Author Archives: Ashtad

About Ashtad

I'm a Self Protection instructor, a life-long Martial Artist and a Personal Fitness Trainer. Training is my passion and I share my passion via teaching what I've learned along the way. Being a Self-Protection Instructor and Martial Artist, I actually don't like violence. I train to not be violent. Kind of a paradox for people who don't understand why we truly train. Being a Fitness Trainer, I like following my own advice. After all I'm getting it for free ;) Oh and since I'm a realist and prefer being brutally honest, I'll add that I do the teaching thing not just because I like doing it, but also because I like having money, you know, to pay the bills and stuff? But don't we all.. Yep! Anyone who says otherwise, is a liar or a saint and since saints don't need money to live and be happy or pay the bills maybe they should start "doing good" for free. Yay!!! Those who do, Kudos! You are either a saint.. or don't need the money, because you're already filthy freakin' rich! So Yay! (For you). So yeah, usually I avoid stressing over insignificant things and enjoy the little things in life and keep a positive and cheerful attitude, until someone pisses me off that is, then you better watch out... 'cause I'll calm right back down and walk away. You know, to practice what I teach and preach and what not, plus... witnesses.. enough said :P In whatever little free time I do get, I'm a Hardcore PC gamer and belong to the "PC master race". So...Bow down to us, you common console peasants and awe in our superior presence!!! muahahaha!!! No but seriously, consoles suck! Well there's enough about me on the internet. But not everything, so if you wanna know the twisted ol' me, then you gotta talk to me in person. Yep! ^_^

Cultural Differences

There are many things that affect how an individual behaves, thinks and sees the world around them. It could be how they were raised, when they were raised (time period/generation), where they were raised and who raised them.

In today’s topic, I’d like to discuss all of these but mostly the “Where” of it. The “Where” includes all the others in one way or another. The “Where” is the Culture we’re brought up in and how our culture shapes our world views and behaviors.

But how does our culture affect our behavior and mindset? Which factors are the causes of humans often being so radically different in their views and thoughts and behaviors despite there being some fundamental similarities between us? How does culture sometimes override our fundamental instincts, intuition and even our capacity for empathy and other emotions just based on our cultural/social programming?

The thing is, it isn’t just one thing that creates these differences, cultural differences are a culmination of of many things acting together in shaping our minds since birth.

 

Cultural differences are actually a product of;
⦁ Local religion.
⦁ Laws.
⦁ Beliefs.
⦁ Environment.
⦁ Resources.
⦁ Advancement (Technological and Sociological).
⦁ Types of Government.
⦁ Economy.
⦁ Mindset regarding individuality vs normality/likeness.
⦁ Education (via Schooling and Parenting).
⦁ Amount of freedom allotted to the public.
⦁ Population.
⦁ Public Health and Hygiene.
⦁ Infrastructure (for example, an area with more slums have less hygienic lifestyle than someone living in a neat and clean suburb, which relates to the above point).

 

Let’s break them all down one at a time and go into more details.

Local religion – Religion is actually one of the most heavy influencers of an individual’s behavior. It dictates a set of morals and principles that people often follow strictly. Now while many of these ‘rules’ are the same everywhere, some cultures follow them more to the letter than others. For example, religions who don’t allow certain kinds of food items like beef or pork, this rule is followed more strictly in countries like the one I live in than in western countries. Religion influences our behavior more directly than any other aspect.

 

Local Laws – This is another aspect that, just like religion, influences not only our behavior, but also our morals and principles. Local Laws aren’t always the same everywhere. Different countries have different laws and even in those countries, the laws differ from state to state and even city to city. So those states and cities will have restrictions and actions that are considered illegal which aren’t in other states or cities. Examples can be the marijuana bans or laws about marriage and divorce or child protection or laws on CC (concealed carry) or firearms. All of those will be completely different depending on which country and continent you’re on. These different laws make us alter our behaviors and our thought processes in order to be able to assimilate into that particular culture, this can even be applied domestically, not just internationally. As a result, someone from a city, state, country or continent where laws are lenient would find a place where laws are strict and bans are heavy, to be too constricting and limiting. But if someone from a country with strict laws find themselves in a location with lenient laws and merciful punishment, will feel more free and be more open to trying things they otherwise wouldn’t because they weren’t allowed to do so.

 

Beliefs – Our beliefs are not something that is separate from any other factor on this list. They are in fact shaped by the other factors like religion, laws, environment and even mindset developed during an individual’s upbringing. Since other factors differ (quite a lot) in different regions, beliefs are often the most dissimilar factor among various cultures around the world. So much so that like the different laws, beliefs are even different in a country of the same culture.

 

Environment – When I say ‘Environment’, I mean the overall state of the environment in a particular country, i.e. hostile, peaceful, criminalistic, war torn, etc. etc. We are often a product of our environments. Our environment forms our societal structure, from our laws to our governments to our economy to our education and infrastructure. A hostile environment breeds a hostile younger generation due to the need to survive in such an environment, a peaceful environment breeds more pacifists. An individual who comes from a hostile environment will always be suspicious of everyone in a friendly environment, contrasting that is someone from a totally peaceful and low crime environment, who will be too trusting even in hostile environments. Individuals who are trained or are professionals who deal with violence and come from either environments will have a sort of balance and will know when to trust and when not to, when to let their guards down and when to put them up. To put it in short, our environment has a huge impact on cultural differences.

 

Resources – Resources include money available for each family, housing quality, education quality, jobs and their quality, transportation quality, and overall standard of living in a particular city, state, country. Availability (or lack thereof) resources and their quality often determine the level of violence and crime in a certain area. Which determine how the peaceful or hostile an environment will be, which in turn will also influence and determine how the local laws will be organized. More, better resources distributed among the people fairly, will mean less crime and better environmental conditions, less resources and lack of quality, will mean greater chances of criminal activity, which will worsen the overall environmental conditions. Since different countries have different level of quality resources and environments, they often are a determining factor how varied the cultural differences might be between any two given contrasting cultures.

