Posts tagged internet

An billboard against a blue sky with clouds that says, "Internet Neutrality: Straight Ahead," the opposite of what will happen if practices like zero-rating become a widespread standard.

Zero-Rating: Net Neutrality and What You Can Do to Protect It

An billboard against a blue sky with clouds that says, "Internet Neutrality: Straight Ahead," the opposite of what will happen if practices like zero-rating become a widespread standard.

Zero-rating is a sneaky way that ISPs try to control the way we consume data on the web.

 

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.

Zero-rating

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.

A malicious malware symbol surrounded by the different types.

Malicious Malware Makes It Easier to Infect Your Computer

A malicious malware symbol surrounded by the different types.

Hackers have developed a new malicious malware.

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.

An open laptop that is blocking ads, which represents Google Chrome and it's new update.

Google Chrome Says ‘No’ to Annoying Ads

An open laptop that is blocking ads, which represents Google Chrome and it's new update.

Google Chrome may block disruptive ads next year.

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:

Desktop

  • 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.”

Criminal hiding behind a mask turns up on computer screen asking the owner for money. Concept of phishing and WannaCry ransomware, where the computer has all files on the harddrive encrypted and the victims need to pay a ransom in order to get their files unlocked.

WannaCry Ransomware: What You Need to Know

Criminal hiding behind a mask turns up on computer screen asking the owner for money. Concept of phishing and WannaCry ransomware, where the computer has all files on the harddrive encrypted and the victims need to pay a ransom in order to get their files unlocked.

The WannaCry ransomware held private information hostage.

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.

Internet Users: Close-up shot of a female learner typing on the laptop keyboard.

Nevada Seeks to Protect Internet Users

Internet Users: Close-up shot of a female learner typing on the laptop keyboard.

Nevada takes protecting internet users into their own hands.

The government’s stance on the future of the internet has forced several states to take action. In preparation for a possible roll back on the Obama administration’s standing rules, states are making laws of their own. Nevada’s Senate takes the side of those who are for the protection of internet users by introducing Senate Bill 538. This bill hopes to protect the online privacy of Internet users by requiring websites to notify users when they are collecting personal data.

What Is the Bill Trying to Prevent?

The Republican-led government recently voted to roll back the FCC’s privacy regulations. These rules made it mandatory for internet service providers (ISPs) to get your permission before selling your personal data. The House of Representative new bill would allow ISPs to collect and sell information about your browsing history and present users with unwanted advertisements. President Trump has made it known that he is in support of the resolution and plans to sign it.

Nevada’s Bill to Protect Internet Users

The state of Nevada hopes to keep the old rules alive by implementing their variation of the law. Nevada is not the only state either. Other states like Seattle are creating similar bills to protect online privacy, an act that shows their opposition to the current government landscape.

Senate bill 538 states that it is “AN ACT relating to Internet privacy; requiring the operator of an Internet website or online service which collects certain information from residents of this State to provide notice of certain provisions relating to the privacy of the information collected by the operator; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.” The bill also lists several rules that lay out what ISPs can and cannot do.

What Measures Are Consumers Taking?

Nevada’s new bill can potential prevent ISPs from taking advantage of internet users. On the other hand, these rules don’t apply to the rest of the country. Informed consumers are taking matters into their hands by investing in a VPN. A VPN is a way of hiding your activity from ISPs by encrypting your internet connection. Essentially, the only information that your ISP will see is you visiting the VPN, not your internet activity.

The problem with VPNs is that a good one is hard to find. Most VPNs are not as secure as one thinks. Some of these services have even been caught selling the very information that they are responsible for protecting. It is best to do extensive research before purchasing to find out about the company’s background.

The Future of Online Privacy

The FCC’s new Chairman, Ajit Pai, still seeks to move online privacy regulations to the FTC. Without ISP rules, the FCC is hoping that the providers will act in good faith, without betraying the trust of their customers. However, users believe that these service providers will take advantage of an unregulated internet. With many in disagreement with the Trump administration, we may see more and more states making their rules to protect online users.

Net neutrality written on a wooden surface, a hot button topic for the FCC.

FCC Changing Net Neutrality Rules Soon

Net neutrality written on a wooden surface, a hot button topic for the FCC.

The protection of net neutrality by the FCC may cease to exist.

The ongoing battle for the future of the internet rages on. At Geek Aid, we’ve discussed the in’s and out of net neutrality. For more than a decade several groups within the FCC have debated time and time again on how the internet should be regulated. Some parties feel like regulations are necessary to prevent business from treating consumer unfairly, while others believe it threatens the spirit of competition among internet providers.

The Obama administration set rules for net neutrality. They reclassified the internet as a telecommunication service. With a new title and standards, the government was able to prevent internet companies from slowing down or blocking certain services. Now that Ajit Pai is the new chairman of the FCC, he has laid plans to strip the internet of its title and reduce regulations.

