At the end of the day, the Internet is just a network of tubes. So who’s to say which tubes cost money to use and which don’t? Without net neutrality, Internet service providers and other companies can use strategies like zero-rating to forever change the way we browse the web. In a world where most television networks are controlled by a few major companies, the Internet is really one of last level playing fields out there.
What Is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. That means that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) do not have the right to block, slow down, or use paid prioritization to favor one website over another.
Essentially, a world without net neutrality is a world of censored knowledge. An open internet benefits everyone. Medical professionals in developing areas can search for critical information to treat patients. Small family-owned businesses have the opportunity to expand into multi-national companies, servicing millions. People around the globe deserve an equal chance at success.
The Internet is and should always be an open forum for the free exchange of ideas. In fact, the UN recently deemed Internet access a human right. In the digital age, it is important to discuss and determine the ethicality of Internet usage control.
One sneaky way that ISPs are controlling the way we use the internet is through zero-rating. When you use data to browse websites on your smartphone, your service provider keeps track of your data usage. To prevent users from maxing out their data caps on the first day, say by watching two hours of YouTube on their daily commute, they zero-rate some sites.
With zero-rating, certain sites or apps don’t count towards the total amount of data you’ve used. For example, a video streaming company can pay your service provider in advance to join this “zero-rating club.” This makes their services more appealing than another streaming site that fills your data cap more quickly.
If you think about it, there is no need for data caps or zero-rating. If networks already have enough bandwidth to unlimited data to zero-rating sites, then there is enough for everyone. On top of being highly illogical, this practice is violating net neutrality. The Netherlands, Slovenia, and Chile have already banned this practice, but the FCC remains silent on zero-rating regulation.
A World Without Net Neutrality
If ISPs continue to offer preferential treatment, strong service companies will become even more powerful. Not only that, ISPs will dictate how you surf the Internet in your free time. Right now, the web is composed of mostly streaming sites, blogs, games, social media, and email services.
Service providers will want to control which sites cost more to visit, and will also want additional fees from every website to show their content to customers. They can also choose to block certain sites and make visiting certain sites more expensive than others.
For those who argue that abolishing net neutrality can increase service provider competition, a free and open internet also stimulates ISP competition. It also is the backbone of entrepreneurship in the digital age. It promotes freedom of speech innovation. Lack of net neutrality can lead to monopolies, which are already a big issue in free market economics.
What Can You Do About It?
To speak to your local legislators about this issue, or to contact members of the FCC like Chairman Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn, and Michael O’Reilly, here are some tips:
The first and easiest way to contact them is via email. Their email addresses are located on their website. You can also call them. Legislators take their call appointments seriously. If you are interested in tech and have educated opinions to provide on the issue, they are eager to listen. Since they themselves are not tech experts, they want to be as informed as possible when creating tech policies.
If you are a DC local, you can choose to speak with them in person. If you are not, you can even make appointments to video chat with FCC commissioners or local legislators.
The Internet is a utility, not a commodity. Under the Obama administration, it was deemed a telecommunications service, meaning that it receives the same treatment as water, gas, and electricity services. However, under the Trump administration, these rules are projected to reverse. If you are a net neutrality supporter, it is your job to voice your opinion.
If you would like to receive more news on the latest in cyber security, Internet happenings, and general technology buzz, stayed tuned on our Geek-Aid blog.
Forbes describes the Internet of Things (IoT) as “the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example, a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig.”
This concept plays a big part in the future of technology and the devices we use. The biggest concern surrounding the topic of the IoT is security. How do we protect these internet-connected devices from threats and hackers? As the components of important machines are left vulnerable, this issue becomes more and more prevalent.
Now, the government is getting involved. A new Senate bill seeks to improve the security of government devices. Many IoT devices, like cameras, computers, and more are vulnerable to attack. Recent attacks have even allowed hackers access to popular services. As more IoT devices are attacked, the government wants to make sure that they meet basic standards of security.
Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act
Several senators, including Mark Warner, Cory Gardner, Ron Wyden, and Steve Daines, introduced the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act. The new IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act wants to add better security to devices purchased by the U.S. government. It mandates that devices support patches and password changes, which would help decrease their vulnerability. The senators also want government devices free of known exploits. These standards allow government officials to keep their devices updated and prevent future attacks.
“While I’m tremendously excited about the innovation and productivity that Internet-of-Things devices will unleash, I have long been concerned that too many Internet-connected devices are being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation would establish thorough, yet flexible, guidelines for Federal Government procurements of connected devices. My hope is that this legislation will remedy the obvious market failure that has occurred and encourage device manufacturers to compete on the security of their products.”
What This Bill Could Mean for IoT Devices
Updating the security of these devices could mean a lot for the safety of government information and services. Sen. Gardner notes that “The Internet of Things (IoT) landscape continues to expand, with most experts expecting tens of billions of devices operating on our networks within the next several years.” The more IoT devices that we have available, the more opportunities hackers have to access or interfere with valuable information and services.
Hopefully, the bill will affect all IoT devices, not just the ones used by the government. Manufacturers could raise the standards of their security overall to gain government contracts. If it is passed, only researchers, who are meant to test security exploits, will be exempt from purchasing devices that don’t meet the new standards of security. If you wish to learn more about the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act, you can find out here.
Last week, we discussed a couple of habits that will help you protect your computer’s security. Hopefully, you now know how to navigate the internet better and protect your data. In order stay vigilant and protect your computer, there is more that you need to know. After all, there is only so much you can do to keep hackers from trying to access personal information. Let’s discuss how you can check if your computer’s own security methods are in working order.
Keep Your Computer Updated
Computer companies know how troubling hackers can be, for both them and their consumers. They do not want hackers infiltrating the private information of the people who buy their machines. That’s why they constantly update their computer security system to fight off all sorts of viruses, malware, and trojans. The first thing you should do is check if your computer is running the latest update. This will ensure that it is up-to-date and ready to fight off anything trying to penetrate your system.
Scanning Your Settings for Better Protection
There are plenty of useful tools that computer manufacturers release as well. These tools are able to scan your computer for potential problems like weak user passwords or if you are using all of your security features. They can also educate users on the proper security setting for protection against threats. Just remember to download this kind of software straight from your computer’s manufacturer and not untrustworthy sites.
Secure Your Internet Browser
The number one way that hackers gain access to your computer is through the internet. Accidentally opening suspicious emails, clicking random links, or browsing unfamiliar websites can leave you at risk. In order to avoid downloading something malicious, you have to secure your browser’s own security settings. You’ll find that your browser does more than just block pop-up ads. Like your computer, your browser needs to stay updated to protect your system. Your plugins need to stay updated as well. If they remain out of date, then your system is vulnerable.
Make Sure You Have a Strong Firewall
The biggest defense against hackers is your system’s own firewall. Most computers come with a built-in firewall. They block others from penetrating your computer’s files and prevent them from seeing your system online. You have to make sure this computer function is working at optimal efficiency. Try running a port test service. These services are meant to test your firewall and make sure the world cannot see your computer. If it can detect your computer, then it’s very likely that your firewall settings are not correct or that you have a virus.
Make Sure Your System Is Secure With Geek Aid
Confused? Want to make sure that your system is absolutely secure? Well, Geek Aid is your best bet. Our geeks are trained to know the ins and outs of your system. That way they can not only protect you against viruses or threats but keep your system in working order. We make house calls and service offices as well. So, call us at (877) Geek-Aid to speak with one of our geeks today.
Computers are an essential part of our everyday lives. Whether it’s the cell phone you carry in your pocket or the desktop sitting in your room. They help us work and do our day-to-day task. Without them, our world becomes far less convenient. What is more important than the machine itself is your computer security habits. Protecting your computer from any type of malfunction or malicious attack is important to protect your private data. Let Geek Aid walk you through a couple of ways to ensure you aren’t left vulnerable.
