Archive for Software

Featured Article – How Does Encryption Work?

Encryption comes from the age-old science of cryptography.  In the digital world of today, encryption refers to using electronic devices to generate unique encryption algorithms which essentially scramble messages and data making them unintelligible to anyone who tries to intercept them, and also to provide an effective way to lock our electronic devices.

Using Encryption

Encryption can be used for most things that have an internet connection, such as messaging apps, personal banking apps, websites, online payment methods, files and more.

Why?

Cybercriminals seek our personal data (especially financial details) which they can find in our files, on our personals devices, and on websites / platforms and places online where we have submitted that data e.g. for registration/login, payment, in the form of emails and other messages, and our personal data may be stored in many different places (servers and databases) across the Internet and the digital world.

Verizon figures show that nearly one-third of all data breaches in 2018 involved phishing and that phishing was present in 78% of cyber-espionage incidents and the installation and use of backdoors.  Also, IT Governance figures, for example, show that 421,103,896 data records were confirmed to have been breached in October this year (still only 50% of the monthly average!) in111 incidents (including the compromising of sensitive and financial information).

A recent nCiper survey showed that the main driver for encryption is the protection of sensitive information and that organisations use encryption to protect intellectual property and the personal information of their customers.

Symmetric and Asymmetric Encryption

There are two main encryption methods, symmetric and asymmetric, both of which are made up of encryption algorithms, and the use of prime numbers forms a fundamental aspect of popular encryption methods.

Note: You will often hear the term ‘keys’ used as part of the explanation of encryption.  Keys in this sense means a random (but unique) string of bits that are generated by an algorithm to scramble and unscramble data.  Generally, the longer the key, the harder it is to break the encryption code.

Symmetric encryption uses the same (identical) key for encrypting and decrypting data. With symmetric encryption, two or more parties have access to the same key. This means that although it is still secure, anyone who knows how to put the code in place can also reverse engineer it.  Symmetric key encryption is generally used for encrypting large amounts of data efficiently e.g. 256-bit AES keys are symmetric keys.

Asymmetric encryption, on the other hand, uses a pair of keys, one for encrypting the data and the other for decrypting it. For the first key (used to encrypt data), ‘public key’ cryptography uses an algorithm to generate very complex keys, which is why asymmetric encryption is considered to be more secure than symmetric encryption (the code can’t be run backwards).  With asymmetric encryption, the public key is shared with the servers to enable the message to be sent, but the private key (owned by the possessor of the public key) is kept secret. The message can only be decrypted, therefore, by a person with the private key that matches the public one. Different public-key systems can use different algorithms.

Public Key Encryption – HTTPS

Public key encryption is widely used and is useful for establishing secure communications over the Internet e.g. for TLS/SSL, which enables HTTPS.  For example, A website’s SSL/TLS certificate is shared publicly and contains the public key, but the private key is on the origin server i.e. it is “owned” by the website.

Different Methods of Encryption

There numerous common encryption algorithms and methods.  These include:

  • RSA – Unveiled by three mathematicians back in 1977, RSA is a public-key encryption algorithm and a common standard for encrypting data sent over the internet.
  • Triple DES – designed to replace the original Data Encryption Standard (DES) algorithm and uses three individual keys with 56 bits each.  Triple DES is being used less frequently now but is still used in financial services and other industries.
  • Blowfish – also designed to replace the original Data Encryption Standard (DES).  This is a flexible and strong standard that is found in many different software categories e.g. e-commerce platforms (to protect passwords).
  • Twofish – One of the fastest, can be used in hardware and software environments, and (like Blowfish) is freely and often bundled in encryption programs.
  • AES – Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is an incredibly strong encryption algorithm used by the U.S. Government, and likely to become the private sector standard in future.

Free Encryption

In addition to Blowfish and Twofish, other free encryption tools include LastPass (a popular password manager), VeraCrypt (available for Windows, OS X and Linux OS), and FileVault2 (good for encrypting data on macOS devices and Mac hardware).

Windows 10 includes its own encryption tool ‘BitLocker’ which enables you to use encryption on your PC’s hard drive and on removable drives.