What Changes Are Coming From the FCC?

Ajit Pai is notorious for being an advocate for fewer regulations, voting against the FCC’s 2015 rules. Like many others, he believes in the idea of competition. His plans to roll back on the Obama administration’s rules include the following:

  • Turn the Internet Into a Title I Service – The current Title II ruling for the internet treats it like a public utility. This is the same classification as electricity, water, and natural gas. The new ruling could treat it as an information service, meaning the government has less control over what these companies do.
  • Remove the Internet Conduct Standard – This enables the FCC to investigate zero-rating schemes that create fast lanes for certain services over others. With fast lanes being a part of Pai’s agenda, investigations won’t be necessary.
  • Review “Bright-Line Rules” – The bright-line rules make it illegal to block access, throttle, or create fast lanes for content online. Removing these rules is the primary focus of Pai’s time as chairman of the FCC.

Recently, the federal court has prevented internet providers from taking Obama’s net neutrality rules to court. While that might sound like good news, it’s not. As Pai’s changes to the FCC becoming more and more of a possibility, federal judges don’t see the point in reviewing rules set to change.

Will the Changes Happen?

It seems likely. The proposal is up for debate within the FCC on May 18th. Many of the FCC’s officials are for Pai’s changes, including the commissioner and senior public servants. The public can voice their opinions to the FCC but ultimately have no say in the vote. The publicly elected representatives are the ones who do. No one knows if they will listen to the vast majority of people for net neutrality.

If and when these rules are in place, the FCC will no longer be in charge of privacy complaints. Instead, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will handle those objections. If you want to make your voice heard, contact the FCC before the vote takes place.

Password entry screen with recaptcha illustration.

Google is Changing reCAPTCHA for the Better

Password entry screen with recaptcha illustration.

Google updates reCAPTCHA to make things easier for users.

How many times have you come across a website’s contact form to be met with a reCAPTCHA field at the end? We’re also sure that you are familiar with clicking that little “I’m not a robot” box as well. Have you ever wondered what this section is for? Well, as the little box says, it’s to make sure that you are not some robot looking to spam the website owner’s email.

A reCAPTCHA field makes sure that actual people are submitting a request to you. It makes it impossible for a malicious program to enter information into your contact form and send you unwanted messages, or worse, viruses. In 2009, Google acquired this technology and now they are giving it a much-needed upgrade.

How reCAPTCHA Used to Work

The reCAPTCHA program has seen various updates over the years. In the beginning, the system displayed an image where the letters were made up from several photos. It would form two different words that usually had no correlation with one another. Users would then type those words in and click the “I’m not a robot” box to complete the form.

As time moved on and Google acquired the technology, they begin finding new ways to circumnavigate updated robots. Around 2012, they started used photos with house number acquired from Google street view. Two years later, they changed the system by having users identify certain photos in a group of pictures.

What Is the Invisible reCAPTCHA?

This year, Google is rolling out what seems to be the ultimate update to its anti-spam technology. It requires almost no user interaction at all … unless you are displaying suspicious behavior.

Back in 2014, the company created the noCAPTCHA reCAPTCHA. This eliminated all of the tests and security tricky fields meant to keep away sophisticated robots. All users needed to do was check the “I’m not a robot” box and submit their request. How was this new system more secure than previous versions? That’s pretty easy to understand.

Using its new learning and improved risk analysis engine, the system analyzes your browsing behavior. If it believes that you are a human, then you will be able to fill out your form without going through a variety of security fields. However, if it can’t accurately predict your behavior, the engine will see you as suspicious. As a result, it will present you with the CAPTCHA that you are normally used to filling out.

The latest update seeks to eliminate user interactions with the reCAPTCHA altogether. Even the “I’m not a robot” box no longer appears on the user’s screen. Users simply fill out the contact form. This new tech is constantly learning. The more people who fill out contact forms, the more the system is able to determine the difference between someone who it real and one who isn’t.

The “Invisible reCAPTCHA” is set to release sometime this year.

A businesswoman looking at her iPhone data in front of her computer.

Hackers Threaten to Wipe iPhone Data

A businesswoman looking at her iPhone data in front of her computer.

Is your iPhone data safe?

With Apple and iPhone being such a recognizable name, the company’s flagship product was bound to draw the unwanted attention of hackers. Hackers are the seedier parts of the digital world. Furthermore, most of them look for opportunities to exploit technology for their own personal gain. It is not uncommon to hear about hackers making demands and using their skills to access private data.

A hacker group called the “Turkish Crime Family” recently gained media attention. The oddly-named group claims to have access to various user accounts and threatens to use that information to wipe user iPhone data unless Apple pays a hefty ransom.

