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Make sure your password isn’t on the “Worst Passwords” list

(TECH NEWS) Gather around for the worst passwords of 2017 and be prepared to feel ashamed if yours is on this list.

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Alright pals, it’s time for another roundup review of the most common passwords. Looking back at 2017, there were tons of services that got hacked, from Equifax to Yahoo. While some breaches can leave everyone blindsided with the skill behind the attacks, other hacks are easily avoided by not having a dumb password.

Like, for real, if your password is still “password,” no one will send you a sympathy card when your online life gets wrecked.

And if you’re still rocking “123456,” do yourself a favor and log off from everything forever.

Security firm SplashData released a compilation of the top 100 “Worst Passwords of 2017” (#34 is pretty neat). They crafted the list from an analysis of five million leaked online user records from the past year.

While the list is hilarious, it should be taken with a grain of salt. There are roughly 3.2 billion people online, and it’s likely each person has more than one account that requires login credentials. Regardless, here are the 25 worst offenders:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. 12345
  6. 123456789
  7. letmein
  8. 1234567
  9. football
  10. iloveyou
  11. admin
  12. welcome
  13. monkey
  14. login
  15. abc123
  16. starwars
  17. 123123
  18. dragon
  19. passw0rd
  20. master
  21. hello
  22. freedom
  23. whatever
  24. qazwsd
  25. trustno1

If we pretended like each person only has one account, a leaked list of five million doesn’t even make up one percent of all passwords online. Plus, the internet is now rife with bots, who aren’t included in that 3.2 billion headcount.

Sometimes programmers use easy to remember passwords for bots that make it in to the hall of shame, like “qwerty” or “12341234.” Plus, many databases require a password to look at passwords, so hopefully those didn’t leak onto the list.

Even with this in mind, there are still plenty of actual people using tragically simple passwords featured in SplashData’s list.

My personal favorites include “trustno1” and newcomer to the list, “starwars.” Plenty of common first names like Daniel, Amanda, and Matthew made it on the list as well.

Some very ambitious people opted for wishful thinking in using luxury car brands like Ferrari, Mercedes, and Corvette as their passwords. Other notable mentions include “letmein” and inexplicably, “cheese” and “killer.”

Here’s the thing: you’re probably going to get hacked at some point. If you’re lucky, it will just be some throwaway email account you use for special offers.

Protect yourself by regularly changing your passwords, and using unique passwords for each account you have. You can use generators to create strong passwords, and keep track of them all using a secure password manager services.

Additionally, if two-factor authentication is available through whatever service you’re using that requires login credentials, take them up on that additional protection.

Ultimately though, if the service you’re using isn’t properly encrypting and hashing personally-identifying information, a strong password won’t help.

Oh and also because the internet is full of equal amounts of good and bad, there is the constant presence of persistent hackers who will relentlessly use phishing attempts and large-scale hacks to derail databases. Secure passwords won’t help either.

Basically we’re always open for hacking attempts, and nothing at the moment can really stop them. However, after having my bike seat and accessories stolen numerous times, I learned a nice philosophy that can apply to all sorts of things.

You can’t stop someone from trying to steal your stuff, but if you make it difficult enough they may give up. Do whatever you can to secure your passwords, but recognize that ultimately there aren’t that many great protections in place.

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

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

Speed up your online productivity with this Chrome extension

(REAL ESTATE TECH NEWS) Say hello to faster work times with Sidekick, a Chromium-based browser made specifically for people who work on the web.

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Sidekick, the Chrome extension that boosts productivity while working on the web.

Working remotely isn’t all that bad, but it could be easier. With all our work being done straight from our computers today, our one, two, or even three monitors can start to feel overcrowded quickly. Those open tabs, windows, and apps are everywhere! As a result, we’re left with little to no organization. To make things worse, memory consumption slows down our computers thus putting the brakes on our work productivity level.

A lot of us are experiencing these same problems. Over the last few months, we have seen web tools that make things better. And now, there’s a new tool that works with Chrome extensions and promises it will be FASTER, too!

Sidekick is a Chromium-based browser made specifically for people who work on the web. It is designed to be the “ultimate online work experience” by combining everything your productivity needs in one interface.

With Sidekick, you “work in apps instead of tabs”. You can pin your apps in the Sidekick sidebar so you can access them instantly. Each app has its own search field, and you can configure notification alerts for each one. As an added bonus, you can have multiple logins. With a simple click, you can switch between your accounts without having to login and logout constantly.

Also, you can “search all your work instantly”. The tool has a built-in search bar with a single shortcut. You can search across apps, tabs, workspaces, contacts, and documents all at the same time. Hooray!

