Educational Opportunities in Retirement: No Retiree Left Behind

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Henry Ford – Industrialist

Retirement is a time of exploration and one very important element of this involves educational opportunities. What things would you like to know more about, but have not had the time to learn? For me, I would like to understand how the economy works, learn to speak Spanish, and further a lifelong interest in astronomy. Because of my work schedule, I have been unable to take advantage of the numerous courses offered as part of the local junior college system on these topics. However, in retirement, I will have the time to explore.

In this article, I will review several educational options for seniors. These are options that are low or no cost. One of the advantages of getting older is that you are more likely to seek educational opportunities because you want to learn about the topic, not to attain some sort of certification. If this describes you, then there is a world of possibilities that are open. Let’s take a look at some of the options.

STATE COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES

Most states have either formal policies or actual state statutes that allow residents over the age of 60, 62, or 65 (depending on the state) to attend colleges in the system free or at a substantially reduced cost. Most of these are on a space available basis and do not offer credit for completion of a course. But, if you just want to explore and learn, this could be perfect for you.

The states that have these no- or low-cost education policies for seniors are:

Two year colleges only: Alabama

Four year colleges only: California, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, South Dakota

Both two- and four-year colleges: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming

In some instances, there might be restrictions, but check with the specific state to determine the limitations. This can be a good option depending on the content you are after and whether you need the structure of a formal class.

ON-LINE EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES

Over the last couple of years, educational opportunities delivered on-line have blossomed. These run the gamut from formal classes delivered through streaming video lectures, multiple-video modules focused on general topics, or relatively short video clips focused on a narrow topic. Let’s explore a couple of these possibilities.

Coursera

Coursera is an example of a growing number of educational opportunities available on-line. I will use Coursera as the example, but you can Google On-Line Courses Free and find others as well. Several courses are offered for free although you have the opportunity for certification for a fee that varies from $30 – $90 per course. These courses run over the course of an academic semester and have periodic lectures and “out of class” assignments similar to what you would find in a regular classroom. The difference is that you are attending on-line, not in person.

The courses that are offered change over time, but are taught by renowned faculty members from top public and private universities. The content of these courses run the gamut across the sciences, math, humanities, and social sciences. They vary considerably in terms of the background you need to understand the information. However, generally they should be comprehensible by the reasonably educated person. Here are some examples of courses currently being offered and the universities that are producing them:

Find, Fix, and Prevent Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities (University of Maryland)

Climate Change in Four Dimensions (University of California)

Computer Networks (University of Washington)

Social & Economic Networks (Stanford University)

Write and Produce Your Own Music (Berklee College of Music)

Write Like Mozart: An Introduction to Classical Music Composition (National University of Singapore)

The Power of Macroeconomics: Economic Principles in the Real World (University of California)

Global Sustainable Energy (University of Florida)

This list is just a small sampling of courses that are offered. Go on-line to read detailed descriptions of the courses offered and the background you will need. After that, all you will need to do is to sign-up and view the on-line lectures as they are scheduled. The Coursera home page can be found at www.coursera.org.

The Khan Academy

This is a website that offers videos covering topics in math, science, economics & finance, and the humanities. This site originally was developed by Sal Khan to assist his niece in grade school. It has expanded substantially from that. Go on to the site and you will have access to video clips ranging from around 5 – 20 minutes each explaining a specific topic. Need a basic refresher on high school algebra – this is the place. Need to understand some basic economic concepts – Khan will provide what you need. These topics are explained in very simple detail. There are, of course, Khan Academy knock-offs. However, no one does it like Sal Khan. Google or Bing Khan Academy for the link the website.

YouTube

YouTube is a resource that I have just discovered recently. This website provides access to streaming videos that explain nearly any topic that you would like information on. Do you need a video on how to check the oil level in your car? There are several videos on YouTube for that. Need to understand how to set the clock on your VCR – this is the place? Need to know how to hook up your home sound system – well you get the idea. You can find videos on virtually any topic of interest. However, YouTube goes far beyond these simple topics. Many university professors as well as high school AP teachers’ video tape their lectures and put them on YouTube. Just search on the topic you are interested seeing and all of the available videos will be listed. Click on those of interest and they will stream on your browser. The offerings vary in quality, but I have generally found what I was looking for and gotten the content I needed.

