ISSUES

Set Up Your Tech So You Won't Be Hacked

You know the old saying — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Doubly so on the internet.

Having one's digital life hacked is a little like death: We walk through daily life, blissfully unaware of its possibility, while all the while it dangles over our heads like the Sword of Damocles.

Rather than be caught unawares, surrendering bank account information and sexy selfies to nefarious, faceless internet criminals, follow these steps now to protect yourself. You know the old saying — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Doubly so on the internet.

Use better passwords

That means no pet names, no birthdays, no kid names. Get creative with a complex string of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. You might even think of this as an opportunity to give yourself a motivational phrase like, "Youarebrilliantin2019!" Set up passwords — and different ones! — on your voicemail, Wi-Fi, and individual apps for banking and email.

...and use a password manager

Password managers like 1Password and LastPass make logging into websites simple without leaving yourself vulnerable to problematic browser autofill. One master password gains access to all the others, so you want it to be long and complex with numbers and special characters so not even the most determined hacker can guess it. From there, the password manager takes care of all your other password.

Employ multi-factor authentication

Sheera Frenkel, who writes about cybersecurity for The New York Times, says that a password manager and multifactor authentication "are the bare minimum of what we should all be doing. And even with all that, I just assume I'm going to be hacked any day." Here's how to set up multi-factor authentication on Apple, Google, Instagram, and more.

Keep your operating systems up-to-date

Most successful hacks exploit vulnerabilities of out-of-date operating systems. When Apple or Android tells you an update is ready, download and install it. Ditto with apps. Keep them up-to-date to protect against data breaches, and be mindful which ones you download. No longer using Shazam or Tinder? Delete 'em.

Use "Find My Phone"

You can set your phone to automatically erase itself after a certain number of incorrect passcode attempts. You can also use Apple and Google's "find my device" services, which can locate your phone on a map, remotely lock it, make it ring or the nuclear option — delete it entirely.

Beware open wifi

The danger isn't in your local Intelligentsia — though you shouldn't log into your bank accounts on any open networks — but if you're ever unsure about a wireless network, stick with your phone's mobile internet connection or use a VPN, which routes your activity through a private encrypted connection. Here's a recent rating of VPN services by PC Mag to help you choose.

There's no such thing as 100% security but following these steps will keep your digital data as safe as a citadel.

ISSUES

Free Apps That Aren't Really Free

These apps are free to download, but they seduce you into spending.

These apps may be free to download, but once they're on your phone, you're likely spending cold hard cash when you use them. Delete or spend at your own peril!

Data-suckers

When Dan Frommer of Quartz took a look at which of his apps were gobbling up most of his data usage, he was surprised.

"Twitter turns out to be my biggest 'expense,' he wrote. "This seemed surprising at first: isn't Twitter just 140-character text snippets? But with all the photos and videos in the Twitter stream today, plus loading websites in the built-in browser, addict-level usage adds up." Next in line, Instagram.

If you're only using these apps on wifi, you're not spending by scrolling. But if you can't resist seeing what your ex is up to when you're sitting in the no-wifi dentist's waiting room, then it's gonna cost you. Delete and set yourself free.


Instagram

Sure, it's free, and yeah, you're just using it for fitness inspiration or keto recipes or whatever you tell yourself. But Instagram's super-targeted, compelling, and on-point ads may be causing you to click-to-buy products you'd never otherwise consider. You know: the miracle exfoliator, the chicest workout leggings, the meal kit that will make your life easier and way more delicious.

Seven out of ten hashtags on Instagram are branded, which means most of the time you're interacting with advertisers whether you realize it or not. In 2016, at least thirty percent of Instagram's users had purchased a product they first discovered on the platform; in 2018, when the monthly users were up to 1 billion on the platform, there was sure to be even more app-driven purchases. And yes, we speak from personal experience.

Amazon

You love your Prime, we know. We do too. But all the seductive lure of those free deliveries is causing you to spend beaucoup bucks. When you've got the phone in your hand and one-click buying activated, a new backyard hammock or silky nightgown or kitchen gadget is one tap away. And the taps add up.

Research has shown that Prime members spend an average of $1,300 per year on Amazon, compared with just $700 for non-Prime customers. Take the app off your phone and you might find a new way to fund that trip to Portugal you've been dreaming of.

Don't stop at Amazon; this goes ditto for all your go-to shopping apps, like ShopBop and Etsy. According to App Annie, time spent on Amazon, Amazon Shopping, Wish, Etsy and Zulily grew 44 percent in the first half of 2017 compared with the first half of 2016. If you're spending time, you're probably spending money.

Food Delivery Apps

Any time you're making convenience too, well, convenient, you're hurting your wallet. Consider dinner. Between taxes, service fees, delivery charges and driver tips, a $10 burrito can easily turn into a $20 mindless splurge.

Americans spend an average of $63 a month on food delivery services. that's $756 a year — enough for a round-trip ticket to Europe. When HuffPost editor Janie Campbell wrote about her reliance on Postmates, she found that the had spend $287.71 on delivery fees and another $70.88 for additional fees in the first 22 days of a month.

Delete that app and use your phone the old-fashioned way — to call in a pick-up order. Or save mondo bucks by learning a few easy-to-whip up pantry meals; soon enough you'll have saved enough to eat ramen in Tokyo.

WORLD

September Time Capsule: A Look Back in History

What's happened in September throughout history? A lot.

Liberty Project Time Capsule: A look back in history at what's happened this month throughout time.

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CULTURE

Where Do the Vitamins and Minerals In Your Supplements Come From?