End-to-End Encryption

End-to-end encryption is used to encode and scramble information so only the sender and receiver can see it. For example, WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption and although the messages go through a server, none of those messages can be read by anyone other than the sender and receiver.

WhatsApp and its end-to-end encryption were criticised by Amber Rudd in 2017 (who was Home Secretary at the time) when it was revealed that the first London Bridge terror attackers used WhatsApp to plan the attack and to communicate.  This led to government calls for ‘back doors’ to be built-in to WhatsApp and other end-to-end encrypted communications tools to allow government monitoring.  These calls were resisted on the grounds that building back doors means that security is compromised, and cybercriminals could also exploit these back doors.

Fails

Although encryption provides effective security and privacy it is not always infallible. For example:

  • Back in May 2018, A German newspaper released details of a security vulnerability discovered by researchers at Munster University of Applied Sciences, in PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) data encryption. PGP is an encryption program that is used for signing, encrypting, and decrypting texts, e-mails, files, directories, and disk partitions, and to increase the security of e-mail communications.
  • Also, in October this year a report by a former Google employee on the ‘Freedom of the Press Foundation’ website warned organisations that any data stored on Google’s G Suite is not encrypted, can be accessed by administrators and can be shared with law enforcement on request.

Quantum Threat

One on threats to existing encryption that many tech commentators fear in the near future comes from quantum computers.  For example, quantum computers can perform calculations much faster than classical computer and this could enable them to defeat the encryption that currently protects our data e.g. our online banking records and other personal documents on hard drives.  With people having access to (commercial) quantum computers, this could become a real threat (e.g. access to Quantum Systems are now being offered via the cloud).

As well as the quantum threat, there is also some concern among tech and security commentators about the encryption and anonymisation technology that is being used to hide criminal activity e.g. on the dark web

The Future

In the immediate future, therefore, some companies are seeking to address the threat from quantum computers cracking existing encryption algorithms. Estimates of when there will be commercially available quantum computers range between 10 and 20 years, although state-sponsored use of quantum computers for wrongdoing could conceivably happen sooner.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is already pushing researchers to look ahead to this “postquantum” era.

Recently, IBM researchers developed two quantum-proof cryptographic algorithms (Kyber and Dilithium) which now make up the “Cryptographic Suite for Algebraic Lattices” (CRYSTALS).  These have enabled IBM to create the world’s first quantum computing-safe tape drive.

In the meantime, however, with cyber threats evolving at a fast pace, companies and organisations that don’t use encryption as one of their security tools are effectively making things too easy for cybercriminals to access their data, with potentially devastating consequences.

Facebook’s New Tool Allows You To Port Your Photos & Videos To Google

Facebook has announced that it is releasing a data portability tool that will enable Facebook users to transfer their Facebook photos and videos directly to other services, starting with Google Photos.

Why?

Facebook acknowledged in its white paper (published back in September) that under GDPR currently, and under the California Consumer Privacy Act rules next year, data portability is a legal requirement. Also, Facebook said that it had also been considering ways to improve people’s ability to transfer their Facebook data to other platforms and services for some time e.g. since 2010 Facebook has offered Download Your Information (“DYI”) to customers so they can share their information with other online services.

In addition to the legal requirements and Facebook’s existing DYI service, Facebook highlights its own belief in the principle of data portability, and how this could give people control and choice while encouraging innovation as the reason for the introduction of its new data portability tool.

What Is It?

Facebook says that its new photo transfer tool (the roll-out has just started) is a tool based on code that has been developed through participation in the open-source Data Transfer Project and can be accessed via Facebook settings within Your Facebook Information.

The tool will enable Facebook users to transfer their Facebook photos and videos directly to other services (Google Photos first).

The first part of the roll-out is in Ireland with worldwide availability planned for the first half of 2020.  Facebook says that the tool is still essentially in testing and that it will be refined based upon feedback from users and from conversations with stakeholders

Help From The Data Transfer Project

One of the key factors in the development of the portability tool was Facebook joining the Data Transfer Project (along with Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Apple, and others) which is an open-source software project that’s designed to help participants develop interoperable systems that will enable users to transfer their data seamlessly between online service providers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Facebook has been offering its DYI service for nearly 10 years, but the new portability tool is something which will enable Facebook to meet its legal requirements under GDPR and the CCPA while helping Facebook to stay competitive with other online services.

