Barbara Larson

Barbara Larson

Friday, 26 January 2018 15:34

Top 5 tools to protect internet privacy

How virtual private networks (VPNs), proxy services, and onion routers help block ISPs (and search engines) from harvesting user data — and which of these internet privacy tools to choose.

Years ago when Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Amazon, and hundreds of other organizations began harvesting and monetizing user data, the public outcry resulted in a multitude of internet privacy protection products and services. And with our government deciding to allow internet service providers (ISPs) to engage in that same abuse, users have more options for privacy protection products and services than ever before. There are, literally, hundreds of options available. These are the top five internet privacy solutions, in our view, plus the five "runners up" (below).

Onion routing & combo technologies

1. TOR, the Onion Router, is an open source product/service (which means it's free) that's been around since the mid 1990s. It was originally developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to protect U.S. intelligence communications online. It became the largest, most popular onion routing product/service—called the TOR Project in 2006—and includes the TOR Browser and TOR software.

According to Joshua Gay, TOR Communications Director, TOR protects users against a common form of internet surveillance known as traffic analysis, which is used to infer who is talking to whom over a public network. Knowing the source and destination of your internet traffic allows others to track your behavior and interests. TOR is for web browsers, instant messaging clients, and more. The TOR Browser is a cross-platform, free browser that connects to the TOR network without additional software.

"The TOR software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world," says Gay. "It prevents everybody from watching your internet connection (including your ISP), from learning what sites you visit, and prevents those sites that you visit from learning your physical location and your actual IP address."

2. I2P, founded in 2003, is a free, open-source, worldwide privacy network for secure communications, which travel through tunnels identified by I2P addresses (created by both sender and recipient). Like HTTPS and other privacy programs, I2P uses end-to-end encryption to hide the content of your communications from ISPs. It also uses layered encryption over several hops in each tunnel (aka, onion routing) to hide the metadata. Other applications can be layered on top that provide additional metadata defense, such as the email-like messaging apps, according to Jack Grigg, one of the current developers.

"A key feature of I2P is that the end-to-end nature is built-in," explains Grigg. "Proxies, VPNs, and TOR exit nodes all require you to trust the egress point (the point where your data leaves their network to traverse the regular internet). These points act like remote ISPs; that is, they can see as much of your content and metadata as your ISP could before and—in the case of proxies and VPNs—can trivially link this information to your IP address (which is why it's important that VPNs don’t keep their logs). I2P is not designed as a proxy and, therefore, doesn’t have these trusted points. The only computer that can see your content and metadata is the one you are intentionally sending it to. The downside is that regular websites are not instantly accessible because services need to create an I2P address for their website. The upside is that, usually, this is very easy to do, so ask them!"

Virtual private networks (VPNs)

3. Private Tunnel is a consumer and small business VPN product of OpenVPN Technologies. CEO and co-Founder, Francis Dinha, explains that it masks users' public IP addresses, so they can surf the web anonymously, and shield their networks against cyber-attacks and stalkers. Private Tunnel is integrated with OpenDNS and other anti-malware technologies that enhance the web browsing experience and help users avoid accessing malicious web pages. There are four pricing levels: From Basic service, which is free, to Unlimited service, which is $29.99 a year.

"We literally prevent ISPs from having access to your private information," says Dinha. "All they see, if you're connected to one of our worldwide servers, is an encrypted, jumbled mess. And there's nothing they can do to crack that code. You're essentially locking them out, while you surf the net in total privacy."

"Finding the right VPN can be a challenge because there are so many options," adds Dinha. "Our clients use Private Tunnel to circumvent geo restricted content and to add an additional layer of privacy, protection, and security when using the internet. And, because it does not log browsing activity transmitted through VPN tunnels, users are protected."

4. NordVPN is a tool used to ensure that all information shared over the internet is encrypted and private. It encrypts user data through a secure tunnel before accessing the internet, which protects sensitive information about one’s location by hiding his/her IP address. The only information visible to the ISP is the user's connection to a VPN server, and nothing else. All other information is encrypted by the VPN’s security protocol. There are three pricing levels: $69.00 for a one year commitment ($5.75 a month); $42.00 for a six-month commitment ($7.00 a month); or $11.95 a month for a month-to-month commitment.

According to CMO, Marty P. Kamden, NordVPN is determined to hide and secure users’ data with features such as double data encryption and a strict no logs policy. "From the moment a user turns on NordVPN, his/her internet data becomes encrypted, so it's invisible to governments, ISPs, third party snoopers, and even NordVPN," says Kamden. "We will continue to safeguard internet user privacy and provide assistance and consultations on internet privacy to all our clients. During these times of increasing attacks on internet privacy, VPNs and NordVPN are now playing a major part in user protection.”

