Archive for June 21st, 2012

Spotflux Guards Your Privacy for Free

A new startup’s free app anonymizes and encrypts your connection, and scans for malware, while you browse.

By Alex Wawro, PCWorld

Keeping your data private while you’re browsing the Web can be time-consuming if you want to stop malware, IP-address snoopers, and malicious ads. Spotflux, a New York startup, is aiming to change that with a no-cost, easy-to-use program that encrypts your Internet connection, anonymizes your IP address, and reduces your risk of infection while you surf. Did I mention that it’s free?

Spotflux Guards Your Online Privacy for FreeSpotflux works sort of like a faster, simpler version of the Tor Network, though it’s not nearly as stringent about ensuring your anonymity. You download the application for Windows or Mac OS X from the Spotflux website (iOS and Android apps are in development), and run it. Installation is easy, and you can set the app to access a proxy server for added safety (or to ensure that you can reach region-restricted sites after your IP address becomes anonymous). When you access the Net while the app is running, all data moving into or out of your PC shuttles through Spotflux servers by way of a 128-bit SSL encrypted connection; software on the servers scans the data for malware (including malicious ads), and eliminates it.

This requires a certain level of trust, since the Spotflux servers are privy to everything you do. The payoff is the assurance that your activities are anonymized and protected. While Spotflux is cagey about what it looks for when filtering traffic (lest the bad guys learn how to circumvent the filters), we do know that it regularly updates its servers to scan for widespread malware such as DNSChanger. “We scour the Web for major offenders, and listen to the users on Facebook and Twitter to find and eliminate major sources of malware,” claims Chris Naegelin, who cofounded Spotflux in Brooklyn, New York, along with Dean Mekkawy. And since Spotflux’s staff operates the Spotflux servers, the service can reasonably promise that no­­body outside the company can use it to snoop on you.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Since your traffic goes through the Spotflux servers twice (first when your browser sends a request, and again when a site responds), you will see a slight performance hit. I ran speed tests, and my download speed consistently degraded by roughly 20 percent while the app was running. The upside: I never saw an irritating ad during several days of browsing, and my antivirus scans came up clean despite my rampant downloading. Plus, according to AT&T, my bandwidth usage was lower than ever during my weekend with Spotflux, which may be an unintended but wonderful consequence of filtering out unwanted ads.

Spotflux is still a relatively new privacy service, so it’s tough to anticipate how the company might respond to government or law enforcement requests for user data (see its stringent privacy policy for more information), but you should try Spotflux if you want a simple tool that increases your online privacy. Once you’re ready for more-comprehensive privacy-protection methods, check out our updated security guides.


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The Fashion Whip: Paging Michelle Obama Favorite, Isabel Toledo
Fashion Whip is a political style column in The Huffington Post by fashion stylist Lauren A. Rothman and HuffPost DC reporter Christina Wilkie inspired by Lauren’s experience at Styleauteur, the firm she founded. Follow on Twitter at @Styleauteur.
Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-wilkie/michelle-obama-favorite-i_b_1609074.html?utm_hp_ref=style

Web: http://www.styleauteur.com
Twitter: twitter.com/styleauteur
Facebook: facebook.com/styleauteur
TV Clips: styleauteur.com/press/?tubepress_page

WASHINGTON — It’s a tough time to be a political optimist. On TV, the anemic presidential race shifts into second gear, fueled by unlimited corporate cash. In Congress, the perpetual deadlock seems poised to continue indefinitely.

These days, fashion here is equally serious. First Lady Michelle Obama traded in her usual jewel tones and luscious prints last week in favor of a simple one-shouldered black dress at a formal White House Dinner. The next night in New York City, the typically bold first lady again went with a stern color, choosing a navy blue cocktail dress with a high neckline and matching cardigan for a fundraiser hosted by stylish “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The ensembles were a far cry from the lemongrass inauguration dress and coat that Obama wore on her first day in the White House in 2009, three-and-a-half long years ago.

The somber state of affairs has even made an impression upon the designer of Obama’s now-iconic inauguration dress and coat, Cuban-born Isabel Toledo. “We need an injection of optimism,” Toledo told Fashion Whip in a recent interview. “I loved that color because it was organic and you could almost taste it and smell it. For me, it really represented so much of the optimism of that day and this couple.”

As for what Toledo hoped the newly minted first lady would feel in Toledo’s design, she said, “I wanted her to feel charming, and I wanted her to charm America.”

Not surprisingly, Toledo’s career took a different course after January 20, 2009. “I went from being a best-kept secret to being a household name,” she said. Soon after, Toledo formed partnerships with Target and Payless shoes, which both released Toledo-designed collections. She also penned a memoir, “Roots of Style,” out this month. Her husband, famed fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo, did the illustrations, which appear every couple of pages.

Despite achieving worldwide name recognition overnight, Toledo said her daily life hasn’t changed much since 2009. “I love the process, I love the fabric and the stitching and the design — every step. Clothing for me is very much about the process.” It’s also a highly collaborative project for Toledo’s staff of seamstresses and pattern cutters, a group she said resembles “the United Nations,” but who all work together in her 28th Street studio in Manhattan. There, on the wall behind each seamstress’s chair, hangs a photo of Michelle Obama wearing that particular craftswoman’s creation. “Mrs. Obama wore our clothes for years before she moved to Washington,” Toledo explained “and it’s a great source of pride for us that she still does.”

Toledo’s love for the process of creating clothes, combined with her emphasis on making her entire team feel invested in that process, goes a long way towards explaining her unflappable optimism.

But it might also offer a clue into the malaise currently floating over Washington. Running for national office, unlike designing dresses, is a brutal process. No one in his or her right mind could love it, and most of Washington can’t wait for this cycle to be over.


What the city needs now is a strong dose of Toledo’s lemongrass-green optimism. Unfortunately, neither bipartisan collaboration, nor a more loveable electoral process, are likely to manifest this year.

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