Facebook is also acutely aware of the damage done to user trust over the data sharing with Cambridge Analytica, which is why the recent white paper that Facebook published about its portability ideas clearly acknowledged that portability products need to be built in a privacy-protective way.

For Facebook users, this new tool may be one of the many new services that help them to be more trusting of Facebook again by making them feel that they have real options and choices about what they do with their files from Facebook (even though it’s a legal requirement to give people the portability option).

Tech Tip – Easy Timer In Google

If you need to complete a piece of work in within a certain time, or you’ve got a call to make or meeting to go to in an hour or two, there’s an easy timer reminder (and stopwatch) already built-in to Google.

To operate the timer:

– Type “start a timer” into Google.

– Choose “Timer” and enter the required time period (hours, minutes, seconds).

– Click on the “Start” button.

– A bleeping alarm will sound at the end of the time period you’ve selected.

– You can press “Reset” to get a new time goal.

The Battle Between ‘Slack’ and ‘Teams’

With Microsoft’s announcement that it’s Teams product has 20 million daily active users (and growing), sending Slack’s share price downwards (Slack has 12 million users), the battle is well underway in the $3.5 billion chat-based collaborative working software market.

What Is Slack?

Slack, launched in 2013, is a cloud-based set of proprietary team collaboration tools and services. It provides mobile apps for iOS and Android, and is available for the Apple Watch, enabling users to send direct messages, see mentions, and send replies.

Slack teams enable users (communities, groups, or teams) to join through a URL or invitation sent by a team admin or owner. Slack was intended to be an organisational communication tool, but it has gradually morphed into a community platform i.e. it is a business technology that has crossed over into personal use. Slack recently introduced an “email bridge” into its platform that will allow those who only have email to communicate with Slack users.  Back in May last year, ‘Slack’ introduced a new ‘Actions’ feature that made it easier for users to create and finish tasks without leaving by having access to more 3rd party tools.

In October this Year Slack announced that it has 12 million daily active users, which is 2 million increase since January.

What Is Teams?

Teams, announced in November 2016 and launched by Microsoft in 2017, is a platform designed to help collaborative working and combines features such as workplace chat, meetings, notes, and attachments. Described by Microsoft as a “complete chat and online meetings solution”, it normally integrates with the company’s Office 365 subscription office productivity suite. In July 2018, Microsoft introduced a free, basic features version of Teams which did not require an Office 365 account, in order to increase user numbers and tempt users away from Slack.

Microsoft Teams is also the replacement for Skype for Business Online, the support for which will end on 31 July 2021, and all new Microsoft 365 customers have been getting Microsoft Teams by default from 1 September 2019.

Share Tumble For Slack

Slack’s share value fell earlier this year after it announced that its projected sales growth would be lower for the second half of the year. Slack became a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in June, and investors have been saying that it will need to maintain an impressive growth rate to compete against competitors like Microsoft (with Teams), Alphabet (Google) and Facebook.

The recent announcement by Microsoft that Teams has 20 million daily active users compared to Slack’s 12 million and has increased daily active users by more than 50% from June caused another downward push on Slack’s share value.

Slack’s Challenge – To Get More Large Paying Customers

Slack, which enjoys popularity in the U.S corporate workplace has been trying to emphasise that it is not just a chat/messaging app, but that it can connect to companies’ other applications in a way that can streamline workflows and aid real value addition and savings.  Slack is, however, facing a challenge in convincing big businesses that it is worthy, paid-for alternative to its more well-known competitors, and according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Andrew Eisenson, less than 1% of Slack’s customer base are large customers that spend more than $100,000 a year. One of the problems that Slack has is that although large companies in the US use it and like it, they currently have a free version, so Slack will have to convince them to upgrade to the paid-for version.

