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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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IoT

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.

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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

Using text message marketing? This class action lawsuit may change your mind

(MARKETING NEWS) A new class action lawsuit may have your team reconsidering whether or not text message marketing is worth the risk.

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Imagine sitting on the sofa with your family and your phone vibrates. It’s a text message! You’re expecting your brother to let you know if he’ll make it to dinner tomorrow.

But it’s a text from a real estate brokerage, loudly proclaiming an “OPEN HOUSE THIS WEEKEND” in all caps, with a link to the listing.

How did they get your number? Why are they yelling at you? Why doesn’t the link have a brokerage name in the URL? Why would I click that link? Why am I being bothered during family time? Why, why, why?

Most people would block the number and move on, or text “stop,” in hopes that the future barrage of unsolicited texts would stop. We all get them from every direction, nearly every day now.

But not Floridian Steve Grossberg, who took a screenshot of a text message from a Coldwell Banker agent, and hired an attorney. A class action lawsuit has since been filed in the Southern District of Florida, and a court date is set for this Friday, April 12, for Judge Federico A. Moreno to review the case.

The lawsuit claims the text messages were sent without written permission from the recipients (required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since 2012), causing the Defendants “injuries, including invasion of their privacy, aggravation, annoyance, intrusion on seclusion, trespass, and conversion.”

Class action status is being sought for this case – Grossberg’s attorneys claim individual cases for all those impacted would overwhelm the court system and be too financially cumbersome for potential individual plaintiffs.

They’re seeking up to $1,500 in damages for each violation, which they say exceeds the $5,000,000 threshold for federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). The “Class” would include anyone in the past four years that have texted by Coldwell Banker or anyone on their behalf, using automated equipment (or an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS)). Interestingly, in the “Class” description, the attorneys don’t include permission status at all, just “anyone” that has been auto-texted by the brokerage.

Court documents outline in detail the technologies used that allegedly violate federal statues, and Grossberg isn’t just suing the local agent or brokerage, but the international company, Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, claiming the text messages sent violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The lawsuit does not outline in such detail, the chain of permission that was or was not given.

Real estate professionals that hire a marketing firm or a tech startup that promises to modernize their marketing, have an expectation that their money is being spent on something that is in compliance with all laws, be they local, state, or federal. Especially if that is what the company being hired specializes in.

Laying it at the feet of the end user (brokerages) is unfair, and it is curious that no service provider is named as the Defendant. Perhaps Coldwell Banker’s pockets seem deeper.

Additionally, the topic of permission is convoluted, as website visitors will often fill out their information when viewing homes, and the IDX provider will use that contact information to send even more information, thus written permission to contact.

Lumping the above activity in with telemarketing spam would be inaccurate. If a brokerage bought a list of phone numbers to cold text without consumers’ permission, that would, however be illegal.

Regardless, in the text message showcased in the lawsuit, the URL provided (ishomenow.com) forwards to listingstoleads.com – Listings-to-Leads (L2L) which says it is a “leading inbound marketing platform with a lead generation system.”

It appears to us that the lead generation company is the originator of the text message, not a specific Coldwell Banker agent or broker.

This Friday will determine next steps in this case, but for now, it is worth investigating your own text message marketing efforts (whether done yourself or through a third party) to make sure proper permissions have been obtained, and that all use is within current federal guidelines, because a potential $1,500 per text message sent in violation of the law would hurt any brokerage.

Be sure to read the lawsuit in its entirety as it outlines the specific behaviors in question, and review this potentially helpful compliance checklist in the meantime.

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Real Estate Technology

The app for pros that rely on their network for sales

(TECH NEWS) When you network frequently as part of your sales strategies, connections can get confused and become impersonal. This app intends on fixing that.

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Part of any successful professional’s life is networking in person, be it within your network, or among consumers. But keeping everyone straight takes a lot of brain power and skill.

You can never have too many apps when it comes to networking. Which is why I’m thrilled that with the arrival of Hippo, we have a meaningful entry in the field.

Like its distant cousin “personal finance and budgeting,” there are more apps out there than I have fingers and toes. Yet Hippo is attempting to do what dozens of other networking apps are trying to do as well: Get and keep your attention.

That said, it appears that Hippo is trying to tap into your vein of nostalgia by letting you know that networking is akin to happiness. In other words, the more people you know, the happier you are – their premise is supported by a giant TED talk on their website’s landing page.

The Hippo app lets you personalize your entries: names, ages, descriptions, personal notes, special dates.

For anyone involved in sales, Hippo could offer one hell of an advantage.

For those of us used writing things down about the people you meet, Hippo makes your conversations instantly searchable. Hippo can find notes using any obscure keyword you can remember. The search is brilliant.

The app promotes the idea of the “Farley file,” wherein Franklin D. Roosevelt’s campaign manager, James Farley kept notes of every single person they came across, including personal details that could be accessed by Roosevelt days, weeks, or even months later to improve the personal touch of any conversation. This was not the standard method at the time and many believe it changed how politicians were expected to communicate.

Hippo is just waiting to be downloaded.

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Real Estate Technology

Partners in Grind is an accountability match-making site

Partners in Grind is a website that strives to help you find an accountability partner – something that could really help with inspiring productivity.

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We all have that friend who serves as our “partner in crime,” the one they go on crazy adventures with and have great stories to tell as a result. For me, all of my friends fall into this classification; but I digress…

While these relationships are fun for “every once in a while” behavior, not everyday needs to be an adventure. But, it is difficult to find the day-to-day friends that encourage good, even productive, behavior.

This is now possible with Partners in Grind which strives to help you find an accountability partner – something that could really help with inspiring productivity.

Speaking from experience, it can be extremely difficult to find self-discipline and motivate yourself to work; especially when working in a freelance role. However, when you have someone else in the know of your work, you are likely to try harder.

According to the company, “Partners in Grind is match-making tool for accountability partners to promote proper habit building. Habits are everything – our daily habits dictate the quality of our lives.

Research shows social accountability is critical during the formation of habits, but finding someone to kick ass with can be HARD.

“Partners In Grind will handpick an accountability buddy based on the specific Success-Habit you want to add to your life. Build new habits like Working Out, Eating Healthy, Meditating, Reading, and Mastering Your Mornings with an accountability partner. As an added bonus, every week you receive a mini present in your inbox of pro-tips and inspirational clips specific to that habit.”

This free service works with the ideas of science, support, and challenge. With science, studies show the significance of social accountability. Having the support of someone on your team to contact at anytime for motivation is priceless; and this leads to challenge because playful competition is likely to transpire.

To find your “Partner in Grind,” you can fill out a sign-up form, which leads to personalized guidance, then receive challenges and tips. And, if you are your partner are incompatible, you have to option to be re-matched.

Stay in touch with your partner through text, Skype, or email. Being able to share with someone else the completion of a project is incentive enough.

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