Archive for March 2016 – Page 2

Your Latest IT Newsletter

Criticism of Advertising in Windows 10 After Tomb Raider Plug

Introducing the newest version of an Operating System is usually cause for comment and a difference of opinion over the latest features, but one subject that tends to galvanise an almost universally negative reaction is being forced to watch unwanted adverts.

Unfortunately for Microsoft Windows 10 users this is exactly what happened when screen lock advertising for Tomb Raider was experienced by a limited but significant number of users worldwide.

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Hiding in Google’s Cloud From DDoS Cyber Attacks

In the world of cyber crime, one method that is on the increase is the DDoS or ‘Distributed Denial of Service’ attack in which the perpetrator uses multiple compromised systems (that are often infected with a Trojan virus) to launch a single attack on one system.

The result is to overwhelm that system rendering it unavailable. You may have read of an attack recently that used a Pingback feature loophole to leverage 26,000 WordPress websites to launch a DDoS.

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How Technology Could Help Restore Trust in Online Reviews

A 2015 Bright Local survey put the proportion of consumers who read online reviews for products and services as high as 92% and showed that as much as 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1 to 3 reviews.

This helps to highlight the power that online reviews have in influencing our purchasing decisions, and therefore the power that reviews have over the fortunes of a business. As any business that has experienced the result of one or more prominent bad reviews on e.g. Trip Advisor will know the negative impact on trade can be significant.

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Better Security For Gmail Business Users

Google has just launched a number of new and updated security features for Gmail business users.

In an online world where cyber crime against businesses appears to produce high profile victims on an all-too-regular basis this latest launch should provide one extra layer of protection in our most sacred and yet regularly used areas of our businesses, our email accounts.

The newly launched features include an update of the Data Loss Prevention (DLP) app. This feature that was originally designed to keep any sensitive data out of emails now has an enhancement that allows attachments to be protected in a similar way.

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Better Security For Gmail Business Users

Google has just launched a number of new and updated security features for Gmail business users.

In an online world where cyber crime against businesses appears to produce high profile victims on an all-too-regular basis this latest launch should provide one extra layer of protection in our most sacred and yet regularly used areas of our businesses, our email accounts.

What Changes?

The newly launched features include an update of the Data Loss Prevention (DLP) app. This feature that was originally designed to keep any sensitive data out of emails now has an enhancement that allows attachments to be protected in a similar way.

Sensitive number details related to security such as card numbers or drivers license numbers can be detected in any attachments, even in image-based files, thanks to Gmail’s impressive “optical character recognition”. The same protection can also be offered for any unwanted words in attachments e.g. commercially sensitive project code names, or even swear words.

The updated features now give your company admin (who may well be you if you’re an SME) the opportunity to exert much greater control over email security by enabling you to set up rules with greater precision for the quarantine or rejection of emails based on specific parts of their content.

Another update in this latest launch is a feature that enables the scanning of emails for information in several new countries. Google says that this could improve the coverage of HIPAA data, which relates to the necessity for data centres to comply with HITECH standards to ensure protection when electronically transmitting any protected health information (ePHI).

More Selective Handling

The latest Gmail for business updates could also make it easier for businesses to handle their emails differently based upon how many rules they violate. This means that multiple violations of the criteria you set could result in instant rejection of an email, whereas one violation could mean that the email is simply quarantined so it can be reviewed.

What This Means For Businesses

These updates give businesses a greater level of control when it comes to email security and better tailoring to the individual needs of a business.

This of course could translate into less worry and stress, plus greater confidence in the online security of your business at a time when cyber crime scare stories, and tighter data protection rules and regulations are all around.

How Technology Could Help Restore Trust in Online Reviews

A 2015 Bright Local survey put the proportion of consumers who read online reviews for products and services as high as 92% and showed that as much as 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1 to 3 reviews.

This helps to highlight the power that online reviews have in influencing our purchasing decisions, and therefore the power that reviews have over the fortunes of a business. As any business that has experienced the result of one or more prominent bad reviews on e.g. Trip Advisor will know the negative impact on trade can be significant.

Although last year’s UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report about online reviews and endorsements put the estimate of UK consumers who use online reviews at only 54%, it did highlight one of the major concerns for businesses that has led to a lack of trust in online opinions i.e. potentially misleading practices.

These include fake reviews being posted onto review sites, negative reviews not being published and businesses paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles without this being made clear to consumers.

A recent piece by the BBC highlighted the mixed online reviews of a Manhattan restaurant to introduce the subject of how new technology could help to cut down on misleading practices in online reviews and endorsements. This could of course benefit businesses, customers, and those who are most likely to be influenced by reviews, those who haven’t tried your product or service before.

