Top Ten: Steps that will enhance your cybersecurity

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

The internet has changed our lives in many positive ways but at the cost of our privacy. We are all at risk from criminals, companies and security agencies. A regular digital review should limit your exposure.

  1. Hardware –  Encrypt all your computer and phone/tablet hard drives and make sure you have a secure way of logging in.   Set your devices to auto-lock and never leave them unattended while they are connected.  If you have sensitive data on USB drives or portable hard drives, you should also encrypt and protect them.
  2. Passwords  – Use complex passwords, all different and administer them with a password manager like Dashlane or LastPass. (Don’t be mean and  pay for a good one ).  Where you can always enable two-factor authentication.
  3. Security  – Don’t use your Mother’s maiden name as the answer to that question. Change your date of birth and don’t answer any of those “your first” questions with anything real.  Most of these answers are matters of public record, so provide no security at all.
  4. Browser choice – Turn off all the browser spyware on your mobile and computer, better still use FireFox Quantum or Brave.  Also, turn off as much of the battery draining and security compromising background apps on your phone.
  5. Email  –  Never send any personal information in the clear to anyone, add encryption to your email system or use something like Proton Mail.
  6. Surveillance  – Use a credit agency (although the Experian hack dumped customer’s credentials on to the dark web). Moreover, sign up to the site highlights email addresses that have been compromised.
  7. Free wifi – Don’t expect any free wifi available in a café or public space to be safe.  To secure your online session use a Virtual Private Network like Nord VPN
  8. Online financial institutions – Only communicate with your financial service provides using their messaging service and never delete a message.
  9. Online Payments – If possible, always use PayPal.  If not, use a specific card like Monzo for all debit/credit card transactions. Top it up to cover each purchase from your Current Account. It will limit your exposure to fraud and keeps your main current account card details offline.
  10. Clean up after yourself  – Use Kill Disk to rewrite your hard drives or better never throw one away and if you must throw them away wipe the data, then destroy the disc (hammer and screwdriver work well) and then chuck it.

We all have to take responsibility for this now, no one computer, system or phone can save you from poor digital hygiene.  So get with the programme and make it as hard a possible for people to exploit your personal, financial and business data.

Don’t recycle! Do this instead.

You recycle stuff, you gave up on the single use bags, you have your coffee in a mug that you take to your favorite hipster coffee shop.  And yet doing all of this stuff is not really helping.   And the reason is we are all thinking about this the wrong way round.

Try this instead:

  • So stop thinking about how you’re going to recycle all of the shit that manufacturers want you to take home.
  • When you shop think about the packaging you are being presented with, look for the product with the least packaging or the purest packaging (no mixed paper plastic composites)
  • Buy loose rather than in a bag.  And put them directly in your own bag, don’t use the flimsy clear plastic ones they hand out on a roll.
  • Don’t shop in places that only offer plastic bags, like M&S, even Primark manage to offer paper bags for goodness sake

Using these rules, there is a chance that you will reduce the flow of plastic through your home.  And those manufacturers that over-package will realise that they have to change.

If you want to be really radical about this recycling, take the packaging back to the store you bought it from. It worked in Germany in the 90’s when consumers did it on mass and the supermarkets had to change. Tell them I sent you!

YouTube Part 2

There are some more channels on YouTube:

What to watch on Youtube now v1.0

I’m a fan of YouTube.  Here are some of the shows I like:

  • Nerdwriter1 – The Nerdwriter is a weekly video essay series that puts ideas to work.
  • Vox – Vox helps you cut through the noise and understand what’s driving events in the headlines and in our lives, on everything from Taxes to Terrorism to Taylor Swift.
  • Max Joseph –  sometime filmmaker and part of Catfish .. just not the one you are thinking of.

More next week.

When work tells you, “we’re family here”.

Decoding the world of work is becoming more tricky by the day. Our colleagues at work get mixed up with our Facebook friends and become frolleagues. Our employer tells us that “we are like family here”. Perhaps in the back of your mind, there is a worrying thought that this is all about trying to make sure work is the most important thing that we do in our lives.

I like the way Reed Hastings of Netflix puts it.


Have this slide in the back of your mind when you hear the paternalistic siren call to family values. It isn’t at all what it seems or what it should be.





Are single-handed GP practices safe?

You may have felt a tremble in the force over earlier this month.   NHS England got its revenge or  perhaps better described as a “premptive cringe”, in early ahead of a BMA strike on the Director of Primary Care at NHS England Dr Arvind Madan.   I am no expert but the BMA (the Doctors Trade Union) is not keen on the closure of small GP practices,  I am sure they will comment below if they’re concerned about my lack of understanding here.

But here is some evidence, there’s not much of it, but it’s pretty clear; if you’re a patient stay away from small GP practices. 

Elaine Kelly and George Stoye published Does GP Practice Size Matter?
GP Practice Size and the Quality of Primary Care in Nov 2014. You can read it for yourself.

Here are a few bullets from the executive summary:

  • Single-handed practices have the lowest average (mean) QOF scores
  • For ACS admissions, there is some evidence that smaller practices perform
    worse, on average, than larger practices and are more likely to be among the worst performing.
  • Practices with three or fewer FTE GPs are less likely to refer their patients for secondary care than larger practices. Single-handed practices are also less likely than larger practices to refer patients for treatment by independent sector providers (ISPs)

So what should you do as a patient, well you can make your own mind up?  I look for the largest practice with the lots of doctors and nurses.

It’s a shame that NHS England felt it could not stand up for patients and those GPs that provide better care.  I’m sure their action is counter to the NHS Constitution Principles 3 and 6, but we don’t hear much of that these days.


What’s the point of Health and Wellbeing Boards?

You may have been following the changes to the NHS over the last few years. Or perhaps you are just a user of services, going to your General Practitioner and then to a local hospital. Either way, you should know that your local Council has been given some wide-ranging powers to provide local health and social care services. Who cares? It’s a reasonable response to all of the changes. But there are some things should concern you.

Look at these three data points about health services in England.

  • One in two hundred babies are stillborn in England
  • Young people can wait months to receive mental health services
  • In the UK young men die younger than in just about any other European Country.

in the light of these issues I want to look at what Local Health and Wellbeing Boards are discussing. Using a search engine of your choice, you will quickly find the papers of you local HWB on the internet. And that’s where it pretty much turns to rat shit. The jargon and impenetrable language are there in the first paragraph. Here is the explanation of what the HWB does in Brighton.

The purpose of the Board is to provide system leadership to the health and local authority functions relating to health & wellbeing in Brighton & Hove. It promotes the health and wellbeing of the people in its area through the development of improved and integrated health and social care services.

The HWB is responsible for the co-ordinated delivery of services across adult social care, public health, and health and wellbeing of children and young peoples’ services. This includes decision making in relation to those services within Adult Services, Children’s Services, Public Health and decisions relating to the joint commissioning of children’s and adult social care and health services (s75 agreements).

Are you any the wiser? Perhaps the focus on young people caught your eye.

Reading the Agenda and the Minutes of the meetings won’t help you. They are even more Delphic.

However, the most concerning element for any Public body are the meetings they held in camera. They regularly exclude the public from their discussions.

Members are often keen to show they have no conflict of interests, and it’s usually the first agenda item. But no one seems concerned that as mainly elected officials they are in conflict with their electorate for excluding them. You might also reasonably ask why there are so many doctors and so few nurses as members of your HWB. Perhaps too much interest all round.

So, if you have the time to attend an HWB meeting, go and listen to their arcane discussions, see if you understand what they are doing in your name.

The next meeting here in Brighton is in September. I will be there.