Always Update Your Computer Security
Anytime you boot up your computer, the first thing you should do is check for updates. A new update to your operating system isn’t just an annoying notification that pops up. An update is a vital part of keeping your computer safe. New viruses are born every day, and some hackers even create ones to attack specific operating system. A new update is your computer company’s way to fighting off these infections. The longer you wait to update your system, the more vulnerable you are to an attack.
Change Your Password Game
Over and over we need to remind people to change their passwords. Many use the same password they have been using for several years for every account. This is a bad computer security habit. If your password becomes predictable, you are giving hackers the opportunity to access your devices, personal accounts, and more. Generate random passwords or strong ones that use a combination of letter, numbers, and symbols.
Create Computer Backups
When in doubt, regard Murphy’s law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. As your computer grows older, it’s is more likely to experience random glitches and crashes. You shouldn’t worry too much though as you can prepare for these kinds of unexpected events. Make sure that you regularly create backups. Do it every 2 weeks or every month to make sure the latest information and files are safe and secure. If you need help, there are some useful tips online on how to back up your system.
Email Carefully and Navigate the Web Safely
Going on the internet helps us gather information, stay on top of the news, and do so many other tasks at lightning speed. However, the internet isn’t always safe. Browsing on the web or opening up an unknown email is how a lot of people contract viruses. You have to be more careful. Do not open or download attachments or files from people or sources you don’t trust. Also, shareware and free downloads are often packed with malevolent software.
Investing in Antivirus Software
An extra antivirus software on your machine won’t hurt. In fact, these types of software are your number one barrier against hackers trying to steal or mess with your private data. They can set up firewalls and detect viruses attempting to penetrate your computer’s defense. Do some research and spend some money on a good antivirus software.
Technology never stops moving and it’ll be amazing to see what new advancements we will have in the world of tomorrow. As one the leading computer companies in America, Microsoft is constantly pushing the envelope of what it can do with its technology. Even the smallest advancements hold value. Take the “Modern Keyboard” for example. Microsoft’s latest accessory wants to reinvent how we use the age-old device. Find out everything you need to know about the Modern Keyboard. Their inventive twist to these classic computer accessories might make it your next purchase.
Fingerprint Sensor Integration
Biometrics are the latest security measure being implemented in various devices. You see them often in smartphones and tablets. Even using your fingerprints for online purchases and as sign-in credentials are becoming more and more commonplace. Microsoft’s Modern Keyboard brings that natural evolution to their home computer.
Built for the next generation of Windows 10 devices, the Modern Keyboard features a fingerprint sensor. Seamlessly integrated into the keyboard as another button, users simply have to press and hold their finger on it to activate the sensor.
Built for Durability
When you buy any device or accessory, you want to know that it will last. Microsoft made sure to craft this new device with an aluminum frame for durability. While heavy, the company also describes the keyboard as “thin & strong,” as well as “virtually indestructible.” This premium keyboard is sure to last users a long time. It’s also the perfect option for those who need it on the move.
Another great feature that is built into the Modern Keyboards is it’s wired and wireless interface. The keyboard has Bluetooth pairing capabilities, allowing it to connect to devices that support Bluetooth 4.0 or higher. This applies to non-Windows devices as well.
According to Microsoft, they “optimized the Bluetooth pairing experience, enabling automatic pairing when you connect the cable at first OOBE.” This makes pairing simple and intuitive. It also has a 2.4 GHz frequency range, which allows it to work up to 33 feet away from a device or 17 feet if you are in an office setting.
When Will the Modern Keyboard Release?
Microsoft has yet to give a release date for the Modern Keyboard. We know that the accessory will cost $129.99 at retail, with a 1-year warranty. It also includes a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 4 hours on a full charge.
Along with the Modern Keyboard, Microsoft unveiled the Modern Mouse. This device sports a sleek look and a metal scroll wheel. It also has wireless Bluetooth, working with Bluetooth 4.0 supported devices. No release date has been announced for this device as well but it will retail for $49.99.
Design wise, both devices are silver and gray. The Modern Keyboard has flat, square shaped keys that match the look and feel of their latest Surface models. These two devices should make a wonderful addition to the Microsoft’s collection of electronics. We look forward to seeing more technological advancement from Microsoft in the future.
