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4 Things even n00bs can do to stay safe online

(TECH NEWS) The risks today are high, and all of us can do more to keep our information out of hackers’ hands – these four simple steps can be taken by anyone. Even great grandma.

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We’re obsessed…

You know what we love where I work? Security. Seriously, it’s our favorite thing to talk about around NSS Labs Headquarters that’s not the finale of West World (yes, we’re still stuck on it).

We dream about security threats while analyzing what a breach really means. We obsess about keeping things secure, we argue about strategy, and plenty of times, we wax poetic on ways teams can make their systems more secure.

As the NSS Labs crew heads into this year’s RSA conference, we’ll be surrounded by some of the brightest minds in security.

On the other hand, we’ll also be around those looking to hack those bright minds. Security culture is complex like that.

But, we figured this was a good time to share some tips that any team could use to make their systems stronger, the basic stuff everyone can do. A few might seem obvious, but it never hurts to remind folks that simple measures could keep their systems secure.

1. Make sure your plug-ins are up to date

There are a lot of people who hit “remind me later” when it’s time to download that plug-in update. But, what folks don’t realize is that those updates typically provide patch fixes for known bugs, or errors working as backdoors to all kinds of viruses.

It’s a hacker’s job to try their damnedest to get into your computer, and by not updating your Java, you’re giving them that much more firepower.

Plug-ins like Java or Flash need to be updated on the regular.

If you want an alternative to checking for updates manually, both Firefox and Chrome offer plug-ins of their own, which tell you when updates are available for practically everything on your machine. All you need to do is click a button, and you’re off to the update races – your browser does all of the work for you. By doing so, you’re giving  shady characters one less avenue to potentially get your information.

2. Get proactive in the fight against ransomware

If you haven’t heard of ransomware, here’s the easy definition: it sucks. Some variants of ransomware  live in your spam folder and can turn your computer into a brick with a simple click. If you’re unlucky enough to open that email from the Nigerian Prince, and next thing you know, you’re locked out of your machine – it’s likely you’ve been hit with ransomware.

Ransomware is a threat that scrambles your data and then makes you pay a ransom to decode it.  Over 4,000 ransomware attacks happen every day. Go ahead, Google it. Every. Day. It’s the second most scary thing next to self-diagnosing on WebMd.

Staying vigilant in today’s ever-evolving tech landscape is imperative. Hackers don’t sleep – they’re always looking for a way to get paid. Not everyone falls victim to this plague, but there are a few steps your team can take to ensure no one is opening an email they shouldn’t.

If you’re running an IT team, or are in charge of your company’s security, there are a few easy best practices you should keep in mind when dealing with your not so technical co-workers:

  • Get an incident management plan together with your IT team
  • Remind coworkers to not open shady-looking emails from unknown addresses
  • Simulate an attack and put your system to the test
  • BACK UP YOUR STUFF – Get a Dropbox account for your important documents and work in Google Docs or Confluence
  • Set up automated system alerts when code looks compromised
  • Adjust your computer’s security settings to alert staff in case of suspicious activity

3. Keep your password complicated

Look, this seems easy enough, but there are a lot of people who use 1234 as their password. Really.

By making your password complicated with a series of numbers and symbols, you’re protecting yourself and your information.

Cyber awareness is crucial – it’s important you don’t give hackers the edge. By making the password complicated, it’s harder for password jugglers to crack your accounts.

Or, you could go one step further and register all accounts through a service like OneLogin or 1Password and get all of your accounts connected through an encrypted, and secure portal.

4. Wipe that drive

Just because you delete something from your computer doesn’t mean it’s gone.

Computers have hard drives like the raptors in Jurassic Park: they remember.  

When it’s time to get a new laptop, make sure your drive is wiped clean and you give it a factory reset. If you don’t, those files you thought you’d deleted could fall into the wrong hands.

And there you have it – four simple tips to get your team more secure in 2017.

#Cybersecurity

Robert Dean is a writer at Adia and The American Genius. He is a writer, journalist, and cynic. His most recent novel, The Red Seven is in stores. Currently, he’s working on his newest novel, Tragedy Wish Me Luck. He also likes ice cream and panda bears. He currently lives in Austin. Stalk him on Twitter.

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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Tech News

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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