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Encrypted doesn’t mean hack proof, even for cryptocurrency

(TECH NEWS) There is no such thing as un-hackable, even in cryptocurrency. Yes, it can be hacked, BUT it can also be prevented.

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What if cryptocurrency… wasn’t?

Sounds like a terribly clever Black Mirror episode, I realize, but it’s a serious question that’s come up more and more in conversations about cryptocurrency: is it really safe? Security has always been the core offer of bitcoin, Ethereum and their digital kindred. It’s right there in the name. Cryptocurrency equals currency, encrypted. It’s supposed to be so good it can be bad, as in, the security is so tight bad people can do bad things and nobody knows about it.

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But despite the rep for felon-worthy security, the plain fact is that blockchain isn’t invincible. When it comes to secure exchange of funds, blockchain-based cryptocurrency is still probably your best bet, but as with all things “best” does not equal “perfect.” Blockchain’s advantages over conventional cash are clear: there’s no hard currency to steal or lose, no middleman to get up to nefarious doings, and the records are cozy behind the apex of information security. That’s great, but it’s not everything.

How to keep the crypt part of cryptocurrency

That being the case, in my self-appointed role as AG Crypto Guy (Pulitzers, call me) here follow several ways nefarious folks can eff with your fat digital stacks, and what you can do about them.

1. Malware

It’s a classic. Early on, cryptocurrency was spared the plague of Russian threats and Nigerian princes for the same reason as Linux: not enough there to steal. After Mt. Gox and other frankly spectacular bits of fraud (the word “trillion” occurs in the Mt. Gox story, and it’s not hyperbole) that is, to say the least, no longer the case. Bad folks are writing programs based on the same tricks they’d use to swipe normal cash – Trojans that skulk in the guts of your programs, scooping up secure data, phishing attempts to get you to hand that data over voluntarily – aimed at your digital dollars.

Solution: Operational security. Sounds fancy when I put it like that, but for our purposes “operational security” just means “stuff that you do” as distinct from “stuff your computer does.” If you keep a substantial portion of your value in cryptocurrency, protect it as tightly as you would anything else worth having. Have strong, single-use passwords for each service you use your coins of choice with. Keep offline backups of your cryptographic credentials. Use a good VPN. Think of it as the equivalent of keeping your bank password out of your Smart Lock list, and not putting your PIN on a Post-It.

2. Botnet

The scourge of the new digital order. Seriously, who figured the robot apocalypse would come, not in the form of a deceptively soft-voiced computer overlord, but a houseful of mechanical morons? Well, except XKCD. And us. Anyway. The aforementioned bad folks are by no means especially bright, so they tend to be in favor of having other things do their thinking for them. As we put more and more computers into things, generally with less and less security, those people can make those computerized things do the thinking, and the hacking, for them. Hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands of dumb little computer brains can thus be put to work, crashing sites with overwhelming numbers of requests or brute forcing security information by inputting every possible option at the speed of Internet.

Solution: Get offline. Not entirely, obviously. That would rather defeat the purpose of digital currency. But the Mt. Gox folks got shafted because they kept their bitcoins in an online wallet, and through mismanagement, fraud or a combination thereof, they found themselves suddenly bereft of same. To avoid their fate, go with what cryptocurrency types call “cold storage”: keep your stash offline. No amount of digital malfeasance can reach data that isn’t connected to anything. When buying or selling on an exchange, restrict what you transfer to what you’ll use for that particular transaction, and use a wallet where you and only you have the public and private key. It’s only a little less convenient, and it’s safe as houses.

3. Scams

If the information revolution of the last four decades could be reduced to a single transcendent lesson, it is as follows: no digital solution, however elegant, fixes stupid. With something as new and deliberately opaque as cryptocurrency, it’s horribly easy to be stupid, and even easier for folks versed in the art of the steal to exploit same.

Solution:
Learn. At least until we get a proper robot apocalypse going, this is something we h. sapiens can do that, as yet, our machine overlords can’t. Do the reading. Research different currencies and different exchanges before you lay out funds. Talk to people about their experiences before you invest. Nothing replaces legwork, digital or otherwise.

4. Hacking

Proper hacking this time, none of this faffing about with turncoat toasters or email con games. No code is perfect. Some bad folks, alas, are exceptionally bright, and will from time to time find holes they can exploit.

Solution: Zen. Or “s$%t happens,” depending on your cultural framework. Cryptocurrency isn’t perfectly secure. Perfect security isn’t a thing. It’s just more secure than normal currency, especially if you have a philosophical problem with banks, nations or both. People have been scamming people through the medium of exchange since the medium of exchange was barter. Cash is safer than barter. Cryptocurrency is safer than cash. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, just that it’s as good as it gets. Execute on the solutions above, and with any luck your Robot Future Money should stay where it belongs.

#KeepItCrypt

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Tech News

Loss of internet access is used as punishment for those who abuse it

(TECH NEWS) Internet access is becoming more of a human right especially in light of recent events –so why is revoking it being used as a punishment?

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Internet access

When one hears the word “punishment”, several things likely come to mind—firing, fees, jail time, and even death for the dramatic among us—but most people probably don’t envision having their access to utilities restricted as a legal repercussion.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening across the country—if you consider Internet access a utility.

In the past, you’ve probably heard stories about people awaiting trial or experiencing probation limitations being told that they are not to use the Internet or certain types of communication. While this may seem unjust, the circumstances usually provide some context for the extreme nature of such a punishment; for example, it seems reasonable to ask that a person accused of downloading child pornography keep off the internet.

