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How to buy Internet of Things gifts this year with security in mind

(TECHNOLOGY) Internet of Things devices are neat, but they also pose a significant security risk if not properly implemented. Here’s how to buy IoT gifts that won’t ruin your friend’s Xbox Live.

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As smart technology becomes more and more relevant, the issue of cybersecurity increases in pertinence as well. If you plan on picking up smart home (Internet of Things) gifts for your family and friends this year, NextAdvisor offers a few security tips to keep in mind:

Firstly, the difference between “always on” items and selectively on appliances is huge, as smart home “always on” items pose a much more significant security risk than a device that can be disabled with the press of a button. Things like smart lights, thermostats, speakers, and so on—while popular—are best left to your recipient’s discretion.

This is because “always on” (also known as “Internet of Things”, or IoT) devices are often ill-suited to the degree of connectivity that they must sustain. Due to security shortcuts or weak coding, it’s relatively easy for an attacker to use your Internet-connected refrigerator or thermostat to take down your whole network. As such, traditional devices that can be enabled and disabled at will have a distinct security edge in this area.

When in doubt, go the gift card route; that way, your intended recipient will be able to purchase whatever smart item they want without you having to worry about compromising their safety.

If you do decide to buy Internet of Things gifts this year, it’s important to invest in strong, secure options. The easiest way to ensure that the device that you’re buying is sufficient is by looking at the manufacturer: was the device produced by Google, Intel, Apple, or another household tech name, or are you considering a company that you’ve never heard of?

A less security-based issue lies in the quality of the products, as third-party devices tend to fail faster and achieve less support than ones from large tech companies. When in doubt, go with the devil you know.

The other main thing to keep in mind is the face security of the item itself.

If the IoT item has a password and regular update support, it’s a much more secure item than any device lacking either of those features (to say nothing of both). Make sure that you know the answers to these questions before investing in any IoT device this holiday season, or just avoid them altogether.

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

Tech News

Failure to launch: Quibi’s short-form platform is short-lived

(TECH NEWS) Despite receiving major funding from big players, Quibi is shutting down only 6 months after launch. What led to their downfall?

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A mobile phone open to Quibi in feminine hands with decorated nails.

Only 6 short months after launching its platform, Quibi has decided to pull the plug.

The mobile-only streaming service’s vision was to create short-form videos with higher production value than that of competitors like YouTube or TikTok. Having enlisted big names such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Jennifer Lopez, and Lebron James, Quibi had high hopes for what the service could accomplish. In an open letter posted to Medium, founding company executives Jeffery Katzenberg and Meg Whitman cited timing and the idea of mobile-first premium storytelling not being strong enough as the primary reasons for shuttering.

“As entrepreneurs our instinct is to always pivot, to leave no stone unturned — especially when there is some cash runway left — but we feel that we’ve exhausted all our options.” The letter stated, “As a result we have reluctantly come to the difficult decision to wind down the business, return cash to our shareholders, and say goodbye to our colleagues with grace. We want you to know we did not give up on this idea without a fight.”

The move is somewhat surprising considering that back in March the service managed to raise an additional $750 million in funding, bringing its total fundraising to $1.75 billion. At the time, Quibi CFO Ambereen Toubassy had touted that the second-round of cash had provided the organization with “a strong cash runway,” that would give Quibi “the financial wherewithal to build content and technology that consumers embrace.”

Originally called “New TV”, the initial investors of the service included Hollywood titans Disney, NBCUniversal, and Sony Pictures Entertainment just to name a few. While the amount of money raised was minuscule compared to services like Netflix, it was still an impressive start for an untested idea.

The service did itself no favors, however, in trying to gain new subscribers. Along with being mobile-only, the service started at $4.99 per month for an ad-supported subscription, only slightly cheaper from more robust offerings like Hulu and ESPN+. While you could pay $7.99 per month to get rid of ads, you were also forbidden from taking screenshots, limiting the ability of content on the service to go viral.

Quibi was also financing content, meaning that ownership would revert back to creators after just a few short years. This means building a growing library of content owned by the service was an uphill battle from the start.

“This was flawed from the start, down to the idea of financing content and then giving it back to the creators after a few years.” Said a veteran producer who refused to work with the company, “There is anger in town right now, because it just makes it harder to raise money.”

Quibi is set to be inaccessible starting around the beginning of December, according to a post on the company’s support site. While much of the service’s content will not be missed, one still wonders what might have been had the company managed to gain some traction, or the COVID-19 pandemic had not come to pass. Either way, Quibi’s business partners may want to read up on some of these tips as they discuss where things should go from here.

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Acorns launches job searching tool, but is that what job hunters need?

(TECH NEWS) When it comes to job searching, many people are able to find jobs online, it’s getting the interview where people need help.

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If you are currently job searching, you are likely going to sites like Indeed (250M unique visitors monthly) and LinkedIn (260M users monthly). You may also be checking out ZipRecruiter because they’ve advertised on every single podcast you’ve ever listened to. Just for fun, you might also be looking at jobs on Craigslist for your local area. This could have excited you or depressed you.

