Category Archives: Technology

Performing Proper Backups: The 3-2-1 Rule

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In the IT world, some rules are always changing.  It’s good to remember, however, that some rules are timeless because they still make A LOT of sense! The 3-2-1 backup rule is a great example.

The 3-2-1 backup rule can help you overcome nearly any failure scenario if you follow it. It implies that you should:

3-2-1 backup

Despite the 3-2-1 backup rule’s simplicity, many people continue to ignore it and lose their data because they were unprepared for a disaster. Many lessons were learned after disasters such as 9/11 – some companies from the World Trade Center stored their offsite backups in the SAME OFFICE buildings and lost all of their company data in a few short hours.

Following the 3-2-1 backup rule is easy! Here’s how it works:

1. Have at least 3 copies of your data

By three copies, I mean your original data and two backups. It’s obvious that the more copies of your data you make, the less risk you have of losing everything.

One backup is good, just not good enough. If you have only one additional copy of your data, AT LEAST make sure it’s located in a different physical location from the original (and as far away as possible!).

2. Keep these backups on 2 different media

Having several backups of your data and keeping them in the same place is NOT logical. Why? Because a common failure will affect all devices.

The 3-2-1 backup rule urges you to keep backups on a wide range of different mediums: tapes, USB drives, CDs, external and internal hard drives, etc.

3. Store 1 backup offsite

Offsite means as FAR AWAY as possible, in another city, state, country or even continent. Your data is safe then, even if there is a fire or national disaster. Using a cloud service also satisfies this requirement.

back up key

How do you follow the 3-2-1 backup rule?

There are lots of ways! For instance, you can just set up a reminder on your calendar and then copy your data manually according to the 3-2-1 rule. There are also a number of easy-to-use applications which will automatically create your backups and ALSO follow the 3-2-1 backup rule by storing them in specified offsite locations.

10 Best Ad Blockers and Privacy Extensions

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Online advertising can be a divisive thing. On the one hand, ads support the free content model of the internet, with advertising subsidizing many of our favorite websites. On the other hand, badly designed or intrusive adds can be disruptive to say the least, and cookies and similar advertising trackers raise privacy concerns. This is where ad blockers and anti-tracking software come in, allowing users to block irritating ads, save bandwidth and opt out of intrusive marketing systems. Check out our favorite ad blocking extensions and apps to take control of your browsing experience.

NOTE: While ad and script blockers remove annoying and potentially malicious ads from Web pages, they may also block legitimate content. Using a blocker prevents the online publications you visit from earning the revenue they need to continue serving you. Robust antivirus software can protect against most forms of malvertising without blocking content.

ad blocker

AdBlock Plus (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Edge)

AdBlock Plus (ABP) is among the most popular adblockers, with versions available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera and a new version just released for Microsoft Edge. ABP features a quick setup, loading preset filter lists that allow users to quickly block most ads, as well as the option to filter malware and social media buttons. Savvy users can chose additional block lists as well as set custom filters or whitelists. AdBlock Plus allows what it calls “non-intrusive advertising” through filters, which may irk some users, though this can be disabled in settings.

AdBlock (Chrome, Opera, Safari, Edge)

AdBlock (no relation to AdBlock Plus) is the other major adblocker extension of note, available for users of Chrome, Opera and Safari. AdBlock uses a series of filter lists to automatically block ad content coming from known ad servers and providers. Users can stick with the default block lists, subscribe to additional ones, or even create their own, as well as whitelist given sites or content. As the most downloaded Chrome and Safari extension, AdBlock has the trust of many users worldwide.

BluHell Firewall (Firefox)

Bluhell Firewall is an extremely resource light ad-blocking and privacy tool that provides solid performance in a tiny package. Clocking in at approximately 30KB (as opposed to other adblockers in the 100s of KBs) in size, Bluhell Firewall still delivers some impressive adblocking. Rather than rely on long blocking lists, Bluhell instead works around seven hard-coded rules that still manages to block thousands of common advertising domains. While the extension’s performance impact is minimal, it also features minimal customization, with only an on/off toggle. The minimal performance impact also makes it ideal for Firefox on Android.