It seems harder and harder to protect your computer from security threats and virus. Hackers are constantly trying to gain access to your computer system using the latest tricks and cons. We’ve discussed before how to protect yourself from malicious malware. For example, if you click on a suspicious link in an email, there a good chance you’re inviting a virus to infect your computer. However, a new report suggests it might not be enough. A new virus is now able to infect your computer the moment your mouse hovers over the link.
Malicious Malware Installs Banking Trojan
What’s a Banking Trojan? It’s a type of malware that is designed to break into an online bank account and move a person’s money into a hacker’s bank account. In the U.S., these trojans steal millions of dollars from business and personal accounts. Companies and organization are usually the targets of these nefarious campaigns.
Research by cyber security company Trend Micro and information security blog Dodge This Security revealed a new malware downloader is installing banking Trojans. What makes this particular malware stand out is that users don’t even have to click on anything for it to activate. All users have to do hover their mouse cursor over a hyperlink in a PowerPoint file.
These attacks were largely made against companies and organizations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Hackers sent PowerPoints containing the Trojan via spam email. These emails were disguised as finance-related, making the user believe they were related to a recent order or invoice.
Older computer systems are more at risk than new ones. While the malicious malware does try to automatically download onto your computer, the latest Microsoft Office will ask you beforehand. This provides the user a security measure to prevent the virus from affecting you. However, older versions of Office will execute the PowerPoint file.
Keeping Your Computer Safe
Many companies do not update their computer’s operating system or applications. Working off of older technology leaves them vulnerable to attack and without that added layer of security that they need. Unfortunately, just like we saw with the WannaCry situation, it isn’t so easy for large scale companies to update their computer systems.
A good antivirus software will help to protect your computer from an attack like this. Trend Micro was able to detect 1,444 spam emails last month. Another way to avoid becoming a victim of online theft is by looking out for suspicious emails from unknown senders. These are often the most dangerous types of emails with hackers hoping that you will download its contents.
If you are a small or big business, your computer system is a target. It is best to invest in protecting your company’s private and important information. At Geek Aid, we can assist you with business IT solutions, including:
- Performance Enhancements on Computers
- Crash Repairs
- Data Recovery
- Data Backup
- Security From Thieves and Competitors
- Email Setup
- Technology Consultation
Don’t leave your company’s security system at risk. Call Geek Aid at 877-GEEK-AID for computer and technical support.
There appears to be no rest for the world of cyber security. Hackers are vigilant and in order to keep the personal and private information of the public safe, cyber security experts must be as well. A popular target for hackers are smartphones and other mobile devices. As people rely more and more on this form of technology for everyday task, the more likely they become a victim of security threats. The companies who create these devices constantly update them to prevent such events. However, hackers are crafty. For example, their newest method to hack your phone involves using cutting-edge voice hacking.
Mimicking You Through Voice Hacking
While still in its infancy, sending commands to your smartphone or mobile device via voice controls is on the rise. Digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and others are becoming an essential part of the user experience. Even Apple has dedicated their time to updating Siri with a better intelligence.
What’s troublesome is that hackers can record audio samples while you are engaging with these digital assistants. They are able to mimic your voice, convincing other that they are you. This malicious technology allows hackers access to personal accounts and security mechanisms.
In an interview with Forbes, Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer at AVG, warns against using speech recognition apps, recommending that users disable them right away. “At the moment, leaving biometric technology as it is today is like leaving a computer without a password and just allowing anyone to walk by, click and take an action,” says Ben-Itzhak.
Stopping Voice Hacking in Its Tracks
The researchers at the University at Buffalo have the same thoughts as Ben-Itzhak. That’s why they’ve developed a way to detect and prevent hackers from using obtaining your voice patterns. The engineers were able to create an app that stops voice hacking using a smartphone’s existing components.
“Technology is advancing so fast; we have to think of different ways. The strategy is using multiple lines of defense. We call that defense in depth,” says Kui Ren, Ph.D., director of the Ubiquitous Security and Privacy Research Laboratory (UbiSeC) at UB, and one of the study’s lead authors.