Despite having lower user numbers than Teams, some tech commentators have noted that Slack has stickiness and strong user engagement which help to attract businesses that want to get into using workstream collaboration software.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Microsoft has the advantage of a very well-known and trusted brand with huge reach, Teams already integrates with Office 365’s subscription office productivity suite, and there’s now a free version that doesn’t even require an Office 365 account.  Also, Teams is set to replace Skype for Business Online next year, and Microsoft has made sure that Skype for Business Online customers know that Microsoft’s investment and interoperability will make the migration to Teams a fairly painless one.

All this means that Teams appears to be in a very good position to continue what has been a rapid growth this year, and despite Slack’s positive features, Slack will have to fight hard to get big businesses interested in order to compete.

For users, there are now several good collaborative working services to choose from, but at the present time, the facts that investors don’t know when Slack is going to be profitable, coupled with a fall in revenue have led some commentators to think that Teams is looking as though it could come out on top.

Amazon Announces Smart Office Supply Re-Ordering Device

Amazon has announced the introduction of a ‘smart’ office essentials re-ordering device called Dash Smart Shelf which uses a weight-sensing, Wi-Fi-enabled smart scale to re-order products when they’re running low.

Why?

According to Amazon, monitoring and reordering everyday business essentials (e.g. printer paper) can be unnecessarily time-consuming for the small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that make up 99% of business in the U.S. (99.9% of the business population / 5.9 million businesses in the UK – FSB figures).  Having a smart inventory-tracking service could, therefore, mean that time and money in manual stock checking can be saved, plus the disruption of running out of a particular item when it’s needed can be avoided.

How Dash Smart Shelf Works

Amazon’s Dash Smart Shelf is a weight-sensing, Wi-Fi-enabled smart scale that looks like a closed laptop. The device is around 1-inch-tall and will be offered in three different sizes – small (7” x 7”), medium (12” x 10”), and large (18” x 13”). Amazon says that the Dash Smart Shelf can work on a range of surfaces e.g. from counter-tops to wire shelving.

The idea being that the Dash Smart Shelf is placed on the shelf where stationery is stored and the stationery e.g. packets of printer paper, sticky tape or pens are stacked (one Smart Shelf per item type) on top of it.  When supplies run low, the Dash Smart Shelf automatically orders more.

Incentive

The Dash Smart Self is for Amazon Business Customers and Amazon is offering them “business-only prices” on certain products, and savings of up to 15 per cent on orders for selected products placed using the new Dash Smart Shelf.

Easy

Amazon says that the Dash Smart Self is easy to set up and only requires a wall plug (included) or four AAA batteries, a connection to your business Wi-Fi and that you are logged in to your Amazon Business account via the web or Amazon Shopping app.

Timescale and Price

Amazon says that the Dash Smart Shelf will be made available first to Amazon Business customers with a registered U.S. business license “starting sometime in 2020”, and no prices have yet been made available.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Amazon makes the point that if you’re in a location far from an office supplies shop, or if you miss a big order (e.g. because you don’t have a certain sized cable), you will instantly see the value of a product that makes sure that you never run out of essential supplies. This product does appear to have the potential to save time, money and hassle by no longer having to manually monitor stock levels.  However, since this product is aimed SMEs, and one unit will need to be purchased for each office product type and the price per unit Dash Smart Shelf (as yet unknown) is going to be an important consideration. Businesses may wonder how much flexibility they will have in choosing which supplier (via the amazon platform) they can have with the device.

Amazon has made in-roads into our homes and found out much more about us and our listening, viewing and other consumption patterns with smart speakers (Echo), Fire TV, the Ring Doorbell and more, and the Dash Smart Shelf marks a move into our business lives by Amazon. As the company becomes the close, sole supplier of some of our valued home and business services, this should enable Amazon to use the data about us to tailor more services and offers, thereby helping it to increase our loyalty and commitment to Amazon, and further fuelling the growth, power and diversification of this online giant.

Tech Tip – Record Your Screen (Easily)

Although the built-in Windows 10 feature ‘Game Bar’ was designed for ‘screenshotting’ games, it can actually be used by anybody as a fast and easy way to take and use a screenshot.

