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The magic solution to smart device hacking could be blockchains

(TECH NEWS) The hackability of the IoT leaves device owners open to security breaches, but there could be a major revolution in cybersecurity if blockchains have anything to do with it,

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World less hackable

While super cool, the Internet of Things (IoT) is also extremely ripe for exploitation. The hackability of the IoT leaves device owners open to security breaches, but hey guess what? Blockchain technology might be here to save the day. Or at the very least, make your devices more secure.

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Simple guide to blockchains

As we’ve discussed before, some companies have developed IoT safety scanners. Prompted by major attacks, internet security companies introduced scanners that alert IoT users of possible network vulnerabilities. However, simply receiving an alert isn’t a strong enough security measure against potential attacks.

According to IoT World News, blockchain technologies could be the next step to bulk up IoT security. Wait, what’s a blockchain though? A blockchain is essentially a secure digital ledger of transactions that isn’t stored in a single location. Bits of information are recorded across multiple nodes within the network. Whether public or private, there is no centralized hub of information.

The decentralized structure means the whole system won’t collapse if one part of the blockchain is compromised.

In order to take down a network, hackers must penetrate at least 51 percent of the network’s nodes. This is typically not a good return on investment for cyber criminals since the cost of hacking far outweighs the potential reward.

Hackers being watched

Additionally, messing with a blockchain is risky since all data transactions are transparently recorded. With traditional IT architecture, hackers just need to breach a firewall or other defenses that are in place. Once they’re in, it is unlikely their tampering will immediately be noticed. It’s even more rare for malicious changes to be recorded in a traditional system.

But blockchains update any time an action is taken, even if it’s not financial. Anyone with access to the blockchain can see all activities since changes are updated across all nodes.

If someone hacks a blockchain, their action is not only recorded, but also potentially traceable back to them.Click To Tweet

Cryptography and digital signatures add another layer of security to blockchain. Every transaction has to be secured with digital signatures and encryption. Identity authentication and privacy protection are inherent to blockchain, which is great for IoT device users since these are major concerns.

Strengthening IoT security

IoT devices could also benefit from the supply chain transparency of blockchain. Every interaction, from part registration to sourcing and pricing, could be recorded through blockchain. This would make all relevant product information securely accessible, making it easier to track phases of new products. Right now this process is fragmented and often difficult to piece together. Using blockchain would increase visibility and accountability for each step.

Though blockchain offers many benefits, analysts stress that this technology isn’t a magic fix for all digital security problems. However, widespread implementation would certainly increase network reliability and security.

#BlockchainMagic

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Real Estate Technology

Upgrade your spreadsheets and integrations with this intuitive tool

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Rows modernizes spreadsheets by adding integrations and sharing features that take your ordinary spreadsheet to the next level.

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Spreadsheets open on desktop with man in office setting.

People and businesses everywhere use spreadsheets. They help us manage budgets and spending. They store and sort our data, and we use them for all sorts of business administrative tasks. They aren’t anything fancy, but they work. Functionality is important, but does this ubiquitous tool need a facelift? Well, one Berlin-based startup thought it did.

Rows is an online spreadsheet platform that has built-in integrations and a live sharing experience that helps teams work faster.

The tool is a low-code platform, which means you don’t need to learn a coding language to use it. You can use the spreadsheet skills you already have to automate your workflows. Basic spreadsheet math, text, and logic functions like SUM, VLOOKUP, and INDEX are all supported. So, there really isn’t any learning curve, if any.

“Our purpose has always been to create tools that make computation accessible to everyone,” said Rows Co-Founder and CEO Humberto Ayres Pereira. “We want to allow the 1 billion Excel and Sheets users worldwide to easily build tools catering to their personal and professional needs without code and using a familiar interface — a spreadsheet!”

So, what makes Rows stand out? Here are a few things for starters.

Integrations

It has built-in integrations that allow you to seamlessly connect to your favorite data services and business apps, such as Slack, Salesforce, Crunchbase, Twitter, and Instagram. With each integration, you can set custom functions so you can automatically send and retrieve data within your spreadsheets. By connecting your core tools and managing them in a single spreadsheet, you can eliminate writing a custom script or installing a plugin.

Collaboration and Sharing

It’s easy to collaborate using Rows. You can create workspaces and invite your team members so you can work together as a team. Together you can build and edit the spreadsheets in real-time, and you can also add interactive elements like buttons and checkboxes.

If you’d like to see how your spreadsheet will look, you can easily toggle between editing and live mode. When your spreadsheet is complete, you can make it live by turning it into an interactive web app, report, or dashboard that you share with anyone on mobile or desktop.

Templates

If you don’t know where to begin, Rows has pre-built templates for everyday tasks to get you started. There are templates for marketing, sales, HR, finance, etc. These templates are installed and customized to fit your needs.

The facelift Rows gives to your average spreadsheet looks pretty cool, and it’s something Pereira says we need today. “Excel is pre-internet, and Google Sheets, as developed as it is, is pre this API world and pre-app economy,” said Pereira. “Rows is built for today with integrations and shareable web apps.”

