Cybersecurity & Anonymity: What They Have To Do With You?

Cybersecurity & Anonymity: What They Have To Do With You?

Sometimes being a Tech worker I tend to do and know many things, that I consider very normal and obvious, but many people around don’t. Our parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties and more may not understand simple security routines and the need for anonymity.

I didn’t realize that not only older generations underestimate the power of online info, but also newer generations. Sharing my thoughts with a friend around my age we got into a point where she was skeptical about the need to encrypt e-mails, use a safe search motor, use an anonymous browser and so on. This friend is quite techy herself, gaming, using 3D dev tools, however, she didn’t see the need for such things.

What I’ve been hearing most from people when talking about cybersecurity and anonymity is: “I have nothing to hide”. This is especially true when speaking about apps and software that track location, collect basic info, or ask for certain weird permissions before being installed. Also, talking about Google and how it makes a lot of profit from selling personalized adds based on personal e-mails and browser. Many of them tend to brush it off.

So why should we be concerned about this? Do we really have nothing to hide?

Recently The New York Times published an article about the tracking of American cellphones and its locations. For many users that was the first time that they really got face to face with the modern surveillance problem. A lot of people were shocked, but some already had an idea of how our data is being commercialized.

The data collected was sold to the journalists as “anonymous” data usually used to marketing and advertisement. A few days was all that it took for them to cross the dots and identify some of the people on the map. Exposing people’s daily life, legal and illegal activities, friends, habits and much more.

This is just a sample, imagine the places where women have no right to be at certain places at a certain hour? Or journalists fighting against barbaric regimes? Or even LGBTQIA+ people in countries that aren’t accommodative of them?

We take many things for granted due to being in a free country, where our rights are preserved. But have you stopped to think: what if the situation takes a twist?

That’s why we should support projects that allow us to be anonymous if we wish to do so. I’m not saying that you should frantically change Chrome for TorBrowser, and Google for DuckDuck Go. However, it’s important to understand that these tools have a good reason for existing and maybe, just maybe, we should think better about all those apps asking for location, info, pictures, friends and phone numbers.

How much is it worth to have privileges with certain apps integrated services against having the risk of having your browser historic, e-mails, location and etc. sold to someone?

There’s a need to raise this topic and ask questions, to promote awareness among people. A lot of users are feeding Big Databases every day, offering metadata all the time, and they don’t even know.

Do you still think that cybersecurity and anonymity have nothing to do with you?

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Mailvelope – How To Keep Your E-mails Safe

Mailvelope – How To Keep Your E-mails Safe

Last week, a trend on twitter about a woman that had her phone robed and consequently lost money due to bank accounts being connected to it, made me rethink my security model. It made me realize how careless most users are with sensitive information. Everyone walks around with smartphones, carrying data that a few years ago would’ve been in a safe at home.

My mentor brought up encrypting our e-mails. At first, I was a bit skeptical about the need for this, after all, I was never a person to send sensitive information through e-mail. However, how weirded out would I feel having someone reading my private conversations?

It’s disturbing to think that anyone could intercept our internet packages and read our deepest secrets. I admit that I’m one of those people that truly uses e-mail, almost like any other push notification messenger. If there was someone tracking my average time to reply it would be less than 30 minutes almost always.

People tend to dismiss online security (as a lot of other online things) because they can’t really idealize the damage. But how would you feel if your neighbor intercepted all your mail and letters, read them, and you didn’t even know the motivation behind this? Feels bad, right?

That’s why it’s time to begin taking online security seriously. Encrypting your e-mails doesn’t need to be the hardest tech task of this week.

I was able to discover Mailvelope through my Outreachy Mentor. It’s the best match for me, works wonders with my gmail account and I understood all the functionalities in less than a week.

It’s Open-Source, secure, easy to deal with, can be integrated to your gmail, outlook and much more. Also, work as an extension on your browser. Having a girly moment here, but the visuals are super cute, I’m having a great time with this encrypter.

Let’s take digital security seriously and avoid situations like that. Having a phone robbed is a terrible experience, but waking up the next day to know that every penny that you saved got stolen is heartbreaking. Stay safe!

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The Myth of the Perfect Professional

The Myth of the Perfect Professional

Very often I meet friends, colleagues, workmates, internet acquaintances and also some not so acquainted beginning careers as myself. Something that came into light recently is how many of us struggle with the professional image that we idealize for ourselves.

Legend says that by 20 we all should know what to do, what we want to achieve. Around 30 there’s this pressure not only to know what we want but how to achieve it. The myth of the perfect professional has been bringing a lot of impostor syndrome to all of us.

It’s so easy to log in Linkedin and scroll through a feed where all our friends have great achievements and seem to be thriving perfectly in their careers. The Selective Success has spread from Instagram and Facebook to haunt professional beings.