HTTPS Everywhere (Chrome, Firefox, Opera)

HTTPS Everywhere is a browser extension available in Chrome, Firefox and Opera that is produced as part of a collaboration between the Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. HTTPS Everywhere helps encrypt your online browsing and communications by rewriting HTTP link requests to HTTPS when within a whitelist of sites that support HTTPS. This means that when an SSL secured version of the site exists (https) then HTTPS Everywhere automatically redirects you to the secured version of a website that you’re accessing.

NoScript (Firefox)

NoScript blocks Java, JavaScript and other plugins that can be used as advertising, or malware attack vectors. Showing up as a small button on the bottom right of your Firefox window, NoScript can be set to block scripts globally, selectively, or even let particular sites through on a permanent or temporary basis, as well as whitelist sites or providers. High customizability and great features make NoScript a great security and adblocking tool, whether alone, or in combination with other adblockers. Note that NoScript can break some site functionality.

ScriptSafe (Chrome)

ScriptSafe is a Chrome tool inspired by the likes of NoScript in order to provide a similar scriptblocking functionality to Chrome users. Unfortunately, due to technical details in Chrome’s design, ScriptSafe and similar programs can’t quite match the functionality of NoScript on Firefox. Still, the people behind ScriptSafe make a good effort, allowing users to block set different levels of blocking, blacklist or whitelist domains, and more.

Flashblock (Firefox, Chrome)

Another popular extension with adblocking functionality is Flashblock (Firefox, Chrome), a content filtering extension that blocks Flash, Silverlight, HTML5 video, and similar content from being played. Flashblock leaves placeholder elements that users can click on to selectively play particular elements or videos. As many of the more intrusive ads that use video, music, or sound effects rely on Flash and similar tools, Flashblock can reduce the irritation involved in surfing ad-heavy sites, whether used alone, or with other extensions.

Disconnect (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari)

From straight up adblockers, we turn now to other tools that can disable or log Web cookies, tracking pixels, and other tools that online advertisers can use to track and target your online habits. Disconnect is a powerful browser add-on for Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari that allows users to see advertising, analytics, and social media tracking cookies, with the option of disabling them globally or selectively. This useful tool includes whitelists, blacklists, tracking visualizations and more.

DoNotTrackMe (Firefox, Chrome, Safari)

DoNotTrackMe (Firefox, Chrome, Safari) allows users to detect and disable tracking cookies and other Web code used by advertisers, analytics groups, and social media to track you online. This provides the dual function of securing your privacy and potentially reducing targeted advertising, as well as reducing bandwidth used when accessing websites. Besides making blocking tracking, DoNotTrackMe also allows users to create disposable email addresses and phone numbers in order to further foil tracking.

Ghostery (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari)

Another cookie and tracking blocker, Ghostery is available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari. Like previous programs, Ghostery helps users spot and block advertising and social media trackers. Where Ghostery stands out is its large database and its ability to link you to the privacy policies and opt-out options of many tracking and ad companies the tool spots. Featuring great detection, blocking of scripts, elements and cookies, and opt-out options, Ghostery is an impressive tracking blocker.

How to Manage Startup Programs in Windows 10

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When you start your computer, Windows isn’t the only program that loads. For instance, you may have noticed icons in the notification area (also known as the system tray) in the far-right portion of the taskbar. These icons often represent programs that start when the system starts. You also may have seen certain programs, such as software for syncing your phone or MP3 player, launching themselves along with Windows. Additionally, some applications begin running silently in the background every time you boot the PC.

system tray.JPG

All of these automatically opening programs consume system memory, and can drag down performance. Fortunately, managing startup programs isn’t difficult; by taking a few steps, you can find out what is running on your computer and disable the items you don’t need.

Method 1: Configure a Program Directly

If you’ve noticed a program starting automatically, and you want the behavior to stop, sometimes the easiest solution is to explore the program’s settings directly.

1. Open the program.

2. Find the settings panel. Typically it will be available under a menu labeled Settings, Preferences, Options, or Tools.

3. Find the option to disable the program from running at startup. The language for this type of option varies, but it should be easy to find if it exists.

