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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

How to find remote jobs if you’re on the go

(TECH NEWS) As remote working increases in popularity finding jobs seems to be getting harder. Here are a few options to give you a head start.

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Looking to satisfy your wanderlust but need to find a way to pay for those craft beers and lattes?

Maybe you just need a change in scenery but your current job will not allow you to work remotely. With co-working spaces, numerous locations with free Wi-Fi, and your good old-fashioned Starbucks, finding a space for remote work has never been easier.

Finding work to do in these spaces is the hard part. I’m here to help! As it turns out, there are resources to find remote work-no office or dress code necessary.

You may be ready for a new city, but unsure of where to go.

For that, Nomad List is the place to go. At Nomad List you can compare rent prices, weather, safety, Wi-Fi speeds, and even the best nightlife.

Once you’ve got your location nailed down (or a few locations), you’ll need some work. Remote OK is one of numerous sites for that.

If you are looking for work but aren’t sure where to find it, Remote OK provides a collection of 25,000+ jobs on their board with links directly to the employer. With everything from technical writing and front-end design to sales, support and recruiting, this site is sure to have an option for you.

Another similar site is Remotive, where you can see jobs immediately pop up from companies you’ve heard of like GitHub or Upworthy, or you can search through different categories, like marketing, HR, or engineering.

We Work Remotely and RemoteBase are also great spots to find work with easy to navigate interfaces and thorough job descriptions.

For those weary of sifting through a never-ending list of job postings, there are a number of tools you can use to get jobs sent straight to you.

Sign up for a daily email with JobScribe to have an email with remote jobs delivered straight to your inbox. You can also try Working Nomads, a site that allows you to search through jobs or subscribe to an email service that will send you curated emails based on your job preferences.

If you are passionate about hitting the road, or the skies, and finding somewhere new to work, these are some resources to help you achieve it.

Let’s recap:

  1. Nomad List
  2. Remote OK
  3. Remotive
  4. We Work Remotely
  5. RemoteBase
  6. JobScribe
  7. Working Nomads
  8. Bonus: Remote Jobs Group

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Cope Notes: cheeky low-commitment mental health tool for all

(TECH NEWS) Mental health apps can be hard to find, harder to use, and even harder to remember without inundating, annoying alerts. Cope Notes is the perfect solution.

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I recently went searching for some mental health apps and it was a sea of garbage, if I’m being honest. I finally found a meditation app that was kind of cool, but after I figured out how it worked, I mostly spent time on videos of a gal cussing, but not for meditation value, but humor. I deleted the app.

I’m not in a dark place right now, but I work in a fast paced, high stress world, and maintaining focus and mental health is my competitive advantage, and one I take very seriously. But so many of the tools available are overpriced, overly complicated, or short on value.

About 12 hours after I had given up and decided to stick to my current regimen, without the help of any tech, a former Staff Writer reached out to update me on what he’s up to, and it was so timely… Cope Notes.

Put simply, it’s 20 randomly-timed text messages per month. You don’t know when they’re coming, but they’re exercises, encouragement, and witty advice. Finally, something that doesn’t put all of the work on me as a user.

And I’m not surprised – creator Johnny Crowder is young, but has long been a mental health advocate, and very sincere about it. He used to write here at AG in between tours and gigs as a famous straight-edge metal musician (I had no idea what that was prior to connecting with Crowder). He is a talented creative that has a lot of people looking up to him, so what better way to use that spotlight than for good?

“I just don’t want people to get so frustrated searching for solutions that they give up on healing altogether,” said Crowder. “It’s not clinical, it’s not complicated, it’s not confusing. It’s for people who feel great, people who feel rotten, and everyone in between.”

What we love about the creation of the app is that Crowder has suffered his own challenges, and instead of just complaining about an option he says he would have truly benefited from in his past, he took action.

Cope Notes is far different from any solution we’ve seen in that it speaks our language – cheeky, never condescending, and disarming, never douchey.