Proxy services

5. SSLPrivateProxy.com provides high speed, anonymous proxies and secure VPNs. Its infrastructure provides access to more than 100 locations worldwide. Users get dedicated IP addresses, speeds of 1000 Mbps, 300 plus subnets, and it provides a fully automated, user-friendly control panel for easy management. There are multiple pricing levels that work on sliding scales based on number and type of proxies; e.g., for one private Instagram proxy, it's $4.50 a month for a one-year commitment; $4.83 a month for a six-month commitment; $5.17 a month for a three-month commitment; and $5.50 a month for a month-to-month commitment. Additional pricing levels include Private Proxies, Pokemon Go Proxies, and Classified Ads Proxies.

"For regular, private proxies you pay $15 a month and you get five different, dedicated proxies (i.e., IPs and ports). Dedicated means that during the time when that proxy is allocated to your account, it is only allocated to you and you are the only person who can use it. You can use the five proxies at any time for as much internet traffic as you want and bandwidth is unlimited," says a spokesperson for SSLPrivateProxy.com.

And the runners up are:

  • ExpressVPN — VPN is $8.32 to $12.65 a month; Unlimited Bandwidth
  • CyberGhost VPN — Web Proxy is free; VPN is $5.83 to $9.16 a month; Unlimited Bandwidth
  • Hide My Ass! — Web Proxy is free; VPN is $11.52 a month; Unlimited Bandwidth
  • Squid Proxies — 10 proxies for $24 a month; Unlimited Bandwidth
  • My Private Proxy — 10 proxies for $23.70 a month; Unlimited Bandwidth

How we got to this point with internet privacy 

The Senate Joint Resolution 34 (S.J.Res. 34) became public law on April 3, 2017. This resolution invalidates the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) rules regarding the protection of user privacy for internet customers. The rule titled "Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services" was published on December 2, 2016. In a nutshell, S.J.Res. 34 strips the protections that previously forced your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to get your permission before it could track and collect your web browsing history, app usage, and other internet activities, then sell that data to the highest bidders.

According to Altimeter Group analyst Brian Solis, the argument in favor of repealing the FCC’s privacy regulations applying to ISPs is flawed and misleading. Lobbyists maintained that giving ISPs the ability to gather and monetize user data would allow them to fairly compete with organizations such as Google and Facebook, which, they say, would introduce consistency across the internet to protect customer privacy and security.

"But there is no one standard that applies to the internet," explains Solis, "And, if anything, Trump’s order further dilutes any constancy. Giving ISPs the ability to sell website history data to advertisers goes against the common understanding of privacy. ISPs charge consumers for access to the internet and that’s the agreement in which there is a mutual understanding. If users are paying for internet access and presume data privacy, then there must be a quid pro quo if their website history is to also be sold."

While there are certainly technical approaches to protecting one’s privacy while browsing the internet, Gartner research director and risk/security analyst, Matt Stamper, reasons that this effectively confuses the fundamental issue. As a society, he insists that we have to determine if privacy is a right—an expectation of how we live our digital lives.

"What the recent ruling has done is effectively change privacy from a right to a commodity that is brokered. Privacy principles emphasize choice and consent; that is, we choose to 'opt in' and share our information at our discretion. That is now absent," Stamper says.

Privacy protecting solutions

Solis warns that ISPs will lose big time if they compete against one another based on user privacy. "Comcast Corp, Verizon, and AT&T have already said they would not sell customers’ individual internet browsing information," Solis says. "That’s a start but, now more than ever, it’s up to consumers to manage their own privacy strategies."

The obvious solution is to find an external product that will block the ISPs and search engines (such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, etc.) from harvesting your data. Think of these invaders like viruses or malware that infect your system with garbage intended to harm or exploit you. In that case, you would install a virus protection program to block the intruders. And so, in this case, you would install a program that blocks the harvesters.

How harvester blocking works

The current technologies available for blocking harvesters from stealing your data are virtual private networks (VPNs), proxy services, and onion routers. Basically, these technologies are fairly similar. Customers use an application or they directly access a website on the internet, which then connects them—through a series of encrypted network relays, hubs, or virtual tunnels—to a bunch of external computers/servers that are scattered throughout the world for the purpose of hiding users' actual IP addresses. 

Some services bounce the connection across several servers at random, so the IP address is always different. Some have a limited range of IP addresses that change each time you log in, some just hide or mask the IP address completely, and some use a combination of technologies to ensure your anonymity while online.

The options defined

Virtual private networks (VPNs) create a secure connection through an encrypted virtual tunnel from your location to another (such as France or Italy, for example), and hides your IP address.

Proxy services are intermediary applications or gateways to a proxy website, which then routes the user's connection through an anonymous proxy server, effectively masking the IP address (which can only be masked for one application at a time).

The Onion Router (TOR) is a service that connects users anonymously to the internet through a network of randomly selected nodes or relays, which are encrypted at each node. Because the route is never entirely visible, the trail is always masked.

Many companies offer combination services; for example, Onion Routing and VPN, or VPN and Proxy.

Advantages / disadvantages

The advantages are privacy protection, the disadvantages are minimal. For example, your browser may slow down, so it takes longer to navigate; some VPNs are susceptible to government inspection; some proxies are difficult to configure and may not work with all applications; and frequent usage may tag you as a suspicious 'person of interest,' which could result in constant monitoring.