When you restart the computer, the program will no longer launch. You’ll still be able to start it manually, so don’t be deterred if the application asks you if you are sure you want to disable its automatic startup.

Method 2: Use the Task Manager

The Task Manager is a useful tool for understanding and controlling startup programs.

startup windows 10

1. Open the Task Manager by searching task manager in the search bar, right-clicking on the taskbar and selecting Task Manager, or holding Ctrl + Alt + Delete on your keyboard.

3. Click the Startup tab. You’ll see a list of programs that start when your computer starts.

4. To stop a program from automatically launching when you boot the PC, right-click on the program and click disable, or click the disable button at the bottom of the window.

5. Restart your computer to put any changes you’ve made into effect. You aren’t required to restart your computer immediately, but no changes will be observed until you do.

You may find that once you’ve disabled certain programs from opening at startup, your computer may startup significantly faster, depending on how many programs have been disabled.

Warning: Use caution when disabling items in Task Manager. Many entries have names that aren’t self-explanatory. Research each entry before disabling it; use the Web to search for the name of the entry, and to get an idea of its function. Without doing your homework, you could end up disabling an important application such as your antivirus program.

Conversely, if you would like a particular program or set of programs to run at startup, simply follow the same directions as above, instead enabling the program to run at startup.

How to Fix a Water Damaged Phone

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We bring our phones with us everywhere we go, including places where a small electronic device may not be safe – namely near water.  No matter how overprotective we are about our precious babies, mistakes are bound to happen; one small slip up and your phone could end up lying at the bottom of a pool, sink, or toilet…

phone in water

Water and electronics don’t mix

Water damage can have some deleterious effects on our phones or tablets.  But there may still be hope depending on how long the phone was exposed to water.  That’s why it is critical to remove your phone from the water as quickly as possible.  From here, you can begin the process of saving the phone.  Before we get into that, however, you should know that there are certain things that could worsen the phone’s damage.  If your phone has water damage, under no circumstances should you ever:

  • turn it on
  • press any buttons or keys
  • tap, shake, or bang it
  • take it apart (Your device comes with a Liquid Damage Indicator (LDI) which, when activated, could void your warranty, and this could be triggered when you open your phone. Only take it apart if you absolutely need to and you have experience)
  • blow on/in it
  • heat it up (such as with a blow dryer)
  • cool it down (such as placing it in the freezer)

Now, onto saving your phone!

  1. phone in water 2Turn it off, if it isn’t already.
  2. Remove any protective casing, SIM cards, and microSD cards.  If possible, remove the battery
  3. Use a cloth or paper towel to dab the phone dry.  Avoid wiping, as this may spread the liquid, causing it to reach other parts of the phone.
  4. Bury the phone in a container full of uncooked rice, which will soak up remaining water.  Let dry for a few days, and do not try to turn it on until after it’s been drying for an appropriate amount of time.
  5. When your phone is sufficiently dry, remove it from the rice, insert the battery, and turn it on.
  6. If your phone doesn’t turn on, charge it.  If it doesn’t charge, the battery or charging port may be damaged.  Try using a different battery, if you have one.
  7. If your phone turns on and appears to run smoothly, test out various functions such as speakers and touch screen to make sure they still work.

How to prevent water damage

Obviously, the best way to avoid water damage to any electronic devices is to keep them away from water!  If you’re at the pool, keep your phone in a purse or water resistant bag as far away from the pool as possible.  Splashing happens!  When doing dishes, place your phone on the kitchen table.  And if you find it necessary to bring your phone into the bathroom (which is a very bad idea), put it on a shelf.

Waterproof phone cases are generally a great way to protect your phone from water.  If you go this route, don’t simply pick whatever’s cheapest.  You want the case to actually work, right?  Brands such as Otter Box, Survivor, and Catalyst have a great selection of reliable, good quality waterproof cases.

Water resistant phones are sometimes severely misunderstood by consumers.  When a phone manufacturer advertises its product as water resistant, it only applies to a specific set of conditions, such as the clarity of the water, the depth of the submersion, and the length of time the phone is submerged.  Remember, water resistant DOES NOT equal waterproof.

