Data privacy is in the news every day. From the recent Facebook controversy to last year's massive Equifax breach -- and countless incidents in-between -- consumers are finally learning that large social platforms and online businesses aren't doing enough to protect their data.
Studio 61 sat down with Jeff Venables, Product Marketing Manager at iolo technologies, LLC, to solicit some expert insight and find out how iolo's Phoenix 360 solution helps PC users take back control of their personal information and sensitive data.
S61: What are some of the things you wish PC users were more aware of?
JV: There is a new and highly sophisticated form of online tracking called digital fingerprinting. Unlike simple cookies-based trackers that result in ads following you around the internet, digital fingerprinting scripts use information specific to your computer to gain details about your identity, such as your location, online searches, videos watched, and websites visited. Even your vacation habits, income and debt, and marital status can be revealed.
This info can be sold or used against you in certain ways. For example, if your fingerprint seems to indicate, even incorrectly, that you are an irresponsible shopper, you could be denied credit.
S61: Wouldn't a VPN (virtual private network) protect browsing sessions from fingerprinting?
JV: No, and in fact VPNs have several drawbacks. A VPN offers some privacy protection by encrypting the internet connection between your computer and the VPN provider's server, making your internet traffic appear as if it comes from the IP address of the VPN server. It can help protect you from snooping by your internet service provider. But after the VPN server, the traffic flows outside of the VPN encryption, where most of the digital fingerprinting scripts are injected into the web pages you ultimately visit, so you can still be tracked even when your VPN is enabled.
S61: How secure or insecure are web passwords?
JV: It's a bad idea to ever store your passwords and credit cards in your web browser. When a website asks if you want it to "remember" you, it's a good idea to decline the offer. This is because the site will then store, unencrypted, your username and password in the browser, where hackers can easily steal them. It's far better to use a password manager that can locally encrypt your passwords and credit card numbers, only calling them up to populate website fields on an as-needed basis.
S61: For data on your PC, is a good antivirus sufficient to protect you from hackers?
JV: In many ways it is, but there are limits to AV protection. Most antivirus software can block and quarantine or remove incoming malware threats. Far fewer also offer on-demand malware removal from a machine that has already become infected. In today's fraught online world, it's worth having both types of anti-malware protection, just in case a dangerous item gets past your real-time protection.
In fact, to vastly decrease the risk that something bad will slip past your AV, it's best to purchase one that offers both reactive and proactive detection strategies. A reactive strategy detects viruses using published malware signature detection, and a proactive strategy uses behavior-monitoring techniques to build a general sense of whether a given file intends to harm your computer. This method can stop some attacks before a security patch for the particular threat is released.
S61: How serious is the malware threat nowadays?
JV: Not long ago, cybersecurity teams at several leading anti-malware companies reported that almost 1 million new malware threats are released daily. This astonishing volume of threats makes it more essential than ever for Windows users to protect their PCs with the best antivirus software they can find.
S61: How does Phoenix 360 help protect users from these dangers?
JV: Phoenix 360 was specifically designed with these new dangers in mind. As iolo has been the industry leader in PC tune-up software for two decades, it was a natural transition to offering additional online security and privacy tools to equip PCs with a full suite to safeguard, speed up, and simplify all aspects of your digital life.
Phoenix 360 optimizes PC speed, blocks and removes malware, recovers irreplaceable files, permanently deletes sensitive data, shields your online habits from spying eyes, enhances identity theft protection, stops the kinds of browser tracking tactics that run-of-the-mill cookie cleaners miss, and manages all your passwords and credit card numbers securely.
S61: You mentioned PC tune-ups. Why does PC performance slow down over time?
JV: One reason PCs slow down over time is the natural data fragmentation that occurs when opening and closing files and applications repeatedly. Program launches become sluggish as the system tries to locate file fragments scattered all over the hard disk. Another reason PCs slow down is the memory-hoarding behavior of apps that no longer need it. Freeing this RAM from idle apps can give your PC a major speed boost. Broken shortcuts and other clutter can also confuse and slow down Windows.
S61: Aren't today's PCs largely self-cleaning?
JV: It's true that several of the cleaning functions to keep PCs stable are now performed by Windows itself. However, there is an entire cache of underperforming default settings deep within the OS that need fine-tuning in order to fully unleash a PC's speed. These include releasing needlessly parked processor cores for more power while gaming or streaming, tweaking broadband settings for faster downloads, and discovering and disabling the bloatware that covertly installs with a default launch at startup. In order for these adjustments to occur regularly and automatically, high-quality PC optimization software is required.
S61: You also mentioned permanent deletion for sensitive data. Why do ordinary PC users need "military grade" hard drive scrubbing technology?
JV: When you delete a file, traces of it remain. In many cases, the entire file can still be recovered. Emptying the recycle bin is not sufficient. For our most sensitive personal data, it's imperative that upon recycling an old PC, you permanently wipe the hard drive with military-grade drive scrubbing technology. This technology can also be deployed to incinerate specific files and folders you want permanently removed from your current PC, as opposed to wiping the entire drive.
S61: What makes Phoenix 360 unique?
JV: Phoenix 360 is an integrated set of software products never before combined in one package. Together, the tools and features help keep PCs healthy, fast, and safe from the most modern problems and threats.
Phoenix 360 includes:
- Privacy Guardian anti-browser tracking and online privacy protection
- ByePass secure password encryption & management
- System Shield VB100-certified antivirus protection
- Malware Killer on-demand malware detection and removal
- System Mechanic award-winning PC optimization
- Search and Recover advanced file recovery software
- DriveScrubber military-grade hard drive wiping technology
Phoenix 360 helps protect you against:
- Password hacks
- Credit card theft
- Spying on your online habits
- Personal data selling
- Reputation compromise
- Accidental file deletion
- Sensitive data theft
- Malware infections
- Windows security holes
- Bloatware and startup bottlenecks
- Slowdown induced by needlessly running background apps
S61: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Where can readers learn more about Phoenix 360?
JV: My pleasure, and thank you. Readers can learn more about the features and benefits of Phoenix 360 on the product page: http://www.iolo.com/products/phoenix-360.