 

Advancement (Technology and Social) – This factor is a little trickier to explain since technology is virtually everywhere. But the keyword here is “virtually”. As in it appears to be everywhere, but it isn’t. This is more applicable to rural areas, especially here, where even a fundamental thing that we all often take for granted like electricity is not so common or frequent. Let along technology like laptops or iphones or internet. This influences the local area more than a whole country or city itself. Those with less technological advancement are often disconnected from the world outside their own areas. This creates a culture that is more introverted as a whole than mixed. Their beliefs and religion is often not diverse, their laws are mostly based on the older beliefs of their ancestors or even based in their own religious beliefs. Those with an abundance of technology are more educated, but not necessarily well-informed due to the immense mis/disinformation in the digital world. Hence the saying “don’t believe everything you read/see on the internet”. There are however good informational sources on the net that do provide legitimate information which creates more well-informed individuals in that city/state/country. The lack of exposure to that legitimate information is what keeps those without technological advancement underdeveloped and uninformed, misinformed and/or disinformed. This creates a huge gap in mindset, beliefs (that have not evolved with the social advancement or lack thereof) and as a result also the local environment.

 

Types of government (and political ideologies) – Now, I often avoid talking about politics, but this subject requires me to include this point here as politics is one of the most significant and the most huge factor in cultural differences. For example, a country with capitalist ideology will have a different mindset (a more opportunistic one) of how to do business than a communist or a socialist one. Although now, almost everywhere in the world, you do see obvious capitalism due to it’s potential to yield more profits to those who are willing to go to higher lengths and take more risks. Doesn’t mean you don’t see some hints of other types of political ideologies as well, it’s just most are mixed and not a complete form of itself. This is also true for the types of government itself. A monarchy will have a different mindset than a democracy and a dictatorship. I’d prefer not to go into much detail here so as to not offend anyone, but, to basically put it in short, a democratic country will have a much higher sense of freedom and rights than a dictatorship (which is either a strict martial law type environment where strict laws and restrictions are put in place by one individual) or even a monarchy (which is where a family of royalty rule over all and only a member of the family can take the throne), another example is a republic (which will have a much greater sense of equality among people than other types). These differences in types of governments and types of political ideologies are what shapes the economy, the technological advancement of said country, the local belief system, education system, laws, religions, as a result people’s mindset, infrastructure, level of freedom of speech and actions, population, health and hygiene,economical growth or downfall and basically the overall environment of the whole country. This makes politics one of the most influential factors of existing cultural differences in our society as a whole.

 

Economy – Economy is what drives the global markets. Without a stable economy, everything would fall apart. No more jobs (or free labor), no more schools (or poor quality schooling), no more food (or extreme scarcity due to inflation) or clothing or shelter, which are the fundamental needs of every individual. A poor economy drives individuals toward crime and the environment becomes hostile overtime and changes the mindset of the individuals in that environment. Economy is one of the main factors that causes cultural differences due to not every economy in the world being a strong economy or even a stable one. Innovation economy is relatively new theory which is actually something that might help economic growth as it emphasizes entrepreneurship and innovation and might help close the gap in cultural difference in some way. But it will require other factors to not hinder its process, which is needless to say, virtually impossible. I’m not an “expert” economist, this is just my view, but economy is nonetheless a factor in global cultural differences.

 

Mindset (Individuality/Normality/Likeness) – Mindset is a product of all the above factors. A culmination of how a child is brought up, what types of teaching has the child received, what kind of actualities have they been exposed to and what type of political ideologies and religious ideas and environments have they experienced. All those play a part in forming ones mindset. This also includes any training they receive, any conditioning they’ve gone through, including the ones from the internet, t.v. music, etc. Every one of those play a part in forming ones mindset. If brought up in a more conservative environment, an individual will be more closed off to things that have been labeled as ‘bad’ while they were growing up. If brought up in an open environment, an individual might be more open to taking risks. If brought up in a more violent environment, an individual might see violence as the best and only answer. If brought up in a loving and peaceful environment, an individual might only see the good in everyone. If someone is brought up in an extremely religious environment, an individual might see everyone who doesn’t follow what they do, as a bad person and an enemy. An individual who’s brought up in an atheist environment might see people’s actions more than who they believe in. Some are brought up in a fairly neutral environment, with religious values that practice peace and love but not extremism, might see people the same way. Some are a combination of two or more. When these individuals come across each other and cross over into foreign territory. Some of the inconsistencies in their thinking might conflict with each other. If the two or more individuals involved don’t respond with emotion, but with logic and reason, situation settles without ever escalating. This would be a product of a healthy upbringing and a peaceful environment. If it is treated aggressively, especially forcing someone to follow what they follow with violence, it would be a product of an unhealthy and violent upbringing in a hostile environment with poor quality of educational and informational value. This is not just applicable to different countries and their individual cultures internationally, but also to same countries with different sub-cultures within them. Some cultures promote individuality and creativity and some promote normality or likeness and “fitting in” or being more “traditional”, leaving an individual less creative and unimaginative.

 

Education (From schools and parents) – Education is something plays a part in developing a child’s mindset from a very early age, since the day they can talk and understand speech. There’s a difference between being educated and being informed though. Many cultures focus more on being educated than on being informed. Which shapes a mind within the confines of the dictated limits of knowledge acquisition. If children aren’t challenged intellectually and creatively, their intellectual and creative growth is stunted, as a result they’re less likely to question things or be curious about new things. Innovation is not possible without creativity. This is why we see the difference in creativity in individuals from different cultures. Those countries that do provide more freedom to be creative and explore new things have more people who create new things than people from countries that force children to be within the boundaries of the dictated educational limits. There’s a much deeper issue that above, as far as education and information provided to children today, but the above is just an example to illustrate the possible reasons for global cultural differences when it comes to education and information.