But these are minor issues compared to having your entire life splattered across the internet for all to see (and judge). For example, how many times have you researched something for your parents, a friend, or a neighbor, and then discover later that your mailbox (both online and outside your house) is stuffed with advertisements for some embarrassing product like Rogaine or Preparation H? It's time to fight back!

"We have effectively required consumers to invest in technologies to protect their online behavior. If the expectation is that privacy requires consumers to purchase, configure, and maintain their own VPNs and other such services, my concern is that privacy is fundamentally endangered. Do we really think that our parents will know how to deploy TOR or these other privacy solutions? If privacy is contingent upon my mom configuring TOR, we’re doomed,” concludes Stamper.

Source: This article was published csoonline.com By JD Sartain

Thursday, 25 January 2018 13:59

3 SEO tasks to start 2018 off with a bang

Wondering where to focus your efforts this year in order to gain an edge over your competitors? Columnist Jeremy Knauff has some ideas.

We’re just about three weeks into the new year, and the momentum you establish now can easily set the pace for the rest of your year.

I’d like to help you start 2018 off with a bang by earning three simple wins that will set the stage for further success and growth, not just for this year, but long into the future.

These wins are simple, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy — because while the concepts are not complex, a lot of work will be required to accomplish them.

That may seem like a bad thing, but it’s actually a blessing in disguise because it means that most of your competitors won’t even put in the effort, which will give you a significant advantage over them.

Improve page speed to improve ranking

Google just recently announced that beginning in July 2018, mobile page speed will be a ranking factor for its mobile search results. Page speed also has a significant impact on user experience, and several aspects of user experience are direct ranking factors, too.

Studies show that the faster a web page loads, the longer visitors will remain, and in most cases, more of them will convert to paying customers compared to visitors on slower websites.

Most people have a tremendous opportunity for improvement in this area because they don’t realize how poorly their website is performing. I was recently talking with a potential client about SEO for his website, and when the topic of page speed came up, he proudly insisted that his website “loads super fast — usually in under one or two seconds!”

If that were true, it would have been phenomenal; however, it was actually closer to thirty seconds, according to the tests I performed using several different tools.

It’s important to point out that when I talk about page speed, I’m not specifically talking about Google’s PageSpeed Insights. I’m talking about how long it takes a web page to load in general.

Some ways you can improve page speed include:

  • investing in high-performance web hosting.
  • reducing http calls by merging CSS and JavaScript files, eliminating WordPress plugins and using sprites.
  • properly scaling and compressing images.
  • implementing server caching, browser caching and Gzip compression.
  • minifying CSS and JavaScript files.

Leverage a personal brand for link building

If you’ve managed a website for any length of time, you’ve most likely been on the receiving end of a lot of link requests, and I think it’s a safe bet that most of them were probably terrible. Now I’m going to say something that might hurt your feelings: If you’ve sent a link request, it was probably terrible, too.

Cold link outreach is challenging, and you generally don’t earn very many links in relation to the number of emails you send out. This is because you’re asking for something from a stranger before you’ve built any rapport, which is an almost certain recipe for disaster. Effective link building depends on relationships, not brute force and volWhile certainly not the worst link outreach email I’ve ever seen, this isn’t a particularly effective approach.

Rather than cold link outreach, a more effective strategy is to develop a personal brand that others want to connect with. This is easier said than done because it will require a tremendous amount of work, performed consistently over a relatively long period of time.

However, once you’ve developed a personal brand, it will be much easier to leverage the kind of relationships you’ll then develop, to efficiently build links. In fact, if your personal brand becomes powerful enough, often, people will link to your content without you even asking.

A few ways you can develop a personal brand include:

  • creating consistently branded profiles on key social networks.
  • regularly sharing valuable content from others in your industry, along with your insight on it.
  • engaging with your audience, both those below and above your stature within your industry.
  • regularly publishing amazing content, both on your own website and in industry publications and top-tier business publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company.

Incorporate video into your SEO efforts

The video is a driving force in digital marketing today, and we’re quickly approaching a point where it’s just as essential as having a website and social media presence. It can play a significant role in your SEO efforts in two distinct ways.

The first is that video often helps to keep interested visitors on your website longer. Google sees this as a sign of a positive user experience, which has a beneficial impact on your organic ranking. A side benefit here is that you’re also giving visitors more of a chance to truly connect with your brand.

The second is that by publishing your videos on YouTube, you have the potential to put your brand in front of a larger audience through YouTube’s search results. (YouTube is often referred to as the “second-largest search engine in the world” due to its position as the second-most-visited website globally after Google, according to Alexa rankings.)

On top of that, you’re leveraging the authority of YouTube’s domain, so you also have the opportunity to get your videos ranked in Google’s search results.

I know a lot of you right now are saying, “Whoa, Jeremy! There’s no way in hell I’m getting on video!”

Look, I understand that being on video can feel uncomfortable, awkward, and even terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be any of those things. Once you start doing video regularly, you’ll get used to it, and besides — it’s become a necessity, so unless you want to lose ground to competitors, you have to step outside of your comfort zone.

