Keeping your biz secure
VPN use is a on the rise, and while there are certainly some clear advantages to using a VPN there are also a few drawbacks as well. If you haven’t used a VPN before, there are a few things you should know before you jump on board and give it a try for yourself. There’s also a pretty good chance you may have already used one and not be aware of it.
Opera users may have noticed the recent launch of their free and unlimited VPN servers, but you may not know exactly what this can do for you. Here’s a little bit more about VPNs and why they’re becoming increasingly popular.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is nearly essential if you travel outside of your home with your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. A VPN connects two computers securely and privately over the Internet.
Even though you may be using a public connection, the use of a VPN client on one computer will connect to a VPN server on another computer through encryption and other security measures, so no one can see what information is being exchanged.
It sounds complicated, but in essence, the VPN’s private network across the Internet so you can connect more securely.
Why are they popular?
VPNs are popular with businesses as they can use it to enable employees who travel to have access to the company network; the same type of connection you would have if you were inside the building on your desktop computer. The company network is routed through the internet from employee to company, but it is encrypted and secured, so no one else can intercept the private company information.
VPNs are a safer, more secure alternative to free hotel Wi-Fi, as they enable you to access company material, as well as keep data hidden from prying cyber eyes.
VPNs are not solely used by companies, however; many individual choose to use a VPN to protect their personal data on their private devices. Since VPNs keep everything encrypted, individuals use them to keep online banking, shopping, and web browsing private. When you’re on free Wi-Fi, the network is open so that everyone can connect to it. This is great, but it also makes data vulnerable to hackers because of the poor security. This is where VPNs can be the answer. You can use it on-the-go and keep your data safe.
Sounds good, but how does it work?
I mentioned client and host before, but let me explain that a bit more. You run the client program on your own computer, smartphone, or tablet, and it connects to a server to establish your connection and provides you with a private link. When you run your browser and visit a website, the request is sent to the VPN server rather than locally from your machine. This way the website queries the VPN server and not the computer, so the site has no way to know who you are or where you’re surfing from, as it will only detect the location of your VPN server.
Think of the VPN as a cloak of security and anonymity; you still surf just as you always have, but everything gets encrypted.
Should you try it?
If you’re not doing anything illegal, why would you need one, you have a security program, right?
Even when you’re using security software, firewalls, and the whole host of protection options, there’s still the chance that someone can get their hands on your data.
With a VPN, this data is encrypted, so the hacker will have some work ahead of them if they intend to decipher the code; whereas, traditional security programs are meant to keep people out, but should they breach your security, chances are the data is not encrypted.
Another thing to consider is whether you want a free or paid VPN options. If you’re considering getting started with one, you need to consider how much speed and time you need (you can turn them on and off as needed). Free options attract more users so they won’t be as fast. Also, does the company keep a log of what you access of it is truly anonymous?
While there are a few things to consider before jumping on the VPN boat, it’s certainly a good additional step to take if you frequently access private, financial, or other sensitive information.
The paradox of CAPTCHAs: Too smart for humans vs AI?
(TECH NEWS) AI is catching up to our cybersecurity technology and often tricking humans too — so what’s next for CAPTCHAs and the internet?
We’ve all encountered it before: The occasional robot test that feels impossible to beat. If you’ve felt like these tests, also known as CAPTCHAs, have gotten harder in the last couple of years, you aren’t wrong—and the reason is as ironic as it is baffling.
Simply put, AI are just as good as—and often better than—humans at completing CAPTCHAs in their classic format. As machine learning and AI become more advanced, the fundamental human attributes that make consistent CAPTCHA formats possible become less impactful, raising the question of how to determine the difference between AI and humans in the future.
The biggest barrier to universal CAPTCHA doctrine is purely cultural. Humans may share experiences across the board, but such experiences are typically basic enough to fall victim to the same machine learning which has rendered lower-level CAPTCHAs moot. Adding a cultural component to CAPTCHAs could prevent AI from bypassing them, but it also might prevent some humans from understanding the objective.
Therein lies the root of the CAPTCHA paradox. Humans are far more diverse than any one test can possibly account for, and what they do have in common is also shared by—you guessed it—AI. To create a truly AI-proof test would be to alienate a notable portion of human users by virtue of lived experience. The irony is palpable, but one can only imagine the sheer frustration developers are going through in attempting to address this problem.
But all isn’t lost. While litmus tests such as determining the number of traffic cones in a plaza or checking off squares with bicycles (but not unicycles, you fool) may be beatable by machines, some experts posit that “human entropy” is almost impossible to mimic—and, thus, a viable solution to the CAPTCHA paradox.
“A real human being doesn’t have very good control over their own motor functions, and so they can’t move the mouse the same way more than once over multiple interactions,” says Shuman Ghosemajumder, a former click fraud expert from Google. While AI could attempt to feign this same level of “entropy”, the odds of a successful attempt appear low.