 

Amount of freedom allotted to the public – This is pretty self-explanatory and relates to the points above namely – education/information, mindset, resources, religious and economical freedom. The less restrictions are imposed on individuals the more options are available. This can also backfire in a way that certain times, people become too entitled and stop valuing the freedom and rights they’ve been afforded or get greedy and get aggressive if they don’t get more of it. Not to mention at the first sign of any restriction, social chaos might ensue. Not all countries allow total freedom, as that would be absolutely chaotic, but many countries offer more freedom of speech and actions than some others. So when individuals who go from a high freedom country to a lower one, they often feel too restrictive and constricted due the lack of freedom to do things they could in their native country. This factor is probably the most noticeable to people as it affects one on a more personal level than the others.

 

Population – Population affects different cultures in an economical sense more than others, especially because there are more people than there are resources to consume, like jobs available and wealth distributed. Logically and even statistically, crime rates also tend to be higher in highly populated areas (which is quite obvious as to why that is). Which again leads to a poor or fairly poor environmental quality. Higher birthrate also means more kids that need to be properly educated, and will need to maintain proper health and hygiene, but with poor economical conditions, that might not be always possible, which contributes to bad hygienic practices and as a result the quality of environments deteriorate even further. This factor is also something that would be noticeable for an individual, especially those who move from small towns to cities or from moderate, yet developed population countries to high yet underdeveloped population ones.

 

Public Health and Hygiene – This point ties into the above one as already mentioned. Countries with affordable medical costs or high medical development or availability of necessary resources, often are a good provider of healthcare and those who provide personal hygiene products of good quality and affordable prices have often a good hygienic environment. But here’s the thing about that, it doesn’t always come down to affordable or developed. This particular factor comes down to the individuals themselves. The better an individual has been informed on such things and brought up in an environment where having good hygiene practices and eating healthy and exercising and avoiding any harmful or unhealthy food items is promoted and praised, the individual will grow up to be someone who practices good basic hygiene with good eating and lifestyle habits. So this factor depends on information/education, environment, mindset and on a certain level, resources.

 

Infrastructure – This is basically the quality of housing, office buildings and working conditions in them, school buildings, smoother roads (that minimize traffic and less accidents along with filled up potholes), efficient transportation, proper drainage system (during heavy rains), proper sewage treatment systems (and not those that leak out with heavy rains), better quality food production factories, better phone lines (for a better network), efficient power plants. A strong economy provides all of these, while an underdeveloped one lacks them. This is also a noticeable factor for those who move from a strong economical country to an underdeveloped one and vice versa.

 

There are also other sub-effects of the main factors that cause cultural differences such as, Sexual Identities, Gender Identities, Age Identity. For example;

  • Gender Identity is developed as a part of an individual’s environment, beliefs and religion.
  • Age Identity is most likely a product of Beliefs and Mindset, which is influenced by beliefs in part, and in some cultures, even due to religion.
  • Sexual Identity can be a sub-effect of Religion, (Personal)Beliefs influenced by Religion or Environment and Freedom (of speech/actions/sexuality) Allotted in their country.

 

So those are the factors that I’ve noticed which influence overall cultural differences in our society as a whole. Some of these differences can be overcome and some of them are actually in the process of being eradicated in the coming years. Many countries are now being influenced by other cultures due to more international exposure via social media and t.v and music, which in turn, is slowly eradicating some differences like technology and mindset and even education in some parts, such as in metro cities (like Mumbai for example). It’s a slow progress, but if it continues and spreads to other parts of the country, it might have an impact on other cultural factors such as economy, freedom and information/education, etc. as well, i.e. if they aren’t hindered by some other existing factors that hold back progress. But that’s something that only time will tell I suppose.

 

I’ll add this final food for thought, even though we have some differences in how we approach certain things, how we live, how our cultures form, on a fundamental level, humans are more similar to each other than we’d like to admit sometimes.

 

We are the same species, adjusting to different environments.

 

Well, that’s it. If I missed something, feel free to comment about it below. It’d be interesting to know your perspective. But no political b.s stuff that incites flame-wars please.

 

Alright, Thanks for reading.

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Self-Control

Self control is easier said than achieved. Your brain doesn’t like being in pain, it doesn’t like being angry or sad, so when a stimulus comes along to do just that, the brain responds aggressively and negatively, instinctively without thinking it.

 

Instincts are a powerful thing, everyone has their “breaking point”, and once they take over, it doesn’t matter how much you trained your brain, if enough distress is caused to the brain, I.E. once it “snaps”, there won’t be any control left, you will act as you were programmed to by millions of years of evolution. The ‘thoughts’ that will occur will be as a result of your brain desperately wanting to end the cause of your distress, which will result in you using violent means of doing so if necessary.

 

Self control is something that should be exercised 24/7. It’s not something that’s done selectively. The best way to be in control is to stop a situation before it begins, and the best way to do that is to not engage in the first place. When you haven’t been pushed to your breaking point, when you still have coherent thought process, that’s when you stop and disengage rather than let your emotions or ego take over. Stop. Think. Walk.

 

The fact remains, once you get involved, you won’t be in control anymore, your instincts, your emotions, your biases, your natural responses and your neurotransmitters will be. You won’t think clearly, coherently, calmly or even at all, you will be without a rational thought process, which often leads to individuals either ending up in jail, hospital or morgue.

 

Having self-control is generally a part of your everyday life. It’s not something that’s incident or situation specific. It’s just having good enough sense to not act in a way that needlessly harms you or others around you.

Sounds

Have you ever listened to the kind of music that makes you wanna get up and dance? How about music that makes you want to do something heroic? How about the kind of music that makes you sad? Nostalgic? Happy? What about the Wonder Woman theme? If you’ve heard it, you know how it kind makes you wanna do something epic. It’s like a motivational music.

Listen to these two variations – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw_o7XUX3fg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fctMc6SxVFY Another example is Epic music (that’s what it’s called) like these two – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2hRTLdvdnk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwJj2EpC8vg or Nostalgic emotions from Retroelectro and Synthwave – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85bkCmaOh4o these two just wanna make you go back to the 80’s (90’s in my case) or Cheerful emotions from this fun little song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ2_tOoefyU For me, it’s the Mortal Kombat movie intro that pumps up my heartbeat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0ac6BXGfuA

Of course, this also applies to different sounds besides music. For example, on a more grim note, during a recent explosion, you could hear people scream in the videos (Emotion of Fear due to explosion and emotions of sadness and sympathy due to the screams when you hear them).