Video expert Holly Gillen of Holly G Studios says, “Video is one of the most powerful tools you have in business today! The race has begun, and if you’re not running you are now getting left behind. At the end of the day, you can have video or you can have excuses, but you can’t have both.”

Some ways you can incorporate video into your SEO include:

  • creating videos that answer questions your prospects have about your products, services, and industry, as well as videos that demonstrate who you are and why you do what you do.
  • optimizing your videos on YouTube so they’ll show up in YouTube’s search, in conjunction with that, building relevant, high-quality links to them so that they show up in Google’s search results.
  • embedding your videos from YouTube on your own website to keep visitors engaged and on your website longer.

Source: This article was published searchengineland.com By Jeremy Knauff

There was a time when the majority used Firefox as their favorite internet browser. Times changed, and Google Chrome took the lead. Now Firefox has returned with their updated browser, Firefox Quantum. Not only this, but an update to the browser is coming as well, set to introduce new features.

The new Firefox, termed Firefox 59, shall help you block that pesky notification at the top bar asking for permission to send you further notifications in the future. Not everyone likes notifications to appear unwantedly. Not only this, if a website wants to know your location, the new Firefox can stop that notification too.

The only disappointment is that you shall have to wait for Firefox to get updated to its new version unless you do some digging on your own. Yes, it’s perfectly possible for you to implement these new features which also includes, shutting off the notification by a website asking for Webcam access right now with your own build, with a little bit of tweaking though.

All you need to do is delve into Firefox’s “about:config” and you will find a plethora of settings you can change to your will.

Tired of the Notification Requests? Problem Solved!

Sites ask you to allow or block them from sending you notification just like your smartphone does. For some, it is a really handy feature who want to stay updated every time, but not everyone likes their screen to show a pop up every now and then about some “Jack commented on Drake’s post” blah blah. If you are tired of keeping on blocking every such website from sending you a notification, then there is a simple way to do this to block such notifications to come in the first place forever.


Just open up your Firefox search bar, and type “about:config” and press Enter. A new page shall come up which shall give you a warning about tweaking with Firefox’s advanced settings. Just click on the I accept the risk button. Now there would be a search bar on the new screen that comes. If there isn’t just press CTRL+F to bring up the search bar. Type in “dom.push.enabled”. Double click on it. This shall modify it’s value to false. The default setting is true, and after turning it to false by doing such, you won’t get Notification Requests from now on.

In case you want to revert the setting just do exactly same as above toggling it to True.

Location Requests are pesky too, right?

Location Requests are more commonly asked by sites such as weather, transport, or even search engines to bring up tailored content. But then some might consider it as an invasion of their privacy as well. The best alternative is to just block location requests forever so that you don’t accidentally allow them. To do this just go to “about:config” again and search for “geo.enabled”.

Again double clicking on it would set it’s Boolean value to false. To revert the changes, just repeat the steps toggling it to true.

All those chat sites requiring camera and microphone requests

If you frequently visit online chat sites or use social messaging platforms, then you would be bothered by such requests as well. To avoid these requests, just head to “about:config” again and search for “media.navigator.enabled”. Now double click on it to toggle it to off. Do the same with “media.peerconnection.enabled” In case you want to change these settings to default, just repeat the steps toggling them to True.

Source: This article was published factschronicle.com By MICHAEL LOWRY

Google Home devices capture the attention of shoppers as they reveal their intention to increase online shopping via voice-controlled devices next year

2% of all UK consumers are already using voice-controlled devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo for online shopping – that’s 20% of all device owners in the UK.

The survey of almost 3000 UK consumers, conducted by post-purchase experts Narvar in association with YouGov, reveals that adoption of voice technology among consumers is at a tipping point, and use cases are expanding well beyond traffic, weather, and entertainment.

Most notably, consumers were asked about their future intentions to purchase online; 6% of respondents said that they expect to use a voice-controlled device to shop online within 2018. That’s triple the figure in 2017.

Amit Sharma, CEO, Narvar, comments: “Adoption of voice-controlled devices has accelerated in 2017, and for retailers and brands, this represents an important new channel for personalized customer communications. Although it’s still early days, we have found that UK consumers are already using voice for shopping and that activity will increase.”

For the purposes of this research, ‘online shopping’ covers the entire process – from researching products and making the purchase to tracking the order and making customer services inquiries.

New research shows we’re using cellphones for more than four hours a day. That ain’t good,

New year, new you?

You know I don’t buy that. The goal is never to be perfect. The goal is just to be a little better than before. So I thought this week I’d share three productivity tips I’ve recently started using in my life.

Phone it in

Do you have too many boring meetings in dusty rooms with boxes of stale Timbits in the middle of the table? “I’ll take the rock hard jelly one.”

Stop! Here’s my challenge. Move the recurring one-on-one you have with somebody you know really well (that boss or co-worker you like) and move the meeting to the phone. Permanently. This lets you pop in your headphones, zip on your coat and take the meeting outside.