The all-in-one approach where your spreadsheet integrates with the apps you need to automate work, analyze data, and turn those cells of columns and rows into a neat web app you can share is the upgrade I think we’ve been looking for.

Last month, the company announced the results from their Series B funding led by venture capital firm, Lakestar. The company raised $16 million in the round, which they plan on using to invest in the platform and use for sales and marketing purposes.

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Real Estate Technology

Avoid real estate scams with these virtual investigators

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) As real estate scams increase, services such as Fireball Approves are joining the fight by offering an array of background check services.

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Man seated at kitchen table with laptop and checking phone, searching to avoid real estate scams.

Daily business across every industry has continued to find a home online, as more consumers are using websites, apps, and other digital services to complete any number of tasks. Real estate is not immune to this, with trends year over year showing users flocking to digital tools to assist with every step of the process. Whether it’s looking for a new home, rental property, apartment, or anything else, it’s clear that this industry is embracing the internet to power transactions.

Unfortunately, this also means that there is a growing number of real estate scams being carried out as well, which can include fake listings for properties, landlords, realtors, and associated services. Apartmentlist.com states that as many as 5.2 million U.S. renters are affected annually, and that 43.1% of people encounter a listing they believe to be fraudulent during their search.  Forbes reports that the FBI estimates as much as $150 million is lost per year in relation to real estate, with wire fraud being a major factor.

Sadly, this appears to be tied hand in hand with the current pandemic, as it has forced more online interactions in a time where face-to-face help may not always be possible or available.

Some services have already appeared that aim to help consumers combat and avoid such schemes, such as Scamlord.ai, which is operated by Onerent and was featured on Product Hunt. Using machine learning, it has analyzed thousands of fake listings in order to observe and find patterns. From this data, it can help guide users away from anything that might be part of real estate scams.

Another service is Fireball Approves, which utilizes background checks to help customers find information over a number of possible inquiries. From their website, Investicheck covers a wide variety of options that are broken down into people and real estate categories (with more to come). The former covers things such as a background sweep, asset confirmation, social media perusal, and even locating someone who might be missing.

The real estate side of things promises ways for renters to look into the validity of listings in order to protect themselves. This includes confirming that the lister is who they say they are (owner or landlord) and checking for past criminal or court actions. Fireball Approves can do this for short and long term properties, and even covers vacation options.

Likewise, additional offers include student housing checks (proper zoning and management validation), obtaining photos of the exterior and interior of a property, and researching legal matters such as liens, the deed, and anything related to possible foreclosure.

In a sense, Fireball Approves is another necessary safeguard against a new and emerging type of crime. A blog post on the site details ways such actions are performed, including international AirBNB impersonations, local scammers breaking into properties and listing them as available, or bypassing lockboxes and then inviting customers to sign a fake lease. Even as this new type of fraud has appeared in the form of real estate scams, Fireball Approves has worked diligently to remain informed on their tactics, responding to new scams and combating the issue with experience.

Simply put, you can never be too sure what may be a real or fake listing. Just as you might take necessary precautions to confirm identities, it will always be in your best interest to be as safe and thorough as possible. Fireball Approves and Scamlord.ai are part of the growing number of tools at your disposal. With losses potentially in the thousands, it may be worth the small investment for the peace of mind it affords.

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Real Estate Technology

COVID-19 remote work is no reason to spy on employees

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) COVID-19 related remote work is bringing with it some remote surveillance…and it can be a lot. With the new blend of work and home, privacy is paramount.

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Think that remote work means you’re off the hook when it comes to being monitored on your productivity? Unfortunately, the technology that makes working from home possible also provides supervisors with the means to keep an eye on your efficiency.

In other words, surveillance doesn’t stop just because you aren’t in office anymore.

Take, for example, a software called Sneek, which promises “human contact for remote teams.” It’s a group conference call that is always on by default and can take photographs of users upwards of once every minute. Yikes. Now, Sneek representatives insist that the software wasn’t intended for “spying,” but that’s no guarantee for how some employers will utilize it.

Even if Sneek isn’t explicitly designed for monitoring employees, though, there are plenty of applications that have been created for that purpose. TeamViewer, for example, gives employers a real-time glimpse into what’s happening on employees’ monitors, and it’s just one of many applications designed to provide real-time updates on potential productivity – or lack thereof.

Of course, this sort of questionable violation of privacy is insane by any standards, but the whole thing is made more ridiculous by this entirely unprecedented pandemic situation. Not only are we all dealing with the stress of an overarching pandemic, but there’s been a lot of major adjustments to how life works now. With both schools and work pivoting to remote access, families are being cooped up together. On the flip side, others who relied on the office as a way to connect to the world are now completely isolated as quarantine continues for many parts of the United States.

The point is, now, more than ever before, is a time to cut employees some slack. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of complaints about the rise of coercive surveillance, but the more pressing matter at hand is that things are not normal. Our routines have been upended, collective stresses have increased, and there’s no definite end in sight. The last thing anyone needs is to worry about getting in trouble for something like not promptly replying to a random check-up email.

Employees are humans, not machines, and we’re all going through a hard time right now. A bit of kindness can go a long way.

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