Basically, my point, is that all of those different types of music and sounds provoke different emotional responses. But have you ever asked yourself why? Well, the simple answer to this is that sound is the most important stimulus for virtually any living creature with ears or something similar to ears on this planet. Often even more so than sight. Many animals don’t even rely on sight, sound is their only way of “seeing” (Sonar/Ultra Sound).

You see, sounds, any kind, actually play a huge part in not only how we perceive the world around us, but also largely on our emotional state, on how we feel in that moment. It doesn’t have to be music, I’m talking about sounds. It can be the chirping of a bird or a waterfall or a tiger roaring or an explosion or a fast car driving by. Any sound, affects our thought process, in part of course, it changes the way we feel and think in that moment, about that moment.

Another thing you might’ve noticed is how men with deeper voice usually get more attention while talking, while men with higher voice, don’t as much. It of course depends on what each one is saying and other external factors, etc. But our voice, has an impact. It enhances our personality in people’s eyes. Maybe it could be the deep seated sexism, where high pitched voice of a male is associated with women and therefore weak and not worth listening to? Who knows? But no, it’s not that likely that that’s the case, because it’s the same with women.

https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/12/why-we-prefer-masculine-voices-even-in-women/266350/

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-women-like-deep-voices-and-men-prefer-high-ones-41492244/

Of course, there have been some further studies to this (even in the dating aspect, the ‘getting more attention’ aspect still stands even in those studies);

http://globalnews.ca/news/2691575/your-deep-voice-isnt-sexy-to-women-but-it-scares-off-other-men-study/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/subliminal/201205/how-we-are-judged-our-voice-in-dating-and-the-workplace

Of course, either way, it still proves how voices affect our choices, our moods, our thoughts and even attraction in social settings.

So, how does this relate to everyday life and Conflict Management and Self-Protection? Well, it relates to how we communicate. It relates to what kind of tone we use while speaking. Verbal communication skills are often overlooked in training and verbal deescalation doesn’t just include saying the ‘right thing’, it includes saying it the right way with the right tone of voice. See, having a deep voice is good, but it’s the tone that you speak in, that affects their opinion of you. Certain kinds of tones, that sound too aggressive, too confident, too controlling, too weak, too indifferent, too unsure, basically anything too extreme on either sides, will affect how a person thinks of you.

Sounds, affect thoughts and opinions and those thoughts and opinions will determine how that person treats you. Don’t take the power of your voice, for granted, learn to harness it. Pay attention to the sounds around you, and remember, if you ever feel down, there’s a lot of good music up there that you can listen to and get motivated. Something to think about 🙂

 

 

Here’s a nice little addition that (sort of) explains the mystery behind such kind of motivational music like the Wonder Woman theme; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5vQz4Xz6q8

Analyzing a video

Another facebook post/comment tuned blog post, I thought many might benefit from this.

This is in a context of analyzing a video that shows some sort of violence, to study the incident and then later modify our training to adapt to similar situations. This also helps you perceive violence differently than others and your previous self.

When I analyze these videos, I first prefer to know the full story or at least as much as possible about the incident that took place because any analysis without the full story will be filled with my own biases and experiences which will affect the outcome of the analysis.

After I’ve known the story, I usually have the data, the blanks that are filled in the categories of;
1- What instigated the incident?
2- What happened before the actual incident?
3- Who was involved?
4- Why did it escalate to this point?
5- What was the location?
6- What time? (This is often not mentioned though)
7- Which country did it take place in? (Cultural aspect)
8- Ages of the individuals.
9- Backgrounds of the involved (It’s not always full, but enough to make a ballpark estimation).
10- What kind of violence was it?
11- What means were used to accomplish the job?
12- What were the legal and other repercussions of this for both?

After I’ve got the above data, I then look at the incident itself, first from the assailant’s perspective;
1- Pre-contact cues.
2- Verbal cues (If audio is available).
3- Means of violence utilized.
4- Levels of violence utilized
5- Body language of the assailant.

Then I see it from the victim’s perspective;
1- What were they paying attention to before the assault?
2- How long did it take for them to spot the threat?
3- What was their reaction?
4- How quick and efficiently did they react?
5- What were the external factors that would/did hinder them?

Then I finally look for the bystander’s reactions.
1- When did they arrive at the scene?
2- What did they see?
3- How did they react?
4- Did anyone help?
5- What did they say after?

Finally, I put it altogether in my notes and add the previously received full incident data and see where I would fit, what I would be capable of doing and whether it would work for me. Of course, I do this from both perspectives, strange I know, but I first see if I would be successful if I were the predator, then if I were the survivor/victim. Then I add in some additional external factors, remove some factors that don’t pertain to my situation depending on my own location and I come up with possible solutions to these kinds of problems.

Luckily, since I’ve adopted this approach, I’ve been able to, on a certain level, know and avoid certain violence prone areas, so, now I don’t have to use it a lot. Which I think might affect my training, because there is no more testing to what I do. A cruel paradox.

This was specific to me analyzing videos of violence. The principle of getting the core information first then, looking at the presented information, can be utilized for analysis of any video or anything that you analyze and study.

That’s it. Thanks for reading.

Cyber Safety – Part 2

Continuing…

 

Being safe from Identity and personal data theft.

 

 

1- The most important thing and the most common sense thing to do is to not put up any private info, including your full name, date of birth, or even address on any public forum.

 

2- Never give any of your bank information or credit card/debit card information to anyone who claims to be calling from the bank or from the credit card company. This can also happen if you get a call from one of your currently subscribed magazines, etc. If you want to renew the subscription, do it from the website itself, by typing the address in the address bar, never do it over the phone.

 

3- Never post any of your private pictures or family photos, photos of your home online or in a cloud storage, they can and have been easily hacked. (Example is the leaked celebrity pics scandal). Store them offline and off computer.

