New year, New Tech Security Challenges

Technology is always changing and adapting. So, unfortunately, are cyber-criminals. MIT’s Technology Review website not long ago presented its list of the biggest technology security threats of 2012

Technology is always changing and adapting. So, unfortunately, are cyber-criminals. MIT’s Technology Review website not long ago presented its list of the biggest technology security threats of 2012. If you spend much of your life surfing the web or communicating with your friends through social media sites, you should be curious about this list. Understanding what’s on it can protect you and your computer in 2012.

Stolen, Spoofed Certificates

The biggest problem that the Technology Review article dealt with is the growing quantity of stolen or spoofed certificates. As the article reports, each time you connect to a site, such as your bank’s website, your traffic is encrypted using a “certificate” that the site uses to prove to your web browser that it can be trusted. In 2011, though, cyber-criminals had the ability to spoof or steal a number of these certificates. This can help them steal user data or install malicious software on their computers.

A Common Security Mechanism in Trouble?

This is a major problem since the use of certificates and encrypted data is the most common security mechanism on the web. If they can no longer be trusted, that means possible trouble for all computer users.

Another key security challenge that we should become aware of is “hacktivism”. “Hacktivism” is the blend of the words activism and hack. Groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec target corporations that they feel are either guilty of wrongdoings or just want to prove the companies have lax security. Whatever the reason, Technology Review says we should anticipate groups like these to carry on their “hacktivism” well into the future.

Home Automation

The growing popularity of home automation also creates security risks in 2012. As Technology Review writes, an increasing number of automation systems link security systems, thermostats, lights, and even the locks to homes’ front doors to the web. Imagine the damage that hackers can do should they break into these systems.

Serious World Problems: Don’t worry, Google is on it

Global warming?

Global warming? Poverty? Illiteracy? Debt crises? These are all significant global problems. And they have drawn the attention of the technology pros at Google. Google recently presented its new “Solve for X” initiative, a venture in which Google’s greatest minds take on the world’s most vexing difficulties. The idea is for “Solve for X” minds to propose revolutionary ideas for eradicating some of the biggest problems facing the Earth.

Tackling the biggest global issues

Of course, it’s not that simple. The “Solve for X” brain trust will be tackling problems that have long befuddled world leaders. However, the people behind this project are nothing if not eager. They are saying the work happening here is akin to the progressive thinking that was necessary to send humans to the moon. On the “Solve for X” website, Google talks about it this way: “This combination of things—a huge problem to solve, a radical solution for solving it and the breakthrough technology to make it happen—is the essence of a moonshot.”

Tackling water scarcity

Last month Mashable.com ran a story on the “Solve for X” project. Mashable cited the account of an individual who participated in a “Solve for X” retreat. He said that they were focused on the issue of water scarcity. What resolutions did they come up with on this retreat? One involved forward osmosis with recycled ammonium salts. It’s fine if you do not understand what that means, fortunately the people at “Solve for X” do.

The need for technology brain trusts

“Solve for X” may not produce any real, practical, solutions for the world’s problems nonetheless the brain trust idea definitely has possibilities. Technology has, and can, change the world for the better; we merely need outside the box thinking to come up with ideas. So we shall see if “Solve for X” comes up with progressive ways to use technologies we currently have.

What is this Pinterest Thing, and What Does it Mean to Me

Are you burned out on social media? Then you really will not be pleased to hear that a new social media website is gaining traction. However, you might be interested to learn that this new site, Pinterest, doesn’t focus on the minutiae of day-to-day living as sites such as Twitter and Facebook seem to.

Are you burned out on social media? Then you really will not be pleased to hear that a new social media website is gaining traction. However, you might be interested to learn that this new site, Pinterest, doesn’t focus on the minutiae of day-to-day living as sites such as Twitter and Facebook seem to. Instead, Pinterest encourages users to express their interests with others. And in this way, at least, Pinterest does more to encourage creativity among its users than sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

The site’s name gives a clue as to what it’s all about: Pinterest is a combination of “pin,” as in pinboards, and “interest,” as in what you are all about. When you join Pinterest, you make your own “pinboards” or categories. You then attach photos and pictures that fit within those categories, as if you were pinning these images onto a bulletin board.

Creating Pinterest Categories

With Pinterest you can create different categories, like business and fashion, then pin images to each category and make notes with regards to the images along with links to the website you found them on. You can then choose to share all of your pinboards or only a couple with other Pinterest users.