Ren and his team’s study focused on hackers replaying someone’s voice to access a device. Hackers will use speakers to perform such a task. The app uses the following tools:
- A magnetometer in a phone to detect the speaker’s magnetic field.
- The phone’s trajectory mapping algorithm to measure the distance between the speaker and the phone.
The app also uses movement to detect the difference between a person and a replayed voice, the latter’s magnetic field changes when moved.
“We cannot decide if voice authentication will be pervasive in the future. It might be. We’re already seeing the increasing trend,” Ren said. “And if that is the case, we have to defend against voice replay attacks. Otherwise, voice authentication cannot be secure.”
This research is crucial to keeping digital users safe. Some technology already exists that prevent other forms of voice hacking from occurring. Hopefully, people will soon be able to add the University at Buffalo’s app to their phone’s security.
Apple announced several updates are coming to their iOS devices this Fall. The company is giving iPhone and iPad users access to new features with iOS 11.
“iOS 11 gives iPad users the powerful app functionality they need to take advantage of everything iPad is capable of, and brings hundreds of new features and incredible updates to the iOS apps iPhone and iPad users enjoy every day,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.
Apple praises iOS 11 as “A giant step for iPhone. A monumental leap for iPad.” It’s hard not to see why. These long-awaited features are set to give users more options. Let’s walk through what Apple users can expect this Fall.
New iOS 11 Features
- Customizable Dock – On iPad, iOS 11 gives users more customization options, making it even more powerful. The new customizable dock grants access to frequently used apps and documents. Furthermore, you can customize the dock with your favorite apps. The dock even suggests apps that you have used recently or on other iOS devices.
- Multitasking Features – Switching between apps is now easier thanks to Split View and Slide Over. The new updates allow you have two apps open at the same time. You simply drag an app from your dock to your main screen.
- Files – This app is perhaps the biggest feature coming with iOS 11. You can control the file storage on your devices. Not much is known about this feature. However, we do know that the Files app will give users access to stuff stored on iCloud and other storage services.
- Apple Pencil Support – The update will allow the Apple Pencil more functionality on the iPad. Users are now able to markup PDFs and screenshots, take notes on the lock screen and draw in the notes app.
- AR Functionality – With the ARKit, developers can easily build new and exciting AR experiences. Using the built-in camera of iOS devices, users can experience what Apple calls “detailed and compelling virtual content on top of real-world scenes for interactive gaming, immersive shopping experiences, industrial design and more.”
- Updated Siri – Apple’s premier personal assistant Siri is set to become a whole lot smarter. By adding new AI technology, Siri will sound more realistic than ever. Siri can also offer suggestions based on what apps you use, learning about your interest and curating the content you see in apps like News and Safari.
- Enhanced Do Not Disturb – The updated Do Not Disturb feature can determine when you are driving and prevent calls, text messages, and notifications from reaching you during that time. People who are trying to get in touch with you automatically receive a message that you are on the road.
Apple announced a ton of other announcements at their conference. They revealed new products and features like the HomePod, iMac Pro, and updated App Store on iOS devices. In addition to these products, the company also detailed their new macOS operating system. You can check out everything the company has to offer by visiting their website. Keep visiting the Geek Aid blog for more on the future of mobile technology.
Google Chrome is arguably one of the most popular web browsers available. Starting next year, the web browser will make a step towards improving the user experience. With new ad-filtering technology, Chrome users are protecting from spamming ads, pop-ups, and auto-playing ads. These types of online advertisements are often intrusive to the user.
“The reality is, it’s far too common that people encounter annoying, intrusive ads on the web — like the kind that blare music unexpectedly or force you to wait 10 seconds before you can see the content on the page,” Google SVP of ads and commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy says. “These frustrating experiences can lead some people to block all ads — taking a big toll on the content creators, journalists, web developers and videographers who depend on ads to fund their content creation.”
