SELF-DESTRUCTING MESSAGES

Blink, for Android phones, allows users to send each other self-destructing messages – you know: like the old Mission Impossible shows — including text, photos, videos and voice messages. Around 51 percent of users are in the U.S. The next largest group (over 15 percent) is in Saudi Arabia.

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REMEMBER: EVEN PARANOIDS HAVE ENEMIES

The TV show “Sixty Minutes” recently focused on companies who track you for marketing purposes. Their website, 60MinutesOvertime.com, gives tips on being virtually invisible.

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PRACTICING SAFE PHONE

If you’ve ever been in an airport or cafe, you’ve probably been tempted to use their free Wi-Fi connections. After all, that’s what it’s there for. This is dangerous without a shield, experts say; it’s a perfect situation for identity theft.

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KNOW YOUR COMPUTER AND KEEP IT CLEAN

“Belarc Advisor” is a free program that will analyze your computer and let you see all the information about hardware, software and security. Its detailed report lists everything: model numbers, serial numbers and software license keys for many installed programs. If your computer needs a security update, it will tell you that too.

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SMART CARDS

After the fiasco at Target stores, where massive amounts of credit card data was stolen, a reader asked us about the smart card that’s so popular in Europe.

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THE ONION ROUTER

Thwarting a dictator or anyone else’s surveillance is a whole lot easier these days. Dissidents all over the world can go under the radar with something called “the onion router.” The onion router is a free download at TorProject.org.

The onion router prevents people from le

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DASHING TO AND FRO

What prompted all this examination of password protection, (see next post) is trying out a program called “Dashlane.” It has received lots of publicity, all of it full of praise. Our experience: not so good.

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WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?

There are several programs that will save your passwords and other critical private information — and they promise to be uncrackable too. We dutifully try as many as come in, and have come to the conclusion that you can do just as well on your own.

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ANTI-VIRUS UPDATE

We recently wrote about the free programs, Avast and Bitdefender, just days before the new Avast 2014 came out. The new version is free and instructs you to burn a boot-disk on a CD or DVD. After all, it’s all well and good to have anti-virus protection, but what if your computer won’t start at all? Then you better have a boot disk ready. If you Google “create boot disk,” you can get instructions to burn one to CD or flash drive, but it’s nice that Avast prompts you to do it.

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DEFENSIVE BATTLES

For a good free anti-virus, we’ve long recommended Avast. But PC Magazine recently gave their highest marks to another free program: BitDefender. Now along comes Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014, which bundles BitDefender with a lot of other useful programs. It’s $40, and there’s a free trial download from the web site: Ashampoo.com.

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