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Safety scanner checks your IoT devices for vulnerabilities

(TECH NEWS) Our digital footprint is so omnipresent new sectors for discovery and recovery of digital information are emerging – which begs this question: is your IoT information secure?

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Virtually everything we use for productivity is digitized. We depend on digital communication from our email servers to our printers and just about everything in between.

Our digital footprint is so omnipresent that the IT and law sectors have created an entire new genre of computer programming devoted to the thorough discovery and recovery of vast amounts of digital information. So, then, your work begs this question: is your information secure?

A month ago, an unidentified hacker waged an unprecedented attack on the major internet resource Dyn, rendering the system Dyn is an Internet Performance Manager, which basically means it hosts a ton of information; in this case, Dyn hosts information from companies like LinkedIn and Netflix.

The unidentified hacker breached vulnerabilities in the system in a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, where the system is overloaded with a flurry of trash files that leave its components unable to process.

What does that mean?

This kind of attack has tremendous magnitude. It implies twofold: first, that the internet could be knocked offline for large swaths of time; second, that someone is testing major internet resources to assess vulnerabilities.

The CTO of the IBM company Resilient, Bruce Schneier, was able to check in with some major cloud resources on the condition of their anonymity to understand more thoroughly the nature of the attacks.

“[It’s] as if the attacker were looking for the exact point of failure…The attacks are also configured in such a way as to see what the company’s total defenses are,” Schneier blogged in September, “…Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services.”

We are in a moment in history where technology is exponentially evolving. Start-up developments are as commonplace as a new corner Starbucks. Technology is bridging the gap between the laws of man and the solutions of emerging demands; for example, the startup PayQwick is leading the field in providing cashless money transfer for marijuana businesses, who face opposition from local banks who still must comply with federal financial regulations.

The internet security company BullGuard has developed an IoT scanner to monitor the vulnerabilities of the systems within your own network. The idea behind it is that it may reveal inconsistencies that could then be addressed; it is by no means a fix or even a solution, but it could serve as a base for understanding where to begin. The scanner is available as a web-based browser and is free.

The IoT scanner is particularly relevant now; a recent study showed over half of smartphone users are concerned about the security of their information and that almost three-quarters of smartphone users have no idea how to establish that security.

Three cheers to the ever-developing internet for providing a starting ground for those of us who want to secure our small businesses and personal information. But even more important could be the buds of user-friendly security development.

Ideally, small-scale customers should feel protected and should be able to understand the technology if digital information security is such an all-encompassing commodity.

What does it mean for IT monoliths to have egregious infrastructural weaknesses? And how might those weaknesses trickle down into the smaller-scale pockets of American businesses and lives? Let’s hope there’s already something in development before the option disappears.

Becky Nathanson is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. She has a Master's degree in music from Indiana University and a Bachelor's degree in music and creative writing from the University of Michigan. In addition to writing, she has performed as an opera singer on major international stages. When she isn't making her voice heard by pen or in song, she is a serious amateur chef.

Real Estate Technology

It’s complicated, but how does one move out of a smart home?

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) We live in a world of the latest, greatest tech gadgets for a smart home, but what happens to them and the information they’ve collected when you’re ready to move?

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One of the attractions to a smart home is customization; you can customize everything from the temperature, to the amount of light in a particular room. Smart homes can accommodate nearly every preference and in most cases, anticipate what you need, but what happens to all this technology, and more importantly, the data this technology has collected, when you decide to move out of your smart home?

Hardwired versus stand-alone
Most smart homes have a stand-alone hub (or central control) that connect your lights, thermostat, sprinklers, and everything else, while some more involved, automated units require panels to be directly wired into the walls. As you can imagine, the wired-in units, are obviously not going to be walking out the door with you quite as easily when you leave, as a stand-alone hub (like Alexa or Google Home). More importantly, however, where is the data going that your thermostat, security cameras, voice-activated controls, and everything else have collected when you leave? How do you lock down those devices and data so the next occupant cannot access your sensitive information?

Locking it down and resetting devices
Your first priority should be to make certain your software is up-to-date and that you are using the latest security and encryption protection that’s compatible with your system. Each aspect of your smart home likely has a “disconnect” or “uninstall” process and you’ll likely need to consult with each one to insure you have a smooth and safe transition to your new home. Even if you’re taking the components of the system with you, you’ll need to reach out to customer support and let them know your new location. If you’re leaving them behind, tech support will likely recommend that you reset it to the factory default, so the next family will be able to connect their system and adjust to their preferences.

Protecting data and IoT
While dealing with the actual devices is important, as an entire connected home can become quite expensive, even more crucial, is ensuring that your data is protected when you move. This brings us back to a topic we have long and frequently discussed: the IoT (Internet of Things) and who in fact owns the information collected from a smart home?

In general, if you own your home, you own the data, although, each app/program/vendor/utility can vary so always, always, always, read the terms and conditions before you click “accept” when you begin using a new program or app. The ToS will likely tell you what the company will do with the data it collects from your devices and you need to protect the ownership of your data. Also, read the privacy policy as some data can be sold to 3rd parties (for massive profit) if you blindly click “accept.”