You can spend hours searching this site and viewing videos. It’s both entertaining and educational. The YouTube home page can be found at www.youtube.com

Here’s an idea. If you find a course on Coursera that you want that requires a background you don’t have, go to YouTube or the Khan Academy and view videos to get you up to speed on those required background topics. After that, go back to Coursera and sign-up.

In the world of your youth, if you wanted to learn about something your options were to read a book or attend a class. Sometimes these were at considerable expense and might not be readily available. In the new world, the educational options are nearly endless, free or low-cost, and available 24/7. All you need is the time to learn and explore. Welcome to retirement.

How to Make Your Internet Explorer Browser Secure

If you are using Internet Explorer, you can reduce the amount of vulnerabilities that it goes through when you are online. I have designed a comprehensive Internet Explorer support guide for you. It will walk you through the procedure step-by-step and educate you what how each setting helps secure your browser.

Procedure:

Open Internet Explorer. Click the Tools menu and select Internet Options from drop-down list. When in the Internet Options window, highlight the Security tab and you will see a list of internet security zone. Click the Internet zone and drag the security zone slider to High. It will be set to Medium by default. Afterwards, click the Custom level tab. You will be in the Security Settings – Internet Zone dialog box. Under Reset custom settings, click the drop-down arrow beside Reset to and select High. It will be set to Medium-High (Default) by default.

Also disable certain features like Java, ActiveX Control and plug-ins (disable all the settings related to them), Active Scripting, and cookies etc. through which most of the malware infections peep into to your computer, making it securer. These are always hidden fake free online virus removal software, tray clocks, audio/video songs etc. You can select the Disable button below each setting to disable it. Afterwards, click the Reset button. When prompted, confirm the action by clicking the Yes button. The settings will change to the High level. Hit the OK button to exit the dialog box. You will return to the Security tab. Similarly you can configure settings for other security zones to make Internet Explorer secured.

Now click the Privacy tab. you will see that the privacy settings for the internet zone will be set to Medium. These settings are for the cookies, small text files. Cookies are placed on a computer by all the websites to collect a user’s information like online activities like website surfing and preference and credentials like email address and password etc. So, you can understand the harm cookies (especially if they are of malicious websites) can do to you and your computer. To block cookies from being placed on your computer without your permission, click the Override automatic cookie handling. Besides, select the option Prompt under both First-party Cookies and Third-party Cookies. This will prevent all the cookies from being set on your computer without your permission.

These will seek you permission first. Thereafter, you can either allow or deny them respectively for a genuine or suspected website. Also you can select the box beside Always allow session cookies. This option will allow certain session cookies to be set automatically and without your permission. You should select this option only when the amount of cookie prompts is in excess. For example, a website may have around 10-13 or more cookies that it wants to set on your computer. In that case, you will be prompted 10-13 or more times by the webpage to either accept or deny them before loading. It can be really irritating and time-consuming. So this option will reduce the number of prompts by allowing certain session cookies to be automatically set without your permission and save you a great deal of time. Yet again, you can leave this option unchecked if your priority is safety and security. Obviously, in that case the number of prompts doesn’t matter.

Click the OK button to exit the Advanced Privacy Settings window. You will now return to the Privacy tab. Click the Sites button to manage each site individually. You can type in the URL\address of a website to either block or add it to your unsafe or safe zone respectively. Hit the OK button to return to Privacy. Make sure the Turn on Pop-up Blocker or Block pop-ups option is checked. If you use InPrivate Browsing, select the Disable toolbars and extensions when InPrivate Browsing starts option. Besides, drag the privacy settings slider to the High or Highest level to ensure maximum protection against phishing and spam etc.

Now click the Advanced tab. You will see advanced settings for various features. Look for Enable third-party browser extensions* under the Browsing heading. If it is checked by default, click to uncheck this option. Disabling this option will prevent the third-party browser add-ons from installing themselves on your browser and violating the privacy rights. Though some add-ons can prove useful to your browser, but they also are capable of automatically changing your webpage content without your permission, breaching your privacy. So disable this option by deselecting the box next to it.

Now under the heading International*, click to check the box Always show encoded addresses. Enabling this option will prevent the webpage spoofing, which abuses IDN (Internationalized Domain Names) and enables phishing attacks to make way into your computer. You may deselect the Play sounds in webpages option under Multimedia. This often leads phishing, insecure contents to attack your browser and then your computer. When done, hit the Apply button and then the OK button to exit the Internet Options window. Now you must close and reopen Internet Explorer to let the above mentioned changes to take place and enhance its security. If you don’t restart your browser, these changes will not be effective.