To remove clutter, Sidekick automatically saves open tabs into “sessions”. In the side panel, you can open and create a new session to organize your work.

According to the company’s website, their business model isn’t ad-based so they “can afford a no compromise approach to the privacy.” Instead, “Sidekick blocks virtually every data-grabbing ad and tracker” with its built-in adblocker.

Sidekick also makes it easy to work together. Sidekick Teams lets you “stay on top of every project through your browser.” Workspaces can be created to set up a project with its own session, app Sidebar, and tabs. Additionally, if you need to get a hold of a team member you can see who’s available so you can video chat with them.

The tool makes onboarding a lot simpler. You can set up apps, bookmarks, and credentials for new employees before they open the browser for the first time.

Furthermore, the tool safeguard’s everyone’s data. It can “remotely configure the security of every device connected to your data cloud, even in BYOD situations.” And, Sidekick’s password manager lets you share passwords securely without having to reveal what it is. And, we can all agree this is pretty important.

The company’s website states that Sidekick is the “fastest work environment ever made.” By centralizing everything you could need to do your work, it could create a boost to your productivity on the web. If you’d like to give it a try, you can check them out here.

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Real Estate Technology

Value privacy? DuckDuckGo is the answer to breaking up with Google

(TECHNOLOGY) DuckDuckGo is a search engine that doesn’t listen to home recordings, sell you stuff, or track your every movement. They just provide search results.

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DuckDuckGo search engine

A recent Wired editorial caught our eye, urging folks to consider using DuckDuckGo instead of Google. As someone who does use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine, it made me smile.

In the modern world of telecommunications, the only real currency is trust. When you buy an iPhone or an Android, you’re not really buying a set of features. You’re buying assurance that the cell phone company you’ve chosen isn’t going to screw you over too badly. You have a device in your pocket that tracks you, everywhere you go.

Even when you have location services off, your smartphone knows where you are through a combination of the Wi-Fi networks nearby and your phone’s motion sensor. Here’s an article from nearly a decade ago talking about how this process is 90% accurate. How much better do you reckon it’s gotten since then?

The thing is, Apple and Google both kinda suck at the privacy thing. Here’s an article about Siri recordings being made when Siri isn’t meant to be turned on, and the quality assurance contractors who then have to listen to people having sex. (Apple is ending the contractor program, after a public outcry.) Here’s an article about a big ol’ leak of Google Home recordings, many of which were made without the user activating Google Home. Here’s an article about Amazon leaking 1,700 audio recordings from someone’s Alexa to a complete stranger!

So your phone companies don’t really protect you that well. Apps take advantage of this too. If you still have the FB app, you should probably delete it! Here’s a story about a psychiatrist realizing that Facebook was suggesting that her patients add each other!

So privacy matters, and Google sucks at it. Google is also a HUGE business. It’s an enormous company that wields so much influence on ours lives that there is an entire industry now called “search engine optimization” dedicated to unraveling its whims.

And what whims! One major update a few weeks ago caused a 30-40% drop in traffic for some websites. These updates are pretty opaque, and a whole constellation of websites has arisen to help the search engine optimization workers (or SEOs, for short) untangle what those updates mean, and why their traffic has suddenly gone down.

And at this point, Google only kinda wants to serve you results. Mostly they wanna serve you ads, and highly-optimized shopping results. One of the big problems facing SEO workers right now is that you can bust your ass to get a company to the front page of results, and it may not matter if you don’t crack the top 3. Because people do most of their Internetting on their phones now, and ads take up most of the screen space when someone Googles.

So Google isn’t great at privacy AND their priorities are skewed. But this is an article about DuckDuckGo, right? And we’ve barely covered it! So let’s talk about that a little.

DuckDuckGo doesn’t save your searches. It forgets everything you search. And you know what? That feels incredible. There are drawbacks. When I type the letter L into DuckDuckGo, it doesn’t immediately suggest “Leonard Bernstein shirtless” like Google does. But the ten seconds it takes to type that out is worth the knowledge that my data isn’t being stored by my search engine.

And yes, Google pours a ton of money and attention into their algorithms, and they’ve got a years-long head start on DuckDuckGo. But usually, DuckDuckGo still manages to get me exactly what I want. Sometimes, it’s even better at giving me what I want. Because it’s not serving me ads, or trying to second-guess me. It just…gives me the thing I asked for.

There are still some instances that send me to Google. If I’m looking for a specific image or gif, for instance. Or if I’m looking for a certain news story. And there are certain niche searches where Google’s experience is necessary. But for the vast majority of what I need, DuckDuckGo is there, serving up only what I want and protecting my privacy while it does. And it feels GREAT.

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