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Throw a smart bulb away, give out your passwords

(TECH NEWS) It turns out that Internet of Things, like smart bulbs in homes, are not secure and give up your info – here are some security tips.

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Most of us know that we need to protect our computers from hacking, identity theft, and other security hazards. But now that more and more everyday items in our households – from light bulbs to washing machines to baby monitors – are connected to the internet, we need to make sure that these items are secured as well. Because they’re not.

Unfortunately, Internet of Things (IoT) devices are notoriously unsecure, and a troubling investigation by hacker, Limited Result, reveals that some IoT devices are not only potential targets when connected to your home internet network, but could even pose a security threat after you’ve thrown them in the garbage.

Limited Results investigated several budget smart lightbulbs and found that many of them have no security features protecting the information held on the microchips inside the bulb.

Some lightbulbs could be taken apart, and the chips removed and hacked to reveal unencrypted data, including the Wifi password for the network to which it had formerly been connected.

“Seriously, 90 percent of IoT devices are developed without security in mind. It is just a disaster,” Limited Results told TechCrunch.

There were other
safety issues beyond the security of personal data. Limited Results also found
that inexpensive smart lightbulbs were so cheaply-made and poorly insulated
that they posed a serious risk of electrical fire.

So how can you make sure your IoT devices are secure?

For starters, don’t just go for the cheapest version available. Although there’s no guarantee that the top dollar devices are secure either, be mindful of installing smart devices outside of your home. For example, you may want to sacrifice being able to tell Alexa to turn on your porch lights. Dispose of smart light bulbs carefully, and don’t donate them to second hand stores.

Another option is to create a subnetwork or guest network for your connected devices. And as always, make sure everything is password protected and change your password often. Especially your wifi passwords.

The conveniences
of IoT devices need to be weighed against the potential security risks, at
least until IoT manufacturers create regulations and standards for security.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Business Marketing

5 ways voice is changing the SEO game

(TECH NEWS) As voice assistants take over our lives, you may worry how your SEO fares in this new, uncharted territory. Let’s discuss.

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voice and SEO

SEO is a moving target. The standards change constantly so, despite years of experience, many web designers struggle to meet all the optimization guidelines. How, then, can any business confidently approach the web design process? It starts with recognizing those evolving norms, the newest of which is voice search.

Why Voice Search Matters

For years, the dominant SEO rule has been mobile first. The introduction of voice recognition systems, like Siri and Alexa, to smartphones has dramatically changed how we interact with devices. In fact, 20% of Google searches are voice searches with that number expected to grow rapidly over the next few months. Businesses and web designers, then, need to make sure their sites are voice ready if they want to stay relevant. Though the sites may stay the same visually, they need to gain a new edge functionally.

From The Ground Up

Modifying your website to support voice search isn’t as simple as many other SEO transitions, but if you take a ground up approach to the process, you’ll be able to reshape your website around those changes. Still, you’ll need help to do this correctly. When adapting your website for voice, SEO consultant Aaron Rains recommends hiring an expert for a full site audit and analysis to maintain your page ranking. You don’t want your page to take a rankings hit because you’re trying to keep up with the trends.

Expanding Your Device Options

In addition to its advantages from a mobile perspective, making the move to voice search also means expanding your site’s horizons by making it more accessible to new devices, particularly the smart home speakers that are gaining in popularity. Users are particularly comfortable with these devices because they rely on natural speech patterns rather than half-formed search terms. Children growing up with these smart speakers in their homes seem to view them as part of the family and will be native voice search users as they grow.

Snippets For Search

Part of updating your website for speech is optimizing the content to match changing search patterns. One of the key ways to do this is through the use of featured snippets.

Featured snippets are designed to help put your website in the #0 spot – the top ranking. To do that, you’ll want to put the answers to your most popular queries in the first few sentences on your page. This is especially for purchasing and local search since people frequently use voice search to find local businesses. If you can optimize for the most important snippets early on, you’ll be way ahead on the competition and have a greater ROI.

Rebuild and Reassess

After modifying your website for voice, you may find your rankings initially drop. That’s because you need to request your site be re-indexed. Otherwise, search engines won’t be able to match queries with your new site content. Re-indexing will put all of your new information into effect and make it possible for users to search using the featured snippets. Re-indexing your site will also help you ensure that you haven’t interfered with the crawl-ability of your site.