Category Archives: Technology

Performing Proper Backups: The 3-2-1 Rule

new tech tuesday logo

In the IT world, some rules are always changing.  It’s good to remember, however, that some rules are timeless because they still make A LOT of sense! The 3-2-1 backup rule is a great example.

The 3-2-1 backup rule can help you overcome nearly any failure scenario if you follow it. It implies that you should:

3-2-1 backup

Despite the 3-2-1 backup rule’s simplicity, many people continue to ignore it and lose their data because they were unprepared for a disaster. Many lessons were learned after disasters such as 9/11 – some companies from the World Trade Center stored their offsite backups in the SAME OFFICE buildings and lost all of their company data in a few short hours.

Following the 3-2-1 backup rule is easy! Here’s how it works:

1. Have at least 3 copies of your data

By three copies, I mean your original data and two backups. It’s obvious that the more copies of your data you make, the less risk you have of losing everything.

One backup is good, just not good enough. If you have only one additional copy of your data, AT LEAST make sure it’s located in a different physical location from the original (and as far away as possible!).

2. Keep these backups on 2 different media

Having several backups of your data and keeping them in the same place is NOT logical. Why? Because a common failure will affect all devices.

The 3-2-1 backup rule urges you to keep backups on a wide range of different mediums: tapes, USB drives, CDs, external and internal hard drives, etc.

3. Store 1 backup offsite

Offsite means as FAR AWAY as possible, in another city, state, country or even continent. Your data is safe then, even if there is a fire or national disaster. Using a cloud service also satisfies this requirement.

back up key

How do you follow the 3-2-1 backup rule?

There are lots of ways! For instance, you can just set up a reminder on your calendar and then copy your data manually according to the 3-2-1 rule. There are also a number of easy-to-use applications which will automatically create your backups and ALSO follow the 3-2-1 backup rule by storing them in specified offsite locations.

10 Best Ad Blockers and Privacy Extensions

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Online advertising can be a divisive thing. On the one hand, ads support the free content model of the internet, with advertising subsidizing many of our favorite websites. On the other hand, badly designed or intrusive adds can be disruptive to say the least, and cookies and similar advertising trackers raise privacy concerns. This is where ad blockers and anti-tracking software come in, allowing users to block irritating ads, save bandwidth and opt out of intrusive marketing systems. Check out our favorite ad blocking extensions and apps to take control of your browsing experience.

NOTE: While ad and script blockers remove annoying and potentially malicious ads from Web pages, they may also block legitimate content. Using a blocker prevents the online publications you visit from earning the revenue they need to continue serving you. Robust antivirus software can protect against most forms of malvertising without blocking content.

ad blocker

AdBlock Plus (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Edge)

AdBlock Plus (ABP) is among the most popular adblockers, with versions available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera and a new version just released for Microsoft Edge. ABP features a quick setup, loading preset filter lists that allow users to quickly block most ads, as well as the option to filter malware and social media buttons. Savvy users can chose additional block lists as well as set custom filters or whitelists. AdBlock Plus allows what it calls “non-intrusive advertising” through filters, which may irk some users, though this can be disabled in settings.

AdBlock (Chrome, Opera, Safari, Edge)

AdBlock (no relation to AdBlock Plus) is the other major adblocker extension of note, available for users of Chrome, Opera and Safari. AdBlock uses a series of filter lists to automatically block ad content coming from known ad servers and providers. Users can stick with the default block lists, subscribe to additional ones, or even create their own, as well as whitelist given sites or content. As the most downloaded Chrome and Safari extension, AdBlock has the trust of many users worldwide.

BluHell Firewall (Firefox)

Bluhell Firewall is an extremely resource light ad-blocking and privacy tool that provides solid performance in a tiny package. Clocking in at approximately 30KB (as opposed to other adblockers in the 100s of KBs) in size, Bluhell Firewall still delivers some impressive adblocking. Rather than rely on long blocking lists, Bluhell instead works around seven hard-coded rules that still manages to block thousands of common advertising domains. While the extension’s performance impact is minimal, it also features minimal customization, with only an on/off toggle. The minimal performance impact also makes it ideal for Firefox on Android.