 

4- If you have any passwords written down, always store that file offline and off computer, store it in a usb drive and connect the usb only when you’re offline and encrypt the usb storage with  strong password. There are softwares available that help you create strong passwords.

 

5- Never give out your primary email. Always use a secondary email with not much information in it (like your name, address, location, etc, while signing up), to sign up to websites, etc. It’s called a dummy account. This can also help with avoiding spam emails in your main email inbox.

 

6- Always make sure to check the validity of the secure encryption certificate on websites, while making any transactions online. Usually if you have an anti-virus installed, it warns you of fake pages.

 

7- Always password protect your data with a strong password that contains letters, numbers and symbols.

 

8- Install a strong anti-virus that gives you protection from the latest threats and protects your offline data as well.

 

9- Never check your emails in a cyber café.

 

10- If you use Wi-Fi, make sure the connection is secure and password protected.

 

These are some simple tips to protect your data and online identity.

 

Moving  on to Facebook safety tips.

 

 

There are many things you can do to keep yourself safe from potential threats and cyber criminals on facebook.

 

1- The most important thing to do is to never make any personal photos public, especially of your kids wearing any swimming clothes. Your photos be used by predators to sell them to certain kinds of websites and are also sold to highest bidders. They can also use these photos to estimate and track your location, if you don‘t already have it mentioned on the profile.

 

2- Don’t make your day-to-day activities public and avoid posting updates about when and where you are traveling. If you do want to post them, make it private or for friends only, but that may not work, as if you add someone, they can now view your activities and jobs, etc. getting all they wanted from your profile.

 

3- Which brings me to my third point, never accept friend requests from individuals who you don’t know or haven’t spoken to. Especially avoid individuals with no profile pics or only a handful of friends when they’ve been members for years. Some of the fake profiles usually just spam search. It’s done by typing in the most common names, when the results show up, they send friend requests to all. Then when their request gets accepted by target, they get to their friends list as well and most accept requests due to them being mutual friends with someone they know and trust. Plus, there’s also a possibility of a sex offender or a PI creating a fake profile to see your ‘friends only’ posts.

 

4- Never post personal likes and dislikes as this can be used against you. Once an individual knows what you like and don’t like, whether it’s food or a movie or anything, they can use that data to either direct you to a phishing website if they’re a cyber predator or if they’re a predator who searches their victims online, they can strike up a conversation with you basing it on common grounds.

 

5- Don’t use the same password you did for you email and other accounts, for your face book account. In fact, never have the same password for all accounts as a general rule.

 

6- If you access facebook on your phone, log out of the facebook app you use, after each visit.

 

7- Post nothing on facebook that you wouldn’t want anyone to know about. Nothing, once it gets on the internet, is safe or private, especially on a social networking site like facebook.

 

8- Be sure to have a good anti-virus installed. There is a possibility of a virus infecting your email list, the virus then sends friend requests to everyone in your email contacts, infecting them with the same virus as well. IIRC, this is done to gain access to not only your personal email, but other email addresses as well, it also leads you to a fake site to get your personal information that you may enter in the form.

 

9- Report suspicious profiles.

 

10- Be careful of external and third-party applications and websites asking permission to access your facebook account information. Once you have given the permission to access your facebook account, the website or application now has access to all of your personal information, including email, number, posts, address, job and location. Never accept it, unless you are absolutely 100% sure that you trust the application and it is reputed as safe to use.

 

11- Visit the help center for more information on facebook safety.

 

12-  Some good tips are mentioned here in this info graphic; http://www.bedfordshire.police.uk/pdf/facebook_safety_tips.pdf

 

Next Part is Safety on Twitter

 

The following are some simple tips to stay safe on twitter.

 

1- Whenever you tweet, never add your location to it. Turn off the ‘add location to tweet’ option from the settings. You can also remove all location information by clicking ‘delete all location information’.

 

2- Strip geo-tag information from your photos before tweeting them. When a photo is tweeted, the location information that many camera phones add to the metadata of the photo file would be provided to anyone viewing the photo, any EXIF viewer software/application that can read the location information embedded in the photo would be able to determine the location of the picture. There are apps available that strip the geo-tag from the pictures; deGeo, metapho and pixelgarde are some of them.

 

3- Enable security and privacy options. The ‘HTTPS Only’ option ‘Settings’ menu will allow you to use Twitter over an encrypted connection which will help protect your login information from being hijacked by hackers using packet sniffers and hacking tools.

 

4- Twitter is actually more public than facebook, which means that you have to keep your personal information very minimal to virtually none. I.e. No phone numbers, no emails and no address in the location section.

 

5- Avoid using any third party apps on twitter. If you have any unrecognized app or an app you don’t remember installing, remove it by revoking its access to your account information from the app tab in your ‘settings’ menu.

 

6- Turn on the ‘protect my tweets’ option. This is a helpful tool when it comes to preventing unwanted individuals from following you on twitter. Once turned on, it will only show the tweets to people that are approved by you. This will not stop the current followers, it’s only for the future ones.

 

7- Remove unwanted or unknown followers. Delete the follower from your Followers list by blocking their account. The user is not notified when you block them, but your tweets no longer show up in their searches or timeline.

 

Here are some good sites with much more information about safety on twitter.

 

 

Safety Tips on Instagram

 

1- When you fill out your profile in instagram, there is a personal information section in the form. Avoid putting in as less information as possible. Avoid especially using your phone number. According to Instagram’s Privacy Policy, even though the phone number is marked as ‘private‘, it’s used by the service that gets you ‘found’ on the network, so anyone with your number can find your instagram account.

 

2- Just like twitter’s geo-tagging, do not tag the location in the images you post on instagram. Especially if you’re on a vacation or something and wanna share the moments.

 

3- Which brings me to my next point, if you post regularly while going to your regular places, and you add locations to those pics, you are basically putting up your schedule on the net for everyone to see. Now anyone can see where you are at what time, especially if your profile is public.