For example:

– Press Windows Key + G to open the Windows 10 game bar.

– Click on the ‘Take Screenshot’ option, top left ( The screenshot will be saved to C:\Users\Admin\Videos\Captures  )

– Or, Press Windows Key + G again and click on ‘View Captures’.  From here you can choose to open the file location of your screenshot (and see it saved in the folder), delete it, share it to Twitter, copy it, and even create a ‘meme’.

The End of Life … for Windows 7 …  is Nigh

Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system, introduced in 2009 and only intended to upgrade windows in the wake of the much-disliked Windows Vista finally reaches its end of life date on 14 January 2020.  Looking back, it was an unexpected success in many ways, and looking forward, if you’re one of the 39% of Windows users still running Windows 7 (only 44% are running Windows 10), you may feel that you’ve been left with little choice but to move away from the devil you know to the not-so-big-bad Windows 10.

Big Success For Microsoft

Evolving from early codename versions such as “Blackcomb”, “Longhorn,” and then “Vienna” (in early 2006), what was finally named as Windows 7 in October 2008 proved to be an immediate success on its release in 2009.  The update-turned Operating System, which was worked upon by an estimated 1,000 developers clocked-up more than 100 million sales worldwide within the first 6 months of its release. Windows 7 was made available in 6 different editions, with the most popularly recognised being the Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate editions.

Big Improvement

Windows 7 was considered to be a big improvement upon Windows Vista which, although achieving some impressive usage figures (still lower than XP though) came in for a lot of criticism for its high system requirements, longer boot time and compatibility problems with pre-Vista hardware and software.

Some of the key improvements that Windows 7 brought were the taskbar and a more intuitive feel, much-improved performance, and fewer annoying User Account Control popups. Some of the reasons for switching to Windows 7 back in 2009 were that it had been coded to support most pieces of software that ran on XP, it could automatically install device drivers, the Aero features provided a much better interface, it offered much better hardware support, the 64-bit version of Windows 7 could handle a bigger system memory, and the whole Operating System had a better look and feel.

End of Life = End of Support = Danger

After looking back at the successes of Windows 7 it seems a shame to have to focus on the impending ‘end of life’ on 14 January.  End of life isn’t quite as final as it sounds. Windows 7 will still run but support i.e. security patches, will no longer be available for it.

For Azure customers, the Windows Virtual Desktop does still mean that there’s the option of an extra three years of extended support as part of that package, but there may be some costs incurred in migrating to the cloud service.

Yes, ‘Extended Security Updates’ can be also purchased by customers with active Software Assurance for subscription licenses for 75% of the on-premises annual license cost, but this should only really be considered as a temporary measure to ease the transition to Windows 10, or if you’ve simply been caught out by the deadline.

Embracing the Positive

It may even be the case that in the process of worrying about the many complications and potential challenges of migrating to Windows 10 you haven’t allowed yourself to focus on the positive aspects of the OS such a faster and more dynamic environment and support for important business software like Office 365 and Windows server 2016.

Planning and Time

In order to maximise security and finally get round to taking the plunge and migrating to a new operating system, it’s worth noting that IT project deployment can be slow, some remedial work may be required in the transition, and you will need to make sure that you have identified any issues that you have in your environment.  This means that although the deadline is technically a couple of months away, there will be the interruption of the Christmas and New Year break to consider, and it may be wise to allow yourself enough time to gather all the information and to plan the project so that everything goes smoothly.

What To Do Now

The deadline to end of support/end of life for Windows 7 is just around the corner, but the stats show that, if you’ve not yet done your homework and planned your move of Windows 7, you’re not alone.  Ideally, a slow and measured approach to an upgrade of this kind and scale would allow enough time for planning and for the smoothest of transitions. Unfortunately, we no longer have the luxury of time and although there are some possible OS alternatives to Windows 10, these could bring their own challenges and risks that you may not yet have considered.