Experts expect half of all searches to be voice-driven by 2020, but since 50% of users with voice search access already use it at least occasionally, now is the time to act. Even if many users are still wary of voice search, you can’t afford to fall behind. Those users will still be able to rely on traditional text search mechanisms, but that won’t help voice enthusiasts. If you lose those early adopters now, they might not come back when you’ve caught up with the voice search revolution.

This editorial was first published here in March of 2018.

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Business News

10 ways to learn about a company’s culture when job hunting

(BUSINESS NEWS) Culture fit is important when job hunting, here are 10 ways to find out if the prospective company is a good fit.

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job hunting gig culture

To quote the American Bard, I’ve been everywhere, man. In my professional life I’ve worked for hippies in the hills, Gordon Gekko business savants, button-down Christian conservatives: name the American archetype, I’ve made them money. I am rich in experience.

Protip: that is not the same as actually being rich.

In the spirit of “memories don’t pay the Netflix bill,” I therefore assert the following: when you’re looking for a job, for the love of Dale Carnegie, remember you actually have to talk to these people.

Business culture can be the making or breaking of a gig. For that matter, it can be the making or breaking of a business. Day-to-day workplace experience is probably the most important question in any job hunt, and definitely the hardest to track. Here are 10 ways to get a sense of workplace culture – this is the important part – before you ambush your boss with a staple remover.

RESOURCES!

1. Comparably provides an interesting service, and an excuse to dust off your junior high compare/contrast skillz. They’re a job review database set up to allow searchers to review multiple positions side by side according to employee assessments. It’s a great tool for thinning out the herd in the first days of a job hunt, or coming to a final conclusion between opportunities.

2. Glassdoor. You know these guys. If you don’t, go forth. We’ll wait. Glassdoor is still the benchmark for workplace Yelp. Reviews are written by actual employees, often with sound and fury, and records of (mis)behavior often go back years.

3. Great Place to Work goes deep. They don’t have quite the breadth or recognition of Glassdoor, but what they do have is serious rigor. GPtW (it’s tiring to type) provides an anonymous survey to current employees of a given business covering the six categories of Atmosphere, Challenges, Communication, Pride and Rewards. Unless you have super strong views regarding workplace decor, that seems to cover matters.

4. Indeed. The best job board in the business has what is manifestly not the best job review site in the business, but a darn good start. They’ll break down your workplace-to-be (or not) on a 1-5 scale according to several things I guarantee you care about, and maintain a Glassdoor-style database of employee reviews.

5. Job Crowd. Job Crowd does a neat thing. They provide the usual employee reviews, but also encourage contributors to dig into their experience in specific job titles with the companies they review. That kind of specificity is a great value-add: if you’re the janitor, you probably don’t care how great the COO’s job is, and vice versa.

6. Kununu. Kununu is Europe’s Glassdoor, with better than a million reviews for over 250,000 companies. They went live in the States last year and haven’t matched that depth on this side of the hemisphere, but they’ve got the backing and the expertise.

7. Vault. Vaut’s a different beast from the above. Rather than being crowd driven, Vault has an in-house research company that puts together the goods on employers. As you’d expect, this costs. Their free content is only passable, but if you want the serious goods, it might be worth the 9.99/month (less with longer subscriptions.

STRATS, TIPS AND DIRTY TRICKS!

8. LinkedIn. I may be committing Internet blasphemy here, but reading the rants of strangers might – might! – not be as informative as communication with an actual human. Reach out to someone you’d be working with if you took the job you’re contemplating. You’ve got 150 characters, so keep it tight: “I’m Namey McNomen. We could be working together soon. Do you have a moment to chat about [issue you’re into]?”

9. Straight up Internet. Get your occupational stalker on. A Google search is, at its heart, a trawl through the greatest trove of gossip in the history of life. Delve into terribly informative and charming news articles like this one. Bone up on blog articles and – just this once! – read the comment sections. Even Facebook is worth a browse. Seriously, who doesn’t talk about work?

10. Get real. If you work in service, make like a customer. If there’s a front-end office, drop by. Watch, listen, get a feel for what’s happening around you. To compound my digital blasphemy, what comes out of glowing rectangles like the one you’re reading this on (thanks!) is great, but nothing compares to immediate experience.

