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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Palm is a tiny phone that pairs with your giant smartphone
(TECHNOLOGY) Nokia’s new Palm mini-phone release encourages endless Honey I Shrunk the Phone jokes.
My current phone is dangerously close to being excluded from regular software updates. However, I have no real intention of purchasing a new one until crucial functions become unusable. There’s so little storage that if I want to install a new app, I have to delete one.
Yet I hold on to my increasingly historical device because I love how tiny it is compared to everything else on the market. Larger screens are no longer a novelty. It’s now the norm to have a five inch screen at a minimum.
But Palm has something different in mind. Yes, Palm as in the same people who brought you the now defunct PalmPilot. Mobility-loving users rejoice, they have risen from the ashes of the technology graveyard to bring you a new miniature innovation.
Palm released a eensy teensy credit card sized “ultra-mobile companion device” creatively called Palm. This cute little pal’s screen measures a mere 3.3 inches and weighs just over two ounces.
It easily fits in your athleisure wear, clutches, wallets, and even bike mounts. Palm is meant to help you out in times when your “big phone” is too gigantic for whatever you’re doing. Hold up, don’t we already have smartwatches for that?
Well, yes. But the tiny device boasts several features absent in smartwatches, including rear and front facing cameras, full keyboard messaging, and an expanded accessory ecosystem. The adorable companion even has facial recognition and customizable notification settings. Plus, if you’re not a watch person, Palm is a non-wearable alternative.
So that’s all neat, but is this all just a gimmick to convince you that your giant smartphone needs a baby smartphone friend? Well, that depends on your lifestyle.
If you’re frequently using your phone on-the-go or simply want a technology detox, this device may be the thing for you. It makes your phone more like a fun toy to check sometimes instead of a huge screen that sucks the life out of your waking hours.
But if you’re constantly on your phone and always prefer the bigger screen, you’ll want to stick with your current device. Or give one to your kids to use as an American Girl Doll accessory.
The device starts at $349 and pairs with your existing phone, but comes with an additional $10 charge since it has its own cellular radio. Palm syncs with Android and iOS and is currently available in the U.S. exclusively through Verizon.
Remote job search site literally copied & pasted competitor’s entire site
(TECH NEWS) What happens if someone copies and pastes your site into their own site, then charges users for it? Besides rage… ?
Despite the fact that plagiarism has been a no-no with very serious potential consequences since middle school for most people, some folks didn’t get the memo. One group of individuals even went so far as to copy a competitor’s entire website and publish it as their own, raising the question: just how much idiocy do you have to remain alert for?
This egregious case of copy-and-paste innovation started when a new company by the name of Jobscribe went live on Product Hunt. After spending some time in the spotlight, the company’s apparent plagiarism was brought to light by Product Hunt user Robert Williams in a review left on the Jobscribe announcement page – Jobscribe had duplicated Williams’ site Folyo — right down to the site copy and testimonials — and published the content on their own domain. Then had the gall to announce their launch on Product Hunt.
You can’t make this stuff up.
It’s easy to look at what happened to Folyo as an isolated incident, but this kind of “sharing of ideas” happens to businesses on a much more frequent basis than one might assume. In an era where everything is online and innumerable new sites are published every second, it’s all too easy for a competitor to steal your hard work and publish it as their own service.
Sadly, there isn’t much you can do after the fact; besides reporting the site to their web host for plagiarism and making a visible statement on your site (and social media if applicable), you’ll simply have to wait for the “competitor” to have their version of your content taken down. Steps you can take to mitigate some of the damage before instances like this even happen include patenting your service and brand before going live, but that won’t help you if you’re already a victim of plagiarism.
If you visit the Jobscribe website, it’s gone, and you get a note from GoDaddy that the site is parked. Adios.
Not so fast – if you visit the Jobscribe page on Product Hunt now, you’ll find that the page redirects to something called Worklead, a service which offers a functionality similar — though this time, not identical — to Folyo’s original purpose. Additionally, users have complained that the “free” service costs $5 (not a large sum, but indicative of the continued shady tactics the company employs).
Unfortunately, while the site’s copy has clearly been changed (arguably for the worse), the damage is done with little in the way of recourse for Folyo’s creator, and there’s no reason to believe that Worklead’s services will offer clients anything other than a lighter wallet.
Facebook Ads Manager unreliability keeps dumpster fire rep alive
(SOCIAL MEDIA) The Facebook Ads Manager isn’t exactly reliable, refunds aren’t offered, and social media practitioners hate the (still) necessary evil.
If there is one thing upon which we can rely when it comes to Facebook, it’s disappointing us. Sure, it is clear that the platform has done amazing things to connect people from all over the world. It allows the sharing of passions, photos, ideas, lifestyles, and pointlessly hilarious memes. But we have all glimpsed the dark underbelly of the social media giant.
Facebook regularly shows us the ugliest side of ourselves. This is a topic that is covered ALL. THE. TIME. How many of us have expressed our regret that Auntie posted insensitive views with the same pride she shares her great-grandchild’s first touchdown in the junior divisional beauty pageant and peewee football game?
But the content created by users is not Facebook’s latest letdown.
Ad buyers are regularly unable to see the analytics of their campaigns. For example, on October 29th, a number of digital media professionals found the Facebook Ads Manager to be unresponsive for hours. This lapse in availability is devastating to those who purchase ad space. This was aggravated by the fact that many campaigns were time sensitive, as they focused on the midterm elections.
Further, online advertisers rely on instant feedback and data to inform their next decisions. Many have expressed that the October 29th outage is a fairly regular occurrence with Facebook and continues to make their jobs nightmares.
Additionally, refunds were not offered for the time advertisers had purchased and not been able to use.
This recent occurrence appears to be the longest shutdown of FB Ads Manager, contributing to the dumpster fire of a reputation Facebook ads have cultivated.
We continue to ask – how can such a wealthy and dominating platform not get this issue into check? Or is it part of a broader design to lower expectations and soak up money like an adult child living in their parent’s basement, with no end in sight?
Facebook continues to decline commenting on their unreliability. Perhaps they know that all the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers will continue to use, share, swoon, and offend regardless of internal issues, and that advertisers will not (for some time) be able to subsist without reaching these groups.
For now, it seems Facebook is still in the driver’s seat. Whether or not they know how to drive this dumpster on wheels is another matter.
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