The average person walks five kilometers an hour. That means if you can take even two meetings outside a day, then you’re getting an extra 10 kilometers of exercise. Never mind the fresh air and clarity of thought that comes from getting away from the screen.

The average person walks five kilometres an hour, which means if you can take two meetings outside a day, you could be getting an extra 10 kilometres of exercise.
The average person walks five kilometers an hour, which means if you can take two meetings outside a day, you could be getting an extra 10 kilometers of exercise.  (DREAMSTIME)  

And what do you say when someone asks if that’s an ambulance siren in the background of the budget review? Easy. “I do most of my meetings walking because it helps me think clearly and avoid screens and distractions.” Who’s going to argue with that?

Maintain momentum with Momentum

Momentum gives you a rotating chilled-out picture, a personal hello, the weather outside and your daily goal.
Momentum gives you a rotating chilled-out picture, a personal hello, the weather outside and your daily goal.  (NEIL PASRICHA)  

Have you heard of the Google Chrome extension Momentum? People had been telling me about it for years.

“Every time you open a new browser tab it hits you with your daily goal on top of beautiful images of nature” must have sounded too simple because I never bothered with it until recently.

And now I’m in love. A rotating chilled-out picture, a personal hello, the weather outside and my daily goal! It pushes the daily goal to the front of my head over and over throughout the day.

And it helps prevent falling into an internet rabbit hole — you know, where you somehow end up browsing mindlessly for 45 minutes until you’re reading the Wikipedia entry on 1970s-era baseball player Rance Mulliniks or the Boer War for no reason.

Get anti-social

We are all getting far too addicted to our cell phones. New research shows we’re using them for more than four hours a day. That ain’t good.

So, what do you do? Take a deep breath and follow my lead.

I deleted every single game and social media app off my phone. Yes, it was painful. But I didn’t delete my accounts. I just removed “instant access” to them from my pockets all day. No alerts, notifications, updates. Nothing.

Sure, I can still log in from my laptop and I can (and do) download the apps again when I’m on Wi-Fi and want to get in. But this means I do it once a week or so, spend meaningful time on there and then delete the app again. I write all my social content each week and use Buffer to plan and post it.

My goal is to avoid the “mindless skimming” effect that constantly tugs away at getting anything done. No need to be a Luddite. Just be smart.

So, those are three of my tips, but what are yours? If you’d like to submit an idea I should try (and possibly include in a future article) just drop me a line. I’m at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and would love to hear from you.

Source: This article was published thestar.com By NEIL PASRICHA

Searching video surveillance streaming for relevant information is a time-consuming mission that does not always convey accurate results. A new cloud-based deep-learning search engine augments surveillance systems with natural language search capabilities across recorded video footage.

The Ella search engine, developed by IC Realtime, uses both algorithmic and deep learning tools to give any surveillance or security camera the ability to recognize objects, colors, people, vehicles, animals and more.

It was designed with the technology backbone of Camio, a startup founded by ex-Googlers who realized there could be a way to apply search to streaming video feeds. Ella makes every nanosecond of video searchable instantly, letting users type in queries like “white truck” to find every relevant clip instead of searching through hours of footage. Ella quite simply creates a Google for video.

Traditional systems only allow the user to search for events by date, time, and camera type and to return very broad results that still require sifting, according to businesswire.com. The average surveillance camera sees less than two minutes of interesting video each day despite streaming and recording 24/7.

Ella instead does the work for users to highlight the interesting events and to enable fast searches of their surveillance and security footage. From the moment Ella comes online and is connected, it begins learning and tagging objects the cameras see.

The deep learning engine lives in the cloud and comes preloaded with recognition of thousands of objects like makes and models of cars; within the first minute of being online, users can start to search their footage.

Hardware agnostic, the technology also solves the issue of limited bandwidth for any HD streaming camera or NVR. Rather than push every second of recorded video to the cloud, Ella features interest-based video compression. Based on machine learning algorithms that recognize patterns of motion in each camera scene to recognize what is interesting within each scene, Ella will only record in HD when it recognizes something important. The uninteresting events are still stored in a low-resolution time-lapse format, so they provide 24×7 continuous security coverage without using up valuable bandwidth.

Ella works with both existing DIY and professionally installed surveillance and security cameras and is comprised of an on-premise video gateway device and the cloud platform subscription.

Source: This article was published i-hls.com

IOT IS COMING and a lot of IT execs are scared silly. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say they are resigned to their fates.

In a May study of 553 IT decision makers, 78% said they thought it was at least somewhat likely that their businesses would suffer data loss or theft enabled by IoT devices. Some 72% said the speed at which IoT is advancing makes it harder to keep up with evolving security requirements.

Such fears are rooted in reality. Last October, hackers took down the company that controls much of the Internet’s domain name system infrastructure using some 100,000 “malicious endpoints” from IoT devices. More recently, the WannaCry ransomware attack crippled some Bank of China ATM networks and washing machine networks. For naysayers, those attacks validated fears that hackers could cause mayhem by commandeering our IoT devices.