 

4- If you are linking your instagram account to facebook or twitter, make sure the privacy settings on the linked account is private as well, otherwise all your private photos will be posted to facebook and twitter as public.

 

5- This point relates to the above, make your instagram account private, I.e. only visible to those who you give permission to.

 

6- Be careful of the spam links on your account.

 

7- Review the privacy policy of instagram before you begin. https://www.instagram.com/about/legal/privacy/

 

I do not have an instagram account, so I don’t have much knowledge besides what I wrote, here’s a link to help you understand it better. http://sociallyactive.com/instagram-and-kids-a-parents-guide/

 

 

Safety Tips for emailing

 

These are very simple tips. Most of them you might be aware of already.

 

1- Most common one is to never open an email from someone you don’t know/recognize.

 

2- Never open spam emails or reply to them. Use a spam filter.

 

3- Never download or open an attachment, if it is from someone you know, do not open it without scanning it first. For me, Norton is useful for that. Auto-protect does the job.

 

4- Never send any sensitive information or confidential information over email.

 

5- Always log out from the account and delete the form data and history.

 

6- Avoid clicking on the ‘remember me’ option when you log in.

 

7- Change your password fairly regularly and make it a long and strong password with letters, numbers and symbols.

 

8- Never give your emails to suspicious sites or shopping sites. Use an alternate disposable email address for that.

 

9- Avoid using your main email for social media accounts. They store it, if it’s hacked, the hacker now not only has your social media account information, but your email and all of the contacts in it as well.

 

10- Use different emails for different social media accounts.

 

11- Never use the same or similar passwords for any two accounts. Password should be unique to each account.

 

12- Be careful of the phishing scams. Never give your password if asked for, never click on a link that leads to a website directly from your email message, type the main address of the site in the address bar instead, but only after checking its safety rating, there are sites that provide that information.

 

13- Never check email on a public connection.

 

14- Never check email on a public computer and if you do, don‘t forget to log out, clear the form data and cookies. Be in a habit of clearing your history, cookies and form information.

 

Some additional good tips here. http://itservices.tri-c.edu/announcements/email-safety.html

 

Safety tips to secure your wireless connection

 

Without going into too much technical details, I’ll make this category simple and direct to the point as if I did go into details, you‘ll have to spend a whole day on the internet googling the terms. So to begin;

 

1- Turn on WPA2 Encryption on Your Wireless Router. If you have an older router, it will have an older encryption which is easily hackable. You’ll need to upgrade your firmware to WPA2.

 

2- Use the most unique and uncommon name for your network. If it’s one of the common names, you will be on the list with the most common names and will be more susceptible to your password being cracked. According to some sources, even WPA2 may be vulnerable to this kind of hacking.

 

3- This connects to the above point. Use a long and unusual password for your wireless network. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack using the rainbow tables. The max password limit is 64 characters, so go crazy. Wi-fi devices usually store the password as cache, you will have to do this only once, when you connect a new device.

 

4- Turn off the admin via wireless option. What this will do is restrict the hacker’s access to your wireless router’s administrative settings.

 

5- Enable firewall (If your router has it built-in, most do).

 

6- If you are in a smaller house, but the range of the wireless connection is high, reduce it. Decrease the signal range or hide it in a box or in any enclosure that could restrict the signal direction.

 

7- Be careful of something called piggybacking. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piggybacking_(Internet_access)

 

Remember, nothing is ever truly private once it’s on the internet, despite the profiles being private, they have been hacked and private photos have been leaked. Especially the data on cloud servers. Having a strong password helps, but only so much. Avoid storing any personal information or photos, videos, etc. or anything else you wouldn’t want a stranger to see, offline on a secure usb, scan it every time you plug it in and never plug it in while you‘re connected to the internet.

 

 

A little note – If this article sounded too robotic, it’s due to the detailed subject matter. I had to limit the use of words to make it short, yet informative as possible. This subject is often over-looked when it comes to safety and I had to make sure things weren‘t missed. So I hope you found it useful.

 

That’s it. Thanks for reading.

Cyber safety (This is a reeeeally long one)

In this article I’ll be including a list of cyber threats to watch out for and some tips to be safe against identity and personal data thefts, along with some facebook safety points.

 

Starting with the list of threats. There are a lot of different types of threats, but I’m just going to include the most common ones and how to avoid them. I gathered the following data from different sources that list security threats.

 

Botnets

 

Undetected.

 

A collection of software robots, or ‘bots’, that creates an army of infected computers (known as ‘zombies’) that are remotely controlled by the originator.

 

  • They can send spam emails with viruses attached.
  • They can spread all types of malware.
  • They can use computer as part of a denial of service attack against other systems.

 

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack

 

When a user gets a network of ‘zombie’ computers to sabotage a specific website or server. The attack happens when the user tells all the zombie computers to contact a specific website or server over and over again. That increase in the volume of traffic overloads the website or server causing it to be slow for legitimate users, sometimes to the point that the website or server shuts down completely.

 

It could be possible for users to use our computer in one of these attacks. By taking advantage of security vulnerabilities or weaknesses, an attacker could take control of our computer. They could then force our computer to send huge amounts of data to a website or send spam to particular email addresses. The attacks are “distributed” because the attacker is using multiple computers, including ours, to launch the denial-of-service attacks.

 

 

The most common and obvious type of DDoS attack occurs when an attacker “floods” a network with useless information. When we type a URL into our browser, we are sending a request to that site’s computer server to view the page. The server can only process a certain number of requests at once. So if an attacker overloads the server with requests, it can’t process ours. The flood of incoming messages to the target system essentially forces it to shut down, thereby denying access to legitimate users.

 

 

Steps to reduce the risk:

  • Anti-virus softwares.
  • Install a powerful Firewall, and configure it to restrict traffic coming into and leaving your computer.
  • Applying email filters may help manage unwanted emails, by automatically processing incoming messages based on certain preset criteria.
  • If the Internet connection is unusually slow or I can’t access certain sites (and that your Internet connection is not down).
  • Avoid opening email attachments, especially if they are from people you don’t know.
  • If signs of a DDoS attack appear and/or persist, contact the ISP.