Move over, Clubhouse: Slack adds their own audio chat rooms
(TECH NEWS) Slack planning to co-opt Clubhouse’s synchronous audio rooms has lead to mixed response. Did it really need to be done?
Slack is adding a synchronous audio chat room feature similar to what Clubhouse already has. While not everyone is happy about it, the addition is true to Slack’s ongoing form—if a little redundant.
Slack’s audio rooms would work similarly to Clubhouse’s current feature of the same persuasion. The rooms themselves would be ongoing for as long as they were open, and users would be able to drop in and out of calls at their leisure, even joining the conversation when permitted by the host or settings. In theory, it’s a cool way to round out Slack’s platform and make for yet another way for people to engage during the work day.
But not everyone is stoked about the addition. Pocketnow’s Nadeem Sarwar makes a strong point about the redundancy of adding a Clubhouse feature to the already-packed Slack deck: “…from a regular remote worker’s perspective, I’d rather use services such as Telegram, Discord, or Google Meet that we’ve grown accustomed to using for jumping into a group call with my teammates.”
“…[T]he need for audio chatrooms to get in a chaotic chat with colleagues, with whom you already chat over work and share memes five days a week, doesn’t make much sense,” he adds.
Sarwar also references research about remote meeting fatigue from Stanford and The Washington Post, positing that—since video conferences are already played out at this point—adding another quasi-conference option to Slack doesn’t serve much of a purpose.
He isn’t wrong. There are multitudinous conference options on the market now, many of which are free. One could argue that Slack, having marketed itself as a text-first communication hub, has no business entering the audio chat landscape.
That argument falls on its face when you consider Slack’s model—something both Sawar and the Slack CEO himself mention—involves “stealing” and implementing “good ideas” from others in order to make their own platform as comprehensive as possible. If one is able to use Slack for the majority of tasks that Google, Discord, and Clubhouse offer, that makes the platform a lot more attractive to users who are on the fence.
And, perhaps more importantly, it ensures that current users won’t migrate to a comparable platform in the future—especially if their colleagues are making the same choice.
It’s a smart move for Slack, especially given Clubhouse’s lack of Android support at this time—something Clubhouse has said probably still won’t launch for a couple of months.
The Clubhouse team, for their part, continues to add new features in efforts to maintain the platform’s upward mobility. One such feature is the option for paid subscriptions to content creators, allowing for people to monetize their presence on the platform. At the time of this writing, Clubhouse is valued at around $1 billion.
An industry first: IBM launches quantum developer certification program
(TECH NEWS) Developers with quantum computing skills can now prove they’ve mastered the subject with IBM’s first-ever Quantum Developer Certification.
Last week, IBM announced its first-ever developer certification for programming quantum computers, which is also the quantum industry’s first.
“Our team is extremely proud to be able to offer the first-ever quantum developer certification,” a company blog post read. “We hope its availability will provide a valuable learning path for developers and stakeholders looking to prepare themselves for quantum computing in the future.”
The IBM Quantum Developer Certification focuses on IBM’s software tools, specifically Qiskit, their open-source software development kit for quantum computing. Launched in 2017, Qiskit already has over 600,000 installs. And, it’s being used by developers to develop apps, improve code, and participate in hackathons and summer schools.
While the Quantum Developer Certification is the only quantum certification IBM offers now, it won’t be the last. IBM says it is “the first of several in a series of certifications.” This is part of the company’s quantum development roadmap to build a “diverse, global, cloud-based ecosystem of developers who can bring quantum computing skills to their own communities and industries.”
Offered through the Pearson VUE platform, the Quantum Developer Certification exam is 60 questions long. The exam will test a developer’s competency in the fundamentals of quantum computing concepts. Also, it will examine if a person can use Qiskit SDK from the Python programming language to “create and execute quantum computing programs on IBM quantum computers and simulators.”
This certification is exciting for the quantum community because it will officially demonstrate a person’s mastery of quantum computing. And, for the most part, I think most of us can agree that certifying your skills looks good on resumes, and it shows employers you’re serious about your career. However, getting one can be costly. Currently, IBM doesn’t have any scholarships in place, but they say they are working on rolling one out to those who are interested in getting certified.
Along with the certification, IBM is also supporting educators to prepare the future quantum workforce. They are giving educators access to IBM Quantum tools through their Quantum Educators Program and semester-long quantum computing course, Introduction to Quantum Computing and Quantum Hardware, and its free Qiskit digital textbook.
According to a report, quantum computing is predicted to become a $65 billion industry by 2030, and IBM wants to help companies “get their workforce quantum ready” for when it does.
“With our IBM Quantum Developer Certification, IBM Quantum is offering a path for people with all development backgrounds to earn a certification in programming with Qiskit, allowing them to leverage their quantum coding skills into a potential opportunity in this exciting new workforce,” the company blog post read.
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