The sourcing of many vitamin supplements is murky at best.

When exercise and nutrition coach Ryan Andrews was researching his story for Precision Nutrition on how vitamins and minerals in nutritional supplements are sourced, he ran into some interesting—and frankly, ironic—informational barriers.

"I emailed Nature Made about vitamin B-1," Andrews writes. "They said: 'We appreciate your questions concerning our supplements. Nature Made Vitamin B-1 is manufactured in a laboratory from chemicals. It is synthetically made in our manufacturing facilities in Southern California.'"

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CULTURE

How to Live Well In a 24/7 World of Bad News

A recent survey from the American Psychological Association found that more than half of Americans say the news causes them stress, with many reportedly feeling anxiety, fatigue or suffering from sleep loss. Here's how to deal.

No matter where you are on the political spectrum, we're all caught in a deluge of devastatingly bad news. According to a 2011 study, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers' worth of information—five times as much as we did in 1986, the New York Times reported. And that study is seven years old; since then, the pings are only coming faster and more furiously.

A recent survey from the American Psychological Association found that more than half of Americans say the news causes them stress, with many reportedly feeling anxiety, fatigue or suffering from sleep loss. Here's how to deal. One in 10 adults checks the news every hour, while 20 percent cop to "constantly" checking in on their social media feeds, Time reports. Women especially, who are twice as likely to be plagued by anxiety as men, tend to feel overwhelmed by the never-ending cycle of bad news, psychiatrist Gail Saltz wrote in Health.

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CULTURE

Where in the U.S. Can You Actually Survive on Minimum Wage?

"Getting by" is a notably nebulous terms and it's in stark contrast to a "livable wage."

"What you don't necessarily realize when you start selling your time by the hour," writes Barbara Ehrenreich in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, "is that what you're really selling is your life." The going hourly rate for your life is? $7.25 if you go by the federal minimum wage, which hasn't been raised since 2009. More than half of states mandate a higher minimum wage than the federal level. A minimum wage job will fetch you $10 an hour in Maine; $10.50 in California; and $12.50 in Washington, D.C. But where is that wage enough to get by?

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ENVIRONMENT

The Multi-Billion Dollar Crystal Industry May Not Be So Healing to Mother Earth

It's much easier to certify the free-range, grass-fed provenance of a hamburger than it is to guarantee that tourmaline gemstone is conflict-free.

"Knowing the lineage of a crystal is somewhat akin to knowing where the meat you're eating came from," LA-based energy healer Colleen McCann told Goop in an article on the eight crystals every follower of the new New Age should know.

But there's a hitch. It's much easier to certify the free-range, grass-fed provenance of a hamburger than it is to guarantee that tourmaline gemstone is conflict-free. Crystals aren't just shrouded in mysticism; often their source is shrouded in straight-up mystery, as the New Republic recently reported.

"Imagine if someone who owned a burger joint had to figure out the entire agriculture meatpacking industry," Julie Abouzelof, owner of Hawaii's Moonrise Crystals, told the magazine. "Except there's 1,000 different meats, and nobody's farm is listed online, and even when you meet the farmer in person, they don't want to talk to you."

Crystals and gemstones are mined on every continent on Earth, and the process isn't universally bad news. In the U.S., you can dig-your-own crystals, just as you can pick-your-own strawberries. There are also small family- and state-owned mines with environmentally friendly operations. Among crystal sellers online, some are transparent about where their rocks are from.

Others just don't know.

"It's not like this is some big conspiracy cover up," Abouzelof told the New Republic. "The sellers just don't always know."

What they don't know could hurt many people. Some crystals come from large-scale industrial gold, copper and cobalt mine; the crystals aren't what miners are after, they're the profitable byproduct on the hunt for gold. In the US, these mines have had a deleterious effect on the environment, including groundwater contamination. In New Mexico, both the State and U.S. Department of Justice have filed natural resource claims against the Tyrone Copper Mine for damages to water and wildlife. It's the same mine that produced this large blue chrysocolla—a "supportive goddess energy stone," reported The New Republic,

And that's in the United States where the industry is regulated. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, children as young as seven work the cobalt and copper mines in the country's Katanga region that contain deposits of minerals like tourmaline, amethyst, citrine, blue and smoky quartz.

At the annual Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase in Tucson, Arizona, Abouzelof chose not to buy a relatively cheap supply of jade when she learned it had been mined in Myanmar. The New York Times has compared Myanmar jade to blood diamonds; its extraction has "helped finance a bloody ethnic conflict and unleashed an epidemic of heroin use and H.I.V. infection among the Kachin minority who work the mines."

Those are the kind of bad vibes that can't be cleansed from a gemstone bathing in the light of the full moon.

But should the murky provenance of crystals keep you from getting your goddess on with the stones? If it's human rights your worried about, your cell phone is probably a bigger ethical dilemma than your crystal collection, writes crystal healer and seller Hibiscus Moon. The so-called "conflict minerals" in our electronics fund human atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she writes, and "are the ones we need to concern ourselves with." Tony Nikischer, president of Excalibur Mineral Corporation, told Emily Atkin at the New Republic that crystal mining "certainly is not a 'despoiler of the earth' activity as some large scale mining operations in foreign countries may be."

Maybe your rose quartz really will help usher in true love. But if you can't be sure you're not causing suffering of another human spirit to praise something pretty in pink on your altar, it might not be worth it.

"You could give up the habit and leave those pretty rocks where they belong," writes Katie Herzog at The Stranger, "in the earth."