Some of the new technology that could help to restore trust in online reviews includes:

  • ‘Twizoo’ for Twitter. This mobile app from a start-up reportedly works by weeding out paid-for and out-of-date reviews. The advantage of this app is that it takes into account a reviewer’s full social media profile and their tweets over time, and allocates a quality score.
  • This means that it is much more difficult for fake reviews to be posted from recently set up accounts, or for friends and family of the business to influence reviews. This quality based system also reduces the clout that tweets have after a period of 3 months. This reduces the ability of dishonest tweets to have a lasting effect on the business, plus it gives a more accurate picture of the service that potential users can expect at the current time.
  • Yelp – secret source code. This secret algorithm at Yelp reportedly weeds out overly enthusiastic 5 star reviews.
  • Amazon – multiple measures. As well as constantly reviewing its own readers’ star rated reviewing system, Amazon reportedly favours reviews by standard rather than discounted paying customers as a way of improving review quality. It is also reported to have brought lawsuits against over 1,000 defendants for reviews abuse.
  • The Walt Disney World Wristband. This wristband system gathers information about wearer and what services they have actually used at Walt Disney World to match against the reviews.

What Could These Mean For Your Business?

The wider adoption of quality based systems like these could quite simply provide more of level playing field for businesses and could help to protect you from some of the more obvious, frustrating and damaging reviews that you may have received as a result of potentially misleading practices.

These systems may also make it more difficult for some businesses to unfairly influence reviews in their favour.

Hiding in Google’s Cloud From DDoS Cyber Attacks

In the world of cyber crime, one method that is on the increase is the DDoS or ‘Distributed Denial of Service’ attack in which the perpetrator uses multiple compromised systems (that are often infected with a Trojan virus) to launch a single attack on one system.

The result is to overwhelm that system rendering it unavailable. You may have read of an attack recently that used a Pingback feature loophole to leverage 26,000 WordPress websites to launch a DDoS.

Similar high profile attacks have been launched on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network gaming and one of the main reasons why these attacks have become so popular among cyber criminals is that they can inflict large scale damage for minimal cost, while minimising the risk of being detected. It is estimates that a DDoS attack can cost the criminal around £30 to execute (presumably excluding labour costs) and it can be ordered anonymously.

For the business that is the focus of the attack the results can not only be the temporary disruption, but the fallout from that disruption which can include lost customers, bad press and damage to reputation.

In monetary terms estimates of the average cost of this kind of attack to a business is around the £300,000 mark.

Google To The Rescue – (Mainly For News Sites)

In the light of the increasing risks of DDoS attacks, those who run news, human rights or elections sites which host “free expression” content can gain some comfort from the fact that Google is now offering protection in the safety of its Cloud as part of what it is calling “Project Shield”. The free service is inviting applications through its website https://projectshield.withgoogle.com/public/ .

According to Google’s Project Shield, if the online application is approved the successful webmaster will be emailed the configuration instructions, and provided they have administrative privileges for the website, and they can modify DNS records, protection for DDoS attacks for their website can be set up in as little as 10 minutes.

How It Works

Google’s Project Shield uses a technology known as “reverse proxy” to route a website’s traffic through Google’s infrastructure (Google Cloud Platform), whereby “illegitimate traffic” can be stopped from reaching the server.

Google suggests that the service is akin to “a train conductor only letting ticketed passengers aboard”.

Although it is unlikely to noticeably affect a website’s performance, users from countries where Google’s IP addresses are blocked will not be able to access the content served through Project Shield.

Next stop … a paid service from Google … for regular business users?

Criticism of Advertising in Windows 10 After Tomb Raider Plug

Introducing the newest version of an Operating System is usually cause for comment and a difference of opinion over the latest features, but one subject that tends to galvanise an almost universally negative reaction is being forced to watch unwanted adverts.

Unfortunately for Microsoft Windows 10 users this is exactly what happened when screen lock advertising for Tomb Raider was experienced by a limited but significant number of users worldwide.

This is not the first time that Microsoft has used default locked screen adverting. Some Windows 10 users were shown an advert for ‘Minions’ last month, and app suggestions were displayed in the Windows 10 start menu in October last year.

The current bout of adverts has been displayed at the first stage boot or when Windows 10 users log in and out of their computers. These adverts haven’t been a complete surprise however to any Windows 10 users who read some of the news announcements from Windows last summer when Microsoft told us that this kind of thing was likely to happen.

For anyone who also has a Kindle, the experience of this kind of screen lock advertising should be nothing new, and in Kindle’s case users have to pay extra for a service without the advertising.

Why Is It Happening?

Something/Someone has to pay for the ‘free’ upgrade to Windows 10 and just as something has to monetise much of the free content that we see daily on the Web, the job falls to advertising, until a better method comes along.

First, The Bad News

The bad news is that it appears that the advertising by Microsoft is likely to continue for the time being and many IT commentators have begun to regard the Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella with suspicion because this almost hidden commercial aspect appears to them to be at odds with the public projection of a spirit of co-operation and openness by Microsoft. If Microsoft really wants to get back some of the ground it may have lost in market dominance it seems fair to expect similar tactics as Microsoft tries to win back our “love”.

The Good News

You can turn the advertising off! That’s right, as with most default settings you can choose to change them to personal settings if you know how. This can be done by going to ‘Settings’ – ‘Personalisation’ – opening ‘Lock Screen’ – change ‘Background’ from ‘Windows spotlight’ to your personal selection, and then choose the ‘Off’ setting for ‘Get fun facts, tips, tricks, and more on your lock screen’.