The Social Part of Pinterest

Of course, social interaction forms the core of Pinterest. You can decide to follow people much like you would on Facebook or Twitter. But you can also choose to follow specific collections. Say an associate has a number of old movie poster images that you simply find fascinating. But she also has a collection of images of her 3-year-old son that doesn’t quite appeal to you as much. You could decide to follow her movie posters while ignoring her toddler.

Joining Pinterest

The main challenge with Pinterest is getting an account: you have to be invited to sign up. You can request an invitation directly from Pinterest when you go to the site, but it’s uncertain how long you’ll have to wait to receive an invitation using this method. It is much more reliable to seek out friends or acquaintances that are already using Pinterest. You can then ask them to invite you to the site through e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter.

7 Things to Know About WordPress

It’s time to put a popular misconception to rest: “isn’t WordPress only a blogging platform?” While this used to be the truth, according to an article by Tech Crunch, approximately 22% of newly published websites are created on WordPress . What’s more impressive, one of the most popular publishers is using WordPress as their platform

It’s time to put a popular misconception to rest: “isn’t WordPress only a blogging platform?” While this used to be the truth, according to an article by Tech Crunch, approximately 22% of newly published websites are created on WordPress. What’s more impressive, one of the most popular publishers is using WordPress as their platform.

Here are 7 things you should know about WordPress:

  1. WordPress offers dynamic page generation. This means no more rebuilding all your pages each time you update your website! Updating your site’s content and design is quick and simple, and the necessary server storage space usage is nominal.
  2. You can get a subdomain for free! Whenever you register with WordPress to get a free site, you can easily name your free subdomain like this: www.yourname.wordpress.org.
  3. The ‘Famous 5 minute install’. For people who have already purchased and are hosting your domain in another place, WordPress can be installed quickly and easily. And have no anxiety – coding is not necessary.
  4. If you do own your own domain there are a few minimum requirements to run WordPress. You’ll want to ensure you have the appropriate and compliant versions of PHP and MySQL. This will ensure you can receive accurate WordPress support when necessary.
  5. Themes are plentiful! Before attempting to build your own theme, search to see what other themes have been created and are available.
  6. WordPress has centralized management. Making managing your pages, posts, as well as your users simple with WordPress.
  7. WordPress encourages e-commerce. There is an plethora of plugins that have already been developed that allow you to accept payments, promote, and more on your website. The easy plugin search keeps these options at your fingertips.

Not everything is an iPad: Gadgets That Never Caught On

Smartphones, iPads, iPods, and notebook computers are examples of the must-have gadgets of the last five years.

Smartphones, iPads, iPods, and notebook computers are examples of the must-have gadgets of the last five years. However, for every iPad there’s an Apple TV—a tech failure. Organizations take a chance when they send a new piece of technology into the market. There is no guarantee that no matter how cool or handy a gadget is that it’ll become popular with the buying public. Understanding that, here is a quick look at some of the best known technology failures of the last decade.

Famous tech failures

  • Apple TV: This gadget gives users the ability to purchase entertainment from iTunes then stream it to the device of their choice. Good idea? Most likely, if it wasn’t so limited to iTunes. 
  • Sony Mylo: The Mylo came and went quickly so you may not remember it. It was aimed toward the 18 to 20 something crowd and was a Wi-Fi-enabled mobile device. It allowed people to play games, connect to the Internet, and also had Skype preinstalled on it. Sadly, the presence of the iPhone and its extensive app store overshadowed it.

The Segway peters out

  • Segway PT: It was believed that the Segway PT would replace cars in urban areas. It made it simple for people to just zip to the market or make the short commute downtown. But it never quite caught on. Unfortunately for the manufacturers, people thought balancing on two wheels made them look a little silly.

The CueCat doesn’t purr

  • CueCat: The CueCat was a digital barcode reader manufactured by Digital Convergence Corporation. In the shape of a cat, this device allowed the consumer to scan a bar code and be quickly guided to a company’s website. This did not go over well, but it may have paved the way for the now widespread QR code.

Phishing Scams: Tips On How to Save Yourself From Becoming Prey

Phishing scams remain one of the most lucrative crimes for online cyber criminals.

Phishing scams remain one of the most lucrative crimes for online cyber criminals. News reports of sensitive data from large corporations like Sony being jeopardized are increasing at a worrying rate. But contrary to popular belief, these phishing scams are just as hazardous for small business owners.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), received over 300,000 complaints in 2010 from both individuals and small businesses that have been victims of online phishing scams and other Internet related crimes.