At the same time, the IoT industry continues its steady growth path. Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be some 21 billion IoT devices in existence, up from 5 billion in 2015. About 8 billion of those devices will be industrial, not consumer devices. Both present a juicy target for hackers.

For some, it seems like IoT is a slow-motion wreck playing out in real time. “The reason that the industry hasn’t backed off is the value proposition is very powerful,” said Chris Moyer, CTO, and VP-cybersecurity at DXC. “The risk proposition is also very powerful and that’s where the balancing is going on.”

Regardless of the industry’s appetite, IoT isn’t likely to get a scale until the industry addresses its security issue. That will take a cooperation among vendors, government intervention, and standardization. In 2017, none of those things appear to be on the horizon.

What’s wrong with IoT security

The consensus is that IoT is still under-secured and presents possibly catastrophic security risks as companies trust IoT devices for business, operational and safety decisions.  Existing standards are not in place and vendors keep struggling to embed the right level of intelligence and management into products.  Add the increasing collaboration among attackers and then it creates a need to address these challenges across a set of dimensions.

Consider what we face with the security of IoT devices;

  • Unlike PCs or smartphones, IoT devices are generally short on processing power and memory. That means that they lack robust security solutions and encryption protocols that would protect them from threats.
  • Because such devices are connected to the Internet, they will encounter threats daily. And search engines for IoT devices exist that offer hackers an entrée into webcams, routers and security systems.
  • Security was never contemplated in the design or development stages for many of these Internet-connected devices.
  • It’s not just the devices themselves that lack security capability; many of the networks and protocols that connect them don’t have a robust end-to-end encryption mechanism.
  • Many IoT devices require manual intervention to be upgraded while others can’t be upgraded at all. “Some of these devices were built very rapidly with limited design thinking beyond Iteration 1 and they’re not update-able,” said Moyer.
  • IoT devices are a “weak link” that allows hackers to infiltrate an IT system. This is especially true if the devices are linked to the overall network.
  • Many IoT devices have default passwords that hackers can look up online. The Mirai distributed denial of services attack was possible because of this very fact.
  • The devices may have “backdoors” that provide openings for hackers.
  • The cost of security for a device may negate its financial value. “When you have a 2-cent component, when you put a dollar’s worth of security on top of it, you’ve just broken the business model,” said Beau Woods, an IoT security expert.
  • The devices also produce a huge amount of data. “It’s not just 21 billion devices you have to work with,” said Kieran McCorry, director of technology programs at DXC. “It’s all the data generated from 21 billion devices. There are huge amounts of data that are almost orders of magnitude more than the number of devices that are out there producing that data. It’s a massive data-crunching problem.”

Taking such shortcomings into account, businesses can protect themselves to a certain extent by following best practices for IoT security. But if compliance isn’t 100% (which it won’t be) then, inevitably, attacks will occur and the industry will lose faith in IoT. That’s why security standards are imperative.

Who will set the standards?

Various government agencies already regulate some IoT devices. For instance, the FAA regulates drones and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates autonomous vehicles. The Department of Homeland Security is getting involved with IoT-based smart cities initiatives. The FDA also has oversight of IoT medical devices.

At the moment though, no government agency oversees the IoT used in smart factories or consumer-focused IoT devices for smart homes. In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission issued a report on IoT that included advice on best practices. In early 2017, the FTC also issued a “challenge” to the public to create a “tool that would address security vulnerabilities caused by out-of-date software in IoT devices” and offered a $25,000 prize for the winner.

Moyer said that while the government will regulate some aspects of IoT, he believes that only the industry can create a standard. He envisions two pathways to such a standard: Either buyer will push for one and refuse to purchase items that don’t support a standard or a dominant player or two will set a de facto standard with its market dominance. “I don’t think it’s going to happen that way,” Moyer said, noting that no such player exists.

Instead of one or two standards, the industry has several right now and none appears to be edging toward dominance. Those include vendor-based standards and ones put forth by the IoT Security Foundation, the IEEE, the Trusted Computing Group, the IoT World Alliance and the Industrial Internet Consortium Security Working Group. All of those bodies are working on standards, protocols and best practices for security IoT environments.

Ultimately what will change the market is buyers, who will begin demanding standards, Moyer said. “Standards get set for lots of reasons,” Moyer said. “Some are regulatory but a lot is because buyers say it’s important to me.”

Lacking standards, Woods sees several paths to improve IoT security. One is transparency in business models. “If you’re buying 1,000 fleet vehicles, one might be able to do over-the-air updates and the other we’d have to replace manually and it would take seven months,” Woods said. “It’s a different risk calculus.”

Another solution is to require manufacturers to assume liability for their devices. Woods said that’s currently the case for hardware devices, but it is often unclear who assumes liability for software malfunctions.

AI to the rescue?

