Neal Walters conducts policy research and analysis on issues that affect the financial security of older persons. He has written a variety of reports on matters relating to financial information privacy, identity theft, affordable home utilities, prepaid cards, credit reporting and the subprime mortgage market.

A New Tool to Protect Your Privacy

In today’s digitally connected world, I worry about the lack of control I have over the privacy of my personal information. And I’m not alone. A Pew survey found 91 percent of adults strongly agree that consumers have lost control of how companies collect and use their personal information. With so many consumers feeling helpless, we could use a privacy victory. As luck would have it, a victory did come recently. New Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules give consumers using …

Why You Should Know About ‘Ransomware’

I stood at the locked door of my family’s favorite neighborhood restaurant and peered in the window. How could it not be open on a Friday evening, I wondered. Then I saw the sign in the window, which explained it: The restaurant would remain closed all week because their computer system had fallen victim to a “ransomware” attack. Like many people, my daughters had never heard the term “ransomware” and had no idea what it meant. Unfortunately, for computer security …

Could Someone Hack Your Car?

My parents taught me to drive safely. Back then that meant wearing my seat belt, paying attention to the road and obeying the posted speed limits. Today things are different. Staying safe while driving also includes protecting your car against hackers. It was headline news last year when a pair of security researchers “playing bad guys” successfully used the Internet to disable a car as it traveled on the highway. The ensuing media coverage proved alarming enough to result in …

Can You Hear Me Now?

Internet-connected devices are rapidly becoming commonplace in our daily lives. Smartphones, tablets, televisions, thermostats, cars, video games and even children’s toys now connect to the Internet. Many connected devices contain embedded microphones and cameras that can collect, send and share audio and video data. This creates concerns about the types of information these devices might be collecting and sharing. What’s more, many of them are “always on” — listening and watching day and night, allowing devices to respond to voice …

Making the Smart Home a Secure Home

After years of waiting, the “smart home” is finally becoming a reality for many consumers. The idea behind the smart home is to help automate routine tasks and make homes more efficient. New products promising to make the lives of consumers better are hitting the shelves daily. Appliances, toothbrushes, lighting, security systems, and heating/cooling equipment controllable by smartphones or computers are now available. One recent study projects the smart home market worldwide will grow from between 100 million and 200 …

The Promise and Pitfalls of Wearable Technology

It’s been almost impossible to avoid the constant stream of media reports discussing the pending release of the Apple Watch. While pundits delve into details about technical specifications and pricing of the watch, it’s easy to overlook the growing trend toward wearable technology (wearables) and the role this technology may play in the lives of those using it. Some will view these devices as expensive gadgets for tech lovers. Others believe this technology can offer important benefits to consumers, particularly …