If you want an easy way to aggregate several job search sites, you may like the app Huntr that will pull in job postings (after you put in some preferences) from Glassdoor, Google, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, GitHub, the muse, Dice, Monster, Indeed, Angel.co, Dribbble, etc. so you have them all within one place.

Acorns has joined in on the job postings board by implementing a Job Finder within their app, in an effort to help people find work which makes sense if they want more people to save through their platform. “Acorns is an American financial technology and financial services company based in Irvine, California that specializes in micro-investing and robo-investing. As of 2019, Acorns had over 4.5 million users and over $1.2 billion in assets under management.”

The article from The Press that describes it tells consumers about adding in a Job Finder to help millions of people find jobs. But really, it’s great as a positive public relations initiative (and likely will drive more visits to ZipRecruiter postings) since it’s within their app. The gesture is nice but will it really help?

“Within a few taps, Acorns customers at every tier can find millions of full-time, part-time, and remote job opportunities, set job alerts, and explore custom career development content to support their financial wellness at no additional cost. By introducing Job Finder to its financial wellness system, Acorns is looking after the financial best interests of the up-and-coming and removing a main barrier to its customers achieving their money goals.”

Most people know where to find job postings. What they don’t know is why they aren’t hearing back from their applications or how to be invited for more interviews. It would be great if companies really wanted to help make an impact on unemployment by:

  • Offering career coaching services or references to candidates that do not fit what the hiring manager or HR person is looking for.
  • Giving people access to what key skills they need on their resume within the job posting (less vague and generic descriptions).
  • Within the automated rejection letters, including a referral or resources that will help them break through the clutter or introduce them to current employees or how to get to know the company better – in case there’s a position that is a better fit.
  • Ensuring that all job postings are for real jobs and real openings – it should be made clear to candidates if the job posting is for pipelining talent and/or not going to be offered to an external candidate.
  • Bringing back some humans in to the automated process. Yes, ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) are great for the employers and companies who are fielding hundreds of applicants. They are terrible for the 40 million currently unemployed. More about ATS here from Jobscan if you are curious. They are built to knock out candidates.
  • Considering hosting webinars, educational speakers, or events where candidates can get in front of you versus solely relying on online submissions.
  • Contemplating implementing an apprentice program so that less experienced applicants may gain knowledge and learn from more experienced workers – but you would also be getting fresh ideas and new talent for growth within your organization.

There are many caring people and organizations out there so it would be great to see some more assistance for job seekers versus just more places listing job postings or the same job boards but in different formats.

There also seems to be a mismatch in looking to hire someone based on what they have done in the past – when really, the best qualified candidate may have a different background and be looking to make a switch to continue to grow and learn. The perfect match of key words in a database to a resume are not always the best way to find the right fit.

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Bet you forgot about them: Yahoo Groups is shutting down

(TECH NEWS) After over a year-long process, Yahoo is finally shutting down Yahoo Groups for good, marking the end of an internet era.

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Yahoo Groups is shutting down.

For a long while, most of us forgot that Yahoo Groups still existed in a very limited way, of course. But now, it’s going to be discontinued for good. Yahoo announced that the Yahoo Groups website will be shutting down on December 15, 2020.

The removal process of Yahoo Groups is one that began in October of last year. At that time, Yahoo decided to no longer allow new content to be uploaded to the Groups site. Features that allowed for sharing files and photos, creating polls, etc. were all removed. However, users could still view and download any existing content. On its website, a statement read, “Don’t worry, though, Yahoo Groups is not going away…” But, we all knew that was never going to be the case.

In December 2019, the Yahoo Customer Care Twitter account tweeted that content on the Groups site would no longer be available or viewable. Users had until the end of January to download their data before it would be permanently deleted. All public groups became private and would require administrator approval to join. Also, admins had limited access to other administration tools, but group members could, at least, still send messages to each other.

Earlier this month, the creation of new groups was disabled. And now, the end of Yahoo Groups is on the horizon. On its site, a pop-up message reads:

Announcement: End of Yahoo Groups
We’re shutting down the Yahoo Groups website on December 15, 2020 and members will no longer be able to send or receive emails from Yahoo Groups. Yahoo Mail features will continue to function as expected and there will be no changes to your Yahoo Mail account, emails, photos or other inbox content. There will also be no changes to other Yahoo properties or services. You can find more information about the Yahoo Groups shutdown and alternative service options on this help page.

Yahoo said, “Yahoo Groups has seen a steady decline in usage over the last several years.” As a result, this is why the company decided to shut it down. “While these decisions are never easy, we must sometimes make difficult decisions regarding products that no longer fit our long-term strategy as we hone our focus on other areas of the business,” Yahoo added.

What became of Yahoo Groups isn’t even a bare-bones version of what it was during its prime. And, frankly, I don’t think it will ever be resurrected. Sometimes all good things must come to an end.

But, if you are a former Groups user and want to stay connected with your groups, the Yahoo Groups’ help page, hopefully, has all your answers.

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