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How your passwords probably get hacked #KnowledgeIsPower

(TECH NEWS) While we all know that passwords can be hacked, it is rare that we know how they’re hacked.

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Ever wonder how passwords get stolen? I like to imagine a team of hackers like The Lone Gunmen from The X-Files, all crowded in some hideout conducting illegal computer business based on tips from rogue FBI Agents.

Turns out there’s a little more to hacking than waiting for Fox Mulder to show up with hints.

Most of the common tactics involve guessing passwords utilizing online and offline techniques to acquire entry. One of the main methods is a dictionary attack.

This method automatically tries everything listed in a small file, the “dictionary,” which is populated with common passwords, like 123456 or qwerty. If your password is something tragically simple, you’re out of luck in a dictionary attack.

To protect yourself, use strong single-use passwords for each individual account. You can keep track of these with a password manager, because no one is expecting you to remember a string of nonsensical numbers, letters, and characters that make up a strong password.

Of course, there are still ways for hackers to figure out even complex passwords. In a brute force attack, every possible character combination is tried. For example, if the password is required to have at least one uppercase letter and one number, a brute force attack will meet these specifications when generating potential passwords.

Brute force attacks also include the most commonly used alphanumeric combinations, like a dictionary attack. Your best bet against this type of attack is using extra symbols like & or $ if the password allows, or including a variety of variables whenever possible.

Spidering is another online method similar to a dictionary attack. Hackers may target a specific business, and try a series of passwords related to the company. This usually involves using a search “spider” to collate a series of related terms into a custom word list.

While spidering can be devastating if successful, this kind of attack is diverted with strong network security and single-use passwords that don’t tie in easily searchable personal information.

Malware opens up some more fun options for hackers, especially if it features a keylogger, which monitors and records everything you type. With a keylogger, all your accounts could potentially be hacked, leaving you SOL. There are thousands of malware variants, and they can go undetected for a while.

Fortunately, malware is relatively easy to avoid by regularly updating your antivirus and antimalware software. Oh, and don’t click on sketchy links or installation packages containing bundleware. You can also use script blocking tools.

The delightfully named (but in actuality awful) rainbow table method is typically an offline attack where hackers acquire an encrypted list of passwords. The passwords will be hashed, meaning it looks completely different from what you would type to log in.

However, attackers can run plaintext passwords through a hashtag algorithm and compare the results to their file with encrypted passwords. To save time, hackers can use or purchase a “rainbow table”, which is a set of precomputed algorithms with specific values and potential combinations.

The downside here is rainbow tables take up a lot of space, and hackers are limited to the values listed in the table. Although rainbow tables open up a nightmare storm of hacking potential, you can protect yourself by avoiding sites that limit you to very short passwords, or use SHA1 or MD5 as their password algorithms.

There’s also phishing, which isn’t technically hacking, but is one of the more common ways passwords are stolen. In a phishing attempt, a spoof email requiring immediate attention links to a fake login landing page, where users are prompted to input their login credentials.

The credentials are then stolen, sold, used for shady purposes, or an unfortunate combination of all the above. Although spam distribution has greatly increased over the past year, you can protect yourself with spam filters, link checkers, and generally not trusting anything requesting a ton of personal information tied to a threat of your account being shut down.

Last but certainly not least, there’s social engineering. This is a masterpiece of human manipulation, and involves an attacker posing as someone who needs login, or password, building access information. For example, posing as a plumbing company needing access to a secure building, or a tech support team requiring passwords.

This con is avoidable with education and awareness of security protocol company wide. And also you know, not providing sensitive information to anyone who asks. Even if they seem like a very trustworthy electrician, or promise they definitely aren’t Count Olaf.

Moral of the story? Your passwords will never be completely safe, but you can take steps to prevent some avoidable hacking methods.

Always have a single-use password for each account, use a password manager to store complex passwords, update malware, keep your eye out for phishing attempts, and don’t you dare make your password “passoword.”

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.

Tech News

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.

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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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Silicon Valley created tech for your family that’s too addictive for theirs

(TECHNOLOGY) Tech inventors are big on innovating and advancing tools, but a growing parenting trend in tech circles seems hypocritical.

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I consider myself an older Millennial. I was slowly but surely introduced to technologies as they became mass-marketable, but they didn’t affect every moment of my day-to-day life. I learned how to use computers in elementary school, I chatted on AOL as a preteen, and when I was 16, my parents gave me my own cell phone “for emergencies.” I promptly dropped it under the car seat, where it remained for a year, before I or my parents even noticed that it was missing.

In less than a generation, our relationship to cell phones has transformed completely. For one thing, my first cell phone didn’t have a touchscreen. It didn’t have an internet connection. Hell, for an entire year, I didn’t even use the damn thing.

Fast forward to 2018, when your children can learn to use an iPad at the same time that they learn to use a toilet.

Interestingly, the tech whizzes who designed much of the technology that now pervades nearly every moment of our lives seem wariest of the negative impact screen time might have on kids. The NYT reports that the trend amongst Silicon Valley parents is to severely limit or even ban cell phone use by their children.

Parents in all echelons of the tech industry are limiting their kids’ exposure. Steve Jobs kept iPads out of the hands of his young children. The Gates offspring didn’t receive cell phones until high school (just like me, in 2001), and Tim Cook discourages his nephew from using social networks.

These concerned parents describe the addictive potential and negative consequences of screen time in increasingly pessimistic terms.

Athena Chavarria, a former Facebook employee, believes that “the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children.”

Chris Anderson (yes that Chris Anderson), former editor of Wired and founder of GeekDad, says that when it comes to screens, “On a scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine.”

Parents are even making contractual agreements to make sure their kids don’t use screens while under the supervision of their nanny or babysitter.

Like basically every human idea or invention ever, connected, screened devices reveal that our ability to create new technologies far outpaces our ability to understand the consequences – positive or negative – of that tech.

Those closest to the situation – the inventors themselves – are often the first ones to sound the alarm when they realize that their hard-won advancements may not have been such a great idea after all.

Said Chris Anderson of the addictive nature of cell phones, “We thought we could control it. And this is beyond our power to control.”

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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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