The Ransom and Threat

The hacker group is asking for $75,000 in Bitcoin or $100,000 in iTunes gift cards. However, some are unsure of the number of accounts the group has access to. They claim to have hundreds of millions in their possession. As a show of force, the Turkish Crime Family revealed 54 accounts.

ZDNet was able to confirm that the accounts are indeed real. No one knows exactly how the hacker group was able to obtain these accounts. Unless Apple pays, they plan to use the account information to access iCloud and remotely erase their data.

Apple Claims iPhone Data Is Safe

Despite the hackers’ forceful demands, Apple is unwilling to give in. Their response is that users accounts are safe. Their statement claims that:

“There have not been any breaches in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud and Apple ID. The alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services.

We’re actively monitoring to prevent unauthorized access to user accounts and are working with law enforcement to identify the criminals involved. To protect against these type of attacks, we always recommend that users always use strong passwords, not use those same passwords across sites and turn on two-factor authentication.”

How Users Can Protect Their Information

In the event of any breach, real or not, users should stay vigilant. The number of accounts that these hackers claim to have is a lot. As a result, users are taking a risk that their private information can be leaked with others or erased entirely by not doing anything.

What users can do is secure their devices. The first step is to change their iCloud password. Remember, a complex password with capitalizations, symbols, and numbers are harder to crack. Next, update your security settings. Old information is how hackers often gain access to passwords.

The last step you should take is enabling two-factor verification. This security method uses a combination of two components to verify a user’s identity. For Apple, users need their password and a six-digit verification code, which is sent to their most trusted devices, to access their account from a new device.

A girl in despair because she has become an online victim.

Prevent Yourself From Becoming an Online Victim

A girl in despair because she has become an online victim.

Be smart and prevent yourself from being an online victim.

The digital world is a dangerous place. There are vultures are out there, who only want to take advantage of you and steal your personal information. However, being vigilante will prevent you from becoming an online victim. At Geek Aid, we are all about cyber security. Here are a few ways that you can protect yourself from dangerous hackers.

Avoid Becoming an Online Victim by Ignoring Dangerous Links

We have discussed the perils of clicking on dangerous links before. They mostly come through emails. That’s why emails have filters to weed out junk mail. They are most likely coming from malicious sites. Never click on an unknown link.

Question Suspicious Emails

Some hackers are clever. They will pretend to be legitimate sources and convince you to give them your personal information. Check the email address to see if it looks suspicious. If they say you owe money, call the company directly and check with a representative to find out if the email is real.

Be Careful What Information You Share Online

Hackers are often able to trick people because they monitor the information they are putting on social media. They will use your interest, location data, and other public knowledge to try and fool you. You can restrict this information by adjusting the privacy settings on all of your social media accounts. Some allow you to restrict who can see what you post, keeping your information invisible from unwanted eyes.

Make Your Passwords Complex and Unknown

We know that passwords can be hard to remember, but you should never use words or phrase that relate to you. This will leave you vulnerable, especially if you use your password as a username elsewhere or if it’s related to information that is public. It is best to create something complex like these:

  • Xfdr#34@juiL
  • tbivOkkl09KK
  • (73k]Uhihx5b

Ensure that you are hack-proof and protected from becoming an online victim. Remember, always stay safe in the digital world.

A world map, representing the internet, which is something net neutrality wishes to protect.

The Troubled History of Net Neutrality

A world map, representing the internet, which is something net neutrality wishes to protect.

Till this day, the government still debates the value of net neutrality.

Net neutrality has been and continues to be a hot-button issue. As Google defines it, net neutrality is “The principle that internet service should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.” Find out what this issue is about and how the government of the United States has handled it.

A Brief History

Back in 2003, media law professor Tim Wu coined the infamous term and reinvigorated the idea that access to the internet should be the same for everyone. It’s the idea that no one (user, website, business, application company, etc.) should be discriminately given poor internet service or charged differently than others.

During the Obama’s presidency, his administration was largely in favor of the principle, putting into place rules to protect it.  In 2015, the U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) reclassified the internet as a telecommunications service. This essentially treats the internet in a similar way to electricity, gas, and water. The law instills the following rules:

  • Companies cannot prioritize one piece of content over the other.
  • Broadband providers cannot block lawful content.
  • Providers cannot slow down or throttle certain content or services.

The State of Net Neutrality

With the election of President Donald Trump, the state of net neutrality is in question. His administration seeks to reverse the rules put into place in 2015.

Former Verizon lawyer, Ajit Pai, is now the chairman in charge of the FCC. He started out in the FCC as a commissioner and during his time has been an opponent of net neutrality. His new position might put him one step further towards achieving the Trump administration’s goal.

For more than a decade, several groups have debated for and against net neutrality. Check back with us next week as we list why people are for and against net neutrality.

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