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.
China no longer dependent on U.S. for smartphone components
(TECH NEWS) Trump’s trade war, more specifically, the ban on shipping phone components, to China has begun to take a toll on chip manufacturing.
Once upon a time, the U.S. and China were buddies, exporting and importing from each other with ease. However, President Trump’s recent actions regarding trade with China is certainly putting a damper on things.
It seems that Chinese companies have moved past the need to import certain products, like smartphone chips, from the U.S. – something they previously relied heavily on by working with American companies like Qorvo, Inc. in North Carolina, Skyworks, Inc. in Massachusetts, Broadcom, Inc. in California, and Cirrus Logic in Texas.
Since the ban in May, Trump specifically barred shipments from the U.S. from companies like Qualcomm and Intel Corp to companies like Chinese tech conglomerate, Huawei Technologies Co. But much like the bans that came before the Trump administration, it didn’t last long. With tensions high, the U.S. actually recently started rolling back some aspects of the ban and started making exceptions that allow American tech companies to continue to work with Chinese companies like Huawei.
Of course, China’s lack of U.S. parts hasn’t stopped them from rolling out new and improved products. As a matter of fact, in September, Huawei unveiled its newest phone, the Mate 30, which boasts highly-desired features, such as a curved screen and a wide angle camera. This makes the phone a pretty solid competitor of Apple’s newest iPhone, the iPhone 11, of which China was sent 10 million of in September and October.
After Huawei’s announcement, investment and banking firm UBS, and Japanese technology lab Fomalhaut Techno Solutions, partnered up and took to their labs to analyze the phone’s components. Their analysis was simple and straightforward. They found that there were absolutely zero American components in the phone. In fact, the chips in the Mate 30 are actually from Huawei’s in-house chip design agency, HiSilicon. They also provided Huawei with WiFi and Bluetooth chips. With HiSilicon’s 20 + years experience in the industry, 200+ chipsets, and 8000+ patents, it’s no wonder U.S. chip companies are getting nervous. Qualcomm, for example, announced a 31-40% decrease in estimated chip shipments over the next year.
Although the chip ban has made a big impact on larger U.S. companies who make and supply chips to China, there are still many other businesses that have been affected in Trump’s trade war. As it happens, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently confessed that, since May, when the ban was put in place, the U.S. has received at least 260 requests, asking that they excuse them from the ban and be allowed to work with China as they previously had.
But really, at the end of the day, with so many American companies relying on China for both import and export, it’s probable that the ban will be short-lived and that exceptions won’t need to be made. As Americans, we can be hopeful that the end-result of this trade war will be a positive one, but only time will tell.
AI cameras could cut down traffic deaths, but there may be flaws
(TECH NEWS) Traffic accidents have plagued humanity since motor vehicles were created, can AI help cut down on text and drive incidents?
What if we told you Australian officials believe they have found a way to reduce driving deaths by almost 30% in just two years? It’s a pretty appealing concept. After all, Australia alone faces an average of over 3 deaths a day due to driving accidents. And Australia’s average death rate clocks in at just half of what we face in the United States.
There’s just one problem with Australia’s proposed solution: it’s basically Big Brother.
Basically, Australia plans to use AI cameras to catch people texting and driving. There are plenty of places that have outlawed texting and driving, but that rule is very hard to enforce – it basically means catching someone in the act. With AI cameras, hands free driving can be monitored and fined.
Australia has already started rolling out some of these systems in South Wales. Because this is a new initiative, first time offenses will be let off with a warning. The following offenses can add up quickly, though, with fines anywhere from $233 to $309 USD. After a six month trial period, this program is projected to expand significantly.
But there are real concerns with this project.
Surprisingly, privacy isn’t one of these worries. Sure, “AI cameras built to monitor individuals” sounds like a plot point from 1984, but it’s not quite as dire as it seems. First, many places already have traffic cameras in order to catch things like people running red lights. More importantly, though, is the fact these machines aren’t being trained to identify faces. Instead, the machine learning for the cameras will focus on aspects of distracted driving, like hands off the wheel.
The bigger concern is what will come from placing the burden of proof on drivers. Because machine learning isn’t perfect, it will be paired with humans who will review the tagged photographs in order to eliminate false positives. The problem is, humans aren’t perfect either. There’s bound to be false positives to fall through the cracks.
Some worry that the imperfect system will slow down the judicial system as more people go to court over traffic violations they believe are unfair. Others are concerned that some indicators for texting while driving (such as hands off the wheel) might not simply apply texting. What if, for instance, someone was passing a phone to the back seat? Changing the music? There are subtleties that might not be able to be captured in a photograph or identified by an AI.
No matter what you think of the system, however, only time can tell if the project will be effective.
DeepComposer: AWS’ piano keyboard turns AI up to 11
(TECH NEWS) Amazon has been busy with machine learning, which includes a camera, a car, and now DeepComposer that’s able to add to classics on the fly
Musicians, listen up, there’s a new kid in town, its name is DeepComposer and it’s coming to take your creativity and turn it up to 11.
Artificial Intelligence has taken a leap into what has long been considered the “pinnacle of human creativity”, as Amazon revealed what is said to be the world’s first machine learning-enabled keyboard capable of creating music.
Amazon unveiled its AWS DeepComposer keyboard Monday during AWS re:Invent, a learning conference Amazon Web Services hosted for the global cloud computing community in Las Vegas.
Demonstrating DeepComposer’s abilities, Dr. Matt Wood, Amazon’s VP of Artificial Intelligence, played a snippet of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and then let the keyboard riff on it with drums, synthesizer, guitar, and bass, sharing a more rockin’ version of the masterpiece.
Generative AI, is considered by scientists at MIT to be one of the most promising advances in AI in the past decade, Wood told the crowd. Generative AI allows for a machine not only to learn from example, as a human would but to take it next level and connect the dots, making the next creative step to composing something completely new.
“It [Generative AI] opens the door to an entire world of possibilities for human and computer creativity, with practical applications emerging across industries, from turning sketches into images for accelerated product development, to improving computer-aided design of complex objects, Amazon said on its AWS re:Invent website.
How does it work? The Generative AI technique pits two different neural networks against each other to produce new and original digital works based on sample inputs, according to Amazon. The generator creates, the discriminator provides feedback for tweaks and together they create “exquisite music”, Wood explained.
A user inputs a melody on the keyboard, then using the console they choose the genre, rock, classical, pop, jazz or create your own and voila, you have a new piece of music. Then, if so desired users can share their creations with the world through SoundCloud.
This is the third machine learning teaching device Amazon has made available, according to TechCrunch. It introduced the DeepLens camera in 2017 and in 2018 the DeepRacer racing cars. DeepComposer isn’t available just yet, but AWS account holders can sign up for a preview once it is.
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