I learned something shocking recently. Most of us know that when we’re using a smartphone, electronic notebook, or laptop on a public Wi-fi system in, say, a coffee shop or airport, bad guys can tap into our computers and track our usage of passwords, among other things.
But it turns out we don’t have to be actively using public Wi-fi for those guys to invade our devices.
Shaun Murphy is the CEO of Private Giant, a company developing an app meant to protect on-line communications. He surprised me by telling me that even if I’m just walking around with my smartphone in my pocket, as long as my Wi-fi is turned on—and it usually is–I’m vulnerable to someone tracking me across the city, searching my device for passwords or sensitive information, or hijacking my email.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself, says Murphy. First, always sign out after checking your email. Get rid of stored passwords on your portable device and back up sensitive data. Most importantly and simply: Turn off your Wi-fi when you’re traveling, even in your hometown, unless you need to use it.
That’s the sure way to make sure your device is impregnable.
I’ll admit it upfront: I love Uber. I’ve used the car service in Minnesota, New York, LA, DC, San Francisco, and London. Taxi drivers around the world are enraged by this disruptive technology that lets you order a car on your smartphone and instantly shows you a photo of the driver, his or her name, a picture of the car, license plate number, and estimated time of arrival. You can even watch the progress of the car coming to you on the map on the phone.
But is Ubert safe?
The question came up last month when an Uber rider in New Delhi accused her driver of raping her.
If you Google “taxi driver rapes passenger,” you’ll find lots of stories, so this is hardly a situation unique to Uber. But in response, Uber announced it’s investigating using biometric tools to screen drivers. It may find a way to allow passengers to contact the company immediately. And it intends to subject more drivers to polygraph tests.
Uber is in hundreds of cities, and unlike taxi companies, it offers a variety of price points for different cars. Cities as far apart as Paris and Bangkok are wrestling with the legality of Uber, and taxi companies are trying to catch up.
They don’t call it a disruptive technology for nothing.
It’s a common complaint: While Europe and Asia sport high-speed trains linking major cities, the US is stuck in the 1950s, train-wise.
But Wayne Rogers of a private company called The Northeast Maglev is determined to push us into the age of magnetically levitating trains that float above a concrete guideway at a comfortable 300 miles per hour. (That’s the Shanghai train pictured.)
Rogers says he’ll begin seeking federal regulatory approval this year for a link between Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and DC. He’s already applied for permission from Maryland to build the first leg linking DC with Baltimore in 15 minutes.
The Northeast corridor makes the most sense for a high-speed train. The Acela now runs that route, but old tracks and freight trains prevent it from consistently cruising the route at its top speed of 150 miles per hour.
On my weekend show recently, Rogers said he’s certain a Maglev train will be a reality, and the Japanese government has pledged $5 billion in financing toward its construction.
I don’t know if I’ll see it in my lifetime, but fingers crossed.
The December crash into the Java Sea of that Air Asia flight flying from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore, illustrated the same problem investigators had with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. No one knew where it went the moment it went missing. One airline, however, is an exception.
If passenger planes installed equipment to let satellites track their paths across the sky, investigators would be able to find wreckage in oceans quickly. But that equipment is expensive—about $120,000 a plane. If Delta was to outfit all its aircraft with that technology, it would cost the airline $90 million.
So all airlines except one rely on cockpit recorders, technology from the 1950s and 1960s. The one exception is First Air, a Canadian airline that flies the wilds of Canada as far north as the Arctic Circle. Its 23 aircraft carry a six-pound box the size of a hotel safe. At the first moment that anything going wrong—a sudden loss of altitude, weird vibrations, or sharp turns—it begins broadcasting its location and other vital information to ground stations.
Investigators were fortunate to find the AirAsia wreckage (pictured) fairly quickly. But eventually larger airlines are going to have to catch up with First Air.
So are you winning or losing? How do you know if you’re making more miles under this program than the traditional one?
Delta provides a handy mileage comparison chart on its web site here.
I tried it out for a flight I have in a week when I will fly to Arizona for a speech. I booked my ticket, a relatively inexpensive round-trip between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Phoenix, about six weeks ago.
I entered my flight information into Delta’s mileage calculator, but I wasn’t too optimistic since I snared a cheap fare, $239. It turns out I didn’t take too bad a hit under the new rules.
According to the on-line calculator, I would have earned 2,000 miles under the 2014 program; I will earn 88 miles fewer miles with the new program.
One caveat: I have gold status on Delta, so I’m credited with eight miles for every dollar spent; flyers with no status receive five miles per dollar, silvers get seven. If you fly Delta, it’s worth checking out the on-line calculator.