More recently–and perhaps more controversially—a young man accused of using social media to incite violent behavior during country-wide protests was ordered to stay offline while awaiting trial. This order came after the individual purportedly encouraged people to “[tip] police cars”, vandalize property, and generally exhibit other “riot”-oriented behaviors.

Whether or not one reads this post as a specific call to create violence—something that is, in fact, illegal—the fact remains that the “punishment” for this crime in lieu of a current conviction involves cutting off the person involved from all internet access until a verdict is achieved.

The person involved in this story may be less than sympathetic depending on your stance, but they aren’t alone. The response of cutting off the Internet in this case complements other stories we’ve seen, such as one regarding Cox and a client in Florida. Allegedly, the client in question paid for unlimited data—a potential issue in and of itself—and then exceeded eight terabytes of monthly use on multiple occasions.

Did Cox correct their plan, allocate more data, throttle this user, or reach out to explain their concerns, you may ask?

No. Cox alerted the user in question that they would terminate his account if his use continued to be abnormally high, and in the meantime, they throttled the user’s ENTIRE neighborhood. This kind of behavior would be unacceptable when applied to any other utility (imagine having your air conditioning access “throttled” during the summer), so why is it okay for Cox?

The overarching issue in most cases stems from Internet provider availability; in many areas, clients have one realistic option for an Internet provider, thus allowing that provider to set prices, throttle data, and impose restrictions on users free of reproach.

Anyone who has used Comcast, Cox, or Cable One knows how finicky these services can be regardless of time of use, and running a simple Google speed test is usually enough to confirm that the speeds you pay for and the speeds you receive are rarely even close.

In the COVID era in which we find ourselves, it is imperative that Internet access be considered more than just a commodity: It is a right, one that cannot be revoked simply due to a case of overuse here, or a flaw in a data plan there.

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How to personalize your site for every visitor without learning code

(TECH NEWS) This awesome tool from Proof lets you personalize your website for visitors without coding. Experiences utilizes your users to create the perfect view for them.

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What if you could personalize every step of the sales funnel? The team over at Proof believes this is the next best step for businesses looking to drive leads online. Their tool, Experiences, is a marketer-friendly software that lets you personalize your website for every visitor without coding.

Using Experiences your team can create a targeted experience for the different types of visitors coming to your website. The personalization is thought to drive leads more efficiently because it offers visitors exactly the information they want. Experiences can also be used to A/B test different strategies for your website. This could be a game changer for companies that target multiple specific audiences.

Experiences is a drag-and-drop style tool, which means nearly anyone on your team can learn to use it. The UX is meant to be intuitive and simple, so you don’t need a web developer to guide you through the process. In order to build out audiences for your website, Experiences pulls data from your CRM, such as SalesForce and Hubspot, or you can utilize a Clearbit integration which pull third-party information.

Before you go rushing to purchase a new tool for your team, there are a few things to keep in mind. According to Proof, personalization is best suited for companies with at least 15,000 plus visitors per month. This volume of visitors is necessary for Experiences to gather the data it needs to make predictions. The tool is also recommended for B2B businesses since company data is public.

The Proof team is a success story of the Y Combinator demo day. They pitched their idea for a personalized web experience and quickly found themselves funded. Now, they’ve built out their software and have seen success with their initial clients. Over the past 18 months, their early-access clients, which included brands like Profitwell and Shipbob, have seen an increase in leads, proposals, and downloads.

Perhaps the best part of Proof is that they don’t just sell you a product and walk away. Their website offers helpful resources for customers called Playbooks where you can learn how to best use the tool to achieve your company’s goals be it converting leads or engaging with your audience. If this sounds like exactly the tool your team needs, you can request a demo on their website.

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Tech News

3 cool ways bug-sized robots are changing the world

(TECH NEWS) Robots are at the forefront of tech advancements. But why should we care? Here are some noticeable ways robots are changing the world.

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Bits of robots and microchips changing the world.

When we envision the robots that will (and already are) transforming our world, we’re most likely thinking of something human- or dog-sized. So why are scientists hyper-focusing on developing bug-sized (or even smaller!) robots?

Medical advances

Tiny robots could assist in better drug delivery, as well as conduct minor internal surgeries that wouldn’t otherwise require incisions.

Rescue operations

We’ve all heard about the robot dogs that can rescue people who’ve been buried beneath rubble or sheets of snow. However, in some circumstances these machines are too bulky to do the job safely. Bug-sized robots are a less invasive savior in high-intensity environments, such as mine fields, that larger robots would not be able to navigate without causing disruption.

Exploration

Much like the insects after which these robots were designed, they can be programmed to work together (think: ants building a bridge using their own bodies). This could be key in exploring surfaces like Mars, which are not safe for humans to explore freely. Additionally, tiny robots that can be set to construct and then deconstruct themselves could help astronauts in landings and other endeavors in space.

Why insects?

Well, perhaps the most important reason is that insects have “nature’s optimized design”. They can jump vast distances (fleas), hold items ten times the weight of their own bodies (ants) and perform tasks with the highest efficiency (bees) – all qualities that, if utilized correctly, would be extremely beneficial to humans. Furthermore, a bug-sized bot is economical. If one short-circuits or gets lost, it won’t totally break the bank.

What’s next?

Something scientists have yet to replicate in robotics is the material elements that make insects so unique and powerful, such as tiny claws or sticky pads. What if a robot could produce excrement that could build something, the way bees do in their hives, or spiders do with their webs? While replicating these materials is often difficult and costly, it is undoubtedly the next frontier in bug-inspired robotics – and it will likely open doors for humans that we never imaged possible.

This is all to say that in the pursuit of creating strong, powerful robots, they need not always be big in stature – sometimes, the tiniest robots are just the best for the task.

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