Despite all that we see, it’s important to understand that this is just the pretty side of the embroidery. Turn it back and you will see the mess. Getting our professional life together is hard and not every day is productive. Working with a mentor, as I am right now, can be challenging for some people as they tend to think that they are the only ones struggling.

Being an Outreachy Intern made me realize how important it is to share our struggles. During our first meeting between alumni and new interns, we talked about our first week tackling our respective tasks. People mostly said that they were doing fine, but eventually, everyone opened up and exposed their feelings.

Some of us aren’t having any technical problems with our tasks, but realizing that it’s a bit overwhelming with all the new environment is important to show to others that it’s completely ok to be struggling.

We must take this to our professional journey, we need to accept that struggles will come and that’s alright to suffer with them.
I must admit that although I considered myself a very private person that worried about online security I had to Adapt. After having more contact with the Tor community there were tools and methods to be learned and used that I wasn’t expecting. Encrypting my e-mails was never something that I’ve considered doing, but it was necessary.

I struggled to try to understand the hundreds of different options to PGP encryption and trying to make something work out with my e-mail server. I felt like a tech noobie asking questions to my mentor and everyone in the community. Questions that now, two weeks later, I can see how shallow and easy they were.

Asking for help is necessary, it’s a process that may help us grow even though it may be embarrassing sometimes. With my mentor’s help, I was able to set a nice add-on on my e-mail to encrypt everything. It was something that I had tried to do for one entire week before giving up and asking for help.

So don’t let impostor syndrome crawl into your skin simply because you struggled about something. Asking for help and sharing problems don’t diminish your expertise and worth as a professional. If anything, it makes you a better person!

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Jitsi Meet: Open-Source Software to Your Team Meetings

Jitsi Meet: Open-Source Software to Your Team Meetings

Lately, I’ve been even more immersed in FOSS communities and discovering great things. Every day is just constant learning! Making part of a diverse and international team opened my eyes to struggles that a local team wouldn’t face.

Communication is essential within any workplace, but how can we achieve this with international teams and in a freeway?

One of the solutions that I came to know recently is the Jitsi Meet. It’s a multi-platform Open-Source software to video and call conferences. The great difference is that there’s no need to register or download heavy executables. You can do it all directly from your browser. There’s the possibility to create a conference room with a permanent URL, this room may have a password, but it’s simply as sharing the link and password to the rest of the team and everyone can access it.

The cherry on the cake is how well it works on the mobile version. Anyone can be connected all the time, even through a smartphone. This software is full of nice details and good surprises, another feature is the vote function. Whenever voting is called people can simple ‘raise’ their virtual hands and by the end, the counting is made and results presented.

Asides from all of this, Jitsi works very well even with older machines and slow connection. The voice is clear and the video is alright. Nowadays another product like this would be Zoom, however, paid. In Zoom there’s a free trial of 30 minutes per session and then it’s disconnected.

But hey, why use some private solution when you can support a FOSS community and get excellent software that fits your team budget?

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Why did I choose The Tor Project?

Why did I choose The Tor Project?

When deciding which FOSS communities I would enroll I came across some very well known communities like Mozilla, Wikimedia, The Tor Project, Debian, and the list goes on. All of them with amazing opportunities. I took my time getting to know them as much as I could and also seeing which projects would keep me interested. When I finally told some of my friends that I had been selected by The Tor project some of them asked me why I had chosen Tor.

First of all I selected Tor based on their values and what they mean to a lot of people around the world. People that otherwise would not be able to access the internet or do it freely. I wasn’t an expect in security and that’s the best part, nobody there judged me for this. After all I could feel safe and alright in an community like Wikmedia being a tech writer. However, getting within Tor is a new experience, something that is pushing me out of my comfort zone. And it’s all good and knowledge.

The people I met there so far are nice and understanding. They provided me material and links to know more about privacy issues and how Tor has been helping minorities and people that otherwise could have problems for advocating for their right, being non binary, assuming their sexuality and much more.

We don’t really think about how deep our lives are exposed out there, how corporations have been making billions on our information and metadata. We don’t think about all the people out there that were defending a cause and got arrested after posting something on internet.

Choosing Tor opened my eyes to something big that has been occurring right under our noses, but we just don’t care. It is never taken seriously until it’s someone that you know that got arrested for nothing, locked up because of a retroactive “crime”. All of this has been happening daily and it is possible because of our data out there.

The Tor Project is my way to learn more about the privacy issues that we have and also to work for this community in order to help more people and bring awareness to others that don’t know about the topic. Above all I have this deep feeling that my values are in sync with Tor’s mission and that’s the most important. We have to work for something that we believe, so we can work with passion.

I’ve been deeply in love with the idea of helping people to protect themselves and helping to maintain a free internet where repressed people can be themselves!

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My Outreachy Application

My Outreachy Application

My decision to apply to Outreachy was one that made me anxious. I was afraid of not being good enough. In my head, such a large program like that would never give a chance to a Brazilian girl.