For most businesses then, there is a realisation that the threat of no more support means that continuing to run Windows 7 presents a real risk to the business e.g. from every new hacking and malware attack that comes along after January. If you choose to upgrade to Windows 10 on your existing computers, you will need to take into account factors such as the age and specification of those computers, and there are likely to be costs involved in upgrading existing computers.  You may also be considering, depending on the size/nature of your business and your IT budget, buying new computers with Windows 10 installed, and in addition to the cost implications you may also be wondering how and whether you can use any business existing systems or migrate any important existing data and programs to this platform.

One thing is clear: if you’re still running Windows 7, the time to act is now.

Google To Offer Bank Accounts

Tech giant Google is crossing over into the banking world by partnering with Citigroup to offer ‘smart checking’ accounts (bank current accounts) next year as part of its ‘Cache’ project.

Partnering, Not Self-Branding

Google is reported to be prepared to rely heavily on the knowledge of Citibank partner in the project and will not be self-branding the accounts. Google will, no doubt, be grateful for the guidance of its partner through the complicated regulatory aspects of banking.

Other Tech Companies Too

Google’s move into the finance world follows that of competitor tech giants, some of whom have experienced a bumpy ride in banking territory such as:

– Facebook developing its own cryptocurrency called Libra which has recently suffered the departure of big names from the association of organisations that was set up to run the currency – PayPal has dropped out with Mastercard, Visa, and digital payment platform and processor Strip soon to follow.

– Apple introducing its own credit card, the ‘Apple Card’ in the US in partnership with Goldman Sachs and with processing by Mastercard.  The card system operates through the Wallet app on iPhone (iPhone 6 and later), but Apple soon suffered criticism that the physical titanium card that accompanies each account would be vulnerable to damage by everyday material surfaces such as denim and leather, thereby rendering potentially impractical.

– Amazon offering credit card and business loans, with a view to boosting its own e-commerce business.

– Uber Money offering credit cards, debit accounts and money tracking tools to help the company with its own taxi operations.

Why?

Like other tech companies, Google’s massive customer base and widely recognised brand mean that it can leverage this power through brand extension.  Google knows that by simply supplying more of peoples’ needs online, often by strategic alliance, it can stay competitive, and find new users and new opportunities.

Privacy & Trust Worries

Some technology commentators have, however, have expressed worries that giving tech companies access to our financial information could mean that they know too much about us, and may be tempted to share data with (or sell that data to) their advertising arm or other organisations.

Although Google has said that it will not be selling or sharing its account holders’ financial data just as it doesn’t share data from its Google Pay service with advertisers, there has been a recent report that Google may be able to gain access to personal medical data of up to 50 million Americans through its partnership with the healthcare giant Ascendant.

Resea

Research has indicated that consumers are likely to trust Google with their financial affairs.  For example, a study by McKinsey & Company revealed that 58% of people (surveyed) said they would trust Google with financial products.

UK BoE Governor

Back in June UK BoE Governor, Mark Carney offered tech companies and all payment providers the chance to store funds overnight in interest-bearing accounts at the central bank and appeared to be adopting an “open mind but no open door” approach to Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It was more or less inevitable that the reach and brand power of tech giants, who are already trusted with many personal aspects of our lives would mean that they want (and would be able) to move into the world of our personal finances too.  The move may be a win/win for both the financial partners (who can learn how to upgrade the tech of their service) and the tech giants who can find out even more about us and can become even more essential partners to us in all parts of our digital life.

The damage to trust, however, caused by Facebook’s sharing of harvested user data with Cambridge Analytica has left some people with reservations about trusting tech companies with too much of our personal data.

New Brave Browser: Blocks Ads, Pays Rewards

The new 1.0 browser from Brave removes ads and ad trackers and pays users through a reward system for viewing the ads that Brave presents.

Brave?

Brave is a San Francisco based start-up company, founded in 2015 and led by CEO Brendan Eich, formally of Firefox.

Ad and Tracker-Free

Two of the key advantages of the new Brave browser are that it protects a user’s privacy by removing ad trackers and makes browsing a faster (download time) and less distracting experience by removing adverts.

