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Rise of the Super-Malware: why it matters to every professional

Super-Malware is often misunderstood by the average professional but can cost any brand big bucks, so let’s brush up on the topic together!

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Super-Malware has become intense, more common

You already know about malware and you’ve learned not to click stupid links, but your company is vulnerable in more ways than just simple viruses sent over emails, with threats coming from new and increasingly intelligent sources.

To help us better navigate these vulnerabilities for every company (even a one person operation), we tapped the wisdom of Maddie Grant, who outlines below the rise of the Super-Malware:

Threats outpace the rise of awareness

Over the last few years the volume and intensity of malicious web security attacks has grown dramatically, thanks mainly to greater access to high-powered distributed systems and automation; and exploit kits that make execution and distribution simpler for cybercriminals. The strength of attacks is daunting and though the internet community is growing more aware of general risks, the threats seem to outpace it. 2013 is dubbed the year of the mega breach, where we witnessed 253 major breaches that exposed 552 Million identities including credit card data, addresses, passwords and other personal information. This was a 62% increase over 2012 (according to Symantec).

Website vulnerability has been a very attractive starting point for cybercriminals to inject and launch their attacks. Symantec’s state of web security report reveals that 77% of the websites they researched had exploitable vulnerabilities and 1-in-8 was critical. With unchecked access to websites, cyber-criminals are left to roam free executing zero-day exploits that covertly infiltrate to not only steal data but also cripple legitimate networks.

The battle to protect your website and guarantee availability for your clients and other site visitors is a critical area of focus for your company. Depending on the reach and scope of your business and the number of clients being served, a data breach can easily cost you upwards of $5.4 Million. Thankfully, it costs significantly less to protect your web assets.

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The Types of Attacks & Risk to your Business

Protecting your website and networks requires input and insight for all aspects of the services you’re providing both to clients and internally. If you’re primarily delivering a service online via a software-as-a-service model, you may be inclined to focus solely on making your web application secure at the code level; ignoring the establishment of internal network usage policies and other types of gateway level protection that will help mitigate denial of service attacks, for example.

Complete security requires an approach that not includes your developers, but IT staff, your web host and other security service providers and resources serving the application, network and human layers.

Some of the most common application layer threats are typically directed towards compromising private user data for the sake of financial gain. Through the injection of code to pull data and trick users into sharing private information cybercriminals gain access.

Examples of the most attacks include:

  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
  • Injection Flaws
  • Malicious File Execution
  • Insecure Direct Object Reference
  • Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
  • Broken Authentication and Session Management
  • Insecure Cryptographic Storage
  • Insecure Communications
  • Failure to Restrict URL Access

hackers

While other attacks like distributed denial of service attacks (DDos) are designed to completely cripple your business’ ability to serve clients and access critical network assets. These are simply meant to hemorrhage and take your business down causing unimaginable and sometimes irreparable damage.

For these types of attacks, you certainly cannot rely on your web server host for protection. And investing in the physical infrastructure and staff to manage, implement and monitor mitigation appliances and services will definitely put a dent in your cashflow.

DDos Could be the Greatest Threat

DDos works by overloading and flooding network servers with data packets and requests to the extent where the server is unable to respond; therefore, taking down the network. DDos attacks have grown more sophisticated with packet floods growing larger, maxing out at around 100 Gbps. In a six-month campaign against U.S. banks, for which a group of alleged Muslim hacktivists claimed credit, the volume of attack traffic regularly surpassed 30 Gbps – throughput rarely seen a decade ago. The 1st quarter of 2014 saw a 240% increase in botnet activity.

Attackers also have targeted other parts of the network infrastructure. Corporate domain name service servers are a common target, and in this case, customers can no longer access a company’s service. Under these attacks, the number of data center capacity a company has is irrelevant as the requests will never reach the data center. Network availability is a critical focal point for ensure business uptime and deliverability.

These attacks have evolved far beyond the capabilities of the typical in-house network security appliance that will inevitably face an overwhelmed network. The ssolutionafest and most effective approach is through a hybrid approach from a security company which offers web application firewalls, CDNs, real-time monitoring and high-class network security appliances to detect and block unwanted traffic in the earliest possible instance.