A wildcard in this scenario is artificial intelligence. Proponents argue that machine learning can spot general usage patterns and alert the system when abnormalities occur. Bitdefender, for instance, looks at cloud server data from all endpoints and uses machine learning to identify abnormal or malicious behavior. Just as a credit card’s system might flag a $1,000 splurge in a foreign country as suspicious, a ML system might identify unusual behavior from a sensor or smart device. Because IoT devices are limited in function, it should be relatively easy to spot such abnormalities.

Since the use of machine learning for security is still new, defenders of this approach advocate using a security system that includes human intervention.

The real solution: A combination of everything

While AI may play a bigger role in IoT security than initially thought, a comprehensive IoT solution will include a bit of everything, including government regulation, standards, and AI.

The industry is capable of creating such a solution, but the catch is that it needs to do it on a very accelerated timetable. At the moment, in the race between IoT security and IoT adoption, the latter is winning.

So what can companies do now to latch on to IoT without making security compromises? Moyer had a few suggestions:

  1. Take an integration approach. This is a case where more is better. Moyer said that companies using IoT should integrate management solutions and bring the IoT platform in for primary connectivity and data movement and pull that data into an analytics environment that’s more sophisticated and lets them do a behavioral analysis, which can be automated. “By integrating those components, you can be more confident that what you’ve got from a feed in an IoT environment is more statistically valid,” he said.
  2. Pick the right IoT devices. Those are devices that have a super-strong ecosystem and a set of partners that are being open about how they’re sharing information.
  3. Use IoT Gateways and Edge Devices. To mitigate against an overall lack of security, many companies are using IoT gateways and edge devices to segregate and provide layers of protection between insecure devices and the Internet.
  4. Get involved in creating standards. On a macro level, the best thing you can do to ensure IoT security over the long run is to get involved in setting standards both in your particular industry and in tech as a whole.

This article was produced by WIRED Brand Lab for DXC Technology.

What do real customers search for?

It seems like a straightforward question, but once you start digging into research and data, things become muddled. A word or phrase might be searched for often, yet that fact alone doesn’t mean those are your customers.

While a paid search campaign will give us insight into our “money” keywords — those that convert into customers and/or sales — there are also many other ways to discover what real customers search.

Keyword Evolution

We are in the era where intent-based searches are more important to us than pure volume. As the search engines strive to better understand the user, we have to be just as savvy about it too, meaning we have to know a lot about our prospects and customers.

In addition, we have to consider voice search and how that growth will impact our traffic and ultimately conversions. Most of us are already on this track, but if you are not or want to sharpen your research skills, there are many tools and tactics you can employ.

Below are my go-to tools and techniques that have made the difference between average keyword research and targeted keyword research that leads to interested web visitors.

1. Get to Know the Human(s) You’re Targeting

Knowing the target audience, I mean really knowing them, is something I have preached for years. If you have read any of my past blog posts, you know I’m a broken record.

You should take the extra step to learn the questions customers are asking and how they describe their problems. In marketing, we need to focus on solving a problem.

SEO is marketing. That means our targeted keywords and content focus should be centered on this concept.

2. Go Beyond Traditional Keyword Tools

I love keyword research tools. There is no doubt they streamline the process of finding some great words and phrases, especially the tools that provide suggested or related terms that help us build our lists. Don’t forget about the not-so-obvious tools, though.

Demographics Pro is designed to give you detailed insights into social media audiences, which in turn gives you a sense of who might be searching for your brand or products. You can see what they’re interested in and what they might be looking for. It puts you on the right track to targeting words your customers are using versus words your company believes people are using.

You can glean similar data about your prospective customers by using a free tool, Social Searcher. It’s not hard to use — all you have to do is input your keyword(s), select the source and choose the post type. You can see recent posts, users, sentiment and even related hashtags/words, as reflected in the following Social Searcher report:

social searcher screen shot

If you are struggling with your keywords, another great tool to try is Seed Keywords. This tool makes it possible to create a search scenario that you can then send to your friends. It is especially useful if you are in a niche industry and it is hard to find keywords.

Once you have created the search scenario, you get a link that you can send to people. The words they use to search are then collected and available to you. These words are all possible keywords.

seed keywords screen shot

3. Dig into Intent

Once I get a feel for some of the keywords I want to target, it is time to take it a step further. I want to know what type of content is ranking for those keywords, which gives me an idea of what Google, and the searchers, believe the intent to be.

For the sake of providing a simple example (there are many other types of intent that occur during the buyer’s journey), let’s focus on two main categories of intent: buy and know.

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Let’s say I’m targeting the term “fair trade coffee:”

Google search result page

Based on what is in results, Google believes the searcher’s intent could either be to purchase fair trade coffee or to learn more about it. In this case, the page I am trying to optimize can be targeted toward either intent.

Here’s another example:

Google search result page

In this scenario, if I was targeting the keyword, “safe weed removal,” I would create and/or optimize a page that provides information, or in other words, satisfies the “know” intent.

There are many tools that can help you determine what pages are ranking for your targeted keywords, including SEOToolSet, SEMRush, and Ahrefs. You would simply click through them to determine the intent of the pages.