Put some of this together with plenty of the digital resources above, and with any luck you’ll find yourself a gig that might just keep you from attempted murder with office supplies.

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs: You’re unemployable in your own company, must define your role

(ENTREPRENEURS) Once you’ve built a successful business, it’s time to reexamine your role and determine where you fit in best.

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In my experience, most entrepreneurs are “accidental entrepreneurs.” They happened to be good at something, or they had a unique one-time opportunity to provide a product or service to the market. Then years later, they wake up one day and realize that they’re running a big business.

As an entrepreneur, one of the unintended consequences of building a business is that you become essentially unemployable within your own organization. After living the life of freedom, flexibility and responsibility of being a business owner, it’s difficult to go back to a “nine-to-five” job. This is why many entrepreneurs don’t enjoy staying with their businesses after they’ve sold to other organizations. Within months, they are frustrated that they’re no longer in control and the new owners are (in their opinion) making poor choices.

I see many situations where entrepreneurs are bad employees in their own organization. In fact, they may be the worst team members in the organization by having inconsistent schedules or poor communication skills and/or by inserting themselves into areas that aren’t useful. They can also have too much freedom and flexibility. And while most entrepreneurs insist on clearly defined roles, expectations and goals for all of their employees, they don’t always take the time to define their own roles, expectations and goals.

So why do entrepreneurs become bad employees?

I believe that it’s because they don’t have someone holding them accountable. Think about it: Who do they report to? They’re the owners. Part of the definition of “owner” is being accountable for everything but not accountable to anyone. Having a board of directors, a peer group or a business coach can provide some accountability for them, but another solution is to clarify their roles in the company and then abide by those definitions.

If you find yourself “unemployable” in your business, it’s time to define your role. It starts with outlining your main focus. Do you concentrate more on day-to-day execution or strategic, long-term decisions? Do you consider yourself an owner-operator or an investor?

Most entrepreneurs start as an owner-operator and put in countless hours of sweat equity doing whatever needs to be done to build the business. But over time they reinvest earnings in the business and hire a management team so they can step back and take on a more strategic role. Sometimes it’s not clear when the entrepreneur makes that transition, which can lead to challenges for the entire team.

Focus: Strategic Overview

If your main role is in dealing with long-term, strategic decisions, then it’s important for you to communicate that to the team. Clearly delegate tactical roles and responsibilities to the leadership team.

I’ve seen many instances where owners do more harm than good by haphazardly injecting themselves into tactical decisions that should be handled by the leadership team. Instead of jumping in when they see something they disagree with, I encourage owners to actively “coach” their leadership team to be better leaders. The approach of micromanaging every decision of others will frustrate everyone and lead to an underperforming organization.

I have one client that decided his role was to build strategic relationships and work on a new service offering. He was confident that his leadership team could handle the day-to-day operations of the business. Over time he discovered that being in the office every day was actually a distraction for him and his team. So, he moved his office out of the building.

To maintain his ownership responsibilities to the company, he scheduled one afternoon a week to physically be in the office. Team members knew they could schedule time with him during that weekly window when he temporarily set up office space in a conference room. Not having a permanent office in the building also sent a message to the team that he was not responsible for day-to-day decisions. Sometimes not having an office in the building is better than the team seeing the owner’s office empty on a regular basis.

Focus: Day-to-Day Execution

If you decide that your role is in the day-to-day execution of the business, then clearly define your role in the same way you would define any other team member role. Are you in charge of marketing? Sales? Finance? Operations? Technology? R&D? Or, some combination of multiple roles? Take the time to outline your responsibilities and communicate them to the team.

Just as you define your role, also define what you are NOT going to do and who is responsible for those areas. After all, sectioning off some tactical work does not abdicate you from long-term decision-making. You must set aside time to make the long-term, strategic decisions of the company.

Being an entrepreneur sounds glamorous to those that haven’t done it, but ultimately, the owner is accountable for everything that happens in their organization. It can be quite sobering. And while some entrepreneurs have a delusional belief that they can do everything in a company, it’s not a path to long-term success.

All entrepreneurs have to decide what their role should be in their organization – even if it means that they’re contributing to their “unemployable” status.

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