The Coalition for Better Ads
The Coalition for Better Ads is a group of international trade associations and companies involved in online media. The group’s hope is to provide a balance between the ads online and a better user experience. The Coalition understands that ads can be disruptive to the user experience. They even go so far as to list several types of ads on desktop and mobile devices that users find annoying. These ads include the following:
- Pop-Up Ads
- Auto-Playing Video Ads With Sound
- Prestitial Ads With Countdown
- Large Sticky Ads
Mobile Web Experiences
- Pop-Up Ads
- Prestitial Ads
- Ad Density Higher Than 30 Percent
- Flashing Animated Ads
- Auto-Playing Video Ads With Sound
- Postitial Ads With Countdown
- Full-Screen Scroll Over Ads
- Large Sticky Ads
The Coalition is made up of 27 members, including Google. The group discovered which ads were the most disruptive by polling more than 25,000 consumers. Chrome’s update next year could be a response to meeting the Better Ads Standards that the group set.
Building a Better User Experience Through Chrome
Many believed that Google would create an ad-filtering version of Chrome. Through most of their policies, Google always strives to put the user experience over everything else. As the update goes into effect, the Ad Experience Report may change as well. By using this tool created by Google, publishers can see if their ads are violating the Better Ads Standards.
What’s interesting is that Google itself makes a generous amount of revenue from advertisements – to be exact, they make $20 billion almost every quarter. Time will tell how the new update will affect their income.
Google also wants to make sure that the companies producing the ads aren’t put at a disadvantage. The search engine giant is rolling a tool called Funding Choices, which is now in beta. It allows advertisers to send a message to visitors using an ad blocker. The message either invites users to enable ads on their site or pay to remove ads altogether. This allows publishers to continue gaining revenue despite the loss in ads.
Looking towards the future, Ramaswamy states that “We believe these changes will ensure all content creators, big and small, can continue to have a sustainable way to fund their work with online advertising.”
Recently, England’s healthcare system was the victim of a massive cyber attack. The ransomware known as WannaCry locked doctors and employees across at least 25 hospitals out of their networks. Later, it was discovered that the same attack hit multiple organizations across the world. Find out what happened and how it become the largest ransomware attack to date.
What Did WannaCry Demand?
A hacker group known as The Shadow Brokers stole and leaked several Windows’ exploits from the NSA. Within the information leak, a remote code execution vulnerability called ExternalBlue was used to access unsecured computers and install the now infamous ransomware. The computers affected were either not updated or running Windows XP or 2000, which are operating systems that are no longer supported.
The ransomware program is modified version of WannaCrypt, a virus that has plagued computers before. The malicious software locks users from their computers, and then ask them to pay a $300 fee via bitcoin to obtain the encryption key. The longer the user takes to pay the ransom, the higher the fee becomes.
How Did the Virus Make It Onto Computers?
Like many other pieces of malware, WannaCry spread because people didn’t take proper precaution. The virus is believed to have originated from compressed files attached to emails. It’s important to avoid becoming an online victim. This is a topic that we have discussed before because there are a lot of opportunistic groups looking to take advantage of internet users.
Why Are Small and Large Businesses Using Vulnerable Systems?
Upgrading to the newest operating system is not so simple for business. For example, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that medical equipment uses old operating systems and are not easy to update. Business with multiple computers or larger IT system can also have a hard time updating their infrastructure. Some updates can break key application needed to do work. Companies have to be very careful when performing a companywide update, otherwise, it can critically damage everyone.
While Microsoft has ended support for older operating systems, they recently created a patch to address the incident. Companies using Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 can now download a patch to protect their computers. If you can, we suggest updating your operating system regularly to avoid risk to your private information.
Are You the Victim of a Cyberattack?
If you notice the telltale signs of a cyber attack on your computer system, call us at Geek Aid. Our IT and networking specialist can help. We offer services like data backups, data recovery, virus removal and more. We even provide recurring updates for companies to prevent attacks from infecting your system and disrupting your business.
One of our services even includes setting your business up with your own private exchange or email setup. That way your email is only distributed to those who need it. Your computer’s security system is important to us. So, call Geek Aid at (877) GEEK-AID today. You can also reach us via email by filling out our contact form.