You’re Not Alone in the Fight & Where to Start

Security companies offering a security-as-a-service model mean that your business is saved from investing in staff and infrastructure to acquire a world-class security system. For instance, the load balancing and failover service offered by Incapsula, is very affordable, starting from $19 per month. Incapsula offers an enterprise-grade cloud-based solution supporting all in-datacenter and cross-datacenter scenarios ensuring high availability and protecting against the most powerful DDos attacks, offers instant propagation and distribution algorithms that will guarantee routing to healthy servers.

First-class infrastructure coupled with real-time monitoring capabilities mean that you and Incapsula’s team are accountable for the health of all your network assets. This is very valuable in the case of zero-day attacks that do not have known fixes, giving you the resources and data to act quickly to prevent loss.

Making the decision to migrate the management and protection of your network assets to a security-as-a-service solution, may be the best investment you could make for ensuring reliable disaster recovery and threat mitigation. It’s a sure-fire way to keep your business on the cutting edge of web security as cybercriminals become more covert and powerful.

The American Genius (AG) is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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How this tinkerer became a Full Stack Developer

(TECHNOLOGY) There are so many ways to become a Full Stack Developer – here’s the path a perpetual tinkerer took.

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brandtley mcminn

It all started with Legos. Long before he became a Full Stack Developer, Brandtley McMinn was a curious child with a mechanical mind, obsessed with Legos (as any mechanically inclined child is). He was a born tinkerer, raised in a home that was partially built by his father’s hands (a fellow tinkerer).

McMinn graduated from Legos to tinkering with lawnmowers, and eventually cars.

In high school, he picked up a programming course at the same time as digging into a book on game programming. Most stories would lead to someone becoming a world class game developer, but this combo was a false start for McMinn.

Like many others, he notes that false starts are common on the path to becoming a developer, and the key is to take a mental break and try again later.

And try, he did.

His senior year of high school, he joined the robotics club, and they needed a webmaster. On a whim, he took to the project and learned HTML and then CSS as the programming language was still new. This became his foundation.

Going to college for the game development program was another false start as he was blocked from taking those courses in his first year at Austin Community College due to prerequisite credits.

So the following year, he signed up for the Web Interactive program. He already had WordPress development under his belt, and he sought to add design skills and more technical knowledge to his repertoire, and to become a more well-rounded developer.

Today, McMinn is a Full Stack Developer for a company whose back end stack is Lumin with some PHP (which was already in his wheelhouse), and Angular on the front end.

He calls the combination comfortable and enjoyable.

His path was that of a curious tinkerer that blossomed into a skilled developer who is endlessly inquisitive and perpetually learning.

McMinn believes the biggest hurdle to becoming a Full Stack Developer is discovering your aptitude and interest.

He recommends experimenting with free or inexpensive online courses, asserting that someone that believes they’re interested in front end should to go to Udemy, find a course that has good ratings, and just try one – he says you could spend $10 on an afternoon-long course on Angular and know whether or not it’s for you.

Experiment. Dig. Keep digging. Keep testing.

McMinn says the trickiest part of becoming a Full Stack Developer is finding where you want to fit in, and then doing the work to discover your interests and aptitudes. There is no ideal path, but moving past this learning curve is tricky for many.

Self starters will thrive as developers, McMinn says, and will dive in and have a desire to learn. People that can move past the inevitable false starts will flourish.

Personalities that prefer to silo themselves away from the team or that believe they know everything, will not likely thrive in the ever-evolving world of development, he notes.

So what’s next for McMinn? He has ample side projects and hobbies that he enjoys, that allow him to continue creating with his hands, and has the entrepreneurial itch, so we anticipate he’ll someday soon be the boss as he continues to tinker.

Connect with McMinn on GitHub.

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Brandmark makes branding and re-branding a breeze

(TECH NEWS) If you’re a small business looking for branding or to re-brand but don’t have the time nor budget, this tool can help you get it done!

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AI brandmanaging

AI is growing, now it can even be your own personal graphic designer.

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The new company Brandmark uses AI to create custom brand identities in minutes. All you need to do is describe your business and leave the designing up to them.

Brandmark

Brandmark describes their system as “more than just a logo,” as they aid people in developing an entire brand identity. This includes a complete style guide, color scheme and even a WordPress compatible website template.