 

 

Hacking

 

Hacking is a term used to describe actions taken by someone to gain unauthorized access to a computer. The availability of information online on the tools, techniques, and malware makes it easier for even non-technical people to undertake malicious activities.

 

  • They find weaknesses (or pre-existing bugs) in our security settings and exploit them in order to access our information.
  • Install a Trojan horse, providing a back door for hackers to enter and search for our information.

 

 

 

 

Malware

 

Malicious software that infects our computer, such as computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, and adware.

 

 

  • Intimidate with ‘scareware‘, which is usually a pop-up message that tells us our computer has a security problem or other false information.
  • Reformat the hard drive of our computer causing us to lose all our information.
  • Alter or delete files on hard drive.
  • Steal private information.
  • Send emails on our behalf.

Take control of our computer and the softwares running on it.

 

Pharming

 

A means to point us to a malicious and illegitimate website by redirecting the legitimate URL. Even if the URL is entered correctly, it can still be redirected to a fake website. Copies the original site down to it’s smallest details to get us to enter our personal details.

 

Phishing

 

Fake emails, text messages and websites created to look like they’re from authentic companies. They’re sent by criminals to steal personal and financial information from us. This is also known as “spoofing”.

 

 

  • Trick us into giving them information by asking us to update, validate or confirm our account. It is often presented in a manner than seems official and intimidating, to encourage us to take action.
  • Provides cyber criminals with our usernames and passwords so that they can access our online bank account, shopping accounts, etc. and steal our credit card information.

 

 

 

Ransomware

 

Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to our computer or our files and displays a message that demands payment in order for the restriction to be removed. The two most common means of infection are via phishing emails that contain malicious attachments and website pop-up advertisements.

 

Two types of ransomware;

 

  • Lockscreen: displays an image that prevents us from accessing our computer.
  • Encryption ransomware: encrypts files on our system’s hard drive and sometimes on shared network drives, USB drives, external hard drives, and even some cloud storage drives, preventing us from opening them

 

 

Sometimes the notification states that authorities have detected illegal activity on our computer, and that the payment is a fine to avoid prosecution.

 

Paying doesn’t help.

Regularly back-up data with a removable external storage drive.

 

 

 

Spam

 

Mass distribution of unsolicited messages, advertising or pornography to addresses which can be easily found on the Internet through things like social networking sites, company websites and personal blogs.

 

Phish for your information by tricking you into following links or entering details with too-good-to-be-true offers and promotions.

Provide a vehicle for malware, scams, fraud and threats to your privacy.

 

 

Spoofing

 

Often used with phishing in an attempt to steal information.

 

A website or email address that is created to look like it comes from a legitimate source. An email address may even include our name, or the name of someone we know, making it difficult to discern whether the sender is real or not.

 

  • Spends spam using our email address, or a variation of our email address, to our contact list.
  • Recreates websites that closely resemble the authentic site. This could be a financial institution or other site that requires login or other personal information.

 

 

 

Spyware

 

Software that collects personal information about us without us knowing. They are usually a ‘free’ download and are installed automatically with or without your consent. They are difficult to remove and can infect a computer with viruses.

 

  • It collects information about us without us knowing about it and give it to third parties.
  • Send our usernames, passwords, surfing habits, list of applications we’ve downloaded, settings, and even the version of our operating system to third parties.
  • Change the way our computer runs without our knowledge.
  • Take us to unwanted sites or force uncontrollable pop-up ads on our screen.

 

 

Trojan Horses

 

A program that is disguised as, or embedded within, legitimate software. It is an executable (.exe) file that will install itself and run automatically once it’s downloaded.

 

 

  • Delete our files.
  • Use our computer to hack other computers.
  • Watch us through our web cam (even without turning on the light on the cam).
  • Log our keystrokes (such as a credit card numbers, passwords, etc.).
  • Record usernames, passwords and other personal information.
  • Uploading or downloading of files
  • Viewing the screen of the user
  • Wasting of computer storage and memory resources
  • Causing the computer to crash

 

 

 

Viruses

 

Computer programs that are often sent as an email attachment or a download with the intent of infecting our computer, as well as the computers of everyone in our contact list. Just visiting an insecure site can start an automatic download of a virus.

 

 

  • Send spam.
  • Provide criminals with access to our computer and contact lists.
  • Scan and find personal information like passwords on our computer.
  • Hijack our web browser.
  • Disable our security settings and antivirus programs.
  • Display unwanted ads.

 

 

When a program is running, the virus attached to it could infiltrate our hard drive and also spread to USB keys and external hard drives. Any attachment we create using this program and send to someone else could also infect them with the virus.

 

Things to check for:

  • It takes longer than usual for the computer to start up, it restarts on its own or doesn’t start up at all.
  • It takes a long time to launch a program.
  • Files and data have disappeared.
  • System and programs crash constantly.
  • The homepage set on the web browser is different (note that this could be caused by Adware that has been installed on the computer).
  • Web pages are slow to load.
  • Computer screen looks distorted.
  • Programs are running without our control.

 

 

Wi-Fi Eavesdropping

 

Virtual “listening in” on information that’s shared over an unsecure (not encrypted) WiFi network.

 

 

 

Worms

 

A worm, unlike a virus, goes to work on its own without attaching itself to files or programs. It lives in our computer memory, doesn’t damage or alter the hard drive and propagates by sending itself to other computers in a network – whether within a company or the Internet itself.

 

 

  • Spread to everyone in our contact list.
  • Cause a tremendous amount of damage by shutting down parts of the Internet, wreaking havoc on an internal network and costing companies enormous amounts of lost revenue.

 

 

Different Network Threats

 

The majority of security professionals group the various threats to network security in one of two significant categories. They are logic attacks or resource attacks.

 

 

Logic attacks

…are famed for taking advantage of already extant vulnerabilities and bugs in programs with the stated intention of causing a system to crash. There are cyber criminals who exploit this attack with the intention of willfully gaining illegal access to the system, or alternatively of downgrading the performance of a given network.