After I submitted my first application around September 2019 I had weeks of silence and anxiety. The first submission was relatively easy, all that I had to do was answer the 4 questions asked:

  • Does your learning environment have few people who share your identity or background?
  • What systemic bias or discrimination have you faced while building your skills?
  • What systemic bias or discrimination would you face if you applied for a job in the technology industry of your country?
  • What barriers or concerns have kept you from contributing to free and open-source software?

Being a woman working my way through the I.T. market I had a good and extensive answer to all of them. The great part is that nobody had asked me such questions. It felt good to let out what I have been keeping inside while I fight my way inside the technology. They don’t judge you, they want to get to know you, your struggles and experiences. It’s important to write a cohesive text, where you explain how you feel about the asked questions.

After submitting I had no idea if I would be a great match for the program, but on October 1st I got my answer: Accepted to start phase 2 and contribute to FOSS communities. The dream didn’t come true yet, but I was eager to work for it.

As an applicant, I got to choose 3 different communities, each of them had at least one issue that required help from the Outreachy applicant. This part may be a bit overwhelming and I must admit that I felt somewhat lost. It’s important to understand at which kind of community you would like to make part of. Besides learning the values of a community you also need to evaluate if your skills are up to the task that they need help with.

I must be honest, programming was never my cup of tea through all college, and Outreachy made me smile with all the job diversity. I got to apply to communities that needed help with documentation, organization skills and much more.

Certainly some people committed themselves to the limit of 3 communities, however, I didn’t. Believe it or not, I aimed at The Tor Project to work on the task “Improving Tor’s image on the media” and went for this.

I don’t recommend what I did and Outreachy either. Right now, looking back, I can see how important it is to experience all the environment possible and engage yourself in different communities to have a feeling of them and truly make a good choice to where you want to be an intern. That being said we can go back to my experience! 😛

I contacted the mentor responsible for the task, and my anxiety was going through the roof. I understood that mentors can take a few days to reply and if you’re someone considering Outreachy then it’s important to keep in mind. After a few e-mails, I got all settled down with the community and began working on my task.

I was able to complete it within 2 weeks, after this I tried to integrate into other communities, but I knew that I was 2 weeks later and probably other people were already doing their jobs there. Although my chances were lower I had made a great contribution to Tor and that’s the only contribution that I recorded. After completing my task I took time to understand more of the Tor community, the values behind the organization, and even study more about the privacy issue.

My mentor was very supportive and even sent me a reminder to record my final contribution. Then on November 26th the list of interns approved was released and I couldn’t be happier, my name was there.

This moment made the whole process worth it!

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Why Flip Burgers When You Can Flip Bytes?

Why Flip Burgers When You Can Flip Bytes?

That’s the phrase that got my attention while I was looking for talks and workshops at a tech event. I must admit that sometimes technology related events can be overwhelming, especially when there are many talks and things happening at the same time. So deciding what to follow is essential to me. I decided to attend this talk that afternoon and there I met Anna, an Outreachy Alumni.

That’s the phrase that got my attention while I was looking for talks and workshops at a tech event. I must admit that sometimes technology-related events can be overwhelming, especially when there are many talks and things happening at the same time. So deciding what to follow is essential to me. I decided to attend this talk that afternoon and there I met Anna, an Outreachy Alumni.

I’ve been into technology conferences and events for six years now, attending mostly Brazilian events, however, Outreachy was a new term in my dictionary. The talk was super enlightening and I got to know many international internship programs, also learned the ones that I could partake and how to engage myself with them.

So why Outreachy? The first thing that caught my eyes was the mission behind Outreachy: inclusion and acceptance. Finding such a big program that doesn’t look down on you because you’re part of a minority in the tech field is such a blessing. Being able to be yourself and yet know that people are willing to help you through your career is amazing and heartwarming.

I was kind of skeptical after the talk and went to have a chat with speaker myself. She was fantastic, very supportive and gave me the confidence that I needed to submit my application to the 2019-2020 round. Which I did that same afternoon.

Having the opportunity to contribute to FOSS communities and get experience with an international engaged team is certainly a great reason to enroll, understand how FOSS communities work, have the chance to take part in various tech and humanitarian projects… All of this is more than enough to make you down for this amazing internship. However, as the title says, it’s a chance to do it all and through it get a real paid internship.

As a professional that dreams about getting a remote full-time job, I was daydreaming about this opportunity! So let me tell you:

  • Are you from a minority?
  • Are you available for a full-time, 40 hours a week?
  • Do you like technology / have some little experience?

If the answers are “yes” then please give it a thought. This opportunity is going to change your life!

This is the beginning of my adventure with Outreachy and you can read it all here. I’ll be writing about my internship with The Tor Project and all my experience within these 3 months. If you are interested and/or have any doubts let me know! 🙂

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