HTTPS Everywhere (Chrome, Firefox, Opera)

HTTPS Everywhere is a browser extension available in Chrome, Firefox and Opera that is produced as part of a collaboration between the Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. HTTPS Everywhere helps encrypt your online browsing and communications by rewriting HTTP link requests to HTTPS when within a whitelist of sites that support HTTPS. This means that when an SSL secured version of the site exists (https) then HTTPS Everywhere automatically redirects you to the secured version of a website that you’re accessing.

NoScript (Firefox)

NoScript blocks Java, JavaScript and other plugins that can be used as advertising, or malware attack vectors. Showing up as a small button on the bottom right of your Firefox window, NoScript can be set to block scripts globally, selectively, or even let particular sites through on a permanent or temporary basis, as well as whitelist sites or providers. High customizability and great features make NoScript a great security and adblocking tool, whether alone, or in combination with other adblockers. Note that NoScript can break some site functionality.

ScriptSafe (Chrome)

ScriptSafe is a Chrome tool inspired by the likes of NoScript in order to provide a similar scriptblocking functionality to Chrome users. Unfortunately, due to technical details in Chrome’s design, ScriptSafe and similar programs can’t quite match the functionality of NoScript on Firefox. Still, the people behind ScriptSafe make a good effort, allowing users to block set different levels of blocking, blacklist or whitelist domains, and more.

Flashblock (Firefox, Chrome)

Another popular extension with adblocking functionality is Flashblock (Firefox, Chrome), a content filtering extension that blocks Flash, Silverlight, HTML5 video, and similar content from being played. Flashblock leaves placeholder elements that users can click on to selectively play particular elements or videos. As many of the more intrusive ads that use video, music, or sound effects rely on Flash and similar tools, Flashblock can reduce the irritation involved in surfing ad-heavy sites, whether used alone, or with other extensions.

Disconnect (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari)

From straight up adblockers, we turn now to other tools that can disable or log Web cookies, tracking pixels, and other tools that online advertisers can use to track and target your online habits. Disconnect is a powerful browser add-on for Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari that allows users to see advertising, analytics, and social media tracking cookies, with the option of disabling them globally or selectively. This useful tool includes whitelists, blacklists, tracking visualizations and more.

DoNotTrackMe (Firefox, Chrome, Safari)

DoNotTrackMe (Firefox, Chrome, Safari) allows users to detect and disable tracking cookies and other Web code used by advertisers, analytics groups, and social media to track you online. This provides the dual function of securing your privacy and potentially reducing targeted advertising, as well as reducing bandwidth used when accessing websites. Besides making blocking tracking, DoNotTrackMe also allows users to create disposable email addresses and phone numbers in order to further foil tracking.

Ghostery (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari)

Another cookie and tracking blocker, Ghostery is available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari. Like previous programs, Ghostery helps users spot and block advertising and social media trackers. Where Ghostery stands out is its large database and its ability to link you to the privacy policies and opt-out options of many tracking and ad companies the tool spots. Featuring great detection, blocking of scripts, elements and cookies, and opt-out options, Ghostery is an impressive tracking blocker.

How to Manage Startup Programs in Windows 10

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When you start your computer, Windows isn’t the only program that loads. For instance, you may have noticed icons in the notification area (also known as the system tray) in the far-right portion of the taskbar. These icons often represent programs that start when the system starts. You also may have seen certain programs, such as software for syncing your phone or MP3 player, launching themselves along with Windows. Additionally, some applications begin running silently in the background every time you boot the PC.

system tray.JPG

All of these automatically opening programs consume system memory, and can drag down performance. Fortunately, managing startup programs isn’t difficult; by taking a few steps, you can find out what is running on your computer and disable the items you don’t need.

Method 1: Configure a Program Directly

If you’ve noticed a program starting automatically, and you want the behavior to stop, sometimes the easiest solution is to explore the program’s settings directly.

1. Open the program.

2. Find the settings panel. Typically it will be available under a menu labeled Settings, Preferences, Options, or Tools.

3. Find the option to disable the program from running at startup. The language for this type of option varies, but it should be easy to find if it exists.

