, laptop or other portable technology and utilizes the school’s Wi-Fi system, you may want to reconsider. Public Wi-Fi, even in a school, is insecure and should never be used to access personal or private information like banking, private email, or any other sensitive data.

Whenever a user logs into a website or online account through a public wireless system, there is a risk of breech. Without getting into the techno-babble of how it works, suffice to say that hackers “tag” certain Wi-Fi access points to collect data as people log in. This can happen at schools just as easily as anywhere else.

The take-away from all of this is that parents should be diligent in their understanding of how technology is used at school, whether it’s data management by the administration or Internet access by their child. Schools have an obligation to transparency, especially with regard to student records.

Further Resources:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/kids-action/issues/privacy-and-safety

http://www.districtadministration.com/article/asking-edtech-vendors-tough-questions

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html

http://www.education.com/reference/article/what-educational-technology/

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

 

 

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