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.
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.
Nate app: $38M Series A fintech startup you should keep an eye on
(TECHNOLOGY) The nate app combines the best of social media and shopping into one platform, streamlining the check-out process for hassle-free purchases.
No one likes to hop around from store to store searching aimlessly in aisles for all of their necessary items. That’s why the big guys win, like Walmart, Amazon, and Target – they have all you need in one swoop! Users choosing to shop online feel the same way. Having to reenter payment, billing, and shipping information over and over again becomes a pain – or worse, a deterrent to purchase, resulting in cart abandonment- that’s where the nate app comes in.
Nate combines the best of social media and shopping into one platform.
The well-funded, series A startup utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to complete purchases seamlessly without all of the fluff a user discovers when checking out at various online retailers. Once a user inputs shipping and payment information into the app during sign-up, nate keeps the data on file for subsequent purchases, virtually eliminating the time-consuming check out process. If a user sees a product they like from an online merchant, they simply have to “share” the item to the nate app, and it will take care of the rest.
Unicorner’s startup analysis states, “In essence, nate is bringing the benefits of shopping on a centralized platform like Amazon to a decentralized shopping ecosystem.”
With a nod to Pinterest and LikeToKnowIt, the platform allows for users to create visual product lists on a personal account that can be shared with followers. If a follower likes an item they see, they can purchase the item in-app in just a click or two.
In contrast to the big wigs of the social media world, the nate app hopes that users will purchase based on true inspiration and not a targeted algorithm suggesting what they should buy. Instead, the app runs its business model on a $1 fee for each transaction which covers the ability to issue virtual cards, protect online privacy, and apply available discounts.
The nate app simplifies gift giving as well. Users are able to select a gift item and enter the recipients phone number – if the recipient is a nate app user, it can be shipped directly – otherwise, they will receive a text asking them where to send their new gift! This makes it a perfect choice for the upcoming holidays (yes, 2021 is almost over…whew).
To stay up to date on everything nate, download it now on the App Store.
Facebook deletes developer over ironic browser extension invention
(TECHNOLOGY) Think a muted week for a nipple shadow is bad? Facebook just permabanned this inventor for…helping others to use the platform less.
It must be true that corporations are people because Facebook is pulling some seriously petulant moves.
In a stunt that goes beyond 24hr bans for harmless hyperbole, and chopping away at organic reach (still bitter from my stint in social media management), Facebook straight up permanently banned one of their users for the high crime of…aiming to get people to use the platform a little less.
Developer Louis Barclay came up with Unfollow Everything, an extension that basically instantly deleted your feed without having you unfriend anyone or unlike anything. Rather than have users manually go through and opt out of seeing posts, they’d now opt IN to keeping who they wanted front and center.
In his own words on Slate: “I still remember the feeling of unfollowing everything for the first time. It was near-miraculous. I had lost nothing, since I could still see my favorite friends and groups by going to them directly. But I had gained a staggering amount of control. I was no longer tempted to scroll down an infinite feed of content. The time I spent on Facebook decreased dramatically. Overnight, my Facebook addiction became manageable.”
Since more time spent on Facebook means more ads that you’re exposed to, means more you spend, the add-on started slowly making headway. I myself pretend to be a ranch owner to keep ads as irrelevant to me as possible (though my new addiction to hoof trimming videos is all too real), and Unfollow Everything probably would have been a great find for me if it hadn’t been killed by a cease and desist.
Law firm Perkins Coie, representing the internet giant, let Barclay know in their notice that Unfollow Everything violated the site’s rules on automated collection of user content, and was muscling in on Facebook trademarked IP.
They also added, in what I can only assume was a grade-school narc voice, that the add-on was “encouraging others to break Facebook’s rules.”
Barclay, not having the resources to fight a company with the finances of a small country, promptly ceased and desisted. Practical.
Officially speaking, Facebook might have actually have some ground to stand on vis-à-vis its Terms Of Service. The letter and legal team may have been warranted, not that we’ll ever truly know, since who’s taking Facebook to court? But then they followed up with a ‘neener neener’ deletion of Barclay’s 15 year old account – which was still very much in use.
Look, Facebook is the only way I connect with some of my friends. I don’t take enough pictures to make full use of Instagram, I fully hate Twitter, my Tumblr is inundated with R-rated fanfiction, and any other social media platform I’m happy to admit I’m too haggish and calcified to learn to use. So a complete WIPE of everything there with no notice would be pretty devastating to me. I can only imagine how Barclay felt.
And in light of the fact that the browser extension wasn’t hurting anyone, taking money, or spewing hateful rhetoric, there’s really only one thing to say about Facebook’s actions…they’re petty.
Sure, they may have the legal right to do what they did. It’s just that when you notice every fifth post is an unvetted advertisement, their high ground starts to sink a little. I mean nothing says ‘We’re being totally responsible with user information’ like the number of add ons and user tactics popping up to avoid seeing the unnecessary. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Facebook put up a fight against losing ad traffic.
We all know all those stores with amazing deals aren’t actually going out of business, or even using their own photos right? Right?
Barclay added in his article, “Facebook’s behavior isn’t just anti-competitive; it’s anti-consumer. We are being locked into platforms by virtue of their undeniable usefulness, and then prevented from making legitimate choices over how we use them—not just through the squashing of tools like Unfollow Everything, but through the highly manipulative designs and features platforms adopt in the first place. The loser here is the user, and the cost is counted in billions of wasted hours spent on Facebook.”
Agreed, Mr. Barclay.
Now I’m off to refresh my feed. Again.
Glowbom: Create a website, using just your voice
(TECH NEWS) Talk about futuristic! This app allows you to create quizzes, surveys, an online store, and even a website in minutes–without typing.
In the past, we’ve discussed things like simplified coding and no-code app creation. Now, a San Francisco startup has taken the process a step further with no-type app creation.
Glowbom is a voice app that allows you to dictate steps to an AI – from adding information all the way to exporting code–in order to create a simple app, survey, or game. While the built-in options for now are limited to four simple categories, the power of the app itself is impressive: By asking the Glowbom AI to complete tasks, one is able to dictate an entire (if small) program.
It’s an impressive idea, and an even more impressive product. Glowbom founder and CEO Jacob Ilin showcases the power of Glowbom in a short demonstration video, and while he only uses it to create a simple survey, the entire process–up to and including the exportation of the API–is accomplished via voice commands.
Furthermore, Glowbom appears to process natural inputs–such as phrases like “Let’s get started”–in the context of an actual command rather than the colloquial disconnect one tends to expect in AI. This means that users won’t need to read a 700-page manual on phrases and buzzwords to use before jumping on board–something the Glowbom user base was probably hoping to avoid anyway.
As of now, the options one can use Glowbom to create include a quiz, a survey, an online store, and a website. It seems reasonable to expect that, as support for the app grows, those categories will expand to comprise a larger library.
Glowbom certainly opens a few doors for people looking to take their businesses or ideas from an offline medium into the digital marketplace. As coding becomes less centralized in computer language and more contingent on processes such as this, we can expect to see more products from folks who may have missed the coding boat.
Perhaps more importantly, Glowbom and products like it make coding more accessible to a wider base of disabled users, thus taking a notable step toward evening the playing field for a marginalized demographic. It’s not true equality, but it’s a start.
This story was first published here in October 2020.
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