 

 

Resource Attacks

…are primarily meant to overwhelm important system resources, like RAM and CPU resources. This is principally accomplished via dispatching numerous forged requests or IP packets to the network in question.

 

 

Keylogger

 

Keeps a record of every keystroke you made on your keyboard. Keylogger is a very powerful threat to steal people’s login credential such as username and password. It is also usually a sub-function of a powerful Trojan (see above).

 

 

Adware

 

Form of threat where our computer will start popping out a lot of advertisement. It can be from non-adult materials to adult materials because any ads will make the host some money. It is not really harmful threat but can be pretty annoying.

 

 

 

Backdoor

 

It’s not really a Malware, but it is a form of method where once a system is vulnerable to this method, attacker will be able to bypass all the regular authentication service. It is usually installed before any virus or Trojan infection because having a backdoor installed will ease the transfer effort of those threats.

 

 

 

Wabbits

 

It’s a self-replicating threat but it does not work like a Virus or Worms. It does not harm our system like a Virus and it does not replicate via our LAN network like a Worm. An example of Wabbit’s attack is the fork bomb, a form of DDoS attack.

 

 

Exploit

 

Exploit is a form of software which is programmed specifically to attack certain vulnerability. If our web browser is vulnerable to some out-dated vulnerable flash plugin, an exploit will work only on our web browser and plugin. The way to avoid hitting into exploit is to always patch our programs with software patches, they’re made to fix vulnerabilities.

 

 

 

Dialer

 

This threat is more existent where we still access the internet using a dial-up modem. What it does is it will make use of our internet modem to dial international numbers which are pretty costly. Today, this type of threat is more existent on Android phones because it can make use of the phone call to send SMS to premium numbers.

 

 

 

Dropper

 

Looking at the name, a Dropper is designed to drop into a computer and install something useful to the attacker such as Malware or Backdoor. There are two types of Dropper where one is to immediately drop and install to avoid Antivirus detection. Another type of Dropper is it will only drop a small file where this small file will auto trigger a download process to download the Malware.

 

 

 

Fake AV

 

Fake Antivirus threat is a very popular threat among Mac users. Due to the reason that Mac users seldom face a virus infection, scaring them with message which tells them that their computer is infected with virus is pretty useful where it results them into purchasing a bogus antivirus which does nothing.

 

 

 

Cookies

 

Cookies is not really a Malware. It is just something used by most websites to store something into our computer. It is here because it has the ability to store things into our computer and track our activities within the site. We can choose to reject using cookies for some of the sites which we do not know.

 

 

 

Bluesnarfing

 

Bluesnarfing  is all about having an unauthorized access to a specific mobile phones, laptop, or PDA via Bluetooth connection. By having such unauthorized access, personal stuff such as photos, calender, contacts and SMS will all be revealed and probably even stolen.

 

 

 

Bluejacking

 

Bluejacking is also uses the Bluetooth technology but it is not as serious as Bluesnarfing. What it does is it will connect to our Bluetooth device and send some message to another Bluetooth device. It is not as damaging to our privacy or device and system compared to Bluesnarfing.

 

 

 

 

 

Boot Sector Virus

 

It is a virus that places its own codes into computer DOS boot sector or also known as the Master Boot Record. It will only start if there it is injected during the boot up period where the damage is high but difficult to infect. All the victim need to do if they realize there is a boot sector virus is to remove all the bootable drive so that this particular virus will not be able to boot.

 

 

Browser Hijackers

 

A browser hijacker uses the Trojan Malware to take control of the victim’s web browsing session. It is extremely dangerous especially when the victim is trying to send some money via online banking because that is the best time for the hijacker to alter the destination of the bank account and even amount.

 

 

 

Mousetrapping

 

It traps our web browser to a particular website. If we try to go to another website, it will automatically redirect us back. If we try clicking forward/backward navigation buttons, it will still redirect back to it. If we close our browser and re-open it, it will set the homepage to that website and we can’t get out of this threat unless we remove it.

 

 

SQL Injection

 

SQL injection does not infect the end users directly. It is more towards infecting a website which is vulnerable to this attack. What it does is it will gain unauthorized access to the database and the attacker can retrieve all the valuable information stored in the site database.

 

There are sub-threats of these main threats. Different variations of these threats exist as well. There are over 500,000 different kinds of threats on the internet (estimated).

 

Here is a security threat list site for some interesting articles – https://securelist.com/

 

That’s the end of part 1 – Part 2 Covers some additional online safety measures for social media.

Recollection Drill

Another fb post turned blog post…*sigh* It’s becoming a habit now..

So, do this if you want to know whether you will recall every part of your training in a stressful situation. Give yourself or ask someone else to give you a random series of numbers, single, double, triple digits, for example 4-15-23-39-110-180. Then wait 15 minutes or so and focus on doing something else, it doesn’t matter what, anything that gets your mind off this, that will simulate you going about your day after training. Then do a high intensity workout, this will simulate your tiredness after a work day. Focus on the workout only, nothing else. Do it for at least 30-45 minutes. Then towards the end of the workout and after it, try and recall the sequence that was given to you, and then recall it in reverse. If you can do that flawlessly, meaning you don’t write it down or constantly think about it and stress on it and still be able to recall them within 10-15 seconds, chances are good that you’ll be able to recall a lot of information accurately in very less time during a stressed situation. If you don’t, which most can’t, you should try making your training more principle based rather than technique based. Because there is no way you can ever recall every technique you learned for every different situation within the time frame that will be provided in an actual stress based situation. I used to do that all the time and still do it sometimes, it’s useful in improving memory as well btw.

Update- Just to be clear, I’m aware that physical recollection memory differs from  pattern recognition memory. My point with this is to show that the more data you have to recall, the longer it takes and the efficiency of memory recollection drops, as in, the data recalled is either inaccurate or incomplete. It is much quicker for the brain to recall a generalization than a specific bit of information.

 

Try it! Find out how well your memory recollection works in a stressful situation 🙂