And because it’s done over text, it doesn’t require you to run an app in the background or remember to turn it back on, giving you a better chance at successfully using it (instead of forgetting which is my biggest fault).

“It took me years to find and hone the coping strategies that I rely on every day to keep me happy and healthy,” said Crowder. “Now that I finally figured out what works, I want to save people from the discouragement and disappointment of scrambling for solutions and fast-track their growth.” Every text is written by Crowder himself.

New users can enjoy a seven-day free trial by visiting copenotes.com/subscribe or texting COPE to 33222. After the trial period, subscribers pay $9.99 per month, with discounts applied to six-month and one-year subscriptions, and no set-up or cancellation fees.

The service also offers an option to purchase and personalize gift subscriptions for friends or family members in need, so check out Cope Notes today for you or a loved one.

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Why entrepreneurs are flocking to the pet technology space

(TECH) Pet technology is a burgeoning, $70B industry, but what makes it so attractive to entrepreneurs aside from kittens and puppers?

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According to science and/or math, the internet is fueled by pet pictures. We all love pictures of animals, but more than that, we love our actual tangible animals, and as a culture, we’ve used social media to do more than share – we’re all learning from each other about best practices and products.

We’ve noticed that the pet technology space is figuratively blowing up right now, so we asked Greg Tariff, Founder and CEO of Fetch my Pet why the industry’s blossoming in such a way.

In his own words below, Tariff effectively explains why entrepreneurs are making their way into the $70 billion industry:

This growth is driven in part by millennial consumers: about 75% in their 30s own a dog and about 50% own a cat—and 44% see their pets as “starter children.” In other words, millennials not only own more pets than any other generation, but offer a better standard of care and are changing the pet business landscape with their buying habits. Millennials think of pets as family.

It’s a great time for entrepreneurs to be making their way into the pet technology space. Studies show consumers are willing to pay more for higher quality food and pet products, and they are ready to engage in experiences with their pets. Now it’s up to pet brands to connect with these pet owners on a deeper level, and I believe technology can bridge that gap. Here’s how technology is improving pet ownership thanks to a number of new innovations and a shift in consumer trends:

Humans can interact with pets remotely. Marketed as “digital daycare for pets,” technology like PetChatz lets pet parents interact with their pets from outside of the home. The need for this type of technology is driven in part by our view of pets. We no longer see pets as owned objects, but rather members of our family. How we classify pets has a ripple effect on the pet ownership experience. Consumers are more willing to pay for high quality products and services, and businesses will have to offer the highest-quality experiences to retain customers. Plus there’s a market for technology like PetChatz that allows us to interact with our pets from a distance in real time.

Making pet life management simple for pet parents. Worldwide online sales of pet food increased from 6 to 14 percent in 2016, with sales of dog and cat food rising at least 14% in the U.S. alone. It’s very easy for pet owners to click to order food, find places to walk and play with their pets, and connect with other pet owners. For example, Fetch my Pet is learning about customers and their pet needs to make more contextual suggestions. If you have an 7-year-old Golden Retriever, your technology shouldn’t tell you to buy puppy food or puppy Chew toys. As pet life management technology continues to advance, the pet ownership experience will become more personalized and intuitive.

Artificial Intelligence enables predictive fulfillment. As more data is collected on pets and their habits via makers of the products and services consumed by pet parents, we will soon have the ability to embark on preventative pet healthcare and predictive fulfilment of products and services for our pets. What if Petco sent you a notification once they had a new sustainable dog food in stock because they knew you were low on kibble? We’re inching close to this reality.

Paving the way for brand and ingredient integrity. The more innovation that occurs in the pet space, the more selective consumers can be about what they purchase and why. We care very deeply about what we feed our pets. According to Purina, young adults are more likely than other groups to research foods when designing their pet’s diet, and they like to have options that include natural ingredients and real meat.

Companies like BareItAll Petfoods are taking food-sourcing one step further by selling food products made from Asian Carp, which threaten to harm waterways including the Great Lakes. Businesses are doing their part to get smarter about ingredient integrity – and consumers are being more selective.

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