To give you a better understanding as to why your small business is of great worth to a cyber criminal, let’s take a look at what phishing is exactly. 

What is phishing?

Phishing is a serious problem, but the term can be a bit unclear. It is the act of illegally trying to acquire private information such as passwords, credit card account numbers, banking account information, usernames, or social security numbers.  Phishing is accomplished by creating fake logos, email addresses, authentic looking official websites, and phone numbers.  Victims are then under the illusion that it is official business and are compelled to give out their private information, which in turn can be used to steal their identity.  Small businesses often suffer from phishing, as the goal is to gain access to their customer’s private information such as credit card account numbers.

Examples of small business phishing scams

There are many models of small business phishing scams.  For example, fake emails have been sent to thousands of smaller businesses that are highly authentic looking from the IRS and even including the IRS logo.  These emails explain that they must fill out tax forms or W-4 forms and return these forms by fax.  Many business owners trust this information was sent by the IRS and fear that they will be audited if they do not do what the email said was expected of them.

The IRS states on it’s website at IRS.gov, that it will not initiate any contact by email and that you should never click any links on an email sent to you asking you to send anything to the IRS.

Your company email can be a target

Another way these thieves gain information is by targeting a specific individual within a business by sending him or her some kind of fake communication that looks completely reliable but ends up releasing a virus or malware. This virus then infects the entire network, giving thieves access to private company data. 

Phone phishing

Beware that there are also “Phone phishing scams”, in which someone claiming to be from a bank, for instance, might ask you to call and verify your account.

How to protect your business against phishing

Visiting the Anti-Phishing Work Group will give you wise advice to shield your business against phishing scams and gives you useful information on how to avoid becoming a victim. Some of their advice follows, such as:

  • Make sure your employees are aware of what phishing scams are, and are cautious when reading and responding to suspicious emails.  Always err on the side of caution.  Instead of clicking a link, open another browser window and go to the official website.
  • Never give out company financial information such as bank routing numbers to an inquiry made via email.  Your bank does not need you to confirm your account information…they already have that. An email like that even if it has your bank’s logo is a fake. Make it a habit to check your accounts regularly for suspicious charges and withdrawals.
  • Make sure every computer used has up-to-date virus and malware protection.  Schedule regular full system scans.  Never download “anti-virus” software from an unknown entity. It’s better to stick with trusted brands.

It is nearly impossible for law enforcement to stop phishing, so the best method of defense is the education of your employees for identifying, dealing with, and staying up to date with phishing scam trends.

 

From Street to Web: The Changing Face of Business

The face of business is evolving, it wasn’t long ago that the best way to get your name out was to work with an ad agency, get a billboard, or simply go door-to-door introducing your company to prospective clients.

The face of business is evolving, it wasn’t long ago that the best way to get your name out was to work with an ad agency, get a billboard, or simply go door-to-door introducing your company to prospective clients. Now with the plethora of options open to consumers and the ease at which they can acquire services or items business have had to alter their approach to selling. When there were less options, and local stores had cornered the market in their industry, selling was just that, selling. People needed something they came to your store because you sold it. With all the options open to people now businesses have to come up with creative ways to be appealing, reach a wider market, and give consumers reasons to choose them as the company they want to work with. Below are a few ways companies can do this.

Becoming Mobile

Mobile devices are hardly rare now-a-days, people carry them to make their lives easier by staying connected to their business and personal life when they are on the go. Because of this many small-business owners want to create mobile sites. These sites retain the branding that the company wants but allows for faster, easier navigation on a mobile device. Making a mobile site makes your company more available to consumers.

Social Sites

At first social sites were just that, social, websites for connecting people in a social way. Myspace was a great example of that, with its highly customizable interface. Then Facebook came out, its much more utilitarian and accessible, the style attracted businesses. Now nearly every business you come across has a Facebook page, sharing content related to their industry and building a fun playful dialog with prospective customers. Now that Google recently unveiled their business pages the future of social sites is all business. Here is a great walk-though for setting up a Google business page.

On-line Education

Providing something educational for prospective clients is a great way to develop trust. A couple of ways companies can do this is through webinars and blogs. You have probably noticed the growing interest in blogs. Companies can stand out from their competitors by showing their in depth knowledge in their field with on-line education.

While the on-line business community keeps growing we can still visit local shop where the owner works behind the counter but more then likely that business has some type of on-line presence. Business are not just street facing anymore but Web facing as well. Being aware of the changing face of business and open to it will make you a more educated business owner and/or consumer.  Here is another article about why creating an on-line presence is good business practice.