When you restart the computer, the program will no longer launch. You’ll still be able to start it manually, so don’t be deterred if the application asks you if you are sure you want to disable its automatic startup.

Method 2: Use the Task Manager

The Task Manager is a useful tool for understanding and controlling startup programs.

startup windows 10

1. Open the Task Manager by searching task manager in the search bar, right-clicking on the taskbar and selecting Task Manager, or holding Ctrl + Alt + Delete on your keyboard.

3. Click the Startup tab. You’ll see a list of programs that start when your computer starts.

4. To stop a program from automatically launching when you boot the PC, right-click on the program and click disable, or click the disable button at the bottom of the window.

5. Restart your computer to put any changes you’ve made into effect. You aren’t required to restart your computer immediately, but no changes will be observed until you do.

You may find that once you’ve disabled certain programs from opening at startup, your computer may startup significantly faster, depending on how many programs have been disabled.

Warning: Use caution when disabling items in Task Manager. Many entries have names that aren’t self-explanatory. Research each entry before disabling it; use the Web to search for the name of the entry, and to get an idea of its function. Without doing your homework, you could end up disabling an important application such as your antivirus program.

Conversely, if you would like a particular program or set of programs to run at startup, simply follow the same directions as above, instead enabling the program to run at startup.

How to Fix a Water Damaged Phone

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We bring our phones with us everywhere we go, including places where a small electronic device may not be safe – namely near water.  No matter how overprotective we are about our precious babies, mistakes are bound to happen; one small slip up and your phone could end up lying at the bottom of a pool, sink, or toilet…

phone in water

Water and electronics don’t mix

Water damage can have some deleterious effects on our phones or tablets.  But there may still be hope depending on how long the phone was exposed to water.  That’s why it is critical to remove your phone from the water as quickly as possible.  From here, you can begin the process of saving the phone.  Before we get into that, however, you should know that there are certain things that could worsen the phone’s damage.  If your phone has water damage, under no circumstances should you ever:

  • turn it on
  • press any buttons or keys
  • tap, shake, or bang it
  • take it apart (Your device comes with a Liquid Damage Indicator (LDI) which, when activated, could void your warranty, and this could be triggered when you open your phone. Only take it apart if you absolutely need to and you have experience)
  • blow on/in it
  • heat it up (such as with a blow dryer)
  • cool it down (such as placing it in the freezer)

Now, onto saving your phone!

  1. phone in water 2Turn it off, if it isn’t already.
  2. Remove any protective casing, SIM cards, and microSD cards.  If possible, remove the battery
  3. Use a cloth or paper towel to dab the phone dry.  Avoid wiping, as this may spread the liquid, causing it to reach other parts of the phone.
  4. Bury the phone in a container full of uncooked rice, which will soak up remaining water.  Let dry for a few days, and do not try to turn it on until after it’s been drying for an appropriate amount of time.
  5. When your phone is sufficiently dry, remove it from the rice, insert the battery, and turn it on.
  6. If your phone doesn’t turn on, charge it.  If it doesn’t charge, the battery or charging port may be damaged.  Try using a different battery, if you have one.
  7. If your phone turns on and appears to run smoothly, test out various functions such as speakers and touch screen to make sure they still work.

How to prevent water damage

Obviously, the best way to avoid water damage to any electronic devices is to keep them away from water!  If you’re at the pool, keep your phone in a purse or water resistant bag as far away from the pool as possible.  Splashing happens!  When doing dishes, place your phone on the kitchen table.  And if you find it necessary to bring your phone into the bathroom (which is a very bad idea), put it on a shelf.

Waterproof phone cases are generally a great way to protect your phone from water.  If you go this route, don’t simply pick whatever’s cheapest.  You want the case to actually work, right?  Brands such as Otter Box, Survivor, and Catalyst have a great selection of reliable, good quality waterproof cases.

Water resistant phones are sometimes severely misunderstood by consumers.  When a phone manufacturer advertises its product as water resistant, it only applies to a specific set of conditions, such as the clarity of the water, the depth of the submersion, and the length of time the phone is submerged.  Remember, water resistant DOES NOT equal waterproof.