Displays Its Own Adverts and Pays You For Viewing Them

The big difference about Brave is that it offers its own Brave Rewards system. Users who join the system only see adverts from Brave and are paid 70% of the resulting ad revenue using Brave’s own crypto-token, the Basic Attention Token (BAT).  Brave also sends the revenue you accrue back to the websites you’ve visited.

The advantages of this system should be that it can lure new users to Brave in a crowded browser market with the promise of money and a better browsing experience and improved privacy and that websites can still find a way to support themselves with advertising without having to share the personal data of users with tech companies.  The hope is that, if this browser and model gains user approval on a large-scale it will eventually deter publishers from trying to profile the behaviour of their users via privacy-invading trackers.

Earnings

Users who sign-up to the Brave Rewards system can choose where to direct the BAT they’ve earned e.g. send it certain sites, tip Twitter and Reddit users or choose to convert it into currency (which is unlikely to be a large amount).

Numbers

There are some very well-established players in the Browser market which is currently dominated by Google Chrome which has more than 65% of the market (around 2+ billion installs).

In comparison, Brave says that it is used 8.7 million times each month on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The company has, however, reported that the number of users is growing by 10% per month.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Privacy is a big concern for all web-users and trying to download web pages that are full of adverts can be a frustrating and a time and power-draining experience. Businesses also need to be able to use the tools available to them to make sure that they can get the maximum ROI from their advertising spend, plus the big tech companies need to be able to offer their business customers an ad system that delivers results, hence the perceived need for trackers and profiling the behaviour of customers.  Web publishers also need to have a viable way to help support their sites and offer content to their users (without a payment gateway) and this has traditionally been through advertising on their pages, much to the frustration of website visitors.  Brave’s browser, therefore, tries to meet the needs of all these groups in one package.  The combination of improved privacy, financial incentives and better browsing experience may prove appealing to users, and publishers may take note of the Brave model and realise that there is another way of supporting their sites. It remains to be seen, however, how much share of the browser market Brave can gain and how well it fares against some powerful and entrenched competitors.

Research Says Memes Can Tell Between Humans and Bots

Researchers from the University of Delaware have concluded that when it comes to authentication for logins, Memes may be one of the strongest techniques to distinguish between a human and a bot.

The Bot Challenge

One of the great challenges to websites when it comes to authentication for logins is that software bots can fool relatively simple tests such as ticking a box to say, ‘I’m not a robot’ and CAPTCHA (both words and images). Also, neural networks and machine learning have helped to train bots to behave more like humans.  With more than half of web traffic believed to be made of bots and to stop bots gaining easy access to sensitive data, correct authentication needs to be based upon a system that can effectively tell humans and bots apart.

Memes Could Be The Answer

According to the University of Delaware researchers, the dynamic nature of memes and the fact that bots don’t get cultural references and online humour, and that humans are familiar with and can understand memes with a greater depth than bots could mean that memes could be the answer to the ‘bot or human’ authentication challenge.

Memes are activities, concepts, catchphrases, or pieces of media, often humorous and/or mimicking, and commonly in the form of an image, gif or video that have cultural meaning and tend to be shared widely on social media platforms.

How Could Memes Work For Authentication?

According to the researchers, after the correct username and password have been verified on login to a website, a meme could be displayed with a question about the meme that relates to something that bots wouldn’t be able to spot.  For example, this question could relate to the facial expression of the person in the meme or to the action taking place in the meme (bots wouldn’t be able to accurately tell what the facial expression is or what it means in relation to that meme). Several possible answers relating to that meme could be given and clicking on the right option will mean that a person is granted entry to the website.

The fact that there is a vast number of memes available online means that the meme and its answer options used for one authentication process can then be deleted from the database to ensure that no answers are stored and learned by bots.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

With more than half of web traffic being made up of bots, and with bots being able to fool many existing systems and with the data security, privacy and fraud risks that bots pose, businesses need to know that their websites have an effective system that can accurately distinguish between humans and bots at the login stage, but not make the process of authentication too complicated or lengthy for registered users.

The cultural references, humour, and subtleties in memes could, therefore, make them an effective way to make that distinction, and could keep businesses ahead of the game until AI/machine learning in bots necessitates another change.