Three tech lessons to take home from Sochi (even if you never leave your couch)

By Brian Gongol

Technology has been in the news quite a lot surrounding the Sochi games, from the widely-shared #sochifails to first-person videos of the downhill ski course. Here are three lessons to take home from the Sochi games, even if you never leave your sofa:

1. Don't use unsecured Wi-Fi connections. NBC News generated a lot of buzz with a report suggesting that every computer in Sochi was guaranteed to get hacked. There was some backlash to the report, suggesting that the reporter deliberately went looking for trouble. But if there's one piece of advice that everyone should follow, whether traveling to Sochi or Seattle, it's this: Don't trust unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Period. If it's unsecured (that is, if you don't have to enter a password in order to connect to it), then you should have zero expectation of security or privacy with anything, anywhere on your computer. Unsecured networks are dangerous turf for anything you do online (since it's easy for someone to electronically "eavesdrop" on what you're doing online) and they're fertile ground for people who want to snoop around the files on your hard drive, even if you're not actively sharing them over the Internet connection. Free, unsecured public Wi-Fi really isn't worth the risk anywhere in the world.

2. Use an antivirus program on your smartphone. There are people who still refuse to use (or pay for) antivirus protection on their laptop and desktop computers. What's even worse is failing to use similar protection on your smartphone or tablet computer. Not only do you likely visit the same sites on your smartphone as on your regular computer, you're doing so with a device that has a built-in camera and (probably) spends the night right next to you on a bedside table and travels everywhere with you (including to the restroom). Smartphones and tablets are even more intimately tied to most people's daily lives than their bigger siblings, which means that it's even more important to protect them with anti-virus/anti-malware programs. The going rate for a subscription to reputable protective software is about $10 or $15, and it's worth every penny.

3. Get a domain name and use it to control your email. Owning a domain name has many benefits, but one of the best is that it allows you to set up "recipes" for forwarding your e-mail. What that means is that you can give out whatever address you like to whomever you please, and have that e-mail sent to you wherever you want to receive it. So, instead of giving out your Gmail or Yahoo Mail or Hotmail address to everyone who asks, you can set up public, private, and even "disposable" addresses. That can protect you on the front end (if, for instance, you want to set up a different account for your hotel reservations than the one you give to your closest friends), as well as on the back end (since forwarding recipes can be set up to send to multiple destinations, you can elect to receive all of your email in one place, you can pre-sort it into different accounts, or you can even send it to multiple places including throwaway accounts that you can use while on vacation and then disable after you return home). Domain names from reputable registrars generally cost less than $20 a year and are easily worth five times that amount in the convenience and security benefits they offer.

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