It is the perfect tool for small businesses and entrepreneurs who may not have the budget to hire an in-house designer to join their team.

The creators of Brandmark have attempted to give the platform personal elements as well, so that you can understand the design decisions and even have the chance to make it your own.

Easy peasy

The process is as simple as it can get. All that Brandmark requires is for you to type in a few keywords that best describe your business. For example, a coffee shop might type in “coffee, hot, lounge, mocha, books, relaxation.” These keywords are anything that can be associated with your brand so it is important to include adjectives as well. Consider how you want customers to feel when they see your product or walk into your shop for the first time.

All of these details will help Brandmark create a unique and personal identity for you.

The creators of the tool wanted it to feel like a true designer. That is why they have developed a system that understands design principles. After creating a look, Brandmark will explain the design choice and how it relates to your brand. In addition, you have access to features that allow you to customize the design.

Just like any professional service, Brandmark provides a style guide that can be used to apply your brand - including logo, color scheme and font - to various type of products. Click To Tweet

For instance, the same coffee shop would know how to apply their logo to coffee cups, bags, mugs and menus by following the guide. In addition, website layouts are offered to get your online business started. It’s an all-in-one package to get your business up and running with a professional look.

Give it a shot

Brandmark is currently in beta testing and is available for anyone to sign up and try.

#Brandmark

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Yodatai: the intelligent chatbot that is will wind up any data lovers’ gears

(TECH NEWS) The newest chatbot is about to change your world for good. Yodatai is all about helping you, not pretending to.

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Makin’ waves

The digital data gurus at Knoema have recently announced their release of their messenger-first chatbot, Yodatai.

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This is exciting, as even though chatbots themselves are not new, Yodatai is the “first-ever AI interface to connect with both public and industry data corporate BI databases.”

Awwww, yeah!

Unless you are an analyst or data maven, you may be curious as to what is exciting about this release. After all, for many, the term “chatbot” does not have the best connotation- often bringing up memories of the essentially useless chatbots so commonly found in the “Help” section of a website. And, you know, spam.

But nay, dear reader, this isn’t that old AOL Instant Messenger chatbot you interacted with when you literally had nothing else to do (except for homework).

Yodatai, as far as I can tell, actually seems incredibly useful.

Yodatai

As Yodatai is a messenger-first bot, you can ask her (him? it?) questions directly from your messenger application of choice. Currently, Knoema states that the bot is fully compatible with Slack, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Telegram, Twitter and E-Mail.

It is likely that more messenger-services will be added to this list over time.

Need some information regarding crude oil manufacturing in the Middle East? Ask Yodatai. Need to fact-check a tweet? Send a tweet @Yodatai so the bot can lay the fact down on these fools. (Get it? Like lay the smack down? People still say that, right?) Drawing from Knoema’s ever-increasing database of public information (which the company quotes at “2.5 billion time series from thousands of sources”), Yodatai is sure to have information on pretty much whatever you need.

Connectivity: A+

Even more useful, however, is her ability to connect with private databases. Currently, the bot integrates with the Amplitude analytics platform and more pre-built integrations are in the works.

So, for example, if one needed to know the number of registered users for their website, they could ask Yodatai.

Similarly, if they needed some more in-depth information regarding a product or project, they could, theoretically, ask Yodatai. And, unlike the Jedi Master with whom she shares an eerily similar name, answers are provided in a full sentence, easy-to-read format. Proper syntax and everything.

She’s not a know it all… yet

There will be, of course, questions that Yodatai may be unable to answer. These more complex inquiries may require human assistance, and in the event of such a question being asked, the chatbot will transparently get Knoema’s data experts involved.

As stated on the website, “she learns from them.”

Maybe it’s just me, but images of an ultra-high-functioning, eerily coherent digital baby cannot help but spring to mind.

Yes, please

Needless to say, Yodatai will likely save a ton of time regarding data research and acquisition. No word has been given yet how much access to the chatbot will cost, but many will likely find the cost to be well worth it.

And, as a bonus, as she primarily deals with data, it’s unlikely she will attempt to eliminate humanity! Pretty solid win, if you ask me.

#Yodatai

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