Additional Tips:

You can also change the default programs that Windows automatically uses for each internet service. You will find this option under the Programs tab in the Internet Options window. Do not forget to click the Apply and then OK button to save and close the changes. Yet again, you must restart IE to make these changes effective.

A Tutorial On Computer Security Education

As technology improves and communication becomes much easier, the need to acquire computer security education becomes a reality. This is so because computers are not immune to unauthorized breaks from hackers. However, securing it is not a difficult task as tutorials offering information on their security are available. Aside from this fact, there are a large number of colleges and universities offering network security education.

It is always prudent to use anti-virus soft wares as a means of securing your computer. The primary objective of an anti-virus software is to detect malicious programs that may cause damage and take the necessary steps in protecting it. It is also important to perform a scan operation on any removable storage device in order to be on the safe side.

Installing a reliable firewall software on your computer is always wise. This goes a long way in preventing your browser from accessing certain contents in the internet that are deemed harmful to your computer. As one is browsing, the firewall basically performs a random search for specific keywords and phrases. In the event that any keyword is detected, the browser is blocked from accessing the contents of the site.

Most hackers prefer looking for easy targets such as a workstation which does not have a password. Such a computer is the most vulnerable to attacks. Using a strong password therefore reduces the chances of a break-in on your machine. More so, it is important to be careful while reading any email that contains an attachment. This is because of the fact that hackers usually send attachments with enclosed viruses.

Having a reliable backup system installed is always a good idea. Failure to do so results in the risk of losing data. Loss of data can happen in many ways. One of the most common causes is as a result of viruses or deleting files accidentally. Despite the fact that backing up is important, it falls in the category of the most neglected areas in computing.

The damages caused by hackers are immense. Intrusion always results in the loss of sensitive data and the destruction of an entire network. Stolen information may be used for malicious purposes by the hacker. This in turn may ruin the reputation of the affected individual or company. Over the years, anti-hack programs have proved to be vital tools in tackling hackers. It is therefore wise to make use of one of these soft wares.

Looking out for websites containing viruses is always a great step in securing your machine from hackers. Most internet users get hoodwinked into clicking on links to such websites through their emails. As a protection measure, always ignore such sites. Similarly, never make use of an unsecured wireless network. This reduces the chances of an attack by a hacker.

There are a large number of institutions that offer computer security education. Therefore, showing an interest in these institutions and enrolling in a network security school is a great step towards gaining knowledge. Alternatively, one always has the option of consulting a security specialist.

Security Researchers Identify Critical Vulnerability in Opera Web Browser

Web browsers are susceptible to vulnerabilities. Attackers always explore different web browsers and applications to detect and exploit security flaws. All popular web browsers are susceptible to vulnerabilities. Recently, security researchers at Vupen have identified critical vulnerability in Opera Web Browser. The vulnerability has been identified as an integer truncation error in opera.dll. The vulnerability occurs when select html files containing large number of child elements are processed by the browser. An attacker may exploit the integer truncation error vulnerability by luring unwary users to view a specially crafted but malicious web page. Once a user accesses or visits the infected web page, an arbitrary malicious code gets executed in the computer system. The successful execution of the malicious code allows an attacker to gain unauthorized access and complete control of the affected computer system.

The security bug was first identified by security researcher Jordi Chancel, who exploited the browser to crash the browsers. Security researchers at Vupen, who made further assessment of the vulnerability, developed an exploit to inject and execute malicious code. Opera web browser is popular among mobile users and is also used as a desktop browser. Some gaming systems also use Opera web browser. Lack of awareness of security fundamentals and threats in the computer and mobile environment make users susceptible to such attacks.

The integer truncation error vulnerability affects Opera 11.00 and prior and Opera 10.63 and prior versions for Windows 7 and Windows XP Service Pack 3. The vendors of the product are yet to issue any security patch for the product. Users must be wary of visiting suspicious web pages, downloading suspicious files and clicking on suspicious links. E-learning modules, online training videos and tutorials may be used to create awareness among users on different forms of security threats.

The risk profile in the IT environment has risen considerably and has significant implications on businesses. Security awareness education for employees may help them in better handling of devices, applications and computer systems. Developers must conduct in-depth assessment of their products at regular intervals for identification and timely redressal of vulnerabilities.