4. Go from Keywords to Questions

People search questions. That’s not newsworthy, but we should be capitalizing on all of the opportunities to answer those questions. Therefore, don’t ever forget about the long-tail keyword.

Some of my favorite tools to assist in finding questions are Answer the Public, the new Question Analyzer by BuzzSumo, and FaqFox.

Answer The Public uses autosuggest technology to present the common questions and phrases associated with your keywords. It generates a visualization of data that can help you get a better feel for the topics being searched.

With this tool, you get a list of questions, not to mention other data that isn’t depicted below:

Answer the public chart

The Question Analyzer by BuzzSumo locates the most popular questions that are asked across countless forums and websites, including Amazon, Reddit, and Quora. If I want to know what people ask about “coffee machines,” I can get that information:


question analyzer screen shot

FaqFox will also provide you with questions related to your keywords using such sites at Quora, Reddit, and Topix.

For example, if I want to target people searching for “iced coffee,” I might consider creating and optimizing content based on the following questions:

faq fox screen shot

Final Thoughts

There are constantly new techniques and tools to make our jobs easier. Your main focus should be on how to get customers to your website, which is done by knowing how to draw them in with the right keywords, questions, and content.

 

Source: This article was published searchenginejournal By Mindy Weinstein

As the updates continue to roll out, early indications suggest disruptions in mobile SERPs, sites with no schema data & those relying on doorway pages being most impacted

Google has confirmed what many in the search industry have seen over the past week, updates to their algorithm that are significantly shifting rankings in the SERPs. A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land “We released several minor improvements during this timeframe, part of our regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy.”

Our own Barry Schwartz analyzed his Search Engine Roundtable survey of 100 webmasters and concluded that the updates are related to keyword permutations and sites utilizing doorway pages. You can read his full analysis here.

Early signs point to mobile & schema

I reached out to a few of the SEO tool vendors that do large-scale tracking of ranking fluctuations to get their sense of where the updates may be targeted.

Ilya Onskul, the Product Owner of SEMrush Sensor gave this analysis:

“SEMrush Sensor follows all the changes that occur on Google SERPs in 6 countries for both mobile and desktop separately. On top of the general volatility score per country, Sensor tracks scores for various industries and indicates the change in 15 SERP features and % of HTTPS and AMP.

Some industries experience more change than the others on daily basis (for example, due to higher competitiveness). Thus, Sensor introduced the Deviation score that analyses which industries had biggest the volatility spikes in relation to their usual score.”

SEMrush Sensor data for all keyword categories (US) – December 20

Based on this data, Onskul concludes “Normally, December is one of the calmest months when it comes to SERP volatility as Google tries to minimize potential impact before big holidays. But something happened around December 14, something that Barry Schwartz called the Maccabees Update, or the pre-holiday update. Sensor spotted the highest SERP volatility on mobile (slightly less on a desktop) across most categories, most affected on mobile being Autos & Vehicles, Law & Government, Reference.

In fact, right now, on December 19, Sensor is reporting another extreme spike in volatility. Now, Hobbies & Leisure, Science, Jobs & Education, Home & Garden, Internet & Telecom, have been affected the most. And the biggest fluctuations again take place on mobile.

Of course, it’s too early to come to conclusions on what’s going on and how to adjust to the changes (as we can’t really predict what exactly has changed), but what we know for now is that some new tweaks or updates were rolled out on December 19 for the US, and with a domino effect, the dramatic rise in volatility caught up in the UK, Germany, France, Australia and Spain the next day, which means that the update that was tested on the Google US on December 19 is now spreading across the world.”

We also reached out to Searchmetrics for their analysis and Founder and CTO Marcus Tober noted that they prefer to conduct a deep analysis of algorithmic fluctuations after a sustained change has taken place, saying “At first we saw some changes that at first look looked like typical Panda and Phantom symptoms, but not on a large systematic scale. Many sites have lost visibility that has no Schema.org integration, but we can’t determine based on such a short time what are the overall systematic changes.”

The MozCast continues to likewise show rankings turbulence as the updates roll out:

MozCast for Tuesday, December 19

With the holidays upon us and what would otherwise have been a slow week ahead, now is a good time to check your rankings and start auditing if, where, and why you might see changes.

 Source: This article was published searchengineland.com By Michelle Robbins

Publishers and webmasters might not like this new feature Google is testing.

Google has started testing and potentially rolling out a new feature in search that shows a carousel with a list of answers directly within the search results snippets. It shows the main search result snippet, and below it, it shows a carousel of answers picked from the content on the page the snippet is linking to.

This comes in handy with forum-related threads where someone asks a question and multiple people give their answers. In addition, Google is labeling which answer is the “best” and shows that answer first in the search results.

Here is a picture from @glenngabe:

I suspect Google is picking the best answer from a label in the thread itself.

Of course, this can be a concern for those who run answer sites. Instead of a searcher clicking from Google’s search results to an answer site webpage, the searcher can quickly see a snippet or the full answer in these answer carousels.

 Source: This article was published searchengineland.com By Barry Schwartz

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