If you still think it’s no big deal, you might want to read about who will profit from the IoT. Also dig in to who owns what type of data, because let’s face it, you want to know where and how video footage, door lock access codes, and security alarm entries are being stored.

If you take nothing else away from this article, let it be to double-check your encryption setting and your preferred apps’ data storage/sales policies because these are the two most important and proactive steps you can take to prevent your data from falling into the wrong hands, not only when you leave your existing smart home, but also in general while you are using and enjoying your automated technology.

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Real Estate Technology

Drone simulator apps let you try before you buy

(TECH NEWS) Want to boost your Realtor cred with awesome drone photos but not sure you want to put down the cash? This company has an option to let you try it out free of charge!

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Finally. Finally. It’s the article I was born to write. In the following few paragraphs, please find detailed, easy-to-use instructions on how to construct, master and deploy your very own robot army.

Wait, what?

I don’t… I don’t understand. You don’t want an army of flying buzzbots, programmed to indulge your every whim?

You just want them to do your job better? Seriously?

No, no, that’s OK. I’m not disappointed. More for me.

But seriously, folks. Drones are amazing tools for Realtors, providing an opportunity for detailed, high-quality observation of properties, opening up new security solutions for prospective and current customers, and generally changing the game.

Game,” unfortunately, is the operative word. I’ve been a gamer since DOS and I still can’t run a flight sim without plowing a Learjet into Newark. All that costs me is my save. Getting this “game” wrong means turning hundreds of dollars into scrap and smoke.

Thankfully, for once the expertise is ahead of the implementation.

The Drone Racing League, which turns out is a thing, has a user-friendly, full featured drone flight simulator on the market.

And the best part? It’s not on the market at all.

The DRL already has builds for PC and Mac ready to go, though of course you’ll need a computer that can handle the beast. You’ll also need a controller. The standard input device for professional droning is an RC controller, the stylish great grandson of those black antenna boxes that slammed so many tiny cars into so many walls on so many Christmas mornings.

But DRL has you covered: no specialist controller needed. Just about anything that plays nice with USB will work, including Playstation and Xbox controllers. There’s even online multiplayer, so if you want to get really good at taking pretty pictures of your properties (or like flying bundles of pixels around super fast) dive in.

Drones are flocking in droves to the real estate market, and not just as the first stage of conquest for my robot empire.

High-quality images of your properties are a great way to set yourself apart from the rest of the market.

If you want to know if it’s worth your investment, here’s a great – and free! – way to find out.

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Real Estate Technology

How AI boosts sales skills, not replaces them

(TECH NEWS) Artificial intelligence will drive the future of sales with time-saving solutions, not career-destroying deviance.

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Artificial Intelligence is getting pretty wild, y’all. Google and Uber are both working on developing AI systems with self-doubt, the University of Cambridge added a “Superintelligence” modification to popular computer game Civilization, and Japanese scientists can basically read minds with deep neural networks now.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) broadly covers the idea of machines and technology carrying out “smart” tasks. AI is driven by machine learning (ML), which allows devices to analyze data and learn through pattern recognition.

AI’s potential is widespread, from personal assistants like Siri and Alexa, to services like Pandora and Netflix. Utilizing machine learning (ML) software, these services apply algorithms to data sets to analyze and learn user preferences.

Whenever you like a movie or show on Netflix, you get suggestions of what you may like based on previous reactions, watching history, and Netflix’s extensive dataset. Machine learning does the analysis work, while Netflix as a service is considered something that uses AI.

Many companies use AI and ML to evaluate and manage data. In 2016, $20-30 billion was spent worldwide on AI. Of this, ninety percent went to research and development, which speaks to global interest in improving and increasing AI technology.

As the amount of worldwide data increases, AI and ML can help manage information and deliver insights across a variety of industries, including retail, real estate, education, energy, manufacturing, and so many others.

Sales can particularly benefit from AI since it reduces the manual labor of researching prospects and qualifying leads. With AI, sales teams can determine when to engage prospects, and which information will be most relevant.

Additionally, AI provides insight into which content is doing well so sales teams can better optimize high-performing strategies. In turn, this can improve engagement based on insights instead of intuition to increase close rates.

Close analysis of data doesn’t have to be a tedious administrative task with AI and ML. By finding out what your customers need based on close data analysis, you can create targeted, personalized solutions.

Plus, AI can help reduce lost sales by evaluating product availability, and implement dynamic pricing along and demand forecasting.

In terms of customer support for sales, you can already easily implement chatbots that use machine learning to answer frequently asked questions and generate leads.

We’re not exactly at Westworld levels of automation yet, but the future is leaning towards AI. Those in the sales industry can greatly benefit from implementing artificial intelligence solutions to save time and increase productivity for anyone who